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It's Quint's Birthday and he's got an interview to share with you all! Aaron Johnson on John Lennon, Kick-Ass and Nowhere Boy!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first of a series of interviews I conducted at Sundance this year. After Park City I went to the Santa Barbara Film Fest and got a little behind on the Sundance stuff. I’ll have a good 7 or so interviews hitting this week. I’m about to go off and celebrate my 29th Birthday with a bunch of friends by eating tons of Italian food and watching two movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, but before I left I wanted to share this interview with Mr. Aaron Johnson. A lot of people don’t know Aaron Johnson yet. This year that will change. Between his lead turn in Matthew Vaughn’s KICK-ASS and his starring role in NOWHERE BOY he’s going to be getting a lot of play. You’ll see his face everywhere, he’ll be a heartthrob for the teenage girls and a semi-geek icon for us nerds that love KICK-ASS. And for the average cinephile they’ll get his great turn as a young, conflicted rebellious John Lennon in NOWHERE BOY, which had its stateside premiere at Sundance. In the below interview we cover everything above (well, as much as we can in a 10 minute chat). Enjoy!

Quint: I saw KICK-ASS recently. It was the highlight of Butt-Numb-A-Thon.

Aaron Johnson: What’s it called?

Quint: Butt-Numb-A-Thon. It’s a 24 hour film festival and KICK-ASS played the second to last… It was right before AVATAR.

Aaron Johnson: How do you sit up and watch 24 hours of movies?

Quint: Caffeine and just pure movie love.

Aaron Johnson: Nothing else?

Quint: Nothing for me. [Points to Kraken] This guy had all the coke.

Kraken: The new James Cameron movie played, the new Martin Scorsese movie, SHUTTER ISLAND, played and…

Aaron Johnson: How was SHUTTER ISLAND?

Quint: It’s really good.

Kraken: It was really good, but then KICK-ASS played and I would say KICK-ASS was the favorite for almost every single person in the audience.

Aaron Johnson: Wow, that’s wonderful.

Quint: Have you seen it yet?

Aaron Johnson: No, I haven’t.

Quint: It’s just so much fun.

Aaron Johnson: That’s great news man. I jump on the bandwagon in about a month’s time and then we go around Europe and then America and all.

Quint: Then you will be living KICK ASS for a while.

Aaron Johnson: Yeah and then I’ll be in a KICK-ASS mood, yeah.

Quint: I’m such a huge Beatles fan, so of course when I saw the Sundance lineup, I was like “This is going on the top of my list of something to see,” and I loved it. It’s one of my favorites of the festival so far. I have to imagine there was a ton of weight on your shoulders playing such an iconic person. You are kind of restricted, because you are playing him young, where you can’t just throw on the round glasses and have the long hair… You have to walk such a fine line in the film. You can’t do an imitation, but you have to be recognizable; you have the angst, but you also have the sweetness of the character and you have to make him likeable…

Aaron Johnson: Yeah, there were so many elements to him. He’s very charismatic, but then there was this whole defensive vulnerability and anger and bitterness and you almost… You start off and you don’t recognize this person. You just look at this guy as a boy who is just out of school. You don’t instantly think “Lennon.” This is what we wanted to achieve, bringing the audience on a journey with that person and then you slightly start becoming Lennon and by the end you kind of grasp that person and by the end you almost sort of feel as if it’s a person you almost know. Sam was brilliant in crafting this and yeah it was mad. Obviously I’m not from that generation, so I knew very minimal, so I had to sort of learn it as if it’s the Bible. Any other Beatles fanatics and Lennon fanatics know it all down to the dates and the days.

Quint: I’m not quite that crazy, but…

Aaron Johnson: I’ve met a few! (laughs) It’s just this sort of nodding your head going “Yeah, I think it was July the 26th, 1975,” though I haven’t a clue about what they are talking about. But yeah I had to learn a lot just for me to have confidence enough to feel I’ve covered every base, so I knew I wouldn’t miss something out and do it as accurately as I possibly could. The thing is, everyone knows Lennon in the Beatles as this sort of arrogant, kind of quick-witted cocky guy, but when he’s in the Beatles his stance is very quite rigid. He’s got his wide stance and beats things very tight lipped, when the rest of the Beatles have all got smiles on their faces. We had to try to work out why for the fifties rock and roll… He was inspired by Elvis who moved his hips and everything and rock and roll is all about loose and sexy and rebellion and that doesn’t really quite fit. The fact that his mother died and then he had to put the barriers up and then the Beatles was a front… There was a thing that he said in a ROLLING STONE interview where he’s just talking about how he was with his mother and his Aunt and all sorts of things and he says “The Beatles was a front and I was just really bitter inside and it wasn’t were I felt comfortable” and then when he met Yoko, he fell in love and became this free spirit and almost like his mother came out of him, this free spirited person, and then you see him in the way that he’s so overprotective over Yoko is almost the way Aunt Mimi was overprotective and responsible for him when he was growing up. He learned those from two very strong women and needed to play a lot of that sort of vulnerable side and that new learning who he is becoming. There’s a whole side that no one has ever really seen before, so it kind of scary at first.

