Matthew Vaughn interview – Kingsman: The Golden Circle, X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn chats to us about director Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Stardust, X-Men, Kick-Ass and more...

Though Matthew Vaughn might have had his career take off after producing Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (like many of the people he’s continued to work with over the years), it’s as a director that he seems to have found his true calling. Much Like Tarantino, he takes time over his next project and the result has been quality over quantity, with Vaughn making some of the most beloved movies from the last decade.

As you may have already spotted from the Kingsman coverage over the last week, we’ve always championed Stardust at this site, possessing such a superb cast, cracking pace and warm heart, but before that he’d made a pre-Bond Daniel Craig the magnetic core of Layer Cake and then gave us the sublimely controversial Kick-Ass – ah, how we’ll always love the predictable furore kicked up by the awful Daily Mail over Hit-Girl and the genius of allowing Nic Cage to channel Adam West.

Then came X-Men: First Class, which as a huge fan of the comics I’d argue is the best X-Men film to date, capturing the true spirit of the source material, but more importantly added real pathos to the central relationship between Magneto and Xavier, beautifully portrayed by Fassbender and McAvoy. In fact a continued occurrence in Vaughn’s films is how immaculately cast they are – there’s a real sense of joy as to who takes part in his films and an understanding that they’re usually playing unusual characters, De Niro in Stardust always springs to mind.

With Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn once again provided a fresh slice of chaotic and irreverent action, though as always with a sense of affection and understanding for the genre it was playing with. The Golden Circle marks his first sequel, after declining to follow up the X-Men and Kick-Ass movies he’d set up, which thankfully retains the same anarchic feel, though with a little more of an emotional heft this time around.

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Our one to one chat with Mr Vaughn found him appropriately enthusiastic, but was in quite a lot of pain as he was suffering a foot injury (wrapped in a Kingsman branded boot) and ignoring doctors’ orders to rest up, though for someone like me who loves his work it was reassuring (and slightly intimidating) to find his usual intensity intact…

Firstly I just wanted to quick thank you for the films you’ve made, as both a movie geek and especially as someone who appreciates the art of creating fantastic action scenes, which seems to be a dying art form – and also for Stardust, because it’s a very special movie for me.

I’m hearing a lot of nice things about Stardust today, which really makes me smile, because in Hollywood it’s a dirty word, but I’m very proud of it!

Congratulations on The Golden Circle; when you were making the original Kingsman you mentioned that you had a big idea for the sequel, but you didn’t want to talk about it in case it jinxed the success and stopped a second film from happening – was the idea you had back then what became The Golden Circle?

Yeah pretty much so and it was weird because with The Golden Circle it was also in my mind that hopefully – and again I don’t want to jinx it [knocks on wood] – that for me there’s one more film to be made. I’m looking at The Golden Circle really as a bridge to number three, which is a much larger crazier world, which I felt would’ve been too big a leap for number two.

It’s actually a little bit how I felt about Days Of Future Past as well, I thought that should’ve been the third film, that should’ve been the ending and my plan was to do another X-Men in the seventies, but you meet a young Wolverine, like a Tom Hardy or someone, and then the third one is then when you bring all the characters together, because Days Of Future Past is a pretty hard concept to top.

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So I’m quite methodical about how I make films, I mean you’ve commented about the action and I really try and… I don’t make lots of films, because I think I’ll die, because of the detail I’d get into and constructing the – not just the action, but how the emotion hits the action, the music, everything. So many things have to come together that I can’t help but look ahead and see is there something to do, and I learned so much from Kick-Ass 2 as well, because that was a decision – I was too much of a bread head for that and I underestimated how nutty my mind is and it was really unfair for thinking Jeff could recreate my madness!

I do look at the world differently and I have this odd multi-tonal [perspective] and I think Hit Girl is the perfect example of when people read the script and Hit Girl they were going ‘this is disgusting, this could never be’ and I go ‘no it’s going to be really funny’ and they’re like ‘this will never be funny’. I went it’ll actually be quite emotional and they said ‘this will never be emotional’ and it was okay, so.

I think that’s a good thing, because I think in some ways people either get it, or they don’t and there’s not really a grey area.

Yeah I’m not interested in grey, I hate grey – I hate the colour, well it’s not even a colour! But in an interview earlier I was saying I’d rather make a movie that people either love it, or they hate it, because it means I’ve actually done something that is worth discussing and more importantly there’s so many bland movies and so many – I’m just catching up, because when I make a film I don’t watch modern movies, I just watch classics, because I’m not threatened by them and it reminds me why I fell in love with movies and what I’d learnt as a kid, so I always watch old films when I’m making a movie.

As soon as I’ve finished I drive my wife nuts, because I’m just watching movie after movie, you know I’m catching up. So I’ve been bingeing the summer stuff right now and I gotta to say there were a couple of films that I thought were an insult to film making and the amount of money that was spent on them and the lack of story, the lack of attention to detail, the lack of any identity, or purpose was staggering.

And it’s a strange time, especially for big screen action cinema, as there’s very few people left that are keeping the genre alive – the John Wick guys and Statham are pretty much it. I interviewed Mark Strong this morning and we discussed that what really works in your films, is that there’s an intimacy to the encounters and especially the climatic fights.

