Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s career kicked off with the role of the loveably dorky Fogell in Superbad, which earned him instant recognition and shouts of “Hey, McLovin!” And though he followed that film with a similarly nerdy turn in David Wain’s Role Models, his role in the new Kick-Ass shows that Mintz-Plasse is slowly shedding that McLovin moniker. He plays Chris D’Amico, the son of a mob boss desperate for his father’s attention: When dad wants to lure rogue superhero Kick-Ass out from hiding, Chris eagerly adopts the persona of another ostensible crime-fighter, Red Mist, to set the trap for Kick-Ass. Mintz-Plasse’s bad-guy turn is a departure from his previous boyish roles, which include a petulant Isaac in Year One and voices for How To Train Your Dragon and for Marmaduke, due out this summer. The A.V. Club sat down with Mintz-Plasse during the Kick-Ass opening-day festivities at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo to discuss the violence in Kick-Ass, leaving McLovin, and why he won’t always take pictures with fans.
The A.V. Club: How are you enjoying your first foray into comic-book fandom?
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: It’s pretty insane, man. Comic-Con was a trip last year, because we screened some footage. It was before we had any distribution, and it was like, 7,000 comic-book fans. You could tell that they wanted to be dead-on to the comic book. I met a bunch of people at the L.A. première who were dressed up as like Red Mist and Hit-Girl, which is bizarre, because I would never, ever do that. I don’t have the guts to do that. Those people are so brave, you know? They don’t care what people think. It’s pretty amazing.
AVC: The comic book and the movie were written at the same time.
CMP: Yeah, which was a first. It had never really been done before.
AVC: How did your character from the film come about, given that there are differences between Red Mist onscreen and in the comic book?
CMP: In the comic, he’s more the stud, the—you’d almost think Aaron [Johnson] would play Red Mist and I’d play Kick-Ass, but I think when I auditioned for Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn kinda knew already. He didn’t want the lead to be too funny, which I guess that’s a compliment, but I was too loud and obnoxious. He wanted me for Red Mist, so Jane [Goldman] rewrote the part of Red Mist for me. So everything I took from the character was right there in the script, which was very cool. It’s an honor when someone writes for you. That means they can hear your voice in their head.
AVC: What was your interpretation of Kick-Ass specifically?
CMP: It was more loud and rambunctious and energetic. It got me the part of Red Mist, so I can’t really complain.
AVC: Is Red Mist pretty typical of the types of characters you like to play?
CMP: Yeah. I think it’s a lot of fun to, you know, exert a lot of energy, but there are lots of times when I play Red Mist down as well. I’ve never worked with a director like Matt Vaughn, and I’ve never played a bad guy before. So I kind of had him directing me a lot, which, in Superbad and Role Models, they would direct you, but there was a lot of improv. But in this, it was very straight to the script, and Matthew was telling me what to do.
AVC: Since this was your first time playing the bad guy, what were some of the villains you looked to as you developed the character?
CMP: There are two in particular. James Franco from Spider-Man, ’cause he’s best friends with Peter Parker, he’s the son of the baddie, and at the end, he becomes the baddie. And then also the Anakin Skywalker route, where he can almost be good the whole way, until at the last second he snaps and he’s bad.
AVC: Kick-Ass has attracted a lot of press attention, especially concerning the violence in the film. Some see it as cartoonish, while others, like Roger Ebert, are pretty critical.
CMP: Well, how old is he? Like 85 now? Older people—this isn’t his kind of movie. I’m not expecting him to give this a four-star review, and that’s almost better that he give it a one-star review. He’s like, “It’s too violent. This girl—blah, blah, blah” so then people are going to be like, “Oh, fuck yeah. I want to go see that now.” I think the violence is very cartoonish, because the music that goes along with it is upbeat and girly and fun. So you’re cheering and laughing through it all.
AVC: So how do you feel about the criticism of the violence, given that you’re in the target demographic?
CMP: Oh, I think it’s the best. If I was watching the news and someone was like, “This movie is an outrage: an 11 year-old girl murdering 50 people,” I’d be like, “You just bought me my ticket.” The more violence, the better.
AVC: With young actors, it can be hard to break out of the shadow of your first defining role. Do you still feel trapped as McLovin when you go into auditions?
CMP: Definitely. I think right now it’s working for me, ’cause I’m making movies. I’m playing different roles and people see me as that—I think they go into the audition going like, “Oh my God. The kid who played McLovin is here. I love that role. I want to see what he’s got.” If I make them laugh or do something different, then I get the role. So right now, it’s not haunting me at all.
AVC: Do you think you’ll eventually want to distance yourself from that role?
CMP: Yeah, I think this movie is a big step. Role Models was a big step, because that was a different role, and this is a big one because it’s an action movie, but all I care about is that I keep working and making movies I’m proud of. People still remember Sean Penn as Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and if I can have like one-10th of his career, then I’m fine. [Laughs.]
AVC: So you don’t feel like you’re in danger of being typecast?
CMP: No, no. You know, Role Models was Dave Wain, Paul Rudd, and Seann William Scott, and I’m a massive fan of all of them, so I would never decline that role. And this is not really a nerdy character by any means, so I think I’m doing fine right now.
AVC: You still maintain the nerdy look.
CMP: I can go get plastic surgery, if I wanted to get to that. [Laughs.]
AVC: How interested were you in acting before you took on the role in Superbad?
CMP: Well, I auditioned because my friends were, but I had been in theater since I was 6. I had been doing all my school plays, elementary school, middle school, and high school, and then summer. I’d wanted to act for a long time, and I thought I was going to go to college and do theater, go that route. But Superbad kind of fell on my lap. I was very, very lucky for that.
AVC: What kind of stuff were you doing when you were 6?
CMP: I was Aladdin, and then I was Captain Von Trapp from Sound Of Music when I was 7 or 8, and then King Arthur. I was always the lead. I’ve always enjoyed being onstage, acting obnoxious, being someone that wasn’t me, hiding behind a character.
AVC: In our interview with Alia Shawkat, she said it was difficult going back to school after filming Arrested Development because she’d get these “Oh, you’re too good for school” type reactions. Did anything similar happen after Superbad?
CMP: Yeah you get that, but you can’t really let that bother you. Like, I meet a lot of nice people out there who want autographs and pictures. They’re very sweet. But then there’s the people that bring 15 stacks of pictures for you to sign, right when you get off the airport—and when you sign three, you’re an asshole. [In voice of an annoying male fan.] “Tom Cruise signs them, man. What’s up, man? He’s way bigger than you.” I don’t give a shit what Tom Cruise does.
AVC: Is there a public persona—
CMP: That I have to live up to?
AVC: Maybe not live up to, but is there conscious effort to cultivate one that you’re happy with?
CMP: Yeah, I mean, I’m always very kind. I enjoy some of the attention sometimes, but I’m not gonna force it. If I’m in a bad mood—if I’m feeling sick and someone wants a picture—I’m not going to do it if I look like shit. I’m going to say no. I’m not going to just be nice because I have to, ’cause I don’t. But I normally am.
AVC: What goes into your process for choosing roles?
CMP: It’s always the script first. [Then] whoever else is attached. I never like to be the first person attached, because I don’t really trust what’s going on, unless there’s a really good director. I’ve been pitched a lot of stuff where I’m the nerdy virgin who doesn’t get laid until the last scene by a big-breasted blonde. They’re like, “Why would he get her? But it’s so funny!” I stay away from that.