Quint: I just have to imagine as an actor, even forgetting all of the expectation that the fans of John Lennon might have, the fact that you are playing… It’s the right era; you are playing almost like a James Dean REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE kind of angsty youth. John does some really dickhead things in the movie, but you still have to like him, you know what I mean? To to me that’s what impressed me the most about your performance that at the end of the day we like John no matter all of the crap he did. I don’t know, I guess you understood John a little bit by the end of it.

Aaron Johnson: I guess that’s what he was trying to make justice of. It’s a story that hasn’t been told before and yet it’s kind of a back-story behind an artist. He went through a fucking hell of a time, man. It was a very difficult time and a complicated situation family-wise and you kind of want to go on that journey and really feel it the way he feels it as an audience.

Quint: (Director) Sam (Taylor Wood) said something really interesting. She didn’t want you to look too much at the Lennon of the later years.

Aaron Johnson: Yeah, she didn’t want me doing an impersonation at all, yeah.

Quint: You still have that kind of balance, where you still have to be recognizable, so you have to have the accent and I loved that his humor comes through in the movie, too, but it wasn’t a caricature.

Aaron Johnson: Yeah, something he used to do a lot was kind of impersonations of people or jokes on like Winston Churchill and those sorts of people, but with his Uncle George he used to stay up and listen to radio shows of THE GOONS, which is an old sort of British comedy thing where they used to do funny voices and he used to just do impersonations of them and sort of incorporate them into his jokes and stuff. Also, a lot of his humor, you would see him on the stage and he used to like to take the piss out of special people, retarded people, and make jokes on the way that they looked, pull funny faces and do funny claps and stuff. Obviously we couldn’t… [Johnson pulls a face and claps to demonstrate]. We played around with that for a little bit and then it’s like, “There’s no way we can do it. Not in this day and age.” There are so many bits of him messing around playing, pulling funny faces and those sorts of things. That’s what it was, his humor was out there. We played around with all of that sort of stuff and it was good for him.

Quint: Do you view his humor as a defense mechanism?

Aaron Johnson: Completely. And that’s what we used it with. He completely used his humor in those sorts of times, like there’s an instance in the film where it’s his birthday and his mother has set everything up and he’s really quite angry at her and confused as to what’s going on and where his dad is and all sorts of things are going through his mind. He’s at the birthday and he says “Clap your hands for Julia. Thanks for putting this all together” and that sort of thing and then he does a few jokes, because he feels he’s too open, so he needs to cover it up in some way and that’s what he was always like.

Quint: He retreats back a little bit inside himself.

Aaron Johnson: All of those things sort of uncovered different layers and that’s what Sam was really good at doing and all of those sorts of things.

Quint: I think they are close to wrapping us up. What are you working on now? We know you have KICK-ASS in a couple of months, but do you have anything else coming up?

Aaron Johnson: That’s what I’m going onto to promote, yeah.

Quint: Are you signed on to do more KICK-ASSes if the first one is successful?

Aaron Johnson: If KICK-ASS goes on well. They’ve already got a few ideas for a KICK-ASS 2.

Quint: I’m telling you, dude, that screening… The roof of the theater was blown off. People went crazy for it.

Kraken: Even the really cynical people that we hang out with were just like “I can’t believe how awesome it is.” If you can win those guys over…

Quint: They are going to force you to go to Comic-Con and you are not going to be able to walk around. You are going to have to dress up like a Stormtrooper or something to actually get around.

Kraken: You’re going to get an idea of what it was like to walk around as John Lennon.

Quint: Yeah, but for comic book nerds. You’re not going to be chased around by cute girls, but by a bunch of guys that look like me.

[Everyone Laughs]

Aaron Johnson: That will be fun. It will be interesting.

Quint: [Laughs] I don’t know if “fun” is the right word! Cool, well it was a pleasure meeting you man and congratulations.

Aaron Johnson: Thank you very much.

