EXCLUSIVE: Mark Millar on KICK-ASS, WANTED, SUPERMAN, NEMESIS, being Stan Lee of modern era, his directing debut and more!!

Funnybook writing genius Mark Millar was kind enough to sit down with Obsessed With Film's Nicola Balkind, a fellow Scotat the Glasgow Film Festival recently for a rather lengthy and refreshingly open chat about his exciting upcoming projects, both in the film and comics medium. Topics discussed in the interview (which we actually had to cut down a little to make the 10 min Youtube restriction) include the reality of what happened with he and Matthew Vaughn's pitch for a new Superman epic at Warner Bros, his thoughts on the development of the Wantedsequel, how Kick-Ass came together, his new comic series Nemesis and a little on his directorial debut which he plans to make this year and - which by the way, sounds really cool. Millar is going the Matt Vaughn route of self-financing the picture so he can keep the creator owned license to the property that is outside of the studio system and made exactly the way he wants it. He's hoping for a release at next year's Comic Con and has previously described it as a superhero version of Trainspotting but set in Scotland. How cool is that? It's taken me about a week to get this video up - we couldn't get the audio fixed. Damn. Still, it's a fantastic interview and I have uploaded a full transcript after the jump in case you need it.

Millar's new comic book series Nemesis is released later this month (I couldn't actually find an exact date when I was browsing this morning). Kick-Ass (the comic) is currently sold out at Amazon but it's worth hunting out for because it's seriously the best superhero series I've read in years. I love, love, love it. Spider-Man for the 21s century. The upcoming movie adaptation opens on April 2nd in the U.K. - but is playing at the SXSW festival this week. So many of the OWF staff have seen but we can't review it quite just yet. Full Millar interview transcript (with images) is below (which by the way, contains a spoiler for Wanted if you haven't seen the movie, so skip that question)... Firstly, Matt asks, What happened with Superman?
For every project that comes out of Hollywood, they talk to 100 guys. They have conversations with people: sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. I'm not actually that interested in doing other people's characters. The only stuff I'm really interested in is the stuff I was into when I was wee. I've been offered some pretty cool films, and I always turn them down, but Superman was the one I always really loved when I was a kid. I tried to get it myself, unsuccessfully, about 4 years ago, then about 2 years ago Matthew Vaughn (director of Kick Ass) and I tried to get it. They were more interested in him than me, and they had a conversation with him about it€ At the time nobody was very interested in doing a Superman movie - the last one had lost 200 million - and it was a bit toxic at the time. Then, they just lost interest in us. They talked to some others like the Wachowskis, James McTeigue and a few others. Now, David Goyer and Chris Nolan have got it, which is brilliant. As a fan, I'd love to see a great Superman movie and I think that Dave Goyer is the man. The Batman films have been brilliant, so I hope they can carry that same magic over.
What can you tell us about Wanted 2?
Actually, the news was announced this morning that Angelina Jolie is not doing Wanted 2. It was tricky to have her involved since she died at the end of the first film. You have to think, Wanted was originally a $75 million movie that they expected to make about $150 million, and they made $341 million and good business on DVD. They were trying to find a way to bring her back in the sequel, and there is a route to doing it - they have the healing baths where they could bring back the seriously injured. But, I don't know, it seemed a bit of a cop-out. Although she wasn't intended to be the star of the film she became the star because she was so great in it. They will have to get another draft of the script done that doesn't have Angelina in it. If she isn't doing it, they will have to move on. Last I heard, there was talk of shooting in early summer with a view to releasing the film towards the end of next year. I haven't spoken to Universal yet today, so I'm not sure. These things happen.
Will you be a producer on the film?
Well, I have to be, because I part-own it. It's a kind of J.K. Rowling-Harry Potter relationship, they can't make the film without me and J.G. Jones, the artist. That is what's nice. Years ago, you would create a comic book character and you were lucky if you were invited to the premiere. Luckily, that world doesn't exist anymore and we get all the money, instead of the big companies, which is great.
At the Iron Man panel at Comic Con, they invited the comic book artist on stage.
It's always nice to see a wee bit of recognition. It's funny, it went from no recognition to cameos in the films to suddenly owning everything. With things like Kick Ass and Wanted where we own it and the companies don't, that's amazing. Comic book creators 20 years ago dreamed of situations like this.
So what has been your role in finding distribution for Kick Ass?
