It may not have had the marketing hype, or even the clear demographic of some other juggernauts released after it, but Kingsman: The Secret Service nevertheless stands as one of the most refreshing films of the year, and one of our very favorites. Returning the classic spy genre to the top of its game, and proving Matthew Vaughn has instincts any director of a comic book adaptation would kill for, few elements of the film were as surprising as its star, Taron Egerton.
Few in the West had heard of the Welsh actor prior to his taking the spotlight opposite Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, but claiming the reins of the film in its final act made the prospect of am Egerton-led Kingsman sequel a no-brainer. Not to be pigeon-holed, Egerton has his sights set on Eddie the Eagle next, a biopic of the British ski jumper and unlikely star of the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
We had the opportunity to speak with Egerton about the surprise success of Kingsman, the challenges of launching an original property in an industry filled with sequels and remakes - and whether he's considered filling the X-Men vacancy soon left by his Eddie the Eagle co-star, Hugh Jackman...
I'll start off by saying that I’m a Canadian, so you know that Eddie the Eagle holds a special place in my heart. I can hardly believe you're going to bring his story to the big screen.
Taron Egerton: [Laughs] You’re not the only one.
Getting to Kingsman, I’ll ask you a question I know you've been asked already: How does it feel to have to point a gun at a dog twice in a single film?
Taron Egerton: I was actually OK with it, you know, not meaning to sound too terribly frosty. Matthew Vaughn was telling me that I didn’t look quite horrified enough. I’m very, very fond of dogs, but yeah, perhaps I wasn’t connecting imaginatively enough with what the consequences of that would have been be. He was a very, very, very cute dog... I’m glad that he survived that film.
As are we all. This interview won't run for a little over a month, but word has currently broken that Kingsman has, at least internally at Fox, been given the thumbs up for a sequel. That's not too surprising, given the $400 million box office, but what struck me was Matthew Vaughn saying that he saw Kingsman as just a prequel to "The Eggsy Movie." Does that sound more exciting or intimidating to you, hearing that Eggsy might have the spotlight to himself going forward?
Taron Egerton: I mean he hasn’t said as much to me [Laughs]. He is famously changeable, so I don’t know. A big part of Matthew’s currency as a director is that he defies expectations, so don’t take anything for granted. I know of those rumors because I get alerts from my publicists and things, but I haven’t been told anything directly. Until I have, it’s probably not wise of me to be presumptuous or comment too much. I would love to revisit the character though.
Do you think Eggsy earned the spotlight by the time we got to the end of Kingsman?
Taron Egerton: Well, I hope so. If he hasn’t, then I’ve not done my job properly [Laughs]. I think certainly he’s one of the last men standing, isn’t he? So if there's the intention of a sequel, I’m hoping that Eggsy would be at the forefront and be able to carry the story. But it is, in many respects, an ensemble thing. Just because some of the characters don’t make it to the finish line doesn’t mean that others don’t. I think if there was another one, then I would think you would expect to see, hopefully I would imagine the likes of Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson returning. And I’m sure there would be some new characters introduced. So I don’t think we’re ever just going to see a Wolverine-style Eggsy solo mission, you know? But I hope he’s a character that people can go through on a journey with, yeah.
I think you are safe there. I was surprised at how well the film was handed off to Eggsy in the film's third act, much of that due to the chemistry between he and Merlin. All of us here agree that Mark Strong is a criminally underrated actor - was working with him as much fun as it seemed, and is that a relationship you would want to see in the future? Either for the characters, or just an opportunity to work with him again?
Taron Egerton: Yeah, absolutely. Mark is an incredible actor and a really great guy to work with. Personally, I’m not involved in the writing or... the inception or any of that, with these ideas. But I think it would be lovely to see more of Merlin and Eggsy. I think you see a bit of Merlin sort of getting his hands dirty and getting involved in a bit of action. I think it would be glorious to see some more of that if there is a sequel. As I say, that’s for Matthew Vaughn to figure out, not me.
Of course. Obviously Kingsman wasn't a small-scale production by any means, but audiences here in North America didn’t seem to know quite what to make of it, requiring reviews and word of mouth to make it successful. As an actor, is it satisfying to see the film gain ground despite people being a bit confused? Is that almost more satisfying?
