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KICK-ASS

Casting Kick-Ass
It would have been mighty difficult for Vaughn to make KICK-ASS without… Kick-Ass. Yet, with the film deep in pre-production, that's exactly the scenario he faced, with Vaughn unable to find an actor to fill the yellow boots of his hero, hapless-teen-turned-plucky-hero, Dave Lizewski. 

"I nearly put the movie back six months,” says Vaughn. "We'd cast all the other roles, but without the right guy as Dave? Forget it.”

Vaughn had imposed an edict: the role of Dave, a New York teenager, would not be played by a Brit. "I was paranoid – as a British filmmaker shooting this in England with a British cast, we would do a Dick van Dyke in reverse,” laughs Vaughn. "But the problem is that these guys were screen-testing, and they could do the geeky guy, but the scenes with emotion and heart? There would be nothing.”

Then, Vaughn's casting directors, Sarah Finn and Lucinda Syson, encouraged him to take a look at a tape from a young actor named Aaron Johnson, which Vaughn had earlier turned down without viewing. When he did, the star-making part of his brain, the part that discovered Vinnie Jones, Sienna Miller and set Daniel Craig on the road to Bond, began to light up. "I knew immediately,” says Vaughn. "I wanted to say, ‘you've got the role', right then and there. But I had to calm down. I said, ‘where are you from? LA? New York?' And he says, ‘Little Chalfont'. I thought he was joking. I said, ‘that's a bloody good English accent you've got there.'” The casting director clued me in that he really was English, which was why we'd rejected his audition tape originally. 

Johnson – seen most recently as John Lennon in Sam Taylor-Wood's NOWHERE BOY – was delighted to secure the role of Dave Lizewski (named after a Millar fan who won a charity auction to be immortalized as Kick-Ass), as he sets out on his painful road to becoming a hero. Mainly because, unlike most actors who play superheroes, Kick-Ass' sheer incompetence meant that Johnson didn't have to embark upon grueling training. Quite the opposite, actually. "Matthew said, ‘You've got to cut down on the gym and whatever you're doing',” laughs Johnson. "You've got to lose a bit of weight and look really nerdy and bony, so the wetsuit looks baggy. I was happy with a training regimen of sitting on my sofa eating crackers.”

But for Johnson, the appeal of the character lay far beyond his lack of pecs. "My take on it was he was a young lad, a comic book fan, who was shy with girls. He doesn't have a whole lot going for him, so he tries to stand out from the crowd by becoming a superhero, and that's when he becomes interesting.” 

Kick-Ass – so named because Millar thought it would be exactly what a teenage superhero would call himself – becomes interesting after his first mission when two car thieves stab him in the stomach. Oh, and then he gets run over by a car. Cue several weeks in hospital and the insertion of metal plates in his back which, along with dulled nerve endings, greatly enhance Kick-Ass' capacity for pain.

Emboldened, he ventures out again, thwarts an attempted mugging and, thanks to a nearby crowd filming the fight and immediately uploading it to YouTube, becomes an internet phenomenon. From there, his adventures become increasingly outlandish as he attracts the attention of Mob boss, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who blames Kick-Ass for the havoc wreaked on his organization. He then comes across Big Daddy and Hit Girl and from there, Kick-Ass – the movie and character – spirals into a world of outlandish violence and surreal, scabrous comedy. "It's teenage high-school humor mixed with dark, messed-up violence,” says Johnson. "To me, it's SUPERBAD meets KILL BILL.”

The mention of SUPERBAD may not be an accident, for Vaughn cast Christopher Mintz-Plasse – indelible as McLovin in Greg Mottola's hilarious coming-of-age comedy – as Red Mist, a superhero<

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