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Matthew Vaughn On James Bond And Kingsman: The Secret Service

‘There were 24 hours when I was directing Casino Royale.’

Loosely adapted from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ espionage comic-book, Kingsman: The Secret Service sees Matthew Vaughn finally doing what he so nearly did back in the mid-noughties and making a spy flick. “I had a lot of meetings on Casino Royale,” he reveals of the Bond that got away, exclusively in the new issue of Empire (out Thursday, June 25). “So much so that the head of MGM offered me it. I had a 24-hour period where I thought I was directing Casino Royale.” The whole experience was, he understates, “a bit of a downer”.

Any lingering disappointment at being 00-sixed – it was Martin Campbell, of course, who ultimately landed the gig – has been more than salved by an action-thriller that teams up Colin Firth and newcomer Taron Egerton as a kind of Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle of fighting, shooting and wearing very smart suits. Firth’s character, Harry Hart, takes the council-estate kid under his wing and trains him up to tackle the Blofeld of the picture, Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine. Riffing on ‘60s and ‘70s spy films, Vaughn promises to do for spooks “what Kick-Ass did for superheroes”.

That metaphor probably won’t extend to having a villainous goon exploded in a giant Q-Branch microwave. “It’s fun. It’s not gory or disgusting,” says Vaughn, “but there’s one moment where it becomes a little more real and shocking.” For all its cartoon-tinged and heightened action and world-building, Kingsman isn’t Austin Powers: The Savile Row Years. “You’ve still got to feel the danger,” stresses the director.

As for the curveball casting of Firth, a badass secret agent dispensing justice in immaculate Prince of Wales check, Vaughn has a simple explanation. “I just wanted someone where, when he starts kicking the shit out of people, you cannot believe it’s him,” he says with a grin. Start on your Pride And Extreme Prejudice puns now.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is out in UK cinemas on October 17.