Taron Egerton: Of course. I think the thing about Kingsman, the reason people didn’t know what to expect is possibly because the marketing of something original is inevitably more difficult than the marketing of something you’ve seen 15 times before. I think that’s just testament to the fact that it was slightly fresher than a lot of the films you see on that scale. It’s not stark, or if it is, it’s certainly presented to you in a new combination, you know, in a slightly new formula.
So yeah, it’s obviously very, very satisfying to see it do so well. I personally always had faith in the script. And then Matthew, it was a brilliant script with a really brilliant director. The actors who were around me were so gifted. There was no reason why it shouldn’t do well. I just guess because it was sort of created independently. I know Fox distributed it, but I guess because it didn’t have the might of that studio backing, perhaps people didn’t expect it to do quite what it’s done. But it’s an original story delivered by a man with real vision, I think. So I’m really pleased it’s done well. And I’m really proud to have been a part of it.
It seems word of a possible sequel and the demand for it among fans is testament to the bullseye it hit. You’ve had the opportunity early in your career to work with some incredible actors, in biopics and a comic book adaptation - hypothetically, would the idea of a sequel, or simply returning to a role be a different kind of pressure?
Taron Egerton: Yeah, inevitably. Of course it would, and I guess it would probably be the first time that people come to the cinema kind of knowing what to expect of me, and me having to deliver it, you know? So of course there would be pressure with that. But to be perfectly honest, I like pressure. It’s something I find exciting. And I am the kind of personality that gets very bored very easily. The work I try and involve myself with is ordinarily determined by how much it sort of frightens me.
We spoke about Eddie the Eagle at the start of this conversation. I’m on set now. That wasn’t something that I was entirely sure how I was going to approach when I was offered the part. But that’s the very reason I did it, because I wanted to sort of do something a bit different, particularly something that was in stark contrast to a role like Eggsy in Kingsman.
So yeah, doing a sequel would be a new type of pressure. But I think I’d welcome it.
As you said, you're now working opposite Hugh Jackman [playing trainer Bronson Peary] - not just an incredible dramatic actor, but a veteran of blockbusters. Has he offered any advice to help put a $400 million movie on your resumé into perspective, or has he stuck to workout tips and diet advice?
Taron Egerton: [Laughs] Well, I am not on a strict regime for this film, I am quite pillowy at the moment. And he is not. He’s eternally rock solid. But yeah, I’ve talked to him about that, because I did my fair share of diets and training stuff for Kingsman. Hugh and I, our version of Eddie the Eagle, our story is very much a double movie between mine and Hugh’s characters. So it kind of lives and dies on our chemistry, really. I don’t know how it will relate to screen, but we have spent two months with aching sides laughing at one another. It really has been amazing. I quite like to sing as well, so we’ve sort of been wandering around the set doing songs from the shows, most to the annoyance of the crew. It’s been quite a wonderful experience, actually.
It’s been lovely as well, because this being my second lead - lead, lead - my second main part. It hasn’t had quite the monumental pressures of Kingsman. So it really has just been... it’s just been the most enjoyable experience. And Hugh is such a relaxed, easy-going, lovely personality to be around. That’s also largely due to Dexter Fletcher, who is directing the picture. The atmosphere that he brings as well, it’s just been amazing. Working with Hugh has been wonderful.
On that note, you’ve talked before about wanting to play more unpleasant characters--
Well, there are a few of our editors who threw your name in the ring to potentially play a younger Wolverine once Hugh Jackman hangs up the claws. Could you tackle it? Are you an X-Men fan?
Taron Egerton: [Laughs] I am a huge X-Men fan! My feeling about that is... I don’t know if I’m quite grizzly enough. My facial hair is still very thin and patchy. I feel someone who plays Wolverine potentially needs testosterone in abundance. Yeah, I’d love to have a go at it, but I don’t know. [Laughs] I don’t know. I was with Hugh the day that he announced his retirement from that role. I did joke about that very thing with him. But the phone hasn’t rang yet, my friend, so I don’t know.
Then we’ll keep beating the drum for you out here.
Taron Egerton: Thank you so much, mate. Hey, listen. It’s really great to speak with you. Sorry I can’t give you more time, I’m actually about to go and film a scene now. But we’ll speak again sometime.
We appreciate you taking the time, and best of luck with the film and your coming projects.
Taron Egerton: My great pleasure. Thank you so much for your kindness. Bye man.
Kingsman: The Secret Service will be available on DVD and Blu-ray starting June 9, 2015.