Whether it’s a gangster movie, a fairytale, a comic book adaptation, or a spy series, writer/director Matthew Vaughn always makes sure to bend the rules wherever he can. And after his trio of Kingsman films, the filmmaker is taking on quite possibly his biggest, and most intricate, task yet with Argylle.
Based on a series of books that nobody knows about and written by an author that no one has seen (and it’s not Taylor Swift. Sorry internet), Argylle is a bold, one-of-a-kind, cross-medium action extravaganza that is sure to have everyone talking and, come February 1st, will answer the burning question as to just who is the “real” Agent Argylle.
Ahead of the film’s release, Peter Gray spoke with the director about his “superpower” for spotting early, blossoming talent, his thoughts on the elaborate Taylor Swift theory, and his clue as to who Elly Conway truly is.
Before I get to Argylle, I just want to thank you for being one of the reasons Michelle Pfeiffer came out of her acting hiatus back in 2007 with Stardust. I love that movie and she’s so great in it, so it’s never a bad thing to get more of that out there in the world.
Oh, well thank her for doing it. I’m grateful to her jumping on board.
And Stardust was obviously the first time you collaborated with Henry Cavill. Could you sense his star power back then? And was he always your first choice for Agent Argylle?
Yeah, I gotta say, if someone asked me what my superpower in life is, I’d say it’d be picking young actors that are going to blossom into movie stars. And I felt that, whether it was about Henry Cavill or Daniel Craig or Tom Hardy or Jennifer Lawrence, and it could go on and on and on, and people ask, “How do you do it?” And I’m like, “Just meet them! It’s obvious.” Henry, I always knew would become what he became. And on this movie, I said to him that I needed someone who could play like a James Bond character, but imagine he’s 50% Sean Connery and 50% Roger Moore. That is what I need. And I knew he could do it. He’s got the strength and the suaveness of Connery, but he can do the one, you know, the eyebrow raise in pure Roger Moore style. He’s a lovely guy as well. And it’s a lot easier working with people you like. It just makes everything far more positive.
And the promotion for this film has really leaned into the mysteriousness of who (author) Elly Conway is, who the “real Argylle” is, there’s the whole Taylor Swift theory…Did you expect people to run away with the theories as much as they have?
I knew something was up when my daughter came up to me, and she’s like, “I want to meet Taylor Swift.” I was like, “I bet you do.” And then she says, “No, no, no, you didn’t tell me she wrote the book.” I was like, “She did not write the book.” She then showed me the whole online noise, and it was really convincing enough for me to go, “Oh, wait, hold on. There’s something I should know.” But she didn’t write the book. There’s a lot of coincidences, but life is sometimes strange. I mean, it’s funny we’re talking about it now. I think people are asking a lot about Elly Conway, and I’m hoping the real Elly Conway will be revealed very soon, because I got to stop telling people “It’s not Taylor Swift” (laughs). It IS Elly Conway. I’ll give you a clue: Australian.
Okay! I mean, in typical fashion with this film, nothing is as we’d expect, so I certainly wasn’t expecting an Australian to be mentioned. Is it one of those things where hints have been dropped anywhere else for us?
No! There wasn’t meant to be anything…it was all meant to be quiet. They didn’t want to be known, but the Taylor Swift thing is burning a spotlight on it. It feels rude not to just say “Here it is”, but I’m not the publisher. If I was the publisher I’d be saying “It’s (Boom)! Now, bugger off!” (Laughs) But I can’t do that.
And on the mention of Elly, you start this film at book number 4. Was there a specific reason behind that? Was that always the organic start for you?
Yeah, it had to be. Imagine if it was J.K. Rowling and a wizard has come up to her and said, “Hey, guess what? Magic is real!” And then she’d go off and see that Voldemort isn’t Voldemort, and there’s a guy like Voldemort that’s going to kill her. “Come with me, and here’s my magic wand, and we’re going to fly off on whatever.” But for that to happen, and how to be a world class author, you have got to do books three and four, because otherwise you can’t be the biggest success. You can’t have a book launch and already be massive. It would have made no sense. So we had to go further into it. But there is a book one, and it’s all about how a long ponytailed young man becomes a flat-top super spy.
Well, I will say that the reveal in that post-credit sequence has made me excited for the future of the series and whatever other series’ are out there. Thank you so much for taking the time out, and for giving us a spy film that doesn’t play by the rules.
Well, thank you. I love that you liked Stardust, as well, because the logline for that, and it’s probably something only Australians and British people understand when it said “It’s the fairytale that won’t behave.” Sounds like you understood it. So, thank you.
Argylle is screening in Australian theatres from February 1st, 2024.