Guy Ritchie's longtime producer, Matthew Vaughn, steps into the director's chair with Layer Cake; a fast-paced gangster film about a cocaine dealer's last score. Matthew was quick to point out the differences between his style and Guy's, but there are a few similarities. That being said, Layer Cake is distinctly Matthew's vision and he does a decent job in his first foray as director. His next project, the mega-budget third X-Men film, will raise the stakes substantially higher. Matthew told us he's looking to take the franchise into a completely different direction. He didn't seem too knowledgeable about the history of the comic, but culled the story from issues he liked. X-3 will probably be a much bigger film under Matthew Vaughn. Whether he can match Bryan Singer's success remains to be seen.
Was directing always in the plan from the beginning, when you got into producing?
Matthew Vaughn: Guy [Ritchie] decided not to do it. To be frank, or honest, I think there's a real mystique about directing and directors and it began to piss me off. Everyone goes "Oh, he's a director" and sort of bow, and I wanted to try and prove that there are geniuses out there – which I'll never be, there are some guys that make a film and you go, wow, and I'll never be one of those – I did this to try and prove to the world not that anyone could direct, but that I think anyone given the chance could make it work. To my amazement I really enjoyed it and I want to carry on now. That's the problem. It blows producing away.
Is it true that you had never looked through a camera lens before? That's what it said in some article.
Matthew Vaughn: On a 35 mil, yeah. I was a right idiot to tell everyone.
What's the fascination with the British and crime and gangsters? There are a lot of gangster movies out of there, especially lately.
Matthew Vaughn: There are a lot more romantic comedies.
But what would you say is the fascination with gangsters and crime?
Matthew Vaughn: People just want to watch movies that are entertaining, it doesn't matter what genre it is. For some reason - I don't know what it is about gangster films, but it seems to be pinpointed as – people say, "God it's another gangster film!" But there's another romantic comedy coming out every week but no one says "Oh, it's another romantic comedy" or "It's another action film." For some reason gangster is the only genre where people go, "Oh no, another gangster film."
How much did you have to do with writing this screenplay?
Matthew Vaughn: Quite a bit. The writer did the first draft on his own and it was 408 pages.
How long was the book?
Matthew Vaughn: About 390! Absolutely stupid. So I went OK, rolled up my sleeves and – it took 8 months, which really surprised me. The project I'm on we just did the script in 6 days so I've done both extremes now.
What's the project that took 6 days?
Matthew Vaughn:X-Men. Which we can't talk about! There was no script and I said this is crazy, I'm not making a movie without a screenplay. So we sat down and wrote something – which is pretty good, actually.
Did you make a point of steering away from the Guy Ritchie visual style? I did notice some Guy Ritchie influence in a few scenes.
Matthew Vaughn: Which scenes?
The jump cuts, there are a lot of extended...
Matthew Vaughn: There are only two scenes with jump cuts.
So those are the scenes.
Matthew Vaughn: Yeah, but they were a little more subtle. They had a reason. The only thing Guy and I used to argue about was when he'd – you know, visually he's got a hell of a flair, a style – sometimes I'd be like, "Why the hell are we doing this? Why is the camera flying around?" I'm more interested in sort of classic storytelling. I think that's what lasts. I think so many movies, when we made Lock Stock in England it caused a lot of imitating. A lot of MTV style, what I call 90s – crash zooms, frame cutting – which you watch now and be like, uch. It's like blue light and smoke from the 80s. I love the movies from the 70s. The 70s is when I first started watching movies and they had a real impact on me and that was, I think – style over content has been a mantra of mine when working with directors, so I figured I better adhere to it. I think the camera, you've got to try to do things in an interesting way, but if you notice the camerawork too much, you've gone too far.
Can you talk about some of the musical choices in the film? You have The Rolling Stones, the Scissor Sisters... How important was it to get those songs?
Matthew Vaughn: Music is half the film. I think music is what takes the experience off the screen into your soul, into your head. It ceases to be just there, it comes into you. Music is hugely important. Hugely.
What was the rationale for calling your company Ska Films? Was it because of your love of Ska?
Matthew Vaughn: It was an off the shelf company. I was told – it's been a roller coaster ride beyond belief since Guy and I first met – we were told that we needed to have a company, we were that wet behind the ears. Our lawyers said that if you want to own a film, so it's not just you two walking around, have a company, and the cheapest way is to buy a company off the shelf. There was one called Ska Limited, and we bought it and just put Films in.
And Guy's got a massive scar – I don't know if you've met him - from here to there [gestures from sideburn to chin] and so we just thought it was funny. I love ska music, so ska music, scar here... I'm a big believer that it doesn't matter what you call your company, nobody ever notices.
Can you talk about the casting for the movie? Why wasn't Vinnie Jones in this movie? He's been in all your other ones.
Matthew Vaughn: All of Guy's!
Also Mean Machine.
Matthew Vaughn: Yeah, Mean Machine as well. I thought it was important... there were two things with the way I cast the movie. A, as a first time director I wanted to have what I call top quality actors so I wasn't really struggling to get a performance, it was more about tweaking. There was times in Lock Stock and Snatch where Guy had written the most brilliant dialogue and it was being murdered by these guys. Poor Guy was just trying to get a performance out of them. I watched that and thought I'm not going to make that mistake. And I didn't want to – as much as I love Vinnie, and as much as Aint It Cool News may be writing about how he might do X-Men, and as much as I love to work with him, with my first movie everyone is going to compare it to Guy. Everyone is going to think it's going to be like Guy's, so if I start putting in the usual – it would have been easier for me because they're my pals, and there's nothing better than working with friends. It makes life easier, cutting through the crap.
