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Kingsman: The Secret Service - Colin Firth interview

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Compiled by Jack Foley

COLIN Firth talks about the making of Kingsman: The Secret Service, including getting into shape for the numerous action sequences and filming that incredibly violent church scene.

He also talks about channelling David Niven as a gentleman spy and what he enjoyed about working with the film’s director, Matthew Vaughn. Kingsman: The Secret Service is out on Digital HD on May 24, 2015, and on Blu-ray and DVD on June 8, 2015, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your character, Harry Hart?
Colin Firth: We don’t know much about Harry Hart; he’s a bit of a mystery. He’s a spy and when we first meet him he appears to be a tailor. The whole cover is the gentlemen’s tailors, but really he’s part of a secret organization who are there for the good of the world. And they have extraordinary skills, and a beyond rigorous training programme, as well as an extraordinary embarrassment in terms of gadgets and that sort of thing.

Q. What was your inspiration for creating the character?
Colin Firth: Matthew’s preference was always David Niven, and I think he might have mentioned David Niven when he and I fist met a year and a half, I think, before we started shooting, saying that he wanted to revert to a kind of original Ian Fleming notion of a rather traditional gentleman spy. It’s not so much to do with overt machismo, but more to do with grace and also the unexpected.

One of the reasons he was interested in me was because I was precisely the last person you would ever imagine being able to do any of this, and that’s part of the fun he has, because he loves to subvert people’s expectations. If he had said to me, ‘I want to hire you for your innate butchness’, it might have been a very short conversation. But I was interested in the way he tried to flip things. And then that’s why he wanted me to do as much of the stunt work as I could myself in order to sell it the sceptics.

Q. So, what was your training for the film?
Colin Firth: It was pretty rough at the beginning. I didn’t know what I was in for and they didn’t know what they were in for either, because these guys all have incredibly advanced skills. Obviously, they are the best in their field. There’s gymnastic, Thai Boxing, Kung Fu, Tai Kwan Do… and I’m just a guy who tries to maintain himself a little bit. So, I think there was this kind of feeling each other out because – how much are they judging me for being crap, and not having a clue about what they do? I think they wondered how much ability I would have. They knew what my age was and I have no real history of athleticism… but also just whether I would be up for it, because obviously if they’ve worked with actors before there will be some people who are very athletic and who have warmed up to the stuff very quickly, and there will be other people who just don’t want to do it.

But I wanted to make sure I knew I could take that box at least… whatever I didn’t have in skill or experience at least I could make up for in punctuality and a willing spirit. So, I made sure I delivered on that. And I think that reassured people and I started to earn their trust. I think they gave me points for effort and willingness, which helped us get going. So, it started with ‘let’s see if we can get this lower body animated’… you know, oil some of the hinges and do some squats and lunges and agonizing things, which I just don’t think anybody in the world wants to do.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

We didn’t have the choreography for months. That came quite late. That still had to be devised and it was devised very imaginatively. It’s one of the virtues of the film and it’s extraordinary. But I only had that about three weeks before we started. In the meantime, it was months and months and months of doing the kinds of moves that I was going to have to do just to make sure I was capable of doing them. But if you keep doing that, and if you’ve got a team like that, and if you persist and are willing to take a bit of pain, inevitably some progress will be made. So, I went from this place of feeling entirely out of my depth to getting really quite exhilarated to the point where I thought: “This is what I want to do.”

We actually did most of the stunts quite early in the film and I did everything. There were a couple of things that the insurance said, “no, there’s a rig involved and it’s life threatening and he’s not allowed to’. So, there’s probably a sort of one per cent where somebody had to be there because I was elsewhere or something. But I basically went through all the paces that I was asked to go to through and just felt this sense of achievement at something I had never done before. And I have to confess, going back to doing the routine acting scenes were a bit of a comedown! I just thought, after everything I’ve done, you could just send my suit into work and have exactly the same effect.

Q. So, how was filming that church scene?
Colin Firth: Well, that’s where the choreography had to be studied and learned. And even for the guys with incredible skill, there was still a feat of memory involved, because you’ve got these dance moves… it’s a dance really, but they have to be remembered, because if they’re not remembered the sequence fall apart. And most of the time, wherever I was, I had about five opponents, plus the camera operator who is one of the dancers, because he – probably more than anybody else – has to be in the right place. But he has to have somebody guiding him so he doesn’t get thumped by something or someone. And that has to go perfectly, or as I said the sequence is not going to work, or that’s when you get injured.

When someone’s on their left foot instead of their right, I mean even when you’re dancing conventionally that can be a problem, but we were also working with heavy objects, and all kinds of bizarre props that were being used in that sequence – guns being just one of them. So, most of the bruises and mishaps were as a result of imprecision. So you learn this thing and then you had to get it at the right speed, as well as intention and the rhythm has to make sense story-wise.

So, if you just learn it very, very fast, it will look mechanical and it will actually lose energy because of that. We’ve all seen fast action sequences, which are boring as anything. So, if we don’t see the intention behind it when we move, it’s not going to be interesting. It’s not going to be powerful; it’s not going to have any energy. So, if your arm goes that way, it’s because you want it to do something. And if you are blocking someone coming from that way, you have to see it first and it’s whether you are anxious about that one… Or are you vicious towards that one? And that’s actually what made it so alive. You can actually see it’s humans largely in full frame doing the work. It’s not dependent on camera cast.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is out on Digital HD on May 24, 2015, and on Blu-ray and DVD on June 8, 2015, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.