“I wanted to scratch an itch that I’ve had for ages in making a movie [like] the big, epic adventure films that I grew up on,” Vaughn explains when sitting down alongside the film’s stars Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Djimon Hounsou in EW’s New York Comic Con video studio (above). “There was Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, Doctor Zhivago. The last time I saw a film like that, ironically was with Ralph in The English Patient where the screen was filled and I really went on an adventure. Making a movie like that on this sort of scale is not exactly easy to raise money for so I thought if I entwine that into the King’s Man universe, Hollywood wouldn’t be as scared of it. You have to con these guys to make good films!”
The movie, which opens in February and also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Gemma Arterton, explores the origins of the mysterious British intelligence agency and is set during World War I and its aftermath. In the first of two clips shown to NYCC attendees, Fiennes and Dickinson — who play the Duke of Oxford and his son Conrad, respectively — visit the Kingsman tailors to get the latter a new suit. Once getting suited up in Fitting Room One, the two discuss their differing perspectives on war and violence, as the Duke educates his son on their family. “Our ancestors were terrible people,” he tells Conrad. “That nobility never came from chivalry, it came from being tough and ruthless.”
Reflecting on the clip, Dickinson shared that it was those differing opinions that intrigued him about the story. “It’s interesting because he’s a little bit naive,” he explained of his character. “He’s at a point in his life when he’s realizing what it is to be a man, at a time when that’s defined by your bravery and ability to go off and fight for a cause. While his father has preexisting and perhaps better morality.”
Before leaving the stage, the cast and Vaughn shared another, more explosive clip. This one was an elaborate fight sequence between Hounsou, who plays Shola, and Rhys Ifans’ Grigori Rasputin. The two men pirouette with swords while, in the background, Conrad saves his dad from drowning in ice. Finally, Arterton (Polly) has to step in to save the day, questioning, “Why is it that boys are always so messy?”
Answer TBD. But there was no question about why the stars wanted to be part of this third installment.
“I enjoyed the first films,” Fiennes told fans. “I very much respected the clever balance of relationship and action that Matthew established. It’s an unusual and original spin on British spy themes so I was delighted when Matthew proposed prequel.”
When joining EW, Fiennes expanded on the film and what he loves about this one. “The tone of Matthew’s earlier Kingsman films is very attractive but this seemed to be taking it into another area or different arena with this historical context,” he explains. “We all felt tantalized. It’s multi-leveled. It’s got pathos, tragedy, exciting, funny, flashy action sequences, and it’s got historical life to it.”
Origin stories have, of course, become popular vehicles for hit franchises. And while this fits perfectly into the Kingsman series, Vaughn explained to fans that this one stands on its own. “It’s hard to do plot twists with characters that are known, so I wanted to do an origin movie that had hardly anything to do with original Kinsgmen.” He added, “You can watch it without seeing the first.”
The King’s Man hits theaters Feb. 14, 2020. Watch the video above for more.