The Quick Q&A: Relive the Action with the Stars of 'The King's Man'

Learn about the rigorous training process that this talented cast went through to prepare for "The King's Man" in this quick Q&A.

Jesse Conner

By Jesse Conner

The Quick Q&A: Live the Action with the Stars of The King's Man

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

The movie franchise known for its action and insanity is bringing audiences another film, but this time they're taking it back to where it all began. This new prequel film "The King's Man" shows how the iconic secret spy organization Kingsman got started in the first place. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Harris Dickinson, Djimon Honsou, and Rhys Ifans. In preparation of the movie's release, we were invited to attend a virtual press conference with the cast to hear more about the kind of training it takes to be in such a fast-paced film like this one. So, check out our quick Q&A with the stars of "The King's Man."

'The King's Man' Q&A: Ralph Fiennes (“Duke of Oxford”), Gemma Arterton (“Polly”), Harris Dickinson (“Conrad”), Djimon Honsou (“Shola”) & Rhys Ifans (“Rasputin”)

Q: (For Ralph) What element of this story most drew you to it?

Ralph Fiennes: Well, I think initially it was the drama. I play the Duke of Oxford, who's a reluctant hero. He's a pacifist. He's suffered the loss of his wife. Then, we learn later on that he's been in the wars himself. He's been awarded medals for bravery, but actually he's profoundly anti the waste of war. And the tension is set up with his son. He can't bear the idea that his son should go to war and lose his life in any kind of conflict, which in Oxford's opinion is a waste. Oxford believes there are other ways of combating the evil in the world than just going to war. So that drama that Matthew proposed, the father-son drama is the center of it. Alongside that came wonderful accessories like a great sword fight at the end of the movie, and I've always loved stage sword fighting. I love films where sword fighting has been the center, like Ridley Scott's The Duelists.

Q: (For Gemma) What did you draw from in terms of your inspiration for playing your character? Were you inspired by women of the era? Were you inspired by women in your own life? Maybe a mix of both?

Gemma Arterton: Yeah, it was a real mixture. First and foremost, it was really apparent on the page that Polly was a really cool character. I think Matthew had written a really great character. And I was just sort of trying to bring her to life as much as I could. I grew up in a working-class background, and there were a lot of women around me who were real fighters that were straight down the line. And yeah, I guess at that time in history, there were a lot of women working behind the scenes, not necessarily in leadership roles. So, all of those amazing women, suffragettes, and also slightly later, there were actually women who were code crackers that were really instrumental in the Second World War. So yeah, a real mixture of inspirations.

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Q: (For Harris) Was there anything that you read or watched in terms of young men of the era that maybe you drew from in terms of inspiration for your performance?

Harris Dickinson: When I got involved early on, I was lucky that Matthew had a lot of information and resources. And once I started working with the brilliant dialect coach who helped a few of us, Neil Swain. We read a lot and I think for me trying to translate it across, because ultimately it is still the same experience people are having now as a young man or young woman when you're trying to challenge your authority figure, or your parent figure, and sort of branch out into the world for yourself. So, I guess it was a collection of things, really. But I also had a lot of that in myself, and my own experiences that I could draw upon.

Q: (For Djimon) Talk about the complexities of the character and the training for the character.

Djimon Honsou: Well, the training itself was something that I thought was familiar with a number of action-driven films previous to coming on to Matthew Vaughn's film. And I thought with my background of mixed martial art and boxing that I could handle this one quite easily. To my surprise, he has an expectation from action choreography that I did not previously experience anywhere else. And that the level of the expectation was a bit challenging. Working with a bunch of guys that were absolutely gifted. The stunt team, the body doubles, they were absolutely so devoted to the work, and so gifted and obviously knew the level of Matthews demand. And I did not know that he tried to exceed himself, picture after picture. The first, previous two Kingsman were completely different. So, that in itself came with a great challenge and a bit of a pain.

Q: (For Rhys) Let's talk about your action/dancing sequence? What was it like preparing for that? And does a sequence like that really help you find the character even more as you're going through it?

Rhys Ifans: Yeah, absolutely. All of us, we had to get to a level of fitness not just strength, but just stamina to basically complete a working day. It took us about two, three weeks to complete that sequence. We were working with a trainer, and with this brilliant stunt team initially trying to find a language, or a physical language, or a vernacular that was specific and unique to Rasputin. And then I remember Matthew came up with quite possibly one of the craziest ideas I've ever heard. He kind of came into the stunt room one day and he went, "Russian dancing, martial arts mix em up." And between Matthew and us, and of course the stunt team, we arrived at this language with Rasputin, which is extraordinary. For me, in terms of how I wanted Rasputin to live within that physical world, he had this looming hypnotic presence and this dervish quality about him. So, the sense was that he would dance his adversaries to death. Everyone Rasputin kills has a drunken smile on their face having been spun around the room, and then killed almost in rapture. All these elements came to play, and it was really a huge group effort. And it was really satisfying to see the end result all of which was based in kind of facts and elements of Rasputin that we knew to be true.

Q: (For Ralph) Talk about that scene from your perspective and what it was like shooting that whole sequence.

Ralph Fiennes: It was great. Well, it was the one where Matthew's sort of stylistic skill was evident, in the sense that the Duke of Oxford is sort of serious. He's the sort of center, honorable man with the pacifist thing. And so, I've attempted to play him straight, in the dramatic sense of playing something straight. And in this scene, he's a little bit humiliated. He's encouraged to take off his trousers, his pants, and his leg is stroked and licked by Rasputin. And then he's asked to step into freezing cold water and sort of shrieks at the cold and that. And so that stuff was fun, because it was a scene with a comedy vein in it, but the story is he's the bad guy and we know that he's evil. It was just the tone of it was great to try and pull off. And we had lots of takes and chances to try and get it right, so it wasn't because the actors. The Duke of Oxford believes he's doing the right thing. Anyway, it was brilliant.

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Q: (For Djimon) Is there room for improvisation in a scene like this? Did you have room to play?

Djimon Honsou: Room for improvisation, I would say the only improvisation that came as a result of watching Rasputin spin off on a table, kicking, crazy. I thought looking from a distance and thinking, "My character is just gonna be watching this madman spin around like that?" And I thought, "Okay, the most organic thing immediately was just to round there, kick that table, kick him off the table." And that was the only improvisation. But really there was no room, as far as the action's concerned, to improvise. It was very set and with a tone that was very edgy and fast, and you wanted to keep that. I come to understand that he really wanted to make feel that this was still an organic fight. So, I mean, needless to say, it came with a tremendous challenge, and it was quite painful.

Q: (For Ralph) Can you talk a little bit about how you shot that whole cliff scene?

Ralph Fiennes: Well, we built a bit of a cliff face in an exterior near the soundstage, but outside. It had a composite sort of phony ice. There was something that was wax, it was a mixture of stuff that was like ice. And I had to do a bit of real climbing with the knives and the knives in my boots that couldn't take my full weight. But I remember I had a rope to hold me should I slip, but I really tried to do what is described, which is to pull myself up. I had put a knife in the toe of my boots, and I'd smash it into the rock to get a grip into the ice. And also, there was this thing where after a moment my character is horizontal in a plank position, wedged between effectively a chimney of rock. And I was told by Brad Allen, the wonderful fight director, that you gotta do a five-minute plank, at least, and try to wedge yourself up, which I managed to do for all of 40 seconds.

The King's Man Poster

The King's Man

R

Action

December 22, 2021

Jesse Conner

Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.

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