TARON Egerton and Sophie Cookson, breakout stars of Matthew (Kick Ass) Vaughn’s gentleman spy send-up, Kingsman: The Secret Service, reveal some “before and after” secrets.
Taron, you studied stage combat at RADA. Did that help prepare you for Kingsman: The Secret Service?
TE: You are talking rapier and dagger. Compared to Kingsman, it’s small fry. The expectations for this film were so high that nothing could have prepared me, really. It was a total rehaul of the way I moved and felt. But if you are playing someone who has to save the world, you do have to have a bit of muscle tone, don’t you?
How did you go about that transformation?
TE: It was difficult to begin with. Dropping the fat, putting on muscle … all of that is really hard if you haven’t done it before. It gets easier. And ultimately it’s very rewarding. But you do put yourself though a lot of pain to get yourself into that kind of shape.
What surprised you the most?
TE: Watching my body transform because it’s not something I ever imagined it could do — to completely change. Locked in a vault somewhere are some before and after photos. And they will never be seen by anyone.
Taron, the Variety critic was glowing about your performance in Kingsman, but he also described you as a compact, bulldog-like actor.
TE: With squinched up features I think it was.
I figured the review would already have been brought to your attention or I wouldn’t have mentioned it.
TE: Something like that is going to stick in your mind.
It wasn’t very flattering.
TE: Compact? I thought 5ft 10in was a very respectable height.
SC: I think bulldogs have quite a few good qualities.
Let’s talk about the difference between altruism and vigilantism. After all, the Kingsman have taken it upon themselves to dispense “justice” with absolutely no checks or balances.
TE: If this organisation existed in real life, the nobility, the goodness of what they are trying to do, like anything else, would become bastardised and corrupted. But we are living in a fantasy world, we are existing in a reality other than our own, in which people are able to just purely do good for the benefit of mankind, without any self-interest.
Taron, you won a musical theatre competition at drama school. Any thoughts of pursuing that career trajectory on screen?
TE: I have never worked professionally in musical theatre but I love to sing, I always have. I would love to do a musical at some point.
That segues neatly into my next question … I understand you are about to start work with Hugh Jackman on a biopic about Olympic skier Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.
TE: There’s no singing in it, but I met him in December and I told him I was about to do some Christmas carolling (back home in Wales). He asked me to send a video, which I did, of me and my friends at a pub doing some organised carol-singing.
Can you ski?
TE: I am learning at the moment. This is never going to translate well in text … but I really enjoyed it and bizarrely, since I am the least physical person on the planet and I normally take to things like Bambi to the ice, I think it went quite well. I am really looking forward to learning more. There are going to be some great ski jumping scenes in that film.
Sophie, you have a similar background in musical theatre, I believe?
SC: When I was 10, I joined the Youth Music Theatre. I was the youngest in the company — it was mostly 17 or 18-year-olds who were going off to drama school. That was very eye-opening for me, being in an environment where people were actually considering drama as a career.
In Kingsman, your character challenges the gender bias of what is essentially an elite boy’s club. Emma Watson, who was actually mooted for the role at one point, recently addressed this issue at the UN. Do you think things are changing fast enough?
SC: There is always room for improvement. It’s something everyone has to be proactive about.
TE: I don’t think things are changing fast enough — but you didn’t seem to want to ask me that. It’s not just a question for the women.
In fact, that was one of the points Emma made.
SC: It takes both sexes to make it happen.
On the positive side, Sophie, your character is not just a love interest in Kingsman. In fact, she turns out to be a worthy competitor.
TE: It’s a platonic relationship but I always joke that there’s time to work on that.
In a sequel perhaps?
TE: We would really hope so. But it’s a commercial project so that largely depends on how many people go and see Kingsman and whether people enjoy it.