So how did you settle in on Daniel [Craig] and the rest?
Matthew Vaughn: They're all great actors. In a way there's a great risk for these actors to say yes to working with me as a director. I have no reason. Trying to persuade them why I could direct.. I just said they had to take a blind leap of faith. And they were all willing to do so.
You've got a couple of genres going here. Do you like doing genre films?
Matthew Vaughn: I don't know yet. I'm learning. I always used to argue with directors that make a film no one goes to see. I don't get it. I think you should make a movie that has an audience. Or a potential audience. I just want to make films that are entertaining. I like the idea of making big budget films with a heart. I'm writing a thing with John Hodge, of Trainspotting, we're doing a spy movie – the guy is genius. It's a spy movie and I'm reading his stuff and he puts in this dark, twisted cliché and he turns it on its head. That's the sort of thing I want to do because I feel the big action movies that I loved as a kid – has anybody seen the new XXX?
Matthew Vaughn: That's what I mean. I think some people thought... Daniel's character in this is called XXXX. Don't get confused!
What do you call Daniel's character?
Matthew Vaughn: It's just suddenly in the credits. The guy who did the credits freaked out. We just put four X's.
Do you find that working with the experienced actors that you were overshadowed? Did you go to them for feedback? How did it work?
Matthew Vaughn: I don't know. We turned up, did the scene and I said that was good or it was shit. Most times it was just – yes, I had to stamp a few of them because they got a bit theatrical and I was, "Bring it back." We did rehearsals and we garnered each other's respect in rehearsals. Once you trust one another you can get so much done.
Are you a comic book fan?
Matthew Vaughn: I like comic books. I don't read them like I used to. I like graphic novels more than comic books. I like being entertained, I like good stories and I think comics have that. People who write comics take them very seriously, so you get that serious application to a commercial world.
Matthew Vaughn: Hardly any difference.
Did you chase them down or did they come to you?
Matthew Vaughn: It was mutual. It was a mutual finding. I heard Singer wasn't doing it and I told my agent I would be intrigued, could they get me in a room. They saw the film and they really liked it.
Because Brian's gay he comes at it from that angle – the Iceman coming out scene is like a gay coming out scene. But I read in the Post that you are not homosexual –
Matthew Vaughn: That's right!
So what angle are you going to come at it?
Matthew Vaughn: I think there's a time in your life where you don't feel like you fit in. I think everyone has that when you're a teenager, especially, and especially in the society we live in. There's a high demand that you must be like this and look like this, the dogma of modern society is pretty stressful. It's about minorities. I'm not a member of a minority but I can empathize with what's going on. I think Singer treats it in a more simplistic manner than I am going to. That's what I thought. Now I'm going to get absolutely pounded!
Are you using the same crew for this movie?
Matthew Vaughn: Some of them. It's going to expand on the themes. There are three or four scenes where I know people are going to be shocked and close to tears.
What was your favorite run?
Matthew Vaughn: Joss Whedon's pretty cool.
What about Claremont and Blank?
Matthew Vaughn: I wouldn't have a clue.
What were some of your favorite stories?
Matthew Vaughn: I can't say because they've become the basis of the film. There is this ridiculous shroud of secrecy. I think the studios are so used to thinking everything is crap that they hide it. I think if something's good, let everyone talk about it. I can't say because I'm not allowed to talk about it. But there was one comic book when we were going through them and I said, this is it, this is the story we're going to tell.
You said rehearsal is important, but you have such a short pre-production time on X-Men, can you do rehearsals?
Matthew Vaughn: The irony is that it's even more important because I don't have the luxury of casting most of these guys. I just turn up and say, Hey Hugh, get on with your lines. Which is going to be odd, especially if I don't like what they're doing. I'm going to have to take them aside and say, OK, everything you did in the last film? Ignore. Do something new.
Fans of X-Men are going to very critical until they see the final product –
Matthew Vaughn: Let them be.
So is Vinnie Jones really in X-Men?
Matthew Vaughn: Not officially. I'm hoping...
Matthew Vaughn: He's going to play Professor X! No, what's interesting is that Juggernaut is the step-brother of Professor X, and I thought it was interesting to have this English thug opposite Patrick Stewart. And they're sort of similar looking!
Was there something in Layer Cake where Fox saw that you had a specific style?
Matthew Vaughn: You have to ask them, I didn't hire myself. I'm all for fans being wary of me, as they've got the right to be. I'm just going to make the film as good as I can and hope that they like it. I know there's going to be an element I am bringing to it that's going to worry the fans. I want to make a film that stands up in 20, 30 years time, basically. The film I'm doing is more – the only clue I'll give is Unforgiven. It's more that tone. X-Men has taken me by surprise. One of the reasons I'm attracted to it, and one of the reasons I'm scared of it is because there's such a short amount of time to get it done. But I thought maybe it would be good to do it and learn. There's a lot for me to learn, because filmmaking is filmmaking. It's harder for me to make a good movie for 900 grand than for 150 million. Try giving – I'm not going to say who, but one of those big directors – say go ahead and make a movie for 900 grand.
Are you still going to work with Guy Ritchie in the future?
Matthew Vaughn: At the moment, no, because I want to direct and he definitely doesn't want to produce. Now I can understand why. It depends – I might suddenly ring him up and say I feel like producing a movie again and I'm there, but that's hopefully a long way off. I want to direct. But if I couldn't find something to direct, I would produce.