Samuel L Jackson and Colin Firth tell ShortList about Kingsman: The Secret Service
“When you hire me for a film,” Samuel L Jackson tells ShortList, between puffs on his e-cigarette, “it’s for a reason. Because you want me to yell a lot, because I’m a badass or because you’re going to allow me to be as quirky and creative as I can be.”
The film we’re speaking to him about – Matthew Vaughn’s forthcoming actioner Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on Mark Millar’s comic series – allows Jackson to do all three. He plays Valentine, a “megalomaniacal environmentalist”, whose route to world domination is blocked by Colin Firth – leader of a shadowy group of British spies called the Kingsmen. Firth’s Harry Hart takes young offender Eggsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing, making him complete a series of dramatic initiation tests (including one spectacular underwater trial) en route to battling Valentine.
For Firth, the action hero role was something of a departure. “I did exercise [before the film], but that was more about staving off the ravages of middle age,” he says. “The thing that appealed to Matthew was casting somebody no one would imagine as a cold-steel killer. That said, it’s less of a gag to say, ‘Oh, you’d never expect [Colin Firth] to do this action stuff,’ then cut to a stuntman doing it. So I had to get into shape. It was tough; three hours a day for six months.”
This regime didn’t just help Firth get into character; it potentially saved his life: “One day on set, this huge lamp fell from the roof. I didn’t exactly forward roll out the way – it was more of a mimsy nip – but nevertheless, six months earlier, I would have been under it.”
Jackson was just as embedded in his character. Even as a kid, he had a ‘supervillain’ mentality. “When kids in class laughed at me,” he says, “I became smarter than them, so I could f*ck their lives up. I wasn’t that passive smart kid. If you beat me up, an ‘accident’ would happen to you. Maybe not that day or even that year, but somewhere down the line…”
Ultimately, Kingsman looks to be pure, popcorn-guzzling entertainment. Such is the film’s adrenaline-fuelled fun, it’s even left Firth reassessing his career path. “I’ve definitely caught the ‘action bug’,” he admits. So, if The Expendables come calling? “Oh, it’ll be hard to keep me away…”
Kingsman: The Secret Service is at cinemas nationwide from 17 October