“I’m still starstruck,” admits Taron Egerton, eyes widening on his cute, boy-next-door face. It’s a face that’s instantly recognisable from 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service – the sequel to which, The Golden Circle, hits cinemas this weekend. But his soft Welsh burr is a world away from inner-city east-ender Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin, who’s recruited by a super-secret, super-exclusive and super-upper-crust spy agency in the first film.
That movie was a contemporary all-action homage to the silliest aspects of the ’70s/’80s James Bond incarnation – and, coincidentally, our interview takes place in London’s Soho Hotel the day after Sir Roger Moore has passed away, aged 89. “He’s my absolute go-to Bond,” says Taron. “Live And Let Die – the irreverence and humour he brought to it… he acknowledged with an eyebrow that what he was doing was a little far-fetched and a bit daft. There’s something of that spirit in Kingsman.”
Audiences loved that spirit, with its tongue-in-cheek gentlemen spies and the roll call of legendary actors that populated the movie. It took in excess of £300million at the box office, and 27-year-old Taron still seems astonished that he was the leading man around which all the other names – Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill – orbited. He’s contracted for three films, but there are rumours of six if their success continues. “It’s surreal,” he says. “It’s very flattering and humbling…” He stops himself, the no-nonsense Welshman in him allergic to a thespy gush. “Humbling? I never really know why people say that – it’s just one of those things that sounds good. It’s very flattering, I can say that, but if I think about it too much I freak out, so I try not to.”
In the first Kingsman film, his rough-around-the-edges street kid is moulded into a suave secret agent by Colin Firth, who was as much of an inspiration off-screen as he is on. Taron’s eyes light up at the mention of him. “I think even if I tried to pretend that I don’t like Colin, I wouldn’t get very far,” he laughs. “I’ve seen so many shots of me looking like I want to marry him.
“He’s just every bit as affable and pleasant and kind as he seems. He has this persona of being a landed gentry type, but he’s very down-to-earth and sweet and cool. He’s just a dad, a family man who occasionally pretends to be a super-spy.”
With a slew of new names in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the star factor has gone up another notch. The likes of Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Julianne Moore (who mixes an obsession with wholesome ’50s Americana with super-villain revenge practices to chilling effect) join the cast, and whereas the first film was primarily populated by Brits, and set in the UK (with the Kingsmen using a Savile Row tailor as the front for their agency), this takes a more international direction.
“It’s still very much a quintessentially British thing, but maybe a bit more ‘Brits abroad’ this time,” says Taron. Not the sort of Brits abroad that conjure up images of foam parties in Magaluf, he quickly clarifies. “Maybe a bit more French Riviera. But it’s still very much still us in our immaculately tailored suits, but in the field, and yes there is an American element.”
His sidekick, JB the pug, also returns, and Taron says he disagrees with the adage, ‘Never work with children and animals.’ “I like working with the pug,” he insists. “But you have to feed him bits of hot dog to make him do what you want and it makes your fingers stink. The pug I really love, the hot dogs not so much.”
As Kingsman involves everything from running and fighting to car doughnutting and parkour in its action scenes, Taron has to battle with “a lot of not sitting still, running about, lifting weights and endless hours of choreography”. He says he’s no Tom Cruise when it comes to doing all his own stunts (who is?), but he does muck in. “The really famous scene [from the first film] I can’t claim: the bit where I loop, that was [British freerunner and former gymnast] Damian Walters – he’s a legend. But I will claim that 90% of the fights where I’m not having my head slammed into a rock is me, and the sequence in The Golden Circle where I jump from the wing of the car onto the roof was me.”
Taron had some previous jumping experience when he played British ski-jumper Eddie Edwards in last year’s hugely enjoyable Eddie The Eagle, but he still doesn’t consider himself a skier. “My girlfriend absolutely loves it,” he says. “She’s instructed before and is desperate to get me to go, but I’m concerned I’m going to look like baby Bambi next to her, whizzing down the slopes. She’d laugh at me, I know she would. It didn’t hold any appeal until I did it [for the film], but once you feel like you start to get it, it’s totally exhilarating.” He was charming as underdog Eddie, and seems to be making a theme of playing the likeable hero. Next up: Robin Hood. “I’ve just finished filming, but my dream is for it to be a new take on the myth and one that’s very current, particularly in terms of growing wealth gaps. But who knows what will happen – it’s literally just wrapped, so it’ll be a year before it’s anything we can evaluate and analyse.”
But he says he’s “phobic” of repeating himself, so he has a villain in the mix too, in Billionaire Boys Club, a movie about ’80s money scammers. “I took that movie for that reason,” he says. “I love Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey [who co-star], and it’s not often that I get offered someone who’s morally compromised. The character is quite calculated and not always the best guy, and that was appealing for me.”
He flashes another friendly grin. Even when he’s a baddie, he’s a goodie.
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