Movies

Matthew Vaughn On ‘Kingsman,’ Prince, Superman, And Why He Didn’t Make Another X-Men Movie

Getty Image / 20th Century Fox

By this point, Matthew Vaughn has a large portfolio of films he was attached to, but never made. Looking back, it seems like a miracle that he actually got to make X-Men: First Class instead of it being collected into Vaughn’s ever-growing “what could have been” pile. He was supposed to make another X-Men film, but that didn’t happen (he explains why below) and he was even on the short list for what eventually became The Force Awakens. I wonder what Matthew Vaughn’s Star Wars movie would have looked like? I suspect there would have been more cussing. And now he’s in talks to direct Man of Steel 2, and we’ll just have to wait and see if this one actually happens or not. But Vaughn does seem particularly excited about the prospects (though, he admits he probably shouldn’t be openly talking about it with the press).

Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of the big surprises of 2015. A property that not many people were familiar with at the time went on to gross over $400 million worldwide. Jeff Bridges called it, “The best James Bond movie I’ve ever seen,” which convinced Bridges to jump on board for this sequel that sees the Kingsmen, facing their greatest threat yet (that threat played by “having the time of her life” Julianne Moore), having to team up with their American counterparts, the Statesmen – which includes the aforementioned Jeff Bridges, as well as Halle Berry and Channing Tatum.

Ahead, an always-frank Vaughn explains how he became the first director to get the rights to a Prince song (that’s not in a Prince movie or specifically written for that movie, like “Batdance.” ), plus why he’s upset at all the movies using John Denver when Vaughn thought he was doing something really original. He also tells us why he didn’t want to make Days of Future Past, primarily because he didn’t think it should have been the next movie. He had another idea for the next X-Men movie in mind…

Not that you’re looking for advice from strangers, but it would be great if you directed Man of Steel 2.

Well, if I do, I’ll be happy as well. It’s an honor to even have had a discussion. So, they’re probably freaking out that I’ve even mentioned it. But, yes, we’ll see. Who knows what will happen in my life, that’s for sure.

The opening scene uses Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” I can’t remember ever hearing a Prince song in a non-Prince movie before.

Prince is one of my all-time heroes. There’s not a single Prince note – he’s done a lot of notes – and I know them all. I’ve been obsessed with him since I was 12 or 13. And, weirdly, when we put Prince on, I was so desperate to use it and I got told it would never be cleared. Then, sadly, Prince died. And I was speaking to the people at Warner Bros. Records and they’re like, you know what, if we’re going to start licensing his music, what a way to begin. So I feel absolutely honored to be the first person to license a Prince track.

Oh, wow, so you are the first…

Yeah, I’m so honored I was allowed to do it and I hope he is up in his purple throne looking down at least appreciating the use of it. And I was lucky enough that they sent me all the tracks – the multi-tracks of the recording and I spent like five ours listening to everything. And, for me, it was heaven. And hearing Prince talk, “Okay, let’s redo that and turn this up,” it was amazing. I’m a huge Prince fan and I’m very sad that he died, too young. And what was also astonishing was the amount of kids who have seen the film who don’t know Prince and don’t know his music. And I just hope this will continue his legacy.

Speaking of music, John Denver’s music plays a big role in this film. We’ve had a lot of John Denver in movies this year.

Don’t wind me up. Fucking hell.

John Denver music was also in Alien: CovenantOkja, and Logan Lucky. Why is this happening?

I have no idea and I cannot believe it! I wrote John Denver into the script two and a half years ago thinking, “No one really talks about John Denver anymore.” Now I think we’re the sixth movie using John Denver! Look at the world, we are getting closer and closer to the singularity, whether we like it or not.

So did you just happen to randomly see other movies this year with John Denver in them?

I watched Alien: Covenant and they’re like, “Who is this person?” And then they say, “I know, it’s john Denver! It’s ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’!” I was like, fuck you, Ridley. Not that he had any idea, but it did break my heart. And I love Ridley, so that’s not an actual attack on him, it’s an English declaration of love.

At least people are listening to John Denver again?

Well, the good news is at least people know the fucking song. I was worried when the big finale of that song happens, I was worried people might not know it. Now they all know it.

