One of the true standouts from The King’s Man is Rhys Ifans’ portrayal of one ludicrous and quite extravagant Rasputin. Matthew Vaughn’s WWI-set prequel in the Kingsman series is full of real-life personalities, all with their own unique twists fit for this particularly stylish franchise. Vaughn’s revisionist history is full of surprises, but one that is arguably the most memorable comes from a major set-piece involving Rasputin and the heroic leads played by Ralph Fiennes, Djimon Hounsou, and Harris Dickinson.
In order to stop a secret society of the world’s most nefarious historical villains, the Duke of Oxford (Fiennes), his son (Dickinson), and his second-hand man (Hounsou) must track down Rasputin, the famed Russian holy man. Rasputin is but one of many foes hiding in plain sight across the globe, including Mata Hari and Erik Jan Hanussen among others, all secretly pulling the strings behind WWI.
Fret not for spoilers, for this covers less than half of the film. On the heels of also reprising his villainous role of The Lizard in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ifans was eager to discuss his major action set piece for The King’s Man during the film’s official press conference. Ifans jokingly calls himself an “action virgin,” but what was required of the film, and this scene, in particular, pushed him to new limits.
Rhys Ifans: We were working with a trainer and with this brilliant stunt team, initially trying to find a kind of physical language or a vernacular that was specific and unique to Rasputin. And then I remember Matthew, in yet another light bulb genius moment of his, came up with quite possibly one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard. He kind of came into the stunt room one day and he went, “Russian dancing, martial arts… mix em up.”
Much of what is incorporated into Rasputin is based on real-life facts and common legends. From rising in political influence to even his smallest likes and dislikes, Ifans and Vaughn put so much care into bringing this hysterical version of the Russian icon to life. And according to Ifans, that same care was put into his fight choreography, which blended dance with gnarly action.
Rhys Ifans: So the sense that he would dance his adversaries to death, that everyone Rasputin kills has a drunken smile on their face having been spun around the room, and then killed almost in rapture. All of these elements came to play, and it was really a huge group effort. It was really satisfying to see the end result, all of which was based on kind of facts and elements of Rasputin that we knew to be true.
Just as to how such a character and action set-piece was able to be brought to life can be credited to Vaugn and his knack for casting. Ifans is arguably the MVP of The King’s Man, but he made sure to pay his due to the man behind it all.
Rhys Ifans: I mean, the key to it all is Matthew Vaughn… Matthew at every turn flips everything you think is going to happen on its head, so constantly that you’re in a kind of state of cinematic vertigo when you watch his films, which is brilliant and just thrilling. I’m continually humbled by his prowess as a director.