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Kick-Ass, Hit Girl & Red Mist Grow Up
As he crafted the story, Wadlow wanted Kick-Ass 2 to give fans another chance to see three characters that they fell in love with, to see how they have grown and how they will continue to change. The writer/director reflects: "I hope it resonates with audiences because it's not just a retread of the first movie. It's not one of those sequels that says, 'Hey! Remember how much you loved the first movie? Well, here's another version of that.'"

If anything, his story does the exact opposite. Wadlow adds: "We say, 'Remember how much you loved those characters? Well, guess what? We're going to put them through a meat grinder.' We've sent them on this journey where they're going to grow and change in ways you can't imagine. We've pushed them further than you could in a first film because of all that screen time you needed to use getting to know them. We assume you already know and like them, and we're going to take all that time and push them even further."

While a sequel was always a finger-crossed hope, it had actually been four years since the original cast made Kick-Ass. At the end of that film, Dave goes back to his old life, and his alter ego is gone but not forgotten by a new wave of aspiring superheroes. However, life after Kick-Ass moved on significantly for the actor who was portraying the hero. Now married and a father of two, Aaron Taylor-Johnson had been working for the likes of Oliver Stone and Joe Wright but always remained interested in revisiting his breakout role, if the filmmakers could deliver something as equally original and refreshing as Kick-Ass.

The British performer appreciated that Dave was never out to hurt anyone. He simply wanted to stand up for the helpless while others sat idle. Taylor-Johnson reflects: "What's great about Dave is that he doesn't want to kill people. Mindy, for fun, will slice someone's hand off, but that's not what inspired Dave to become a superhero. For him, it's about being good, about fighting crime and not becoming part of it."

Wadlow's taut script ensured his return: "Jeff did a fantastic job," commends Taylor-Johnson. "We all loved it, and that's the main reason it took off." Discussing how it feels to step back into the part, the actor says: "It's bizarre repeating something you've already done, so I needed to step it up a few levels. Dave is the person we already know, but he's beginning to discover himself, growing into a man and taking responsibility for his actions. This time, the consequences weigh heavily on his shoulders, and he really understands that."

Taylor-Johnson felt as the producers did: Wadlow's script brought a deep emotional core to a story about a young man who discovers his mission to try and save others. "From the moment we met, we connected," adds the performer. "He was sincere and passionate about it, and interested in creating a journey for Dave. It was never just about how much action we could deliver. Behind the stunts and the fighting, there's always a motive. You must start to link the emotion to the motive that is behind the punch, and Jeff was interested in developing that."

Wadlow admits that Taylor-Johnson's work in the first movie drew him to pushing to develop the second chapter of Dave/Kick-Ass' story. When the filmmaker met the actor, he was even more impressed: "I have so much respect for Aaron. While many actors approach their role wanting to look cool -- to always be appealing, to be the center of attention in each scene -- what they lose sight of is that we're telling a story, which their character is a piece of, even if they're the lead. It was clear to me from the moment I met Aaron how special he was. He immediately started talking about the story and the role that Dave plays in telling that story, as well as what he could do to help it along. He wanted the lamest tennis shoes, ill-fitting T-shirts and a dorky haircut for Dave when we first reconnect with him."

Kick-Ass wouldn't be half the hero he is without Hit Girl, and no sequel would begin production without her in the mix. Imagined by Millar as a tribute to his eldest daughter, Hit Girl has struck a chord with readers since her introduction and grown exponentially in popularity. The young woman who brought her to life, Chloe Grace Moretz, has been working up a storm -- earning critical acclaim in such fare as Let Me In, as well as working with the likes of Martin Scorsese in Hugo and Tim Burton in Dark Shadows and soon to be seen starring opposite Julianne Moore as the title character in the remake of Carrie. Like her co-stars, she was thrilled to step back into her Kick-Ass role as Hit Girl, unfazed by the commotion caused by her appearance the first time around.

For the 2010 film, the now 16-year-old actress took the world by roundhouse kick with not only her acting abilities, but her phenomenal mastery of weaponry and martial arts. Indeed, Moretz didn't know she was prescient when she joked at the premiere of the first film that she wanted to ride a purple Ducati: Hit Girl's bike of choice in Kick-Ass 2. Laughs Moretz: "To get in the costume again and do all the stunts was pretty amazing. I've had such a great time reliving the character and bringing in more dimensions, while taking an older approach to the role. I liked seeing what I could play with in the part."

