Welcome to Spotlight On, where we do a deep dive into the careers and styles of our favourite actors, directors, writers, cinematographers… anyone who excels in their craft of making movie magic.
This week, Matthew Vaughn – the British writer/director who in the span of 5 films has become synonymous with kinetic action and a wry sense of humour. With the release of his highly anticipated spy sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle this week, we thought we’d turn the spotlight on this exciting director.
A Brief History
Vaughn started his movie career as a producer, producing the low-budget thriller The Innocent Sleep (1995) starring Annabella Sciorra and Michael Gambon at the ripe old age of 25. He next turned to his close friend Guy Ritchie for work, producing Ritchie’s breakout debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The film was a smash hit, earning Vaughn and Ritchie £9 million each for their efforts… not too shabby! Vaughn would go on to produce Ritchie’s Snatch and Swept Away to mixed fortunes.Vaughn then turned his eye to the director’s chair, making his directorial debut in 2004 with the Daniel Craig-starring British gangster pic Layer Cake. Not straying too far from what he knew, the film was well received and its success got Vaughn a seat at the big boy table, with Fox tapping him to direct X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but he dropped out two weeks before filming was to start, citing “creative differences”. Instead, he took on the fantasy genre for his next project, co-writing and directing Stardust (2007), which was well-received and made $135 million off a $70 million budget. He followed that with a turn towards the type of action that he’s now synonymous with, namely his adaptation of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass (2010). The movie was lauded for it’s bone-crunching violence and stylistic flair, and managed to both make good use of Nic Cage’s crazy energy, and catapult Chloe Grace Moretz to stardom.
After the success of Kick-Ass, Vaughn was once again offered the opportunity to join the X-Men universe, and he directed and co-wrote the first film of the new prequel trilogy X-Men: First Class (2011). Vaughn was also signed to return for the sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), but dropped out in favour of letting original X-Men architect Bryan Singer return to the series. His main motivation for dropping out was the chance to direct another Mark Millar adaptation, an irreverant spy action comedy, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015).He has said that leaving the X-Men sequel was “a really tough decision”. He reasoned that if he didn’t do it, “somebody else … [would] wake up and do a fun spy movie. Then I would have written a bloody screenplay that no one would want to make.” Kingsman brought Vaughn his biggest success to date, setting the box office alight to the tune of $414 million worldwide and earning widespread acclaim. Vaughn has returned to direct, produce, and co-write the Kingsman sequel The Golden Circle which will be released (finally) this week.
Even after only 5 movies to his name (6 this week), Matthew Vaughn is already well known for a variety of stylistic choices which he has honed throughout his filmography. An always moving camera, a propulsive momentum, and an expert use of transitions, jump cuts and slow-motion all show a director that’s comfortable working with all the tools at his disposal. You can watch examples of this and other Vaughn-isms in the following video essay by Mike & The Movies:
Often Imitated, Never Bettered
Vaughn’s prowess as an action filmmaker has already turned him into a big influence, and the guys at Mashing Media have done a pretty solid rundown of what makes the action in a Vaughn pic so good:
And here’s the original short they’re referencing:
You could basically pick any of his filmography (and if you haven’t seen Kingsman you should remedy that immediately), but for my money you should start with his debut feature Layer Cake. It’s not quite as polished as his bigger budgeted fair, but it has a lot of the Vaughn-isms we know and love, and features a great turn by Daniel Craig, which most definitely lead to his becoming Bond, James Bond.
That wraps it up for this edition of Spotlight On. Are you a fan of Matthew Vaughn? Looking forward to The Golden Circle? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!