Even over the phone — and across the Atlantic — you could hear the slump in Matthew Vaughn’s shoulders when he talked about the theatrical run of “Kick-Ass.“
“It was disappointing to see that ‘Kick-Ass’ didn’t do the kind of box office we hoped for,” said Vaughn, who was director, producer and co-writer of the April release that pulled in $96 million worldwide, a number that felt like a letdown after so many industry observers had circled the film as a sensation-in-waiting. “Challenge and opportunity always go hand-in-hand, don’t they?”
As he spoke, Vaughn was fresh from the set of “X-Men: First Class” in London, where he is immersed in his first big-budget studio production. That gives the 39-year-old filmmaker plenty of reason to look ahead instead of backward, but and and he would love to see the movie become a home-video success story.
“Sure, I hope there’s a groundswell now, but will that happen? It’s hard to predict.” Vaughn, who was producer of Guy Ritchie’s British crime film said he takes encouragement from the words of Brad Pitt.
“Brad said to me about ‘Fight Club,’ ‘We only made like $30 million [domestically] in box office but the movie became a whole other thing on DVD and it’s been popular for years and reached a far larger audience.’ “
The legacy of “Kick-Ass” will be interesting to track. It might follow in the bloodied footsteps of “Fight Club” or it might fade to a different level of cult popularity like, say, “Darkman,” the audacious 1990 Sam Raimi superhero film that has a certain following in the fanboy constituency but no traction at all in the wider popular memory.
I’d predict the film will echo and grow louder as it does so. The main reason is Chloe Moretz, who stole the film with her salty flair and a truly precocious performance that was by turns heartfelt and startling.
Vaughn also took so many chances with the film that it will age far better than the cookie-cutter cinema that gets churned out these days. It sounds like the director already knows that: “No one was cold on the film. There was a lot of strong reaction. Some people thought it was just fantastic. Other people thought it was a diabolical travesty of a film. I can be proud of both reactions, in a way.”
Now the real question is how the “Kick-Ass” experience — both good and bad — will inform Vaughn’s decisions with “X-Men: First Class.” Will it prod the film toward edginess or tug the bold filmmaker back toward the middle?
– Geoff Boucher
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PHOTOS: Top, Matthew Vaughn with Aaron Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz on set of “Kick-Ass.” (Dan Smith / Lionsgate). Second, John Romita Jr.’s art from pages of “Kick-Ass” (Marvel). Third, Matthew Vaughn on the set of “Kick-Ass” (Dan Smith / Lionsgate)
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