It’s not unusual to base a movie or TV show on a comic book. It is unusual to launch a comic book and feature film at the same time.
That’s the case with the Matthew Vaughn-directed “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons comic book, “The Secret Service.”
“Mark and I were lamenting about how spy movies have become so serious. They just don’t have the style and pacing of the spy movies we watched while growing up,” Vaughn says.
They decided to do something about the void since 007 forgot he has a license to chill.
Although there are some differences between the movie and the comic, both take the approach of being centered on a very prim and proper British spy (played by Colin Firth) and then surrounding him with odd characters, huge action scenes and a colorful villain (Samuel L. Jackson).
One major change Vaughn — who wrote the “Kingsman” script with Jane Goldman — made from the comic was making the story less of a tale of family members who spy together and making his film more of a “Pygmalion” tale.
Super spy Galahad (Firth) becomes a mentor to Gary (Taron Egerton), a young man with plenty of street smarts who has a lower-class upbringing. They must join forces to save the world while Gary learns to be a proper gentleman.
“I didn’t want this film to be taken too seriously,” Vaughn says. “I wanted the film to be entertaining and fun. I didn’t want it to pertain to anything in the real world. People just want two hours of escape.”
The casting of Oscar-winning Firth was the key.
“All I was imagining was David Niven playing this role when I was writing it. Colin’s the David Niven of this film,” Vaughn says. “A movie is only as good as your cast. It doesn’t matter how good the script is if you have miscast the film. There’s no way to hide it when the wrong actor is picked.”
Vaughn’s got plenty of experience casting movies, including “Layer Cake,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Kick-Ass.” The director has seen examples of the studio picking an actor for a movie for the potential of a big box office. Then, when the movie fails, the studio executives can’t understand what happened.
Vaughn stresses that a good spy movie is only as good as its villain. The actor must be able to create the feeling of a serious threat or conflict. He points to the casting of Sean Connery as the villain in the 1998 failed spy thriller “The Avengers” as an example of bad casting for villains.
Vaughn turned to one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson, for the “Kingsman” villain. He plays a billionaire with a plan to wipe out the majority of the world’s population.
“I wanted someone who can make these speeches believable but still have fun. I wanted the audience to think he is psychotic and weird,” Vaughn says. “I have been a big fan of Samuel L. Jackson for years because he’s a seriously talented actor. I knew he was perfect for the part.”
Casting Mark Hamill was especially exciting for Vaughn since he’s admired the actor for years. In the comic book, it’s Hamill the actor who gets kidnapped. In the film, Hamill plays a scientist who is taken.
Vaughn’s original plan was to have actors play themselves in the movie, but he couldn’t get anyone to sign on to the film. He now sees that as a blessing because he didn’t have to keep the celebrities around while he shot the big-action scenes.
“Kingsman” is filled with large gunbattles, car chases and bar fights. The biggest is a scene that takes place in a small Kentucky church.
It took Vaughn and his team months to choreograph the scene and seven days to film it. The idea is the scene will come across as being as big and fun as similar sequences in the spy movies he loved when he was growing up.