spies like u.s.
get ready for more fun and spy games as eggsy goes west in kingsman: the golden circle. director matthew vaughn and his all-star cast reveal the secret to following a surprise smash: more surprises…
icould bore you to death with my knowledge of Prince,” reckons Matthew Vaughn. No you couldn’t, retorts TF, buzzing with the discovery that Vaughn’s new film Kingsman: The Golden Circle kicks off (literally) with ‘Let’s Go Crazy’. One of the late purple maestro’s greatest hits, its raging riff-o-rama fits TGC’s opening high-speed, taxi-based brawl like a (white lace) glove.
The song’s title, meanwhile, is the perfect statement of intent for the spy-movie sequel. Little wonder Vaughn, after “nearly a year of negotiating”, was stoked to bag the rights to the tune… and then shocked when, at test screenings, some viewers didn’t like it, or Prince. “I was like, ‘Really?’” says the producer/writer/ director. “I suppose when you think about it, Prince didn’t really promote himself for 20 years, so a whole generation didn’t get to discover him… I’m hoping they will with this film.”
Another hope for the movie: to deliver a sequel truly worthy of Kingsman: The Secret Service. A hyperstylised celebration/subversion of spy movies centred on an ‘independent international intelligence agency’, the 2014 release grossed $414m globally, becoming Vaughn’s biggest hit. “With the first Kingsman, I didn’t know whether the world would share my love for a reinvention of the spy genre,” he reveals. “With this one, the thing I’m nervous of is: will audiences relate to the way I’ve tried to tackle doing a sequel?”
Though Vaughn has a successful prequel under his belt – 2011’s X-Men: First Class – The Golden Circle is his first bona fide follow-up. But how do you chase a movie as fresh out the box as The Secret Service? As Vaughn puts it, “It’s very hard to be original twice.”
One answer: hit the ground running. “When I first read the script I went… ‘Wow!’” recalls Taron Egerton, the breakout star of Secret Service who’s back in the role of Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin. But wowed as he was, the actor had concerns. “I remember saying to Matthew, ‘Don’t we need to spend some time establishing what’s going on in the world, what’s been happening?’ He went, ‘No.’” Soon enough, Egerton was up to speed. “You want to get straight
into the action,” he explains. “Straight into the cut and thrust.” Like that opening scene, Egerton is a ball of energy. Sitting – and standing – in a London hotel, he’s highly animated, leaning forward, throwing himself back, playfully pulling/pushing a coffee table and waving t-shirted arms that expose some impressive guns. Well, he is a Kingsman. “At the start of the movie, he’s this newly, fully formed secret agent, and in a relationship with the princess [Hanna Alström’s Tilde] from the first one.” Obviously, the good times can’t last. “The world that he’s discovered and now finds himself happily occupying… is destroyed,” Egerton reveals. “Everything is completely turned on its head.”
Picking up the thread, Vaughn adds: “The Kingsman organisation is wiped out, so Eggsy has to fend on his own for a bit. And he’s already dealing with the fact that he doesn’t have a mentor.” Or does he? No spoilers for anyone still to see The Secret Service, but that movie didn’t end well for Eggsy’s overseer Harry Hart (aka Galahad), played with gentlemanly relish by Colin Firth. Firth, however, appears to be back in action… “I played Harry in the first film, and I play the guy with the eye patch in the new film’s trailer,” says Firth, grinning slyly. So has Harry properly returned? Is it a flashback? Dream sequence? Just a cameo, surely? “You’ll be surprised… He might be around quite a bit,” says Egerton, leaving it coyly at that.
At any rate, Firth is but one of the big names forming The Golden Circle. The title refers to a secret organisation linked to the movie’s big bad, entrepreneur Poppy (Julianne Moore); but it could also be a nod to the number of Oscar-winners in the cast: Firth, Moore, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, even Elton John (“He plays Elton John,” reveals Egerton). And there’s Channing Tatum and Game Of Thrones star Pedro Pascal, too.
The bulk of the new intake play members of Statesman – as the name suggests, the US equivalent of Kingsman. Although it’s not quite as simple as that… “They’re very, very different,” stresses Vaughn. “The Kingsman were a celebration of Britannia; the Statesman are a celebration of Americana.” The former group’s cover is that they’re high-class Savile Row tailors; the second group is into booze. “The big joke is that, while they’ve got the same aims and responsibilities as Kingsman, the Statesman are all billionaires and in the alcohol business,” says Vaughn. “They’re fun. They’re southern gentlemen, but at the same time, they’re a little bit looser and cooler than Kingsman. Not as uptight.
And Eggsy is sort of weirdly in the middle of the two.”
So what’s our hero’s first impression of his new allies? “His first impression? They kick the shit out of him and nearly kill him, so he’s like ‘Who the fuck are these guys?’” says Vaughn. “And then they realise they’ve got shared values and a common interest, and they team up. They’re a good combination.”
Vaughn likens the Transatlantic chemistry to ’70s TV smash The Persuaders!. “I loved Tony Curtis and Roger Moore doing their thing. That’s definitely had a big influence on me.” Another influence: the old west. “You can’t have Americana without cowboys,” insists Vaughn. “[The Statesman] are from the south. They like their bourbon. They like their horses. They wear cowboy hats. But they don’t look like idiots. We celebrate all that, make them look cool.”
Although one Statesman – woman, rather – is more at the geek-chic part of the cool spectrum. “I play Ginger Ale,” says Halle Berry. “And I’m sort of the Mark Strong character of the group – the geeky, nerdy one.” (Strong himself reprises his role as senior Kingsman, Merlin.) Channing Tatum, meanwhile, is Agent Tequila; Pedro Pascal is Whiskey; and at the top of the drinks cabinet is Jeff Bridges as Champagne. “I’m the head of the Statesman. The boss,” says Bridges, emphatically drawling that last word. “Although I don’t really like that title, ‘Champagne’. I just call myself ‘Champ’.”
It’s a nickname that fits, not least in the eyes of his director. “I get starstruck more from sports people than I do with actors, because they’re part of my profession,” says Vaughn, who’s called ‘Action!’ at everyone from De Niro and Pfeiffer (2007’s Stardust) to Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine (the first Kingsman). “But I’ve got to say, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve got Jeff Bridges here! Mind you, everyone else was probably thinking about True Grit where I was all,‘Tron!’” Elton John was another bucket-list biggie. “I remember him so clearly as a kid, seeing him on The Muppets… when it’s the little boy in you, you do get a little starstruck.” (On the first Kingsman, it was Mark Hamill: “I was like, ‘It’s Luke fucking Skywalker!’” Vaughn says with typical sweary glee.)
Ask the stars themselves what drew them to The Golden Circle and the answer’s the same: the first one (aside from Egerton, who deadpans, “I came
‘the world that he’s discovered and Finds himselF happily occupying is destroyed… everything is turned on its head’ taron egerton
patchy details Colin Firth’s Harry is back, somehow. Exactly how, and in what form, though, remains top secret. (below) Taron Egerton (Eggsy) on set.
new recruits (above) Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore head the A-list additions to the cast, playing chief US spy Agent Champagne and big bad Poppy, respectively,