Spoilers ahead for Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
The Kingsman franchise is back, and so is its ambitious director, Matthew Vaughn. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is out now, and it has just as much of the spirit of the wild Bond movies of old as its predecessor, featuring high-flying adventure, bizarre gadgets, and a villain (Julianne Moore) with a scheme so insane that it’s hard to imagine it existing in any other spy thriller. We caught up with Vaughn to talk about the difficulty of shooting a scene where hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) places a secret device in a woman’s vagina, his decision to bring Colin Firth’s character back from the dead, and the magic of Channing Tatum’s dance moves.
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
The opening taxicab fight. That opening scene was very difficult. The scene with Eggsy trying to place a bug into a person was incredibly hard to shoot as well. And just making a sequel. By the way, the whole thing was very hard. This was the hardest movie I’ve ever made. It’s not easy making sequels. What’s hard about making a sequel is people see a sequel expecting to see what they liked in the first film, but if you do too much of what they liked in the first film, you’re boring and unoriginal and repetitive. It’s a balancing act, so that was hard. Actually, and the [ski] gondola sequence was hard. We went out in the mountains and a lot of people had altitude sickness, so that was difficult making it with half the crew who couldn’t stay up there.
What was hard about doing the scene where Eggsy places the bug? It seems so simple when you watch it.
Well, that’s the beauty of filmmaking, isn’t it? We had to get a lens made, we had to get a camera position dollying very close to someone’s body, but you didn’t want to hurt them by mistake. Having to use Eggsy and then another hand, because it got quite intimate, as you’d say, and making that seamless. It was one of those things that could have been a disaster. In some people’s minds I know that they think it’s a disaster already because they didn’t like it, which is fine and I respect it, but other people do like it.
How did you pull off the cab scene? That one does look like it was a challenge. What were the ins and outs of that?
It was a lot of planning. A lot of taxis. We also wanted to do a lot of it for real, so we built cabs that can go that speed and can drift. Because we built the things, they kept breaking down. Actors punching the other actors by mistake, getting a camera in a very confined space as well. If you think about it, the back of the cab, coordinating the whole fight, shooting in London at night — not easy.
Tell me about the altitude sickness.
We all went to the top of the mountain to shoot it and after about 20 minutes half the crew went back down. I’m lucky I didn’t get it, but half the crew was like, “Oh my God,” and then I got poor Taron and [co-star] Pedro [Pascal] and I’m, saying “Run now, run left, run there.” They’re like, “Dude, we can’t breathe, let alone run, and we’ve got ski boots on!” I’m like, “Ah, just do it.” But yeah, it was tricky and it was cold, and the weather wasn’t great, and then we’d get windows of sunshine and shoot again. But it was beautiful. A lot of people think it’s CG, it’s quite funny. I had three people going, “That scene looks fake,” and I’m like, “Oh, it’s real actually, so I’m sorry it looks fake.”
Oh my God, that’s so dangerous to have it actually up there.
Yeah. I loved it. I was maybe too excited and then in ignorant bliss, but luckily I didn’t seem to get … I’ve never had altitude sickness, so I was okay.
You talk about the difficulty of making a sequel. Personally, I liked it better than the first.
Do you know what? Thank you for saying that.
Did you have a guiding philosophy for how to strike that balance between getting what made the first work but still expanding it?
There’s a real simple rule I did: I wasn’t making a sequel, I was continuing the story. I was continuing the arcs of the characters and at no point trying to top the first film. I think that’s always a bad thing, isn’t it? Trying to be funnier or bigger or crazier. I just thought, I’m going to continue the story of these characters and the journey they’re on and be authentic to the story and everything else will be fine.
Were you worried about bringing Colin Firth back and maybe cheapening his death in the first movie?
No. I’ll tell you why. It sounds crazy when I say this, but we were making a second album and second albums are a tough thing to do. The band, let’s say, are the Beatles. I’m George Martin, figuring out the second album, we ain’t got Paul McCartney? Ain’t gonna work. I couldn’t see the franchise working without Colin. He is too much part of the band, he’s got to be in it and I thought even if people don’t like how he comes back, they’re going to like that he’s back. It might be a little bitter pill to swallow, but it’s going to make you feel healthy, so I had to do it.
One of my favorite little bits of the movie is the few seconds we get of Channing Tatum dancing.
Did you have a ton more B-roll of that? Did you have to direct him in any way?
Oh yeah, we ran out … If we had film, we would have run out with that action. I couldn’t get him to stop. He loved it. He’s a good dancer as well, we were like, Woo! He can dance.
We’ve all seen Magic Mike. He’s got the gift.
Yeah, and he loves to do it. We put on, weirdly, John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and off he went.
Speaking of John Denver, his “Country Roads” figures very prominently in the film. Was there ever a discussion about another song, or did you always know you wanted that one?
Tell me about it. Once I’ve seen all these other movies suddenly using John Denver, I was like “What the hell is going on?” It was in the script. You can’t change … [Mark Strong’s character] Merlin’s singing it, it was in the background. We cut a scene where Merlin and Halle [Berry] were discussing the merits between Olivia Newton-John’s “Country Roads” versus the John Denver version and what was better. No, it was really one of the fabrics of the script.
Do you have any good Jeff Bridges stories?
Yeah. Jeff came on set the first day and y’know, he’s a hero of mine, I was a little bit nervous. But he put everybody at ease. He never left the set. He hung out with everyone. He knew the names of all the crew. He had great ideas. Jeff reminded me of Taron, in a weird way. When Taron arrived, he’d just left drama school and had all this enthusiasm and was bouncing off the walls wanting to make as good a film as possible. Jeff was the same. He was a breath of fresh air from Hollywood like I haven’t felt in a long time.
Speaking of which: How had Taron grown as an actor between the first and the second? What impressed you about the way he had evolved?
We’re sort of lucky because Taron was a boy when I met him, and he was playing a boy in Kingsman, and now he’s playing a boy that has grown up and he has done that in real life. So, it’s a real good example of life and art imitating each other perfectly. He’s just flourishing and it’s a real pleasure to watch him and I feel proud of what he’s achieving.
This interview has been edited and condensed.