Really, as a producers on the film as well as co-creating it, our role has been to get the movie from the page into the cinemas. It has been a daily process, and there have been hurdles at every stage. The first hurdle we encountered is becoming quite famous now. When we put the screenplay together, we thought that we had something great, and every studio thought it was the worst thing they had ever seen. Not just bad, they thought this was terrible. They said, everything that makes a superhero movie work is missing from this screenplay, and we were like, yes but that's what is good about it! They were like, no, we hate it, it's rubbish. I remember one company in particular wrote 3 pages of notes, and everything good about the movie was their complaints. They said, about Hit Girl, "It's horrible to have a 10 year-old doing this, make her 25 and then it might be palatable. Cut out the bad language, cut out the violence." Make it a bland studio picture. I think most people would have been deterred by that, but Vaughn is quite ballsy and he said, well I'll just go and make it myself, and borrowed $45 million from some of his friends. He's lucky he knows a lot of rich guys, and could make the movie independently. That was our first hurdle. At the next stage, we were looking at actors, and that was so hard. To find Hit Girl and Kick Ass himself was a massive challenge, and Vaughn almost put the movie back by 6 months because we looked for 3 months and just couldn't find a Kick Ass. Then you've got costume designs, set builds, etc. So many wee things. Then, eventually, we had a movie we loved with no distributor. Then Vaughn and I had a big job, which was to go and sell it. What we did was to go to the most hardcore fan base, which is people like us, like Comic Con is the mecca for people like us. So we too the movie there and showed 15 minutes of it in clips, it drove the audience crazy. Luckily! I've never seen anything like that, I've never seen a hall that frenzied. It was like a rock concert! I can understand people being like that with characters they have an association with, but Kick Ass is a new property and there had only been 6 or 7 issues at that point. People just went nuts, and with every subsequent clip they got a little bit crazier, which was amazing. They were jumping out of their seats and going crazy. Vaughn and I were like, Thank God, you know? Then word via Facebook, Twitter, got back to Hollywood and by the time we took it to L.A., a frenzied bidding war was going on. So, it went from the studios hating it to paying extra for it.
At Comic Con, you swore that you wouldn't let anyone edit Kick Ass. Has it been changed at all?
Not one word. We've got the C word in there, and I remember thinking we would never get away with it. I remember being on set and thinking, this is going to get cut out. It was amazing, Vaughn and I stuck to our guns. There were different people we could have gone with. In the bidding war, there were people who offered us more money and things, but they wanted a final edit on it. We absolutely wanted the final edit, we didn't want anybody messing with it. We knew what we liked about it, and what they would be scared of. You've just got to stick to your guns. If you do something that you like, the money will come. Some people offered to make it a PG-13, and with a wider audience you could make another $100 million, but people could have said that about 300, too, and it wouldn't have been the same finished product.
Are you ever afraid that you might have hyped it up too much?
No! Not at all, actually. It's funny because I've had this Hitler-like belief in it ever since the beginning, this mad zeal about it all. I remember when the screenplay was written, just reading it and thinking, this is going to be really good. Even since then, all through borrowing money to make it and all of the hurdles along the way, I've thought, "This is going to work out great." We've had a great time on it and loved the end result, and if we like it then some other people will like it too. We've yet to hear of someone walking out because they didn't like it. The test screenings were so good that Vaughn didn't want to tell people because he was worried it would look fake. It was getting 94% Definitely Recommends. We thought, people won't believe this. Once we started getting more people into screenings we could finally release that information.

You've always been overwhelmingly positive about the films you've brought out. What would they have to do to your film to make you dislike it?
Just make it rubbish! It will happen. At some point, someone is going to do something of mine that I hate. When you create a property, whether it's War Heroes or Nemesis or Wanted or whatever and put it out into the wild world, it's a bit like having a baby and putting it up for adoption. You can try to guide it a little bit, but really it's in the hands of 300 other people, so all you can do is hope that you've put it into the hands of the right people. By a law of averages, one of my things is going to go out to an idiot sometime. Someone who talks the talk, and I walk away feeling brilliant about it, then end up on the set thinking, this is rubbish. That is going to happen at some point. But so far, so good. Timur is an amazing director, did an amazing job on Wanted, and Matthew Vaughn has done an even better job since then, so I've been spoiled. For my new project Nemesis, lots of directors have been coming forward wanting to buy it before it comes out, and I've been really selective. Vaughn has been good for advising me on this, saying hold out and get someone brilliant. Again, I don't look to make a lot of money out of it, I want it to go out to the right people, so I've been saying no to everyone at the moment.
