TORONTO – Thanks to convenient scheduling, Focus Features didn’t have to worry about whether “Anna Karenina” star Aaron Johnson would make it to the film’s world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival last week. That’s because Johnson was already in Canada’s film capitol shooting almost two weeks of exteriors for “Kick-Ass 2.”
A 2008 genre-crashing comic book created by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., the first “Kick-Ass” quickly became a movie hitting theaters just two years later. The independently financed picture was directed and co-produced by Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”) with Lionsgate eventually winning domestic distribution rights. A fan favorite before it even screened for the public, “Kick” did a respectable $48 million in the U.S. and $96 million worldwide. Not bad, but nothing to cheer about considering the considerable hype before its release. The picture was also Johnson’s big break.
19-years-old when production began, Johnson held his own as the unlikely title hero even as Nicolas Cage (Big Daddy), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist), Mark Strong (Red Mist’s mob boss dad) and 12-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl, perhaps you’ve heard of her?) collectively stole the movie. There was talk of a sequel, but Vaughn went on his “First Class” journey and the box office just wasn’t smashing enough to demand one right away. Never say never, however, and this year Universal Pictures announced it was financing a “Kick-Ass” sequel with “Cry Wolf’s” Jeff Wadlow directing and Vaughn back as a producer. And, luckily, Wadlow has some detailed source material to draw upon for his screenplay. Well, at least we think he does.
The comic book “Kick-Ass 2” ran from 2010-2012 picking up where the original series and movie left off. Kick-Ass and Hit Girl have killed the city’s top mob kingpin with his seemingly weak offspring, Red Mist, already pining to avenge him. Interestingly enough, the success of the movie didn’t encourage Millar and Romita, Jr. to tone down the hard R action for the second print series. Instead, they dramatically increased the body count while also introducing a whole new cast of wannabe superheroes and super villains. Many of the new characters’ names wouldn’t be appropriate for publication in this article, but some of the more popular ones we can discuss are Mother Russia and Colonel Stars (who will be portrayed by Jim Carrey in an unexpected bit of casting). Again, the violence was taken to another level in the comic book sequel which begs the question: how far can it go in a Hollywood produced movie?
Speaking to Johnson in Toronto over the weekend about “Anna Karenina,” the now 22-year-old father admitted that this time around the movie will have to differ more from its comic book origins.
“The comic actually touches on some kind of disturbing things. Anything like that it’s not,” Johnson says. “You’re not gonna see that and that’s for the better I think. That character development and that journey is all there and it’s really great. I think it’s interesting.”
Considering Johnson spent the past two years going from one creative extreme to another with “Albert Nobbs” to Oliver Stones’ “Savages” to Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” we’ll take that as an encouraging endorsement of Wadlow’s vision.
You can watch the always mercurial Johnson discuss “Kick-Ass 2” in the video embedded at the top of this interview. The production will move to London for a majority of the shoot later this fall.
“Kick-Ass 2” is currently scheduled for release nationwide on June 28, 2013.