The King’s Man – Matthew Vaughn: “Hollywood people are accountants” [interview]

With The King’s Man: First Mission, Matthew Vaughn travels back in time to the dawn of the First World War. An origin story from his behind-the-scenes spy franchise, in the form of a great adventure film like no other. Encounter.

In 2019, Matthew Vaughn told us about his nostalgia for old school adventure films ” which filled the mouth with it and which filled the screen. »A genre in disuse that the director of Layer Cake, Stardust Where Kick-Ass decided to reinvest with The King’s Man: First Mission. He tells the genesis of his action-espionage saga in the shadow of the First World War, against the backdrop of a deadly plot between the worst tyrants and the greatest criminal geniuses in history. Until a pacifist aristocrat, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), decides to thwart their plan by setting up the first independent spy ring … In 2020, when the film was about to be released (and was then pushed back a big year), Vaughn told us about his cat and mouse game with Hollywood studios and his relationship to adventure cinema.

First: After three films, no more doubts: you have become a franchise director. What would have been difficult to imagine a few years ago …
Matthew Vaughn: So you may have badly cataloged me! I have no problem with franchising, and I always knew I wanted to ” big cinema. Except that I was well aware that I had to take my time to get there. I think it has to be progressive, that you have to climb the ladder little by little, learn to master your art. And that’s not what’s happening in Hollywood right now: Rookie directors who only have a four million dollar movie on the clock find themselves piloting billion dollar machines. And obviously, it goes wrong. It’s like a newbie boxer is going to tickle Mike Tyson. This is the assured knockout.

And I imagine it’s easier to sell a movie to a studio when you can rely on an established brand.

Totally. If I had come up and said that I wanted to make a big adventure film with British actors, they would have said to me: “ Thanks, next one. »But if you come by talking about a prequel idea of Kingsman, that changes everything … You have their attention. It’s a little sleight of hand.

Don’t you mind being forced to play this game at almost 50?

But finally ! You are very naive! It’s Hollywood! No offense, but these people are accountants, they don’t really like movies. And be careful, I’m talking about Hollywood in general, not Disney. If Disney has succeeded where everyone has gone wrong, it is because they are really behind the scenes of their films, be it Marvel, Lucasfilm or Pixar. Their plan is to find people who make great content and support them all the way.

Hmm …

No, but really! The people at Disney immediately liked the project The king’s man [la firme de Burbank a récupéré le projet après le rachat de 20th Century Fox]. No one told me: ” Oh my God, a period movie! They were super hot.

So you’re gonna get stuck on movies Kingsman in the near future ?

As a producer, yes. As a director? Who knows what will happen. I don’t ask myself too many questions. I have no idea what my next film will be.

In the meantime, you are giving the adventure film a facelift. A genre that has practically disappeared from our screens. Why ?

No idea. I imagine fashions come and go but it’s all beyond us, it’s decided at the highest level in Hollywood. For example, we hadn’t seen a pirate movie for I don’t know how long before Pirates of the Caribbean. When we proposed Scams, Crimes and Botany, there were no more gangster movies. We were told: ” Nobody wants to see this. “. Except that it was wrong: there was an audience but we did not give it the opportunity to go to theaters. And afterwards, when it hit the nail on the head, everyone wanted to make their gangster film. And it gradually became big shit. It is a cycle.

For me, the last real great adventure film to date, the one that really ticks all the boxes of the genre, is Tintin by Steven Spielberg.

Yeah. I don’t want … Anyway, it was motion capture, not a movie live. It’s different. It amazes me myself, but I want to quote you the last ones Jumanji, who go on a pure adventure. Me, I had a very precise vision of what I wanted to do, something really epic, exhilarating. And I immediately remembered the backstory I had written imagining the universe of Kingsman. Everything fit perfectly, the stars aligned. But I didn’t put up any barriers: The king’s man can also be seen as an action-packed historical drama, with a political point of view and quite a bit of humor.

A melting pot, what?

Yeah. Suddenly it’s difficult to find the right tone but that’s the point. Making films shouldn’t be easy. I want to immerse the viewer for two hours, so that they forget the existence of the outside world. Everything except boredom! Lately, I had a somewhat agitated discussion with another director: a review of his film said that he manipulated the viewer’s emotions too much, and that had really pissed him off. But damn it, man, it’s hot! It’s our job to manipulate people to make them happy, to make them vibrate… That they feel something, what! I try to recreate what I was going through when I was going to theaters in the 80s, when I was a kid. The Warner Bros., Disney or Paramount logo was coming onto the screen and it was the promise that I was going to live a moment apart. And when it was really good, I didn’t want to leave the theater after the credits, I wanted to watch the film again. Except that today, you can count on the fingers of one hand those you want to see again, because there is nothing more to analyze. I fight against it. Cinema must be an escape. Well, at the moment, it’s a little weird with the Covid-19 …

Has it changed your relationship to your job?

I think it changed everyone’s life, right? The real bright spot for me is that I’m quietly answering you from my desk, a good cup of tea in hand, instead of being in a fucking hotel. Afterwards, during the confinement, it was super complicated to finish making the film. Cannot do sound mixing at home, I don’t have an Atmos mixer at home (Laughs.) The editing was neat, but by dint of having the time to think about it, you end up wanting to change things … I began to want to cross over passages out of sheer boredom, by dint of seeing them and reviewing them again. . I had to be told: ” No stop. We’re not changing anything and we’ll just do the sound mixing when we can. »Now it’s good, but I’m still wondering if the film will be released in theaters in September [NDLR : 2020. Finalement le film sort fin décembre 2021]… It’s very special. Especially since we really thought The king’s man for the big screen.

Are you not worried that the situation will make the industry even more cautious?

There is this replica in The king’s man : ” The more you fear something, the more likely it is to come true. »We are an independent production company [Marv Films], so we will necessarily start making feature films again. The thing is, I don’t know how the films will be consumed in the future. We are in the unknown. I hope the cinemas will hold up.

Can’t see yourself surrendering and going on streaming platforms?

If theaters didn’t reopen, then I would be forced to do so. But as long as they are open, I will make films for theaters.

The king’s man takes place before and during the First World War. You mix real and fictional events, such as the creation of the Kingsman agency. How did you deal with history?

We haven’t changed anything. It is all true. It’s actually funny, because some of those who saw the film told me that I had gone a bit far. What a slab! When they google they are on the ass. History is pretty great in itself, no need to reinvent it. All I did was look at her from a different perspective through my characters. From behind the scenes, what. My theory of what caused World War I is as valid as any. In any case, no one can refute what I have written.

On the set, you said aiming for a mix of The man who wanted to be king [The Man Who Would be King en VO] and of Lawrence of Arabia. Is that still the case, more than a year later?

If I tell you about The man who wanted to be king, most people will wonder what this stuff is. Not better with Lawrence of Arabia.

All the same…

You and I know, but damn, I swear half Hollywood wouldn’t get it! You would be surprised. The movie nickname was The Man Who Would be Kingsman, that puts things a bit. It is the film which comes closest to it. In short: if you didn’t like Kingsman, you might like this one. And if you liked Kingsman, then you will love this movie (Laughs.) All I can promise is that you won’t regret spending two hours in front. Isn’t that bad?

The King’s Man: First Mission, by Matthew Vaughn, with Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Tom Hollander … In theaters December 29.

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