the king's man new york comic-con 2019

Matthew Vaughn is no stranger to taking a beloved property and crafting a fresh, energetic origin story out of it. But this time, with The King’s Man, he gets to do it to his own movies. Vaughn’s Kingsman films, loosely based off of Mark Millar’s comic books, followed a fictional secret service organization that presented a hyperviolent twist on the concept of the gentleman spy. With his upcoming action spy film, The King’s Man, Vaughn gets to explore the origins of that secret service organization while paying homage to classic cinema.

Vaughn took the stage at 20th Century Fox’s New York Comic-Con panel Thursday with the stars of his upcoming film The King’s ManRalph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, and Djimon Hounsou. Here’s what we learned at The King’s Man New York Comic-Con 2019 panel.

The King’s Man New York Comic-Con 2019 Panel

Of all the movies to get a passionate cheer at 20th Century Fox’s New York Comic-Con panel, you wouldn’t expect it to be The Man Who Would Be King. But several whoops rebounded throughout the main hall at the Javits Center when Vaughn mentioned the 1975 adventure movie classic starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery as one of the inspirations for The King’s Man.

“Oh, didn’t expect that,” Fiennes remarked, pleased but slightly taken aback.

Vaughn is trying to buck expectations with his upcoming period spy film. The King’s Man takes place during the early 1900s through the first World War, in the early days of the fictional spy agency. Vaughn intends the period setting to not just be an excuse for well-tailored suits, but a chance to pay homage to the classic films he grew up with. Vaughn explained:

“This is going to sound pretentious but I was watching a lot of [recent] Oscar movies and thought ‘I never wanted to watch one of these movies again.’ Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago…I wanted to go back to the time of those movies I grew up with.”

Vaughn even used the same lenses as those used in Lawrence of Arabia to shoot on location. That came with its pros and cons, as those older lenses “kept losing focus and falling apart.” But Vaughn was determined to shoot “as much in camera” as possible. “I think it’s important as a director to keep pushing your boundaries and not keep repeating yourself,” Vaughn said.

The film is an origin story of a familiar organization, but featuring an all-new duo played by Fiennes and Dickinson. While origin stories are old-hat in these days of remakes and reboots, Vaughn wanted to do the origin story in “an original way.” “What I learned from [X-Men: First Class] is when you use characters that are known, it’s hard to do plot twists.” So Vaughn created two original characters, the Duke of Oxford (Fiennes), and his son Conrad (Dickinson). As opposed to the father-son dynamic of the Kingsman films, Vaughn has a real father-son duo in The King’s Man, and with that, all sorts of father-son baggage. The Duke of Oxford is wary of war, but as England gets overtaken by wartime fervor, Conrad pushes to serve his country.

“He’s a little bit naïve, and he’s at a point in his life where he’s realizing what it means to be a man,” Dickinson said of Conrad. “At a time when you’re being defined by your bravery and your ability to fight for a cause, and he’s got this passion that he doesn’t know how to fulfill. And that’s coming up against his father’s perhaps greater morality.”

The King’s Man Clips: Like Father, Like Son

Vaughn and his team debuted two new clips from The King’s Man depicting that complicated father-son relationship. The first of the clips is much quieter and emotionally-driven than you would expect in a Kingsman movie, which Fiennes said is what drew him to the project. “Matthew [Vaughn] balances different tones of humor, emotional themes, and action, and I think that’s quite rare,” he said. “I enjoy rising up to that challenge.”

Fiennes get to flex those different muscles in the first clip, which shows the Duke and Conrad arriving at a very familiar tailor shop. “My father took me here when I was your age,” the Duke tells his son. They enter the shop and have an ordinary suit fitting — not gadgets or guns in sight. Instead, the father and son talk about seeing the world, to which the Duke warns that their ancestors made their name by robbing and pillaging. “Gentle man would have been a death sentence and not the badge of honor it is today,” the Duke says ominously.

The second clip is the action-packed sequence we come to expect from Vaugn’s Kingsman movies. Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) is drowning the Duke in icy waters outside a terrace of a luxurious mansion. Conrad and Shola (Hounsou), the family’s bodyguard-cum-trainer, hear strange noises outside the door and burst through to find the scene. Shola immediately attacks Rasputin who counters with spins and twirls that are downright balletic.

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Matthew Vaughn returns to direct The King’s Man, which he co-writes with Karl Gajdusek based on a story by Vaughn. The star-studded cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, and Charles Dance.

The King’s Man opens in theaters on February 14, 2020.

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