John Leguizamo is done clowning around and is ready to kick ass.
The stand-up comic turned actor got his first comic book-film fix playing the villainous Clown in the 1997 movie version of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, an early (and considerably dark) entry in the now-thriving superhero genre. A decade and a half later he’s making a second foray into that world, again with a more violently off-kilter take than Spider-Man or the Avengers with Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to the much praised 2010 film adaptation of writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr.’s subversively funny take on the real-world repercussions of costumed vigilantism.
We caught up with the actor at Comic-Con last weekend for a quick chat, in which Leguizamo reveals the notion behind his character, Javier, a fresh creation for the film – think Evil Alfred Pennyworth – and why he was ready to dive headfirst into the world of Kick-Ass, even without a suit made of latex.
Fandango: So give us insight on Javier and why you got excited to play him. Why did you want to be part of the Kick-Ass universe?
John Leguizamo: Oh, I saw the first movie, man, I didn't know what to expect, and it really took me to some crazy places with the profanity, the violence, and the incredible honesty and vulnerability of these kids coming of age. And I loved that the superheroes here don't really have superpowers, and their actions have real painful consequences. I love that! It made it so endearing.
So when Jeff Wadlow, the director of Kick-Ass 2 called me, I was like, "Wow, I'm going to be in Kick-Ass – what superhero am I going to play? Do I have to take steroids? I'll shoot up. I don't care. Am I going to have special powers?" He goes, "No. You're going to play you." I go, "Well, that's no fun!" I thought it was going to be like Badass or Pain-in-the-Ass, Lard-Ass – I'll take anything!
Chris [Mintz-Plasse] and I had a Batman/Alfred kind of thing: I'm his butler/surrogate father/bitch. I'm there to make a man out of him, and I get Chuck Liddell to train him, and that doesn't work. So I get this group of villains – I don't want to spoil it but I end up being the emotional catalyst for why he goes from Red Mist to the Mother F***er.
Fandango: Christopher Mintz-Plasse is one of those actors that the second he appears on-screen, people just get happy.
Leguizamo: Oh, dude. He's like that in life. He's such a good guy. He's been incredibly vulnerable and sometimes awkward, and it's magic, man. In this film, he goes for creating this sort of nerd villain. We just had to create that balance of how much of a surrogate father was I. How much emotion between that? So it's the appropriate catalyst for him to go into this full-fledged, six-cylinder Mother F***er. Eight cylinder, maybe.
Fandango: Did you discover the Kick-Ass comic books through the movie?
Leguizamo: Through the movie. They’re a little different. There's like a few extra little bits here and there. You can't put it all in the movie, and the best movies are like that: they don't use everything. Some people are too loyal, and then it doesn't work. It does need to evolve and mutate.
Fandango: How did it compare to your Spawn experience?
Leguizamo: Spawn was amazing. I mean, I’ve got a special loyalty to Spawn because Spawn is just a revolutionary comic. Comic books were dying at that time. Spawn revitalized the comic book industry. Todd McFarlane was the first to set the tone: this darker, edgier, rawer, more vulgar, more profanity, realer comic book. That was him. I owe much to that series and to the movie.
Fandango: Are you ultimately happy that you didn't have to wear a goofy costume?
Leguizamo: I was happy. I don't miss those days. [But] I will do it again. I'm up for something where I will probably have to wear a lot of prosthetics. I just tested the other day, and I was like, "I remember those days on Spawn. Four-hour makeup, two on fat suit, another three-hour makeup…" It's rough!
Fandango: Your director Jeff Wadlow is on fire in the comic book and action world in Hollywood all of a sudden.
Leguizamo: It's incredible. I've got to be honest. The new breed of directors, to me, aren't as happening to me as my old-school guys—the De Palmas, Scorseses—because they are all just visual. They don't really understand acting. They don't understand human behavior. They don't understand story structure, arc development, beats in scenes. Then when you come across a Jeff Wadlow or a Jon Favreau, who studied acting, know story structure, character arc, character development, man, I'm a pig in s**t. There must be a better way to say it than that, but it's just actor heaven, you know?