Like the suave super-agent played by Taron Egerton in 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) cares about appearances. For his bigger, brassier follow-up — in theaters Sept. 29 — to the hit spy pastiche, Vaughn is keen to avoid a retread. So much so that he outlawed the number two from any of the film’s marketing.
“Just doing a sequel, you’re kind of violating that promise of originality,” he says. “Sequelitis is a plague I have no interest in contracting.” So in brainstorming this second installment of a planned trilogy, Vaughn let his imagination fly like a rogue missile. Brand new, beyond-Bond gadgets include a mechanical attack dog and an electric cowboy-style lasso that slices through bad guys.
And the new cast not only includes four Oscar winners but is ridiculously cool, with Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Game of Thrones‘ Pedro Pascal appearing as members of the Statesman, America’s Kingsman equivalent. Julianne Moore also costars as a Martha Stewart-ish global entrepreneur named Poppy and Elton John pops up as a “Vaughn-ized” (per the director) version of himself.
“If the first Kingsman was Captain America,” Egerton says, “then this is very much The Avengers now”
The arc of Egerton’s character in the first movie was from scrappy street kid to spy agent. The 27-year-old actor, who had never set foot on a movie set before scoring the lead role in Kingsman, says he feels a bit less pressure this time. “For the first one, I felt like if I wasn’t really good then it wouldn’t work. This time, the story still unfolds through my eyes but this is still a true ensemble piece. And also, I’ve had a bit more experience. I’m not asking the crew what every piece of camera equipment does.”
And indeed, regarding the ensemble cast, Mark Strong, who plays the senior-level Kingman Merlin, explains, “You can’t underestimate the draw of the new actors in this cast. I’ve had people say to me, ‘Wait, you’re kidding me with those names, right?” For Merlin, the action isn’t just confined to international espionage. He also has a possible romantic in the form of Berry’s across-the-pond spymaster.
“I quite like playing the tech nerd who can handle himself in a conflict situation,” Strong says. “But what I really like about this second film is that Merlin meets Halle Berry’s character, who plays his equivalent role in the Statesmen. And she had her clipboard and her glasses, just like Merlin. And what happens when two tech nerds come together?” Strong teases, “Might there be some geeky love?”
Egerton and Strong are not the only returning Kingsmen. We know that character resurrections, no matter how implausible, are a banality in comic books, so why not here? Colin Firth’s Harry was most certainly killed cold in the original, but he’s back. We think.
“I’ve read the rumors, but I can’t reveal if I’m even in this film,” Firth said while in full wardrobe on the set last summer. (Take a close look at the Channing Tatum photo, above — is that possibly Firth out of focus in the background?) The Oscar-winning King’s Speech actor adds, “I got in the first Kingsman by virtue of my improbability. An actor known for chick flicks as a fighting badass. So given that irony, I’d say anything is possible.” Cheeky.