The Matthew Vaughn collaborator discusses the film, X-Men: First Class and more
Film producers often have intriguing stories of how they got into the business. Tarquin Pack's story is one that saw him rise through the ranks with each film he worked on. He started out as a production assistant on the British film Mean Machine, where he met producer and soon-to-be sought-after director Matthew Vaughn. From then on, Pack has worked with Vaughn on all of his directorial outings, Layer Cake, Stardust and this year's fantastic film Kick-Ass, which was just released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 3. I just had the chance to speak with this producer about his experiences on the film and here's what he had to say.
You've been working with Matthew for quite some time and your role has been elevated each time. Can you talk a bit about how that relationship first started and how you became a full-fledged producer for Kick-Ass?
Tarquin Pack: Luck. I started working with him as a runner, actually, on this film called Mean Machine and I did some assisting on Swept Away, which was... interesting. Then he asked me to come and work with him on Layer Cake, so I did that and then I went off and did my own thing. Then he got offered the X-Men 3 gig and that's when I came in to kind of watch his back on that. Obviously, that didn't happen and we came back and I had started reading for him as well, at that time, just trying to find another project. We met with Neil Gaiman, he was a fan of Stardust and it was one of those things where he definitely wanted to make a film. X-Men 3 kind of teed him up and all that pent up energy needed to be released. He got Stardust done and I worked on that. Since then, we've been working together daily, so to speak. It's been amazing. Everything in life is just like a big bowl of luck and then you just work as hard as you can and try not to make any bad decisions. And, if you do, just work on some distraction tactics, to make people look the other way when you make bad decisions.
It's all smoke and mirrors.
Tarquin Pack: (Laughs) You know what? That's one of the biggest problems I have observed is that a lot of people, who want to produce, that's what happens. There is a trade, and that trade should be learned. I think a lot of people say, 'I want to be a producer," so they just say, 'Now I am a producer,' if they manage to get something off. I guess my background is I know my way around a set, because I've worked on many sets. I've swept floors and I've carried boxes and I've put nails into boards and built flats. It's a different way of doing it, I guess, but somehow I ended up sitting in Pinewood, working on an X-Men movie. How did that happen? (Laughs)
I was a huge fan of the film when I saw it before it came out and one of the quirky things that struck me about it was Nicolas Cage's Adam West impression for Big Daddy. I read that it was mainly a dig on the gravely voice of Christian Bale. Was that something that Nicolas brought to the table or was that something you wanted to implement into the character?
Tarquin Pack: Oh, that was Nic, purely Nic. I have nothing but admiration for him. Some of his choices can be odd, but when he is really on it, he is amazing. That was one of those moments in rehearsals when he started talking in an Adam West voice. We were like, 'OK.' Then, talking to him afterwards, he had this whole thing about how the guy he's playing is a damaged character, obsessed with comics and he's channeling an energy, and that's what he thought he would be channeling, the superhero of his childhood being Adam West's Batman. We went, 'Wow, there's an impeccable logic to what you're saying.' He definitely went, 'Is this going to work?' But somehow he pulled it off.
At first I thought it was really bizarre and then it just started to kind of make sense. Like you said, there was this weird logic to it and the more you heard it, the more it made sense.
Tarquin Pack: Yeah. So you went on the exact same journey as we did (Laughs).
Pretty much. I also read that you were going to push back the film because you couldn't find your 'Dave' and how Aaron Johnson came along. Matthew didn't want an English kid for the role and wanted an American. Can you talk about the discovery of Aaron and what that meant for the film?
Tarquin Pack: Yeah. We were almost done. You would think that finding an 11-year-old girl who could act would be the most difficult thing, but it turned out it was finding a 19-year-old guy. One of our edicts to the casting director was that he has to be American. We were about to leave L.A., pretty much thinking that was it, we were going to have to push, we couldn't find anyone, and in walks this kid and blows us away. When we asked where he was from, he just slips into English and said he was from just outside of London (Laughs). The terrible irony was that the casting director said, 'Just so you know, I had him on tape two months ago but neither of you said you would look at it because he was English' (Laughs). We were like, 'In the future, just remind us that we're idiots and maybe the whole process will be a little less painful.' I think Aaron is a phenomenally talented actor. He's really fantastic. He's actually one of my one's to watch.
