The third installment in the Kingsman franchise is coming to theaters December 22. I had the chance to hear from The King's Man cast and director on bringing the origin story to life, preparing for the fight scenes, and how the soon-to-be infamous Rasputin scene was created.
The King's Man Cast Interview
The King's Man follows the story of the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), the founder of the Kingsman. Long before the agency was given its name, he lost his beloved wife while on a Red Cross mission. This tragedy leads him to a life of pacifism, where his sole goal is to keep his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) safe. Years later, the war begins and Conrad is determined to fight for his country despite his father's wishes. They stumble upon a plot meant to bring about the destruction of England and must work together to find more information and stop this mysterious group. Along with key members of Oxford's staff, Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), they set out to put an end to the war by confronting whom they think is the ringleader. However, Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) is just the tip of a nasty iceberg.
Ralph Fiennes (Duke of Oxford), Djimon Honsou (“Shola”), Rhys Ifans (Rasputin), and Director Matthew Vaughn shared a look into the work that turned The King's Man from just an idea in Matthew's head to a big screen, action-packed feast for fans.
What made you want to come back to tell the origin story of the Kingsman?
Matthew: I rewatched a movie called The Man Who Would Be King, and I afterwards joked saying, “Wouldn't it be great to make The Man Who Would Be Kingsman?” It reminded me why I fell in love with cinema. The idea of an epic historical adventure film, but with great actors, great characters, humor, pathos, and, just pure entertainment. I remembered the speech that Harry gave to Eggsy about how, when, why, and what Kingsman was founded for. I found out about the Treaty of Versailles, and I was looking into why the war broke out. And I'd always been obsessed with Rasputin for all the wrong reasons, then it all came together. I thought who could play the Duke of Oxford? Ralph was at the top of the list.
Knowing Ralph that you are a fan of the franchise, was there anything else that made you excited to be part of this new entry in the Kingsman world?
Ralph: The father-son drama [at] the center of it. Alongside that came wonderful accessories like a great sword fight at the end of the movie. I've always loved stage sword fighting. I loved Matthew's whole brilliant, very unique way of taking us through a story, a mixture of seriousness, comedy, satire.
The Kingsman films are known for their epic fight sequences, and this one is no exception. How did you prepare for the physicality of your roles? Especially that dance scene, it was amazing.
Djimon: The training was something that I thought was familiar with the number of action driven films [I've done]. With my background of mixed martial art and boxing I [thought I] could handle this one quite easily. The action choreography, I did not previously experience anywhere else. And that the level of the expectation was, uh, you know, a bit challenging. We were all training prior to filming, during filming, all the way to the end. All the way to that iconic fight scene with Rhys. It was unbelievable.
Rhys: Unlike Djimon, I was, shall we say, an action virgin. (Laughs) Prior to this film, I would walk past gyms and suddenly, I found myself in one. I remember Matthew came up with quite possibly one of the craziest ideas I've ever heard. He came into the stunt room one day and he went, “Russian dancing, martial arts, mix em up.” Between Matthew, [me], and the stunt team, we arrived at this language [for] Rasputin, in terms of how I wanted Rasputin to live within that physical world. He [has] this dervish quality about him.
Ralph: I had to do a bit of real climbing with the knives. I had a rope to hold me should I slip, but I really tried to do what is described, which is to pull myself up. I was told by Brad Allen, the wonderful fight director, that you gotta do a five-minute plank, at least, which I managed to do for all of 40 seconds. (Laughter)
That scene at the party was absolutely wild. How much of that was improv and on the spot decision making versus what was in the script? Was it difficult to stay in character when he was licking your leg?
Ralph: I haven't washed my leg since. (Laughs) The Duke of Oxford is sort of serious. In this scene, he's a little bit humiliated. His leg is stroked and licked by Rasputin. We were playing the scene with a comedy vein in it, but the story is, he's the bad guy and we know that he's evil. The tone was great to try and pull off. And we had lots of takes and chances to try and get it right. Working with Rhys, who is continually inventive in every shot, I think we riffed off of each other, and we played off of each other. It's lovely to work with someone, and you just throw the ball back and forth, as it were.
Matthew: I was mesmerized watching how they took the dialog, and they lifted it to a place that wasn't on the page. I felt like it was McCartney and Lennon riffing off each other, creating great music.
The King's Man is in theaters December 22, 2021. It has a runtime of 131 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.