A quiver of suc­cess

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Taron Eger­ton

‘Please maybe don’t print that bit,” pleads Taron Eger­ton for maybe the fifth time in 30 min­utes. It’s not that the 29-year-old has mas­sive scan­dal to im­part; it’s sim­ply that he keeps say­ing more than he ought to.

“There’s a big day com­ing up; I’ll need to get tick­ets for my mates,” he says. “No, wait. I’ve said too much about it. I re­ally have to stop talk­ing about Rock­et­man. I can see peo­ple in­volved in the film bristling ev­ery time I open my mouth. It’s just I’m re­ally ex­cited about it.”

To­day the tit­u­lar and en­er­getic star of the in­com­ing Robin Hood is wear­ing a hat in­doors. He has a good ex­cuse; it cov­ers the high fore­head re­quired to es­say El­ton John in Rock­et­man, the bio­graph­i­cal film that Eger­ton is try­ing hard not to talk about. El­ton is a pro­ducer on Rock­et­man and a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the set. No pres­sure then.

“I mean, we knew each other a lit­tle bit any­way from Kings­man and we spoke a lot on the phone in ad­vance of things,” says Eger­ton. “Then David [Fur­nish] and him in­vited me to come and stay with them and spend some time in their com­pany, which I did, for a cou­ple of nights. And then El­ton gave me a very beau­ti­ful gift. He gave me his first di­a­mond ear­ring. And what he said to me was, ‘Look, this isn’t my life.’ This is based on ele­ments of my life. You have li­cence here and I want you to make it your own.”

He laughs: “And that stressed me out a bit early on. Be­cause there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion that you’ll mimic the per­son you’re play­ing. Fill­ing in the blanks and guess­ing is al­most harder than recre­ation.”

In the hours be­fore I meet with the fiercely Welsh (al­beit Birken­head-born) 29-year-old ac­tor, a flurry of news sto­ries ap­pear be­moan­ing his lack of par­tic­i­pa­tion in Kings­man: The Great Game, the third film in the Matthew Vaughn-helmed fran­chise.

In 2013, some months after he grad­u­ated from the Royal Academy of Dra­matic Art, the then un­known Eger­ton was cast by Vaughn in Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice, a $414 mil­lion-gross­ing block­buster about a se­cret league of gentle­men spies. The 2017 se­quel, Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle, re­peated the suc­cess with a $411 mil­lion haul.

“I’m sur­prised that it has been so writ­ten about,” says Eger­ton. “Be­cause if you look at the press re­lease that Matthew [Vaughn] put out, the new film is set a hun­dred years ago. I know any­thing can hap­pen in the world of Kings­man. But I feel time travel might be slightly out of re­mit. I do know who’s in it. You’re not go­ing to miss out. We will pick up our story fur­ther down the line. And that suits me, ac­tu­ally. Be­cause I’m so in­trin­si­cally in­ter­twined with those films, I’m happy to take some time to work on be­ing Taron.”

Rock­ingRobin

Robin Hood, the first in a se­ries of Hol­ly­wood re­boots con­cern­ing Not­ting­ham’s most fa­mous out­law, looks like a step in the right di­rec­tion. The film, which stars Eger­ton as Robin, Jamie Foxx as Lit­tle John and Eve Hew­son as Maid Mar­ian, takes a very ki­netic, con­tem­po­rary ap­proach to the ma­te­rial, re­plete with semi-au­to­mated ar­rows, rab­ble-rous­ing so­cial­ist rhetoric and cos­tumes that might have come from Top Shop’s spring col­lec­tion.

It looks like ex­haust­ing work.

“It was full-on and un­com­pro­mis­ing,” he nods. “There was a very spe­cific idea about hav­ing this kind of fran­tic, dy­namic high en­ergy feel to it. I think it works re­ally well. It’s quite dif­fer­ent to what I’m used to with the Kings­man films, which are quite bal­letic, I guess.”

Eger­ton and Foxx trained with mas­ter archers Steve Ralphs and YouTube star Lars An­der­sen to en­sure that the quiv­ers would fly faster than in pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions.

