Matthew Vaughn Explains The Problem With Modern-Day Spy Movies

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This weekend Kingsman, the movie director Matthew Vaughn left the "800 million dollar gorilla" Days of Future Past to make, hits theaters. And with it come back the glory days of actually fun spy movies — something Vaughn thinks is sorely lacking in today's culture.

A few months back, after a very early screening of Kingman, we sat down with the director (and a couple other members of the press) to ask why Vaughn left the X-Men to make something so unlike anything being created today. His answer should impress.

How long did you know about these characters? [How did you come up with this idea?]


Matthew Vaughn: Well I co-wrote it. It started in a pub with Mark [Millar, author of comic Kick-Ass,] and we were drunk. And we sort of were complaining about how spy movies had become really quite serious. We said, "Let's do a fun one." We were really drunk. "God we did this, we did that," and then Mark went off and wrote a version [of Kingsman], and I read it. I was like, "Fuck maybe we should do this for real." Then he went ahead, finished the comic off. Then I was working on Days of Future Past, and I'd finished the treatment, Kinberg was writing it. Then the went [Kingsman] script fell out of me — just one of those things. I remember Fox going, "What are you talking about?" because the two scripts came in at the same time. I was like, "Aw, shit."

It was a really tough decision, whether to do Days of Future Past or do this. But then I was like, "Fuck, somebody else is going to wake up and do a fun spy movie. Then I've written a bloody screenplay that no one will want to make." So I probably made the craziest decision of my life to turn down an 800 million dollar gorilla to do Kingsman. But Kingsman's more me anyway.


How do you get Colin Firth through all those fights? Was there a lot of special effects?

No, all in camera, choreography. We did three months, poor Colin. Turns out, old Mr. Colin Firth literally, three months later, he's in shape. It changed him. The guy works his balls off. The biggest risk of the movie was casting Colin. We were terrified. He was terrified. We were like, will anyone buy Colin Firth as a dapper guy that also kicks people's ass? And I think he pulled it off. He worked so hard, and he's the nicest guy, a true gentleman. He was being himself, as him.


Do you have a favorite Bond?

Favorite Bond as in man? Oh, that's a loaded question for me. Yeah not Daniel… whoops. No, I think Daniel's done brilliantly. Roger Moore was my first Bond, and when I sat down with my kids and watched all the Bonds, they flipped for Roger Moore. They were like, "This is so much fun!" Like, Octopussy, when he's doing the Tarzan scream, I was like, "Oh, fuck's sake." Roger Moore is great. The only one I didn't really buy was Timothy Dalton. He was the only one I felt didn't quite nail it. It wasn't bad… but I thought Lazenby was good as well. They're all different, which is quite weird considering it's the same character.



For me, it's a tie between Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me. They're the two, they're the two for me.


You said you wanted to make this film because spy movies have become so series. So what were some of the things you wanted to reawaken in the spy franchise with Kingsman?


A sense of fun. The gadgets just being pure entertainment, not heavy. I think superhero films are going up their asses as well. Marvel, thank God, when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I was like, "Yeah! This is a film that's entertaining, it's taken some risks, it managed to make me care about a raccoon and a tree. This is a fucking genius piece of filmmaking." A tree that speaks one word. How can I be caring and enjoying this so much? I mean what was the last spy movie you really liked.

Skyfall, I liked Skyfall. But I love Moonraker too and the ridiculous of starting a colony on the Moon.


How many times did you see Skyfall?


Skyfall is pretty exhausting, isn't it? It's serious. I wanted to make this a film where The Spy Who Loved Me comes on TV, and you go, "Oh, fuck it, I'll watch this for five minutes." An hour later you're like, "Oh, shit. I've got to watch the ending now." Skyfall's a great film. I thought Skyfall was really good. And I was terrified, because I had just finished the script, and everyone was telling me, "Skyfall's gone back to the old Bond! It's fun, it's this, it's this!' And I watched it going, sheeesh! This is good, but it's not...


But come on when Javier Bardem hitting on Daniel Craig.

There's a wink! There's a nod to OK maybe they had gay sex but it's not *snaps snaps snaps* [implying quippy-ness] It's not Kingsman, let's put it that way.


Does it feel like the darker sort of Skyfall, Casino Royale kind of movie is less sustainable long term than the fun…

Well no not really because when Casino Royale came out, Bond was very much sort of copying Bourne. If you really know your Bond history, it's pretty amazing how the way it survives. It copies what's going on. Moonraker was a reaction to Star Wars. They made Spy Who Loved me and said, "Oh, fuck everyone wants scifi, so we'll remake Spy Who Loved Me and put it in space." And I think they were looking at Bourne being very successful, so Casino Royale was very much, "Let's make it like Bourne." And they got Dan Bradley [the stunt coordinator] and achieved that Bourne aesthetic. Suddenly, there was a hole for me. And it's not just Bond movies. It's the Avengers, In Like Flint. It was all those '60s movies. But we didn't want to be Austin Powers either.