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You have to, if you do action and you don’t care about the characters it’s boring. I mean can you imagine if I filmed a ten minute boxing match with two people you didn’t know, it’ll get dull after about a minute and it doesn’t matter how cool or stylish it is, you’ll get bored. But if you do Ivan Drago vs Rocky and you shoot it exactly the same way, even if you shoot it worse, it’s going to be a better cinematic experience because you’re caring about who’s going to win, who these guys are, what journey they’ve been on.

So every action sequence to me is sort of highlighting the emotions of what you’re meant to feel about the character at that time and without it action gets dull. CG is dull without any story, you know it doesn’t matter how amazing and wonderful the CG is, if there’s no story or connection to the characters, it’s a video game, it’s boring.

I find as well it’s one of those things, that again for me seems like a simple thing, but the music that you match to…

Oh, that’s my biggest passion. I love music.

But it’s so funny because most people don’t get it, they don’t get that if you put the right song to a scene…

Oh no, I get to a level and it’s not just the needle drops, shall we say, it’s also the score. I mean we are so detailed to every note, to what key it should be in, which instrument, because music takes the movie off the screen into your soul and heart, you just start feeling it. Music’s a really universal language – movies started with just music and you can convey so much by music subconsciously.

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If you watch Jaws without that score, you’re laughing ‘Look at that bloody rubber shark!’, but a cello playing four/five notes or whatever it is like ‘Oh my god, this is really scary!’ It’s the same with… there’s a hormone called oxy something, oxytocin? I’m probably getting that wrong and it’s called the cuddle hormone and you first experience it – most people – when their mothers sing them a lullaby and when I heard about this and it’s the cuddle hormone, meaning music wraps you up and it makes you feel something and so I think music is half a film.

Absolutely and I always think of poor Henry Jackman during the making of First Class, where he was saying about how he came up with this beautiful bombastic score for Magneto’s theme and you said “No I just want that bit!”

Yeah I sat on the piano and he went [does the duhduh from that theme] and then he went off and I went “No just do one more note [does the end note]…” and he was like “What are you talking about?” I said – we have a video of him and I just going back and forth – and I said “That’s all he needs,” because Michael is an actor that doesn’t need help, so the music sometimes you have to dial it up to help a performance and Michael could pull it off [without] and he’s a fantastic actor.

That’s exactly it and I was so disappointed that they dropped Magneto’s theme from Days Of Future Past, I mean I love Bryan Singer’s work, but as someone who’s read way too many X-Men comics, First Class is the only film that feels like how I perceive an X-Men film should be.

Well we did set it in the time when they were first created, so it was probably easier to go back to the source and that’s why I said we’re going to go blue and yellow and people said “We can’t do blue and yellow,” and I said “The comics are blue and yellow, so if it’s good enough for Marvel Comics, it’s good enough for me.” And I tried, because you know those comics were a real political statement – Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and all that – so I wanted to capture the credibility of when those comics were. They were fun, but they were also making quite a serious statement and I wanted that, so I tried to ground it as much as possible.

With Kingsman: The Golden Circle one of the things I wasn’t expecting was – the first film for was such a thrill ride and then it was punctuated by Harry’s shooting, which paused things briefly with an ‘Oh shit!’ moment, but then they quickly to pursue onwards…

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That was the catalyst for [slaps fist in hand] okay, third act – big time.

But what I wasn’t expecting in Golden Circle, was that the actual mid-point of the film becomes quite upsetting and existentially troubling, especially for someone who’s quite sensitive to that and particularly that whole amnesia plot point.

It’s one of the key plans [in thinking] what are we going to do on Kingsman 2, you know a joke’s never funny the second time and I said let’s make the movie more emotional. I think everyone’s having a real tough time out there, so we can keep it funny, but I really wanted to put some real raw emotion into the movie and it’s funny – I just watched Guardians and I was like ‘Oh my god, he’s done some similar stuff’ old James Gunn – and that’s one of the movies I did like, that was not on my bad list! And yeah emotion… I think people want emotion right now, they’re feeling it, I mean the worlds scary. Do you have kids?

I’ve got a three year old boy, yeah.

And it’s odd because they’ve got so much of the technology it’s so exciting, but it feels like the world’s collapsing, while this technology is taking over and humans forgetting to be human – it’s really scaring me what’s going on.

It is a little terrifying – work with technology every day, so I feel like I have a head start in trying to keep him guided, but not completely sheltered – protected I think is the word.

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But having conversations and living in the real world – everyone’s so falling… and you look at The Matrix or James Cameron’s Terminators, it’s quite an interesting parable for us to be [looking at]. The stuff I’m looking into is bloody scary, it’s exciting as well, but it’s scary because you just go ‘Well if we have these machines which are actually cleverer than us…’

It’s like people have learnt nothing from those stories, it’s like the whole point of Frankenstein!

Yeah, it’s interesting!

Well good luck with the film and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

[He pulls a slightly pained, exhausted expression!]

After you’ve had a rest that is!

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Matthew Vaughn, thank you very much!

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is in UK cinemas now.