In Kingsman: The Secret Service, the latest cinematic riot from Kick-Ass director Mr Matthew Vaughn, Mr Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, a promising youngster from the wrong side of the tracks who is recruited by the “Kingsmen”, an international intelligence agency operating out of a Savile Row tailor’s shop. With the help of veteran Kingsman agent Harry Hart, AKA Galahad, played by the ever-dapper Mr Colin Firth, Eggsy runs the gauntlet of the agency’s training programme: a spy equivalent of finishing school. It’s a rags-to-riches tale complete with gadgets, girls and a mega villain bent on world domination: think Connery-era Bond meets My Fair Lady.
Which raises the question: which version of his character will Mr Egerton turn out to be? On the Eliza Doolittle scale of rags to riches, which Eggsy is Egerton? The unrefined London street kid decked out in sweats, baseball cap and Nike Air Force 1s? Or is he Eggsy, AKA Lancelot, the newly qualified secret agent, softly spoken and smartly dressed in a Savile Row suit?Well… neither, as it turns out. For starters, he’s not even from London. He’s Welsh. “Just a simple country boy,” as he puts it. “I’m definitely not that guy in the suit. But I’m no Eggsy, either. I just don’t have that urban edge.” Originally from the Wirral, just west of Liverpool, he moved with his family to the Welsh isle of Anglesey before relocating again at the age of 12 to Aberystwyth, a Victorian tourist town on the west coast of Wales. He still calls “Aber” home, and is heading back there, post-photoshoot, to celebrate his 25th birthday. But just to confuse things further, he’s spent the past five years pursuing his acting career in London. The resulting accent is from everywhere and nowhere: a twist of south, a dash of west and a little Welsh mixed in with an occasional, lilting Scouse inflection. Whatever he sounds like, it certainly isn’t Eggsy. Either of them.
“I listened to a lot of Plan B to get that voice right,” he says, citing rapper, actor, director and all-round Renaissance man Mr Ben Drew as the inspiration behind his foolproof impersonation of a London street kid. “I watched Ill Manors and Harry Brown. Watched a series called Top Boy, too. Watched a lot of those lads – Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke, Adam Deacon, Ed Skrein.”
The men Mr Egerton has listed might not be household names, but they represent some of the best acting talent to have come off the streets of London in recent years. Mr Ahmed, who was born in Wembley and studied at Oxford university, recently starred opposite Mr Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, while Mr Skrein, from Camden, became one of the few actors to have left the cast of Game of Thrones with his character’s head still on his shoulders when he quit the role of Daario Naharis to step into Mr Jason Statham’s shoes as the star of the new Transporter movies. A lot of them, Messrs Ahmed and Skrein included, also have links to the city’s underground grime scene – a musical genre that has played a crucial role in the development and dissemination of the contemporary London accent. In other words, Mr Egerton has done his homework.