So there you have it. Really sharp guy, really funny guy. We’ll be seeing a lot of good stuff from him in the coming years. Not sure when The Weinsteins are going to release NOWHERE BOY, but if they’re smart they’ll be pushing Johnson for actor awards and the great Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, for supporting actress. Hope you enjoyed the chat! More to come, including NOWHERE BOY director Sam Taylor Wood, SPLICE and CUBE director Vincenzo Natali and the cast of HIGH School. -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:11 p.m. CST

    what character in Kiss Ass does he play?

    by spacechampion


  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:16 p.m. CST


    by kingoflight


  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:28 p.m. CST

    the Lennon trilogy:

    by mortsleam

    Nowhere Boy, Backbeat, The Hours and Times. <p>Kick-Ass!

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:38 p.m. CST

    Who the f888 is Michael Vaughn?

    by alan_poon

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:39 p.m. CST

    Happy Birthday Quint!

    by vic twenty

    Now blow out the candles....harder....harder..... THAR SHE BLOWS!!!!!!! <p> <p> <p> <p> cigarette?

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:41 p.m. CST

    its still weird

    by sytxy

    weird that he has married sam taylor wood (director of nowhere boy) and they just got their first child. him being 19 (a year younger than me) and her being 43. it is weirddddddd

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Actually scrub that

    by alan_poon

    Michael Vaughn is the former England cricket captain. Fair play to him for trying something new in retirement.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:49 p.m. CST

    Aaron Johnson in Dune

    by Miles_Teg

    He'd make a good Muad'Dib.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:51 p.m. CST

    Damn, sytxy

    by BillEmic

    I'm 23 and *I* don't even know if I'd marry a 43 year-old. Date one, maybe. Aw, hell, I'd probably marry Katherine Bigelow and she's older than that. But she directed "Point Break." :P

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Not bad for a 43-year-old woman...

    by Bob Loblaw Law Blog

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST

    Not much about Kick-Ass here

    by MacReady452

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 6:30 p.m. CST

    Happy Birthday Quint

    by blakindigo

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 7:15 p.m. CST

    Happy Birthday, you salty sea dog!

    by YackBacker

    I hope you enjoyed your celebration.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 7:19 p.m. CST

    Happy Birthday you seaman!

    by T 1000 xp professional

    keep the good times coming!.... lol alright enough of that. Really do wish you a happy birthday, you're one of the top brass here and definitely one of the reasons i come to this site. God bless,

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 7:22 p.m. CST

    “There’s no way we can do it. Not in this day and age.”

    by Edgars_Wallace

    And that's the why you can so rarely enjoy movies these days. Because you fuckers believe it's important to be fake. What happened to "truth, 24 times a second"??<p> It's not just Hollywood, the indies might be even worse...

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Quint, it's Matthew Vaughn, not Michael Vaughn.

    by SonicRiver

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 8:14 p.m. CST

    OOooOOoohhh... FUCK THIS GUY!!

    by Immortal_Fish

    Blah Blah KICK ASS at Blah Blah!!<P>What's it called?<P>Blah Blah! 24-hours Blah AVATAR Blah KICK ASS Blah Blah<P>So, you get all... excited?<P>Blah Blah no pussy Blah Blah!<P>So Beatles Blah Blah<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>... <P>... <P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>So, Beatles, Blah Blah<P><P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>DRooOOooOOooneeee...<P>...<P>So, Kick Ass, Blah Blah?<P>Yeah. Kick Ass Blah.<P>So there you have it. Blah Blah Kick Ass Blah Blah.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 8:31 p.m. CST

    so when he is 29 she'll be 53

    by TheJudger

    It better be love. A very small percentage at that age that are visually appealing. 30 comes at you pretty quick. I didn't hate my 30th birthday. I hated my 32nd. I felt the departure from youth on that birthday. Granted girls under 27 or so are usually angry, mad, and cruel and annoying as fuck.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 9:56 p.m. CST

    happy birthday

    by frank cotton

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 10:04 p.m. CST

    I got the same impression as Immortal_Fish

    by GimpInMyPants

    Well done, sir. I came for the Kick-Ass talk. Everything else was just Xs and Os. Happy birfday, Quint! I still hate your greeting.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 11:02 p.m. CST

    great interview Quint. I enjoyed that.

    by Chain

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 11:22 p.m. CST

    He bigged up Yoko! I'm seeing this

    by seppukudkurosawa

    Just look at some of the Engrish headlines in the papers around the late sixties and you'll see that Yoko's presence was just an excuse to unleash the racist inside a whole lot of people. She was the female, Japanese Jack Johnson, and yes, John took more from her than she did from him!

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 2:02 a.m. CST

    19 yo rising star who impregnated his 43-yo director!

    by RandySavage

    Did I read that right?! This kid might be one to watch...

