Matthew Vaughn is a filmmaker perhaps best known for his long stint producing the British gangster films of Guy Ritchie or for directing the superhero reboot "X-Men: First Class." He is also notable for marrying Claudia Schiffer, which is something of a superhuman feat in and of itself. But, as far as cult fandom goes, Vaughn's major achievement was "Kick-Ass," an irreverent, blood-splattered superhero deconstruction that was based on a comic book of the same name (by Mark Millar). Millar and Vaughn have re-teamed this week for "Kingsman: The Secret Service," this time doing for the spy genre what "Kick-Ass" did for superheroes.
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" is a fun, thrilling, sometimes shockingly violent spy movie about a secret organization (called the Kingsmen) and the seasoned agent (played by an against-type Colin Firth) that recruits a young, unknown street tough (played by newcomer Taron Egerton) to become one of them. Together, they face off against an insane super-villain (Samuel L. Jackson) and shake up the status quo. It's a riot.
When talking to Vaughn earlier this week in New York, he sounded absolutely thrilled that the movie was coming out, which is a big deal especially because it meant him walking away from the lucrative "X-Men" franchise (he was supposed to direct "X-Men: Days of Future Past") for something far stranger and more esoteric. Vaughn told us all about that decision-making process, re-teaming with Millar, and where the "Kingsman" franchise would be headed (spoiler: to America!)
Moviefone: You left the "X-Men" movie to come do this one. What was the thought process behind that?
Matthew Vaughn: Long story; I'll try to do it the short way. It was purely where, because I wrote the treatment with Jane and I got very excited about that. And then Simon Kinberg went off to write it. And at this point Mark and I had been talking more and more about "Kingsman," just as an idea. Then he sent me the comic and then I thought, F*ck he's gone and written the comic. And I'm reading it going, "Sh*t, I like this." This movie exploded in my head. So while I was waiting for Kinberg to write his script, I sat with Jane and just banged this one. It just fell out of me. So then I had "Kingsman." I thought, F*ck, well I have this. And literally the same week Kinberg said, "I'm done." Then in comes "X-Men: Days of Future Past." It was like, f*ck, what do I do? I like both of these. I said to Fox, "Can we push 'Days of Future Past' back and I can do 'Kingsman' next?" And they said, "Why?" And I said, "I'm convinced spies are going to suddenly explode and there are going to be a lot of fun spy movies. So if I do this movie in two years time, something tells me that I will look like I will be copying lots of other films." A lot of people are saying, "This is so original! It's so different!" And I'm going, "Well, it's not really. It's been done before but not in a long time so it feels original."
So I had this idea where we could do a smaller "X-Men" movie in the '70s where you recast Wolverine. So you do, in the '70s you do a smaller movie with a new Wolverine, where the "First Class" cast meets a younger Wolverine. And then that all happens. Then the '80s is "Days of Future Past," which is when it was in the comics. So you have Hugh and the younger cast and you really explore the older and younger characters and bring in Storm and all the other characters we hadn't met yet in "First Class." That was my idea. And then Fox read it and said, "No. We're doing this. Are you in or out?" I said, "I know this thing too well now." And also "X-Men" is Bryan's franchise, full stop. He did 1 and 2, which are great films, and 3 was whatever it was, made money but didn't really work. "First Class" was... I just couldn't say no to doing this. Every pore in my body was telling me to do this.
And I was proven right, because just this year you have new Bond, "Mission: Impossible," "Man from UNCLE," "Spy," "Grimsby"... And once you've written something, it's really personal, and you want to do it. As a director, there's a switch, and once it clicks on, nothing is going to click that off until you've made the film.
Was it hard to explain the concept to people?
It still is! F*ck! To Fox's credit, when they read it, they were like, "We sort of understand why you're not doing X-Men. But we think this could be very cool." And I kept saying, "Just trust me, the world needs a new spy franchise. It really does. The new generation hasn't gotten their fun spy movie." The spy films got so serious.
I'm assuming it was rated R on the page. Was it hard to convince them of that aspect?
Not really. I said, "This is what the movie has got to be. Because then the movie could end up like 'Spy Kids.'" This movie is a balancing act, a very, very tough balancing act to get right. And by making it R, it gave me the pole to keep the act balanced. If I had to make it PG-13, we could have veered off. It would have worked but it wouldn't have been as fun.
How close was Leonardo DiCaprio to playing the bad guy?
As close as I am to becoming the pope. I don't know where that came from. He was never offered it, was never given the script. I don't even read the Internet anymore. I don't know where these things begin. I have a laugh now because I'm convinced other studios are going, "How do we f*ck this movie up?"
How hard was it to find Eggsy?
It was really tough. We went through hundreds and hundreds of actors and they weren't nailing it. And then he came in and blew my mind. It was hard to find him but once I found him it wasn't a difficult process. Back when I made "Layer Cake," people would ask how hard it was to find Daniel Craig and why did I cast him. It's like, "He is what he is. I just came in." Same thing with Jennifer Lawrence or Fassbender or all these people who I've worked with, even if nobody knew who they were, they are obviously incredibly talented and they just came in and I was lucky enough to have the honor of putting them in a movie before they were big stars.
Are you going to continue working with Millar?
Never say never. We've talked about things and he's the one, who I always call, "The genius one-line movie guy." I always tell him he should have been making movies in the eighties. He would have made a f*cking fortune. "Oh 'Jaws' in space? We'll give you a million for that." He could have just sat there, every day. He'll ring me up one day and go, "Hey, I've got this idea." He does it every week. It drives me nuts. And I'll go, "Not for me, not for me..." But then something will go, "That's for me." He's sent me everything he's done but so far nothing has sparked into something that I have to make into a film.
Would you do another "Kingsman"?
I'd love to do another one. This movie really is the origin story of Eggsy. And Eggsy is really the real, true modern gentleman spy. It really isn't Harry Hart. Harry Hart is the old cliché of what you think a gentleman spy is. Eggsy will be taking on a whole new way. But it's up to the audience. If they go see it and want another one, I would absolutely love to do it. We had so much fun making this movie. And you wouldn't believe what we've got in store. Poor Mark Strong will be going on a journey that he never imagined. And we've got this idea to introduce the world to the American branch of the Kingsman.
That's so cool.
It really is.
Give the young girl more stuff to do.
Listen, all of them will be doing stuff... And the villain we've come up with... We've got a really fun idea for the sequel.
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" open nationwide Friday, February 13.