gq-magazine.co.uk : Wearing a red strappy cocktail dress, adorned in a wreath of feathers, 15-year-old Taron Egerton walked on stage to his first-ever round of rapturous applause. It was 2005 and, eager to get involved in youth theatre, he had joined a couple of friends in signing up to a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was given the part of Flute, who fixes glass-blowing bellows for a living and, due to Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play mechanic, also dresses up as a woman to take the part of Thisbe. “I was quite put out by it,” he recalls. “I was feeling chubby and insecure. It was possibly a lot to ask for from a young guy. But that was the part I was offered, so I took it.”
He’d been on as Flute already that evening – “It had been a fairly thankless task up until that point” – and if the three months of rehearsals, two hours every Monday after school, had taught him anything, it was that for his first appearance as Thisbe he just had to get himself out there, on the stage, and everything would flow smoothly. There was no room for worrying.
“I just remember walking out and right away the audience breaks out into a rapturous applause, the room is full of laughter. As soon as I heard laughter, I became acutely aware that what I was doing was working. I don’t subscribe to the idea of fate or any kind of preordained stuff, but this was the closest thing I’ve ever felt to everything in my world being in the right place. I remember the sense of blossoming, important friendships forming, right on stage, feeling settled, happy and comfortable in myself and of who I was.”
It wasn’t that he liked the costume: it was about subverting people’s expectations. And if that sounds like a curious origin story for the 29-year-old best known as the clean-shaven, lantern-jawed Eggsy Unwin from 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, then maybe it’s time to become better acquainted with him. Matthew Vaughn’s frenetic, blunt-force spy drama was billed as a Bond pastiche served through a modern-day My Fair Lady lens, as a tailor-slash-spy (Colin Firth) takes a joyriding delinquent (Egerton) off the streets and teaches him all kinds of outlandish gentleman life skills, such as using a laser watch and how to pair his brogues with his topcoat. It was followed by a louder, more violent sequel, the ludicrously camp Golden Circle, which featured the planting of a tracking device via “reaching third base” (or second, depending on which school you went to).
But he wants his new project – playing Reginald Dwight, AKA Elton John, AKA one of the most successful musical artists in the world, in Dexter Fletcher’s sort-of biopic Rocketman, to be the start of a new era, when he will allow himself to become defined by the work he does. “Without ever wishing to seem ungrateful for the Kingsmanthing,” he tells me, over brunch in West London, “as much as I love the films, especially the first, I will always feel like something of an imposter in that world.”
In what way? You’re not supposed to know how to be a spy. None of us really knows how to fold a pocket square. It’s OK.
“The ‘guy’, the ‘bro’, the ‘stunt guy’.” He does air quotes so vigorously I worry he might develop arthritis. “I’ve never been that guy. I’m just not. I’m the guy who was playing Seymour in Little Shop Of Horrorswhen he was 17.” (In case your musical theatre needs buffed up, Seymour Krelborn is the insecure, naive, put-upon leading man.)
Taron attended the dunhill Pre-BAFTA dinner at dunhill Bourdon House in London, England on February 6th.