Mark Millar gained critical acclaim at Marvel and DC for his work on titles like Superman: Red Son, The Ultimates and Civil War. The comic book writer has since embarked on a number of equally praised creator owned projects, many of which have been adapted to the big screen. These include Kick-Ass, Wanted and Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming take on Millar and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbon’s The Secret Service.
The comic book tells the story of a James Bond-like spy who recruits his rough around the edges nephew to battle a mysterious villain responsible for kidnapping a number of public figures, including Star Wars legend Mark Hamill. The movie has assembled an impressive cast which includes Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine and relative newcomer Taron Egerton.
In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Millar had this to say about his role as an executive producer and what it’s been like for him to see X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn and Stardust writer Jane Goldman bring his characters to life on the big screen.
“As an exec producer all the work really gets done before shooting and after. The actual filming is where the director just reigns supreme so you sit back, do the odd set visit, say hello to everybody and try to keep out of the way. Matthew and Jane wrote the screenplay last year, and then we had a few months of watching casting tapes every day. Matthew’s quite funny about this — you’ll be in a supermarket and he phones you saying he’s found a new guy who might be good for the leading kid and you say you’re literally buying beans and he’ll ask you to jump in a taxi, get home and check this guy out on the computer. This happened about three times a week as he’s endlessly enthusiastic, which is really brilliant. So there’s all that chatter and looking at designs and so on, but it’s really just a gracious thing for him to do as he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s one of the best directors in the world.”
When casting rumours for lead role in the movie surfaced via the trades, names mentioned included Attack the Block’s John Boyega and 300: Rise of an Empire star Jack O’Connell. Fans of the comic book series were surprised then when little known actor Taron Egerton was chosen. However, Millar has nothing but good things to say about both him and the rest of the cast.
“Taron is exactly Gary Unwin. Without question. He just looks like Dave’s drawing come to life. Colin, likewise, looks like he’s stepped out of the comic. It’s just fantastic and having a couple of Oscar winners like he and Michael Caine just gives this project such a huge gravitas. Sam’s character in the book is more of a Mark Zuckerberg character, an internet entrepreneur who falls for this big global warming concern that’s genuinely given me sleepless nights since I first read James Lovelock’s “Gaia” books in my twenties. We talked about a lot of young, 20-something actors, but really there was nobody available who felt right and this part really needed a big American movie star since so many of the other parts are British. But then Matthew buzzed me up and suggested Sam Jackson, and it clicked into place. When he read out the dialogue in Sam Jackson’s voice, this great scene he and Jane wrote between Sam’s character and Colin Firth’s, I could totally see it.”
As we mentioned above, Mark Hamill makes a brief appearance in the movie (which anyone who has read the comic will know should prove to be very funny on the big screen) and Millar heaped praise upon the actor best known for playing Luke Skywalker in the classic Star Wars trilogy as well as his work voicing The Joker in various animated series and video games over the years.
“The only well-known face I knew we had to have in this movie was Mark Hamill. I actually wrote him into that opening sequence without asking for his permission and, since I didn’t know him at the time, I didn’t know how to reach him. This went right to the wire, like the night before the first issue went to press, and I managed to get his number through a mutual friend and he couldn’t have been more lovely. I asked him if he’d cameo in the movie when it happened, and he was really into, which had Matthew very excited too. He’s a huge “Star Wars” nut. When he was eight he got onto the Dagobah set when they were filming “Empire” so to later be directing Mark was a huge deal for him. We were watching all Mark’s scenes up at the house last week and he’s amazing. Totally charismatic. He’s really got genuine depth and his scene in the ski lodge at the start is terrific. It’s too early to say anything else on all this and I hesitate to give spoilers you haven’t seen in the books, but I just kind of love the idea of my name being in the same credits as Mark Hamill and Dave Gibbons. Two of my heroes and two guys who have since become pals, which is great.”
As for whether Millar has put any thought into a comic book sequel, he emphasised his commitment to Jupiter’s Legacy, Kick-Ass 3 and new series’ like Starlight and MPH. However, he did have this to say about the long rumoured adaptation of his and Leinil Francis Yu’s (New Avengers) Superior, a comic which tells the story of a young boy with multiple sclerosis who is able to transform into his favourite superhero.
“We’re really happy with how “Kingsman,” the first book, has turned out but I’d guess a second one probably wouldn’t even get started until after the movie comes out. Matthew’s really keen to turn this into a franchise though. He’s producing “Superior” next, though we haven’t decided on a director yet, so I guess it’ll be a little while before we can all sit around a table and plan anything else with these characters. The movie, I think, is going to be massive and it’ll be lovely to have that out there again giving the book a nice big mainstream profile.”