Interview: Sophie Cookson on Kingsman: The Secret Service
Dan Woburn sat down with Sophie Cookson, who played Roxy in Kingsman: The Secret Service, to discuss the film’s impending Home Entertainment release.
Considering the success of Kingsman, what do you think was the appeal of it? What was it you think struck a chord with people?
I think Matthew [Vaughan, director] has got an incredible following. He’s created this style that’s very unique and he just loves to tell stories. And I think he’s created a film that’s fun the whole way through, the pace never lets up, he’s created characters you really want to invest in, and I think it’s rare that a film does all of those things. And it’s just – you don’t stop laughing, even I love watching the film! And they’re just a great team, him and Jane [Goldman, screenwriter] and I think it’s just fun. There are a lot of films where you don’t feel that good coming out of and there’s totally a place for that. But Matthew makes people want to go to the cinema – you want to sit there with your popcorn and just enjoy it.
They are just incredibly entertaining, Kick-Ass, Layer Cake. And now this.
Yeah, totally. He’s created his own style which is incredible, really.
The film is crying out for a sequel, creatively, and the financial success speaks for itself. Have you heard any rumblings?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say! I know everyone would love to do it, I think we’d be crazy not to. It’s such a good team of people and there’s definitely a story to be told – and a title to be changed! Kingswoman, that’s my first suggestion. But hopefully, fingers crossed.
If it did happen, what would you want to see Roxy do? How do you want to see her character progress?
I don’t know, she’s got a lot of room to grow. I know that I’d want more fight scenes, rather than being dangled in space a lot. I would definitely say that has to change! [Laughs] I dunno, the possibilities are kind of endless and you never know with Matthew. [With] Matthew, you should expect the unexpected, so I wouldn’t dare to say.
Since the premiere, what’s the experience been like for you?
The reception’s just [been] phenomenal, I’m just so honoured people have taken to it as well as they have. The fact it’s appealed to so many different nationalities as well, like, Americans love it because it’s British quality, and Brits have embraced it as well and then it’s just opened in China, it’s the biggest opening in India, everyone’s loved it and it’s just so nice to be part of that.
What was the hardest part of filming?
The stunts, because I’ve never done anything like that. You don’t get told how to hang from wires at drama school or be in something called a ‘Vomit Comet’. Learning the endurance that that takes, it’s definitely mind over matter. The underwater scene was incredibly tough, because as soon as you’re wet, you’re wet. And then you have to re-dry everything, and start again… it’s terrifying, like, no matter- if you know that there’s someone there with an oxygen tube, you still freak out, if you’re underwater, and you can’t breathe. And it went on for a long time. I think we were supposed to be shooting it for about a week, and it turned into about three weeks, of just being underwater.
Suffering for the art.
Suffering for the art, you gotta do it. [Laughs]
I actually read an interview with Samuel L Jackson yesterday, where he said “no one looks forward to underwater days”.
It’s not a good thing. And it did last too long! [Laughs]
I guess you answered my other question, which was, how do you film something like that? Because it seems so technical, and dangerous at the same time – so you had someone under the water with you?
Yeah, so there’s always someone behind you, or very close to you with oxygen tubes. I dunno – there are a lot of producers always on set, and everything’s done so well, so you do feel safe. But it’s a scary thing. The panic you see in that scene is probably quite real!
Going to back when you got the role for Kingsman, and it’s like, oh my God, there’s an amazing cast assembled for this film – y’know, you’ve got Mark Strong in there, an amazing character actor, obviously Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson. Who were you most looking forward to meeting, and working with?
All of them, I’ve grown up watching all of them. Working and having a scene with Michael Caine was lovely, ‘cause he’s just such an – I mean, he is Michael Caine, he’s an icon. He’s so tall as well! His whole presence about him is incredible. But when I first got the script only Colin was attached, I didn’t know that Mark was doing it, or Sam. And I remember the first time walking into the studio, and seeing everyone’s face – it was like, you are kidding me, that’s the most ridiculous cast! And working – Mark’s brilliant, I learnt a lot from Mark. It was just such good training and so lucky that I got to learn from those people.
My other question then segues into – ‘cause you and Taron, that was one of his first big roles as well, so was it nice to have that kind of, we’re all starting out, we’re all fresh and let’s learn together?
Totally. It’s daunting when you see those names, but when you’re on set you realise that everyone is just the same, everyone wants to have fun and make a good movie. Having Taron there – actually all the recruits had never