You were talking a bit about Chloe Moretz indirectly and one of the things that also struck me was the "controversy," not over an 11-year-old girl killing people, but an 11-year-old girl swearing. What was it like when you first heard about this "controversy," not about her killing tons of people, but about her saying naughty words?
Tarquin Pack: Yeah. For me, I still don't quite understand it. To me, it totally defies logic. One of my favorite things was when we got berated because she was swearing and they were saying, 'How could you have a young girl cussing?' I said, 'She kills people. That is so much worse.' They said, 'Don't be ridiculous. She only kills bad people' (Laughs). I find it completely insane. I have a four-year-old daughter and I would rather she neither swore nor killed people, but, if given the choice, I'll take the swearing (Laughs).
One of my co-workers just spoke with Mark Millar and he was talking about the sequel. The comic sequel seems a lot darker than the first and it almost seems that Red Mist is turning into your own kind of Green Goblin, avenging his father's death. Will this darker tone be prevalent or will you try to keep the film lighter as well?
Tarquin Pack: Well, seeing that Mark is totally deranged, he'll probably take it to the darkest place, in the darkest part of the darkest place in the darkest corner of the universe. We will definitely have to winch it slightly back from there. We would never want to make kind of a, what do people call it, slasher porn. I think in the comics, you can get away with that. If you look at the original comic, compared to the film, there is a lot more blood and gore and you can get away with that in the comics. It's a still image, you can just go, 'Oh, ok.' I'm actually looking at one of the still images that John Romita Jr. drew for one of the special edition DVD's that is only coming out in the U.K., for whatever reason. It's this amazing image of Hit Girl just dripping in blood. The still image is awesome. If that was real, in a film, it would feel like 'Oh.... OK' (Laughs). We're always going to be slightly lighter but the most important thing is to keep the tone and keep the connection between the source material and the film. I think that's what we - I hope that's what we do. They are two different things.
Can you talk a bit about the tone of the film? Will this be similar to the first three films or will you be going in a different direction, tonally?
Tarquin Pack: I think the first two (X-Men and X2: X-Men United) are the closest to the sort of movie we want to make. This isn't going to be a Kick-Ass version of X-Men. It is what it is and I think Matthew will bring a freshness to it. He has a way of authoring movies, like you see in Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass, that nuanced outlook will be in X-Men because that's just the way he is as a director. That's just the way he works. I think all of the movies he's done, where you expect him to turn right, he turns left. That's why Fox asked him to do an X-Men movie and, even though it's a big, franchise American movie, and you might think he'll be turning right like everyone else would, we'll still be turning left (Laughs).
Tarquin Pack: I can't go into great detail, but let's just say that an idea we thought we had that was brilliant and original... damn that Christopher Nolan (Laughs). In the end, there were cuts. You always want everything to be in your film, but they were kind of irritating changes to make, because it was a really cool idea, but I think there's a possibility that there's a version of it that we might be able to use as well. In the end, it wasn't that we had to remove all this stuff in the film that didn't make sense, it was more that it was a really cool device that we thought we were going to be using.
Just to wrap up, for those who, sadly, might not have seen Kick-Ass, what would you like to say to them about why they should pick up this DVD?
Tarquin Pack: Because it's good! (Laughs) We made this film for people who like to watch movies, despite everyone saying we shouldn't make it. I think it's well-crafted and entertaining. What do you think of it? Why do you think people should see it?
I think it's one of the best films I've seen this year, to be honest with you. I loved it. (In the interest of full disclosure, CLICK HERE for my 5-star review of the film)
Tarquin Pack: Well, great. Put that on (Laughs). That's much better!
Well, that's all I have for you, Tarquin. Thanks so much for your time, and best of luck with X-Men: First Class and everything else.
Tarquin Pack: Great. Thanks, Brian. Cheers.