Matthew Vaughn needs no introduction by now. The English director and writer has built quite the reputation for himself with fan-favorite comic-book films like Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and of course his adaptation of Mark Millar’s Kingsman series. Vaughn’s name is brought up often in conversations of who should take up the next great Hollywood franchise, with many even wanting him to helm a Superman film, but this filmmaker is sticking to his guns with Kingsman, having just released the third entry in the franchise that happens to also be a prequel, The King’s Man.
Making a prequel set during WWI, telling the precise origins of the Kingsman secret service, was perhaps not the move fans expected coming out of 2017’s The Golden Circle. Though as it turns out, Vaugn has a vast vision for this series, and traversing back to the heavy drama of trench warfare is only the next step in his ambitious plans. “The King’s Man is a worthy prequel that cleverly utilizes its war-set period to establish greater stakes,” while of course not abandoning the hyperactive action that Vaugn has now become known for. So how did Vaugn come up with this unlikely hybrid of period war drama and comic-book influence? He explained it himself during the film’s official press conference.
Vaughn casually remarks, “I rewatched a movie called The Man Who Would Be King (1975), and I afterwards joked saying, “Wouldn’t it be great to make The Man Who Would Be Kingsman?” A funny story that actually goes a lot deeper into Vaugn’s filmmaking influences.
Matthew Vaughn: “It reminded me why I fell in love with cinema. The idea of an epic historical adventure film, but with great actors, great characters, humor, pathos, and just pure escapism and entertainment. Then I remembered the speech that Harry gave to Eggsy about how, when, why, and what Kingsman was founded for”
In order to pull off this historical tale efficiently, a noble hero with more than enough grandeur was needed to anchor it at the very center. The King’s Man features many pivotal players from history, often dramatized in more comical ways that only Vaugn could pull off so hilariously. From Rasputin to Erik Jan Hanussen to King George, the cast couldn’t be more packed. Though Ralph Fiennes’ fantasized portal of the Duke of Oxford is the main attraction. As the founder of Kingsman, getting an actor as famed and established as Fiennes was crucial.
Matthew Vaughn: “It all came together, and I was lucky, I thought: who could play the Duke of Oxford? Who could play a man that would spawn the Kingsman, as in the franchise we know? Ralph was at the top of the list.
We begged Ralph to say yes. We had some brilliant conversations between the two of us, finding this sort of very interesting common ground that I think he got the boy side of [the character] out. Deep down, he likes to have fun and has an adventurous spirit… then he helped me engage in the drama more. He told me a lot about that as well. So it all happened due to this weird, itch I got from watching The Man Who Would Be King.”
The mix of weighted, realistic drama with Vaugn’s highly stylized action will be new to Kingsman fans. The King’s Man certainly feels different than the last two films, but this is no accident. As Vaughn goes into detail, this story inspired him to step out of his comfort zone. And if the film’s fantastical blend is any indication, who knows what could be in store for Vaugn’s planned Kingsman 3 and beyond.
Matthew Vaughn: “It got me to explore another side of filmmaking that I’ve always been intrigued about, serious movies and drama films, which I sort of enjoy but have been a little bit intimidated to do. I mean, it’s not my usual, you know, string in my bow, shall we say. So I got to explore a [new] world in the safety of my world, and it was good. It broadened my horizons and I learned a lot. And, who knows, maybe one day I’ll do Anthony and Cleopatra.”