KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Funny thing. I was thinking just the other day I was overdue to hear Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting on a movie soundtrack again.
Over the past couple of months, via various wannabe-cool film-makers, I’ve heard a whole bunch of Bowie, T Rex and plenty of faux-ironic American hair metal thundering out of my local multiplex’s sound-systems over the top of fight scenes and car chases from Atomic Blonde to Baby Driver and back again.
But of Elton, there has been nary a whisper. Which seems a shame. Because although everyone knows Bowie, Bolan and co are eternally and forever cool, it seems to me that only a native son of Pomgolia who can trace his roots back to the 1970s knows that Elton John will always be far, far more than the commercial-radio friendly pap he is still best known for.
So step forward Matthew Vaughn, best mate of Guy Ritchie, producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, director of Layer Cake, Kick Ass, X-men: First Class and – of course – Kingsman: The Secret Service, to not only rehabilitate Elton’s cool factor for another decade, but also to hand the bespectacled old dear a cameo as the unwilling, inhouse entertainment for Julianne Moore’s psychopathic druglord, deep in her secret Cambodian lair.
And if that sounds to you like exactly the brand of deliriously silly old rubbish you were hoping for from Vaughn’s own sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, then trust me. It is.
Golden Circle, as the over-informative trailer has probably already shown you, re-unites the survivors of the original film – Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and, surprisingly, since we saw him apparently get his head blown off, Colin Firth – and sends them to the US – cue Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Channing Tatum for reasons which make little narrative sense, but which will no doubt provide the boffo box-office this franchise is going to need to survive.
The action and the storytelling bowls along in a way that at least fills that two-hour-and-20-minute running time to bursting, stopping off at various locations – Switzerland, Sweden, Kentucky and the bottom of a lake in a London park – to stage a succession of mostly pretty good set pieces.
The references to 1970s vintage Bond movies are many, the one-liners are mostly funny and – importantly – the occasional mis-steps into outright sadism that marred the first film have been left out this time.
Golden Circle is still a hellaciously violent outing, but Vaughn keeps the tone appropriately cartoonish and light throughout.
tephen King was born in Maine and grew up poor in various places as his mother tried to scrape enough money to support her two boys. “My mother was a single mum before it was acceptable to be a single mum,” he says. “She wore her wedding ring even though her husband had left her years ago.”
He walked out when Stephen was a toddler, saying that he was going to get cigarettes, never to return.
His mother had five sisters. And his wife, Tabitha, whom he met in the library of the University of Maine, also had five sisters. Publishing, as far as he is concerned, is more or less run by women too.
He does not think that Sleeping Beauties would have worked as a horror story if it were the men who fell into a slumber. “Women fall asleep and the men are the more dangerous sex, the ones who are more apt to be confrontational, to hold on to ideas.”
Stephen’s first book was all about women too, which was a problem at the time as he was mostly writing for men’s magazines while living with Tabitha in a trailer and working odd jobs, at a petrol station and as a janitor. By 1973 he had landed a teaching job and was struggling to crank out fiction in his spare time. “I saw myself in 30 years’ time, wearing the same shabby tweed coats with patches on the elbows, pot belly rolling over my Gap khakis from too much beer,” he recalled in his memoir, On Writing.
He started a story about a bullied schoolgirl, hounded when she gets her first period in the school showers, who develops the power to move objects with her mind. Then, despairing at how hard it would be to sell to male magazine readers, he chucked it away. Tabitha found the pages in the bin, knocked off the cigarette butts and told him: “You’ve got something here.”
Carrie eventually sold for $400,000 and Stephen King began writing like a man possessed. Often he was also a man drunk or coked up, and usually both. “I was drinking a case of 16oz Tall Boys a night,” he wrote. “There’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all.” He sobered up in the late 80s and continued to write in the same compulsive fashion, turning out bestsellers at a rate of knots.
Owen says that his childhood was “remarkably normal” all things considered – friends’ houses, his dad volunteering on the children’s baseball team. He saw the toil that his parents expended on their books. “The secret of success was clear to me. In a lot of ways that’s the best lesson that they ever gave me.” Stephen has now published nearly 60 books – including The Shining, It, Misery and Salem’s Lot – and worries “every day” about the possibility that a publisher will immediately put in print almost anything that he writes. “The more successful you are, the more dangerous it is.”
Stephen writes fast, knocking off about 1500 words in three and a half hours every morning. “I took a little while adapting to his pace,” Owen says. “You don’t want the other person to lose their rhythm.”
Owen says that there was one character in the book who caused real problems. “I thought, ‘This guy’s going to f... up everything because he’s way too smart,’“he says. “My dad was like, ‘No problem, I know just how to kill this guy’ – in a way that would make you feel like it was always the plan.”
Stephen smiles in his chair, then grimaces thinking about his latest book. “I got a problem where someone has to get on a bus in the middle of the night. I’ll be f...ed if I know how that’s going to work.”
I thought it was telling that even his children think that certain stories are quintessentially Stephen King stories. He casts so large a shadow that it invades their brains, snatching up ideas that they might otherwise have considered theirs. Which, in itself, sounds like a story Stephen King would write.
YOUR WEEKEND | 30 SEPTEMBER 2017