Can you tell us a bit about Nemesis?
The comic is out in a few weeks time. Coincidentally, it is out the same week as the UK premiere of Kick Ass. We planned this ages ago and we weren't sure what the date was going to be. It was a nice coincidence. The premise is the reversal of a superhero comic, it's a supervillian comic. What if the world's smartest, richest man who was a cool billionaire by day put on a costume at night time? He's a bad guy instead of a good guy. So you've got the cops versus this anarchist with all the trappings of a superhero, the car, the planes, gadgets, etc. He travels around the world, taking on the best cops he can find, and spends 4 weeks destroying the city and then executing the best cop at midnight. So he comes to Washington DC to take on America's best cop.
So far you've focused on live action films. Have you thought about making an animation?
I have been less interested in animation. I think my stuff probably doesn't lend itself to animation as well as live action. I've talked about the idea of doing some children's stuff because my wee girl is 11 and she can't come to my premieres. I've taken her to things like the Harry Potter premiere and the Fantastic Four premiere, which is great, but it seems awful that your dad makes films and you can't walk down the red carpet and be part of it. By the time I do it and it comes out, she'll probably be 25, though! I've got a couple of ideas about doing a children's book and things, which might work as animation. For things like Kick Ass where there's a 10 year-old saying the "C" word, I doubt Pixar will come knocking on my door.
Park Chan-Wook said that he made I'm a Cyborg for his daughter and she didn't like it. Do you worry that might happen?
That's the funny thing because, no matter what, your dad is never interesting nor cool. Obviously, they like you, but whatever you do it's still just your job and it's what you do before you eat your dinner and watch TV at night. So yeah, it could go that way. Funny you mention him, as one scene in Kick Ass was pretty much lifted from Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy.
What's coming up next?
I've been bitten by the bug now, of creating stuff. All my life, I wanted to do Spiderman and Superman. It's so satisfying getting to do that stuff - even if you're knackered, you think, I'm writing Captain America, this is great! I was talking to Stan Lee and he mentioned that nobody was creating new stuff, everybody was doing the characters he made up. If Stan had done that, and written all of the characters he loved as a kid, you'd never have had the Marvel universe. My idea is to do what Stan did for the modern age, and create a whole new wave of characters. It's so much fun! To be as lucky as I've been where they sell a lot, it has been an incredible stroke of luck. It is a buzz like you can't believe.
Have you considered getting into filmmaking directly?
I'm directing a film in Scotland this summer. I'm going to use young filmmakers as assistants and use an entirely unknown cast under the age of 25. It's independently financed. It's a superhero movie, and not a comedy, it's going to be a really dark, straight, superhero film, with an epic scale. I don't want it to be a daft wee British movie, I want it to be cool. So, we're going to shoot that this summer and take it to Comic Con next year. I'm going to follow that Kick Ass plan because I've been quite spoiled this past year, working outside the system. That's also the way Matthew and I are going to do our next project before Kick Ass 2. I don't see the point of taking notes from guys who are giving you bad advice. If you can make it outside the system, do it. If Kick Ass is a big hit, Vaughn will be in a George Lucas situation where he doesn't have to take orders from anyone again. I think that will be inspirational to other guys too. It's like what happened in comics. The risk is minimal if you're good.
You've said that your comics have an American sensibility, so what insider you to come back to Scotland?
Everything I've ever written has been set in New York or Los Angeles or something, because there's a shorthand with those places. They're internationally instantly recognisable. If you set something outside of London or England, nobody quite knows what it is. We've seen all these movies, and they play around the world. It just works. After seeing District 9, I had a wee notion that it's interesting to juxtapose a sci-fi thing that's not associated with sci-fi, like South Africa. I thought, wouldn't it be good to do the same thing with superheroes? We associate them so much with America that I don't think there are any major ones set outside of America, so somewhere low-key like Scotland - somewhere that people associate with the past, or whisky, Trainspotting as the most contemporary association - so to do something in Scotland with a superhero template, I thought, would make it quite unique in the same way as District 9 was. That was my plan. Plus, I'm lazy, I don't like to travel, so I can just get out of bed and shoot it here, then go back to bed. It will be great!

Kick Ass will premiere with an advanced screening at the Glasgow Magners Comedy Festival on Wednesday 24th March. The UK-wide release date is for the much-anticipated film is Friday, 2nd April.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.