“I spent quite a lot of time just fa­mil­iaris­ing my­self with it and mak­ing sure that I looked very flu­ent when it came to shoot­ing,” says Eger­ton. “Be­cause ob­vi­ously on set you can’t have real ar­rows fly­ing around be­cause that would be f*ck­ing dumb. And then there was all the chore­og­ra­phy and the gym time and the rest of it. I some­times strug­gled with the rough and tum­ble of it. I was never a par­tic­u­larly sporty kid. I grew up with a lot of rugby around me. But I don’t like be­ing bashed about. I pre­fer watch­ing it in a bar with a pint.”

Eger­ton is just old enough to re­mem­ber the TV pre­miere of Kevin Cost­ner’s Prince of Thieves but still cites Dis­ney’s car­toon fox as his favourite screen it­er­a­tion. He is full of praise for his Irish co-star, Eve Hew­son. Jamie Foxx, too, has de­scribed the Dublin-born ac­tor as hav­ing “some­thing in­cred­i­ble”.

“She came and tested with me and was by far and away the best of the Mar­i­ans I tested with,” says Eger­ton. “She walked it, re­ally. Every­one was in­cred­i­bly im­pressed with her. I think the big thing about the Mar­ian for our film was she couldn’t just be some sort of English rose. She needed to be some­one with our own story and her own goals.”

Welsh apoca­lypse

Robin Hood was largely shot in Dubrovnik and Bu­dapest’s Korda Stu­dios. Eger­ton en­joyed the travel but re­mains ab­so­lutely rooted to Aberys­t­wyth, where he has lived since his teens (hav­ing re­lo­cated to the Ceredi­gion uni­ver­sity town from the An­gle­sey vil­lage of Llan­fair­p­wll­gwyn­gyll). He still hangs around with the same friends he did when he was 15; they rou­tinely photo-bomb him at red car­pet events. He says he has zero in­ter­est in trans­plant­ing to Los An­ge­les.

“Three hours on the train to Birm­ing­ham, three hours’ drive to Bris­tol,” he says. “You’re not near any­thing. Even other towns in mid-Wales. But be­cause there’s a uni­ver­sity and a lot of tourists, there are al­ways peo­ple pass­ing through. I moved there at 11 or 12 and that’s where I found my heart re­ally. Around 15, I found my­self in a re­ally cre­ative friend group of peo­ple who acted or were mu­si­cians. They’re still my best friends. Hon­estly, if there was a zom­bie apoca­lypse and every­where else was bug­gered, as long as Aberys­t­wyth was all right, I’d be all right.”

As a teenager, his sup­port­ive fam­ily and friends in­spired him to get more and more in­volved in act­ing, even when that en­tailed a role as a bel­lows mender in a cock­tail dress in a school pro­duc­tion of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

“I was deeply con­flicted about it,” he re­calls. “Be­cause the ex­hi­hib­tion­ist in me was very ex­cited. But the 15-year-old boy me was ter­ri­fied. That’s the thing, though. You need to do the things that scare you. Oth­er­wise you’ll re­gret it.”

Fear­less­ness is some­thing of a theme with Eger­ton, who has more than held his own op­po­site such ac­tors as Tom Hardy, Hugh Jack­man and Sa­muel L Jack­son.

“I do feel lucky and I don’t take any of it for granted,” he says. “But I also be­lieve in my­self. When some­one says: do you want to play Robin Hood? Of course there’s a voice in me that says: you can’t do it; it’s too big. But there’s an­other voice which kicks into gear that goes: well, what are you f*ck­ing here for? You don’t run a marathon and get to the fin­ish line and jump back. You have to bet on your­self in this game. Every­one does. Ob­vi­ously, there’s an el­e­ment of luck and I have sup­port from around me. But at some point you need some f*ck­ing tenac­ity.”

‘‘ I spent quite a lot of time just fa­mil­iaris­ing my­self with it and mak­ing sure that I looked very flu­ent when it came to shoot­ing. Be­cause ob­vi­ously on set you can’t have real ar­rows fly­ing around be­cause that would be f*ck­ing dumb

■ Robin Hood opens on No­vem­ber 21st

PHO­TO­GRAPH: LARRY HORRICKS/LIONSGATE

Taron Eger­ton and Jamie Foxx in Robin Hood.

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