Interview with Matthew Vaughn: on “The King’s Man”

Usually, there is at least one attempt not to reveal my opinion of a film, anyway, during an interview with the director of a film. Some days I’m better than others. That day, I was bad. Maybe because it looked like Matthew Vaughn was a little depressed about The king’s man (a prequel to the two previous Kingsman films that had unholy success), as he made a pretty weird action flick. And that’s when I found myself saying, “I love this movie.” Which, yes, is true. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen recently and kind of exploits the bravado and seriousness of the ’80s and’ 90s action flicks.

The king’s man stars Ralph Fiennes as Orlando Oxford during the preparation and events of WWI. It features a plethora of historical figures from this era and involves a secret society orchestrating events to defeat Britain. Let’s say this movie goes in a lot of directions you wouldn’t expect and gives us a full-fledged Ralph Fiennes action movie. (At one point, he climbs onto the top of a plane.) And then there’s Rhys Ifans’ turn as Rasputin, which is one of the weirder performances I’ve seen in a long time and j loved every second of it. (As Vaughn explains forward, this performance was the result of a perfect storm of ‘crazy buttons’ between Vaughn and Ifans.)

I can’t say what Vaughn thinks about his perception of the audience right now. He continues to comment on people who don’t like his films, even though – as with X-Men: First Class, Kick ass, and these King man movies – they are wildly successful. (Mentioning the next Kingsman movie after this one he comes out and says, “A lot of people will hate it.”) He is keen to say that it will never be cataloged. And my best guess on his attitude is that not many people make those kinds of films like he does nowadays. It’s a good thing he’s doing that. But he admits that leaves some audience members confused because it doesn’t give them, as he puts it, a “generic action movie.”

When you were talking about your next movie, Argyle, you said you wanted this to be an ’80s and’ 90s action movie. I think you’ve hit a bit of that spirit here too, with The king’s man.

Look, I think I’m an ’80s boy. God, it’s very different from that, I can tell you now.

Well, when Orlando Oxford is balancing on top of an airplane, I was alone in a projection room, applauding. I was having so much fun.

Well yeah that’s my first 80s influence part, in the sense that when it all started… Have you seen the movie The man who wanted to be king?

I have.

So it was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I watched it four years ago and I went, oh my god I wanna do The man who would be Kingsman. I want to bring back an epic adventure, a great story, great characters – good humor, good jokes, but a lot of pathos and very strong political messages.

Oh I see.

So that’s where it comes from. But the 80s? I still think the ’80s was that moment for me, it’s probably because that was when I was absorbing it, so that feeling of love and passion for cinema and music and art and fashion, all that. I absorbed it every day. So you can’t help but take inspiration from it. Even now I watch those 80s movies and yes the computer graphics can be terrible, or some of the edits, or the fights can be really bad, but it’s an escape. That’s all it is.

There’s something so serious about these movies, where they totally believe in what they’re doing.

Yes. If I don’t believe it, why would anyone else? You have to get involved and be strong. It’s hard, by the way. We cut a lot of things. I had three scenes from Rasputin that I couldn’t get out of. Everyone who’s seen them, “Are you crazy for your fucking head?”

So let’s talk for a moment about Rhys Ifans’ Rasputin. Did you tell him to do that? It was him ? I haven’t seen anything like it.

Let’s say Rhys and I both have a crazy button that merged really quickly.

So it was the perfect storm.

It was the perfect storm. Like I said, there are three scenes, which one day might air, and people will watch it and say, “Oh my god.”

Can you tell me one?

There was a pretty funny way of… well, actually, that’s silly. This is how the Tsar learned that Rasputin was dead, and he said: “Find me proof. And the proof of that was a certain part of his famous body on a silver platter.

Oh no.

And it was. Another was he making a trio with the Czar and the Czarina. Things like that. We went more into the dark sexual side of things.

And you have to understand, from my point of view, the scene where Rasputin licks Orlando’s wound on his way up the thigh is still inside the film. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time.

Yeah. Well, what’s wrong with a little wound licking? Ask Ralph what he thinks about his licking wound.

I’m not talking to Ralph, but I’d love to know the answer to that, actually.

I think he enjoyed it, I will say.

I want to see what you think. Those Kingsman Are movies some of the most successful movies that don’t quite get the credit they deserve for being as successful as they are? I don’t think people realize how popular these movies are.

Tome? I do not know.

These movies make many money and I don’t think people realize it. For example, people think Kick ass was a success. And it was. These films do four times what Kick ass do.

It’s difficult for me to answer that. Because all of my films, I think they are a little different? Again, dare I say, people say, “Is this a drama, is this an action movie, what is it?” “But I think you can say that about Stardust, Kick ass?, same X-Men: First Class. I kind of tend to mix things up so I think people just don’t know that. Is this an independent film, is it a blockbuster? I just think I’m a little [pauses]…

A riddle ?

Yeah, I think people don’t quite… I think we’re in a world where people like to rank people quickly. And I try to never be labeled.

Speaking of your ’80s and’ 90s roots with this type of movie: there’s usually one or two scenes in each where it’s set, what’s going on here? And you capture that well in your movies.

I think it’s my job. And if people don’t like it, they can watch a generic action movie, they’re happy. But I got bored recently in some of the blockbusters. They feel a bit stereotypical.

I’m too. That’s why I love this movie because it doesn’t sound stereotypical. And I don’t feel that much in current blockbusters, where I’m just having the best time.

Yes I agree. I think when you watch these movies, the things that you will remember, or even find out sometimes on the second watch, they’re pretty packed with stuff. But it’s my job. I don’t know, isn’t it the director’s job to take people on a journey they weren’t expecting?

I was afraid before this movie that it would be like the first one where we didn’t have Ralph Fiennes the whole movie. But no, we finally get the full Ralph Fiennes action movie.

Yes. Can you imagine how good Ralph would have been as Bond 20 years ago?

Well, watching him in the new Bond, I wanted to see him do some action. And There you go.

Yeah. And it’s a pleasure to work with him. And deep down, he’s a fanboy, he just didn’t know it.

Oh that’s right ?

Yeah yeah. Just drag it over and relight the fire, and it exploded.

When it was announced, it was reported that you were making this movie and the third movie in the original story at the same time. Is this third film still on track?

Yes, we’re going to wrap up the Eggsy and Harry relationship, we’re all set. COVID has come and has derailed this, so we’re late. So it comes out and we start shooting. I think we’re aiming to shoot in August, September of next year, with Eggsy and Harry. It’s funny. It’s different, by the way. A lot of people will hate it, but I like it.

No, they won’t. You keep saying that. People love your movies.

Well, yes, some. Not all.

‘The King’s Man’ hits theaters on December 22. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.