After the first Kingsman, was it always the plan to bring Colin Firth back?

It was not planned, but it became planned. If that makes any sense. I couldn’t make the movie without Colin. I’ve been saying I feel like George Martin and Kingsman is the band, The Beatles, and we’ve got a tricky second album and there’s no way that would work without Paul McCartney. And Colin is Paul.

The debate would be that the first movie is so shocking because the main character dies three-fourths of the way through and doesn’t come back.

That was the point. But I just didn’t want to make the film without him. He’s a friend; he’s part of the magic formula. I just thought about a sequel without Colin and that’s just not a film I wanted to make.

And Channing Tatum has a smaller role in this movie. But the way it’s set up, are we to assume he will have a bigger role in the third film?

Yeah. If Channing agrees, yeah. That’s up to him. Never say never and fingers crossed. We had a great time working together and I’m seeing him tonight and I’ll talk to him about it. I think he’s up for it. But you’ll have to ask Channing.

There are a lot of famous people in this sequel. Are people lining up to get in these now? You’ve got Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, too.

Let’s put it this way. Kingsman: The Secret Service was really tough to cast. This one wasn’t.

Was that surprising?

I never take anything for granted in this industry, so I was pleasantly surprised.

And you cast Elton John…

Well, I actually wrote Elton John into the first film and he turned it down. And I rang him up and said, “We are going again, what do you think?” He said, “Matthew, I was a bloody idiot for not doing the first film. I’m in. Tell me where, tell me when, and I’ll be there.”

So he’s a good example of why the first movie was difficult.

A very good example. In fact, the example.

It’s funny what making a successful movie will do for casting.

I know what you’re saying. But the hard part is making a good film first of all.

The scene in which Eggsy has to plant a tracker onto Clara (Poppy Delevingne), which happens during sex, and even though Eggsy doesn’t want to do it, it made me very uncomfortable. Was that by design?

It’s exactly what you just said. There are two main points in that scene. One, to try to reinvent the idea of planting a bug, because we’ve seen those mission a lot. And, secondly, for the first time I wanted to see a spy with an emotional and moral dilemma of having to do something he really doesn’t want to do. Because James Bond would have done that, and probably would have had sex and a cigarette and thought, who’s next? Eggsy is different. And I think it’s really important to do scenes that do make people feel uncomfortable. That scene plays very differently to people. Some people laugh and cheer. Other people are like, “Oh my God.” Some people are disgusted about it. But nobody doesn’t notice it – and, afterwards, they’ll talk about it. And that’s what I want to do with films. I want people to discuss it afterwards. I don’t want to make bland movies. I think there’s enough movies made by Hollywood committees that bore you to death. I’m there to wake you up, one way or another.

X-Men: First Class is my favorite X-Men movie…

Really?

Oh, yeah.

Well, thank you.

The scene when the coin is going through Shaw’s head and Charles is screaming is one of my favorite superhero movie scenes.

Oh wow.

But I wish you had done another. I know you were attached to Days of Future Past. I feel you could write a book about the movies you haven’t done.

I mean, the bottom line is this: I’m only invested when there’s a moment when I have to make a film and I can’t walk away. And I have to be so passionate and believe in it that the film, first, will turn out great and that I will be pushed to my limits to make it properly and taken out of my comfort zone. The reason I haven’t done sequels in the past is they just weren’t exciting me. And on Days of Future Past, even though I co-wrote the bloody thing, the reason I bailed out of it is two things: First, I respect Bryan Singer hugely and X-Men is Bryan’s world and I feel he let me play in his sandbox. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my sandbox. I wanted my own sandbox. And, second, I didn’t want to do Days of Future Past next. I felt that one should be in a trilogy and Days of Future Past should be the finale of that story. I would have done a film in-between where you meet the young Wolverine and a new character, and then in Days of Future Past became the young Wolverine and the old Wolverine and just really blow it out.

That sounds pretty great.

So that’s what I would have done, but the studio didn’t agree with me on that. And, to be frank, as I said, it’s not my sandbox so I couldn’t do anything about it. So that’s why, with Kingsman, it is my sandbox and I can make great sandcastles or I can defecate and pee in it – and either way, whatever it is, it’s my rules.

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