We meet a now-orphaned 9th grader in Kick-Ass 2, a girl who is more terrified of the treacherous girls in school than she ever was of the villains that she and Big Daddy took down. Moretz describes where we meet Mindy: "She's skipping school, still being a vigilante and caring more about Hit Girl's life than Mindy's. Because she doesn't have Big Daddy anymore, and Marcus is much more of a normal parent than Big Daddy, she starts to question herself. She promises Marcus she'll stop being Hit Girl and begins to figure out her life a bit. The thing is...Mindy can't really change."

One of Hit Girl's creators discusses Hit Girl's evolution in dealing with a different kind of villain: teenage girls, led by queen bee/varsity dance captain Brooke (CLAUDIA LEE). Romita offers: "Mindy's not the normal child. So instead of going home and crying and punching a pillow, she enacts revenge in a certain way that everybody wishes they could enact on a bully. She's teaching Kick-Ass how to be a superhero and he's teaching her how to be a normal girl."

Drawing on the source material, Wadlow and the producers were interested in exploring what happens when Mindy stops being Hit Girl and grapples with life and love as a high-school student. The director felt that no other performer but Moretz could possibly deliver that. He says: "There's something incredibly special about Chloe that is hard to describe and quantify, but when you see her on screen you instantly understand. As a director, it was exciting for me to work with someone like her, because normally I like to dissect the character and intellectualize the story. Chloe just gets it immediately; she doesn't need me to pontificate."

Wadlow found that the usual manner of directing an actor wouldn't work with Moretz. He proudly says: "Chloe understands how to create a moment in a way that you can't teach or talk about it. She just does it, and she does it every take. It's funny because we'd talk about a scene, about where I wanted it to go or how it fits into the larger story, and sometimes I'd wonder if what I was saying even made sense. But then we'd shoot it, and Chloe would deliver -- take after take. I don't think of her as a kid at all. I talk to her as a peer because she is so incredibly savvy and mature, but also willing to be goofy and not at all self-conscious. She's just an amazing actress."

Rounding out the trio of returning badasses is Chris D'Amico. At the end of Kick-Ass, Chris' alter ego, Red Mist, turns to the camera and says, "As a great man once said, 'Wait 'til they get a load of me.' A nod to Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, this hints at the super-villain he plans to become: a young man obsessed with avenging the death of his father and assembling a group of fellow super-villains to lead. It was lucky then that Christopher Mintz-Plasse was ready to sign up for another outing.

In the intervening years since he shot the first movie, Mintz-Plasse has been extremely busy on screens big and small: lending his voice to DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon and Focus Features' ParaNorman, appearing in the hit comedies This Is the End and Pitch Perfect, as well as in television series including The Far Cry Experience and Friend Me. Although Chris D'Amico has now inherited his family fortune, he is still very much a bad guy in training. And although his Uncle Ralph (IAIN GLEN) is in maximum security at Riker's Island, Ralph is still ruling over the local Mafia. That won't stop Chris from evolving into something even more evil. "It's great to be back in this world," says the performer, "though it's a lot different now. My father's dead, my mom is a pill- popping psycho, and Red Mist has turned to the dark side and is obsessed with killing Kick-Ass." Hell-bent on recruiting an evil army, Red Mist reinvents himself as The Mother f%&*^r and gets ready to wreak havoc on New York City, with a single-minded obsession to kill Kick-Ass.

Mintz-Plasse discusses his full evolution: "Chris slowly starts to realize he's becoming The Mother- f%&*^r. He's lost everybody he loves: all his friends, all his family, and he's lost himself too. Once he puts on that full outfit and loses Javier, he's no longer Chris D'Amico. He's only The Mother f%&*^r."

Wadlow was as impressed with Mintz-Plasse as he was with his other two leads. He commends: "Chris is a comedic genius. He is so funny, so fearless and a tremendous actor -- so much more than just a comedic actor. He is phenomenal in this film, and people are going to be blown away by what he does. I would like to take some credit for it, like somehow I had this grand plan for him, but all the credit goes to him because he knocked it out of the park."

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