Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn’s “The King’s Man” is truly insane. That is undeniable. The prequel to the “Kingsman” films is set during World War I and showcases the events leading to the foundation of the Kingsman private spy organization. But it’s also so much more. It’s a wild, at times incredibly violent period action movie that fuses real-life figures with made up scenarios, with the whole thing designed for maximum entertainment. Ralph Fiennes stars as Orlando Oxford, the Duke of Oxford who, amongst other things, is sent on a mission to kill mad monk Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and thwart the evil intentions of a shadowy organization whose orders are given by the sinister figure known only as The Shepherd. Insane right?
While speaking with TheWrap about the film (which is now playing exclusively in theaters), Vaughn discussed the film’s ending, that villain’s big reveal, and the mid-credits scene that is sure to leave audiences, er, buzzing.
Major spoilers for “The King’s Man” follow below. Turn back now!
Big Bad Revealed
So let’s just rip the bandage off: Matthew Goode, who shows up early in the film as Morton, a kind of political second fiddle who seemingly gets killed, is the big villain. You probably figured this out early on because Goode has played bad guys before and he’s an awfully big actor to play such a minor role. Still, the movie goes to great pains to obscure his identity. “It was tough,” Vaughn admitted. “And the accent, the mustache, the hair. Yeah. [It was] one of the things in the script I thought, ‘are we going to get away with this?’ And I think he did brilliantly, by the way, because also, we were shooting him so that the second time you watch it, you see all the clues. It does all add up.”
Of course, Vaughn admitted that going to such extreme lengths could have the opposite effect. “At the same time, the more you put in the clues, the more obvious it might become,” Vaughn said. “So then we leaned in. I thought, well, linger on him, so you definitely think he’s the villain, but then when he gets killed, you think, there you go, he’s not the villain. And obviously, he wasn’t Scottish, so that’s all a bit weird. That was actually one of the harder things to do, believe it or not.” Oh, we believe it. After all, Goode is very good at being bad.
Now, let’s get to an even crazier aspect of “The King’s Man” – the mid-credits sequence. The fact that a fairly straightforward World War I movie gets a Marvel Studios-style mid-credits stinger is weird enough, but the content of the mid-credits scene is what’s really outré. With Matthew Goode’s leader of this criminal cabal very much murdered by Fiennes, and many of his attempts at world destruction summarily thwarted, a new leader emerges: Daniel Brühl’s Erik Jan Hanussen. Hanussen was a controversial real-life figure, known for his theatricality, and his oversized personality is further inflated by the cartoonish tone of “The King’s Man.”
Hanussen is seen with Vladimir Lenin (August Diehl), who the evil organization has installed in the left. Hanussen then introduces Lenin to another young man full of ideas – Adolf Hitler (David Kross). It’s a pretty startling moment, not only because of its real-world parallels (Hanussen was Jewish but coached Hitler) but because these mid-credits reveals are usually reserved for otherworldly threats like Thanos and not the cheeky introduction of a man who orchestrated a mass genocide.
“I mean, if you think about it, they have two very extreme people on the left, and extreme people on the right, with this nut case in the middle, who’s taken over [the evil organization] The Shepherd, which is Daniel Brühl,” Vaughn said. “But yeah, I mean, when you look at history, that’s where I sort of got excited, when we were writing the script going, I couldn’t have ever created a character as interesting as Rasputin, let’s put it that way. Tthat’s why I’d love to go through each decade, because history has written these unbelievably great heroes and great villains, which I’d love to explore and bring to life in a different way.”
“The King’s Man” is in theaters now.