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 4:17 a.m. CST

    When he's 37, she'll be 60

    by Wordage

    And their baby will be 18. This dude may be a rising star, but his life is going to be full of turmoil.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 4:44 a.m. CST

    Happy B-Day Quint!

    by Ian Holm's milky ass sweat

    I'm sure the interview is great, but I'm just here to congratulate that crusty swab.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 5:14 a.m. CST

    Man, he got to fuck that lady

    by DOGSOUP

    She made him into a man. His name is Lennon.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 7:43 a.m. CST

    Sooo, Ms Taylor Wood...

    by Flibbertygibbet

    ...What was it that convinced you to cast an unknown 19 year-old? Don't worry love, I think "we can work it out"

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 7:52 a.m. CST

    When you think about what it must have been like...

    by Wordage

    ...when they first started having sex....that's pretty hot. I mean, that in itself is worthy of making a movie about. She's a female director, a rarity in Hollywood, calling the shots and dealing with all the daily headaches...and during a private meeting in his trailer, suddenly boundaries are crossed, lips are locked, clothing removed, and orifices penetrated. It's the ultimate in power reversal expressed through sex...very nice. <p> They are married and have a baby...yet, his desire to marry her is probably best explained by Ferris Bueller's speech about his friend Cameron, and what would happen when he loses his virginity...

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST

    And really....

    by Wordage

    ...if she had started sleeping with a man her own age on the set, she would have to face the perception of a woman needing a man to help her, and also that man might start feeling really powerful by co-opting her position. By dating a guy so much her junior, she can remain on top...and remain the one in power. He's a pup, and she's the mother...the only time he's really on top is during sex...but when the clothes come back on...she resumes the dominant position.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:22 a.m. CST


    by Flibbertygibbet

    Obviously, none of us really know the first thing about the nature of their relationship (and it's a little crass to even be discussing it here), but you're making it sound like a feminist issue. To me, it just comes off as exploitative. Possibly on both sides.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST


    by Wordage

    Exploitative? Sure. That's why marriage seems some of us. Is it inappropriate to discuss here? Possibly. But is it more inappropriate than discussing the fact that Stallone once told a woman to cup his balls and stroke his shaft in the middle of a Stallone talkback where he's responding to talkbacker questions? Perhaps, also. <p> Point being...talkbacks are inappropriate. It's all relative...

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:30 a.m. CST

    As for it being a feminist issue...

    by Wordage

    ...not a feminist issue...but women in positions of power in fields that are typically male-dominated....they have issues. Those issues result in certain behaviors. I know this because I am in one of those fields and seen some of those behaviors.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:35 a.m. CST

    Great Interview!

    by Shadowcat_664

    Thank you Quint for posting the interview with Aaron Johnson. I am looking forward to seeing Kick Ass and I already pre-ordered the Nowhere Boy DVD from Amazon UK. I received the Nowhere Boy orginal soundtrack in the mail from Amazon UK last week and it is excellent. He seems very down-to-earth and mature for his age. I hope to see him in more films.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 8:43 a.m. CST

    I missed the Stallone talkback...

    by Flibbertygibbet

    but at least Sly knows what he's in for here. It sounds like Aaron's never even heard of the site. Maybe Sam's left the parental control lock on the home computer.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Oh, and not to be pedantic...

    by Flibbertygibbet

    but aside from prostitution and bunny-boiling, ALL fields are historically male-dominated. Anyway, for the last five years I've had female bosses. The current one is great - no issues at all. The last one though, made me want to call my mum to come and get me.

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 1:22 p.m. CST

    Happy Belated Birfday, Quint

    by detectivesoap

  • Feb. 16, 2010, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Re: Wordage...

    by SK229

    Word? Word... totally right about female bosses. All fields are male-dominated, but directing especially so. Also, there's an atmosphere in the entertainment industry where people are constantly puffing themselves up, whether it be people using technical jargon to cover up a lack of creativity or giving people a hard time to make themselves feel more secure, it's a real confidence game a lot of the time, so, at least in my experience, women have a very difficult time letting their guard down or just admitting they don't know something. I'm the person who always says, "I haven't a fucking clue, sorry..." cause seriously, who gives a shit? People love to make everything about their own neuroses. At their worst, those people (male or female) can be like a black hole on a set.

  • Feb. 17, 2010, 6:36 p.m. CST

    This kid needs to work a soup kitchen

    by Immortal_Fish

    Or take a punch. REALLY hard.<P>Either will build humility, which Aarass Mosschin is clearly and sorely lacking.