"This is the part of a lifetime" – Taron Egerton opens up to hmv.com about his gruelling role in Kingsman: The Secret Service
When director Matthew Vaughn announced he wouldn’t be sticking around to direct X-Men: Days Of Future Past, everyone wondered what he had up his sleeve? What possible reasons could he have for passing up the chance to make another gigantic blockbuster like that? The answer, it turned out, was a collaboration with Mark Millar, the man whose uber-violent and very funny comic book Kick-Ass he’d turned into a big hit back in 2010.
This time Vaughn set about bringing Kingsman: The Secret Service to the screen. Kingsman is a part homage to the stories of gentlemen spies and ultra-villains that made everyone fall in love with James Bond, but, this being a Mark Millar comic book, it’s spectacular, colourful, tongue in cheek, and very, very violent.
It tells the story of Eggsy, a part-time ne'er-do-well and full-time loud mouth who looks all set for a life of petty crime when he meets Harry Hart (played by the ever dashing Colin Firth), who presents him with a unique opportunity. He is offered the chance to try out to become a Kingsman, a highly secretive, but extremely badass set of super spies, who step in to prevent international calamities.
To bring the story to life properly, Vaughn needed an unknown, someone who the audience could see grow into the part and fall in love with as the film went on. And, after an exhaustive search, he settled on 25-year old Taron Egerton, who soon found himself rubbing shoulders with Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson, who the film also stars.
We sat down with Egerton to find out all about filming Kingsman (which is out on DVD now), getting in shape for the role of Eggsy and what it was like to work with some of the biggest stars on the planet?
How did you come to get involved in the film?
“I was shooting a show called The Smoke and my agent called me and said ‘This is a long shot, a real punt, but you might be suitable for this’, he then sent me two scenes through, one of which was the pub scene which you’ll have seen in the trailer. I went up and read for Matthew and he expressed an interest quite quickly.”
How much did you know about the film at this point?
“I appreciated the scale of the film, but I had no idea who was going to be in it. So when I found out that Colin Firth and Michael Caine were going to be in it my heart just started thumping in my chest. I then had a series of auditions, we did some quite physical stuff, weapons work and then I read the whole script through with Matthew. There was a lot to do, a lot, it was very full on. It was a month of auditions.”
You must have been delighted…
“I knew from the start that this is the part of a lifetime. He’s a character that you can’t help but fall in love with and he’s written to just look so cool. I’ve processed it at different stages, it was shock when I first found out, I was just thinking so many things, I’d never been to America before, I thought this could take me there, this could lead on to other things, this could even mean a film career, so many things. It was hard not to be overwhelmed.”
There must have been a lot of training…
“Well I didn’t look how I look in the underwater scene when I got the part, that’s for sure. I lost a lot of weight and built a lot of muscle. It was full-on, martial arts, gymnastics, all the time, for the nine weeks between getting the part, every moment when I wasn’t shooting on the show I was doing, I was training with a stunt team. I had a diet plan, a training regime, all of it. It was a very physical part.”
How did you find the physicality of it? Even though we’re aware now of how much effects work goes into big movies, you must have still been getting hit hard…
“Oh yeah. There were days when I really hurt myself. At one point my step dad and I have an altercation and that left more than a few real bruises. I hit myself in the face with a machine gun at one point, I got an infected foot, I got plenty of battle wounds. I loved it though, I’ve never been a very physical person, I was more the creative type growing up, so it was great to find that part of myself. Once I was in the swing of it all, I just felt fantastic, my body was in such great condition.”
Did you know much about the comic book before you got approached?
“No. I’m not a big comic book reader, but I’ve always loved comic book films. For some reason I’ve always associated with America, I used to buy comic compilations, like 15 X-Mens at a time and I think I have every Marvel DVD. I’d not read The Secret Service, I knew of Mark because I’d flicked through Kick-Ass having watched the film. But I bought them when I was auditioning for the part and they’re brilliant, they’ve got such humour and Dave Gibbons’ artwork is so beautiful.”
What was Matthew Vaughn like to work with? Having gone through all that to get the part you must have been nervous about coming to work?
“Matthew is like any artist. He’s got a very clear vision about what he wants to achieve. I thrive on specific parameters as an actor and this is perfect. It’s a very technical film in terms of the way it’s shot and he was brilliant at making it very clear to me what I needed to achieve. However he was very open to suggestions about how things could be changed. That wasn’t something that had occurred to me, I thought on a film of that scale you have a script and it does not change. I wasn’t changing scenes or anything, but I suggested little things that I thought would make the character more realistic and they’ve made it in. He’s a wonderful director.”
How did you find the scale? It could have been overwhelming…
“It was at times. I think it would have been inhuman not to be overwhelmed. I’d never been on a film set before, I’d never seen any as elaborate or costly as this. You see it in the detail, it’s everywhere, every costume is perfect, everything is crafted to specifications, there’s a real joy in all that. I still woke up some days and thought ‘Wow. I’m about to do a scene with Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson’. They helped in making it not overwhelming, and if I was feeling overwhelmed, Colin had a good way of calming me down.”
Did you get some good stories off the stars? Or did you want to keep things professional?
“No, it was very relaxed on set. Between all of them they must have 200 years of cinema experience, they were full of anecdotes and had plenty of advice for me. They never forced it on me though, but it was ready, as was support and encouragement. I felt spoilt really.”
It’s a very beautifully crafted film, but it’s a Mark Millar comic book, it’s very violent, how did you find creating that violence?
“It’s fascinating, especially watching it back, you’ve got these fast moving scenes and you spend hours working on one move and it manifests for a second and a half. I like the violence, but they establish the tone well and I think it’s comic booky. It’s not gratuitous, it fits the world and I do enjoy being made to look like a killing machine.”
Finally, for those who need that little bit more convincing, why should they see the film?
“It wasn’t such a great action film, it’s a fun film with brilliant characters, it’s got real heart and some incredibly moving bits too.”
Kingsman: The Secret Service is out on DVD now.