'The King's Man' Director Calls It a "Love Letter to Movies"

The King's Man -onstage at New York Comic Con- October 03, 2019 - Getty-H 2019
<p>Matthew Vaughn, Djimon Hounsou, Harris Dickinson, and Ralph Fiennes speak onstage during &quot;The King&#39;s Man&quot; at New York Comic Con at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in New York City.&nbsp;</p>   |   Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Matthew Vaughn revealed the unlikely influences to his prequel at New York Comic Con.

To hear director Matthew Vaughn tell it, next year’s The King’s Man is as much a reaction to other movies as it is a prequel to his Kingsman movie series, adapted from the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comics of the same name.

“I was watching a lot of the Oscar movies and thinking, I never want to watch any of these movies again,” he told a rapt audience at New York Comic Con on Thursday afternoon. “I wanted to do a love letter to the movies I grew up to, and especially The Man Who Would Be King,” a movie he described as “a wonderful example of adventure, but also heart and story.”

More of Vaughn’s nostalgic approach emerged when he told the audience, “We actually used the same lenses Lawrence of Arabia was shot on. Which was good and bad, they kept falling out of focus and falling apart, but we didn’t have to color grade it. We shot as much as possible in camera. I love CG, but I think there’s a little too much of it at the moment.”

That wasn’t the only reaction to external movies that the writer/director mentioned during the panel. Asked about how the movie, which is set during the beginning of the First World War and stars Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson and Djimon Hounsou — all of whom joined Vaughn during the panel — as well as Rhys Ifans and Gemma Arterton, connects to the existing Kingsman movies, Vaughn mentioned his experience with comic book prequels.

“I did a movie called X-Men: First Class, and what I learned from that film is that, when you’re using characters that are known, it’s hard to do plot twists,” he said, talking about the knowledge that Professor Xavier shows up in other movies means that he can’t even pretend to kill the character. “I wanted to do an origin movie that had hardly anything to do with Kingsmen, apart from there is a tailor shop.” The disconnect between the movies, he went on to suggest, is so great that “I think people who hates Kingsman might reluctantly like this one.”

Fiennes explained that he had agreed to star as the Duke of Oxford in the movie due to his appreciation of earlier movies in the series.

“I enjoyed the first Kingsman films, and very much respected the clever balance of relationship and action that Matthew established,” he told the crowd. “I thought it was an unusual and original spin on the British spy theme. I was flattered and delighted when Matthew proposed this prequel to the story. I hope that, when you see the film, you will see there is a richness to the way that the Kingsmen intelligence agency started.”

The outbreak of the First World War forms part of the conflict between Fiennes’ character and his onscreen son, Conrad, played by Dickinson, who described his character as “a little bit naive, [and] at a point where he’s sort of realizing what it means to be a man at a time where that’s defined by your ability to go off and fight for a cause.”

“Without giving away too much, a tragedy has happened to the family, which has given my character a particular perspective to warfare; he’s a pacifist,” Fiennes added.“There’s a difference of opinion that works its way through the film.”

Hounsou plays Shola in the movie, a butler to Fiennes’ character who, nonetheless, sees more than his fair share of action. The actor joked, “I was working on the film thinking this was an easy approach to action stories, given the fact that it’s a period piece.” Instead, he said, “This was a very painful film to make … This was quite a challenge and I was hurt from the first week on.”

Audiences can see if the pain was worth it when The King’s Man is released Feb. 14, 2020.