English actor Aaron Johnson, 19, has played some iconic roles in his career. From portraying Charlie Chaplin in the 2003 comedy “Shanghai Knights” to embodying John Lennon in 2009’s “Nowhere Boy,” Johnson says he’s looking for versatility when auditioning for roles.
That’s one of the main reasons he took on his most recent character in the comic book movie “Kick-Ass.” In the film, Johnson plays the title character, a superhero who is actually just a shy high school kid who one day decides he wants to fight crime. He becomes famous after a video of him is uploaded online.
During an interview with me, Johnson talked about what superheroes he looked up to as a kid and what he thinks about all this controversy surrounding the ultra-violence in the movie.
What was it about this superhero character that made you want this role?
It was completely original. It wasn’t a typical superhero. I love the fact that he’s just an ordinary kid. He’s really into his comic books. It’s something he believes in. He creates this alter ego because he wants to be this confident, heroic guy.
What was your impression of the comic book when you first saw it?
I liked the originality of it. It was really unique. It reminded me a lot of “Superbad,” that teenage angst. I really wanted to venture into that sort of character and make it come to life.
Were you the kind of kid that would pretend to be a superhero when you were younger?
Yeah, I would play around and pretend I was Wolverine and Spider-Man. I loved all the Batmans. I actually wanted to be Robin when I was younger. I thought he was a bit of a badass even though Batman always saved him.
Is the superhero movie genre something you could see yourself doing again in the future?
For me, I have to go far away from it for a while and then come back. If something great comes along and it’s completely different from “Kick-Ass,” yeah, I’d go for it.
The film explores the idea that the internet can make anyone famous these days. If your video goes viral a million people can see it in a day. Talk a bit about how that plays into the film.
Yeah, YouTube is a pretty populated website right now. People make home videos and put them on the website and it gets 1,000 viewers and then it goes to a million. I think the film really jokes about that a lot. We have Kick-Ass who gets into a fight with these three guys on the street and it gets filmed on a cell phone. And then he gets on the news because nowadays these things are getting brought up on the news all the time. That’s a huge part of why my character becomes famous online.
Do you think a film like this could trigger a real-life superhero movement?
There’s already people that I’ve seen on YouTube that dress up like superheroes and even have their own crew. They go out and sweep the streets of New York and help grannies cross the road.
There’s been some controversy about the violence in the film mostly because it’s coming at the hands of a little girl (Hit Girl played by actress Chloe Moretz). Explain why the violence is an important part of the story.
The whole controversy thing is just ridiculous. I think people who are saying that are just sad in the head. It’s just a comic book movie. People are going to see this movie and look past all that and say, “Whoa, Chloe. What a fantastic actress. She’s only 11 and she got all that hard work in and she worked with the stunt guys.” We should appreciate her work. She is a sweetheart and a really down-to-earth girl. I mean, there are people who take their kids to beauty pageants when they are only six years old and put makeup on their face. To me, that’s controversial. That’s teaching your kids to be insecure about themselves. There are kids at the age of 15 getting collagen put in their lips. That’s what is wrong in the world.
With all the action scenes in the film, I’m guessing you went home with some injuries. Any scars worth mentioning?
Chris [Mintz-Plasse] hit his face with a nunchaku and split his eyebrow open. He was okay. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It’s a pretty cool scar. Chicks dig it.