Matthew Vaughn wants you to like The Golden Circle, of course—but he tells us why the worst thing you can do is make a movie nobody reacts strongly to.
At their heart, the Kingsmanmovies are about nostalgia. They’re about bringing back classic men of adventure; The Secret Service celebrated the dapper British spies of yore, and The Golden Circle, in introducing the Kentucky-based Statesman, hearkens back to the days of the Marlboro Man. But the Kingsman movies are also about wild gadgets, outrageously goofy violence, sincere friendship, and jokes that gleefully dance right up to the line of good taste. They are tonal rollercoasters in a way few blockbusters even dare to be, and all the more exhilarating because of it.
With the premiere of Kingsman: The Golden Circle this week, GQ caught up with director Matthew Vaughn to talk about the difficult balancing act that Kingsman pulls off, updating the style of the modern Gentleman Spy, and why he came back for his first ever sequel.
GQ: This is the first time you’ve made a sequel to one of your movies. What brought you back to Kingsman?
Matthew Vaughn: I genuinely never really had an interest in doing a sequel. Because I felt as a filmmaker I’d be repeating myself, and I like to push my boundaries. Then I realized actually, doing a sequel is a challenge in its own right, to make a film that respects the film before but at the same time expands the universe and pushes boundaries. I didn’t have the urge to do that with the other movies, I felt I had done what I wanted to do with them, and I wasn’t really interested in getting back into that sandbox. This time, I enjoyed it so much, and I had a story I wanted to tell. I loved being with these actors, this crew—I was passionate about it, and there’s no point about doing a movie and anything in life unless you’re passionate about it.
What did you find compelling about the world that made you want to explore it more?
Bringing in the Statesman was really interesting to me, because I love England, but Kingsman was a celebration of Britannia. I’ve always loved America, and Americana. Growing up in the seventies, I really wanted to be American. So much of American culture was just everywhere, from TV, music, and film. I wanted to celebrate it, and bring back a side of America that hasn’t been celebrated in a long time—the Marlboro Man, the southern gentleman, the sort of James Coburn/McQueen/Burt Reynolds characters that I grew up with. I wanted to bring David Niven back in Kingsman. This time I want the Coburn/Burt Reynolds guy walking around.
I also wanted to see the journey of Eggsy continuing, what happens to Eggsy when he becomes the new version of the modern gentleman spy. Let’s see how he flourishes.
It’s fun to see that when Eggsy’s not with the Kingsman and just hanging with his friends, he still wears fitteds and sneakers.
Exactly. He’s the modern version of a gentleman spy. He’s not gonna wear a dark green or a dark blue smoking jacket, he’s like Hey man, if I’m going to wear a smoking jacket, I’m gonna wear Eggsy’s street version. I’m wearing orange. And when I’m with my boys, I’m wearing my trainers. That’s why I think Eggsy is the modern gentleman spy, because he’s from both worlds. He’s not pretentious, he’s not trying to be a gentleman spy, he’s Eggsy. Wearing a suit or not wearing a suit, he’s always gonna be Eggsy.
You’ve been friends with Mark Millar for a while, and Kingsman is the second comic of his that you’ve adapted (after Kick-Ass). What is it about his work that attracts you?
I’ve always said if Mark was around in the ’80s, he’d be the most successful film producer of all time, because back then you could just say “this is Jaws set in space,” it was all the one-liner, high-concept movies and pitches. He’s got the best concepts and pitches I’ve ever come across. We’re the same age, have the same influences, culture, enjoy the same type of movies, the same humor—it’s a really good combination, we just spark off each other and ultimately we want to create cinema that’s entertaining, the escapism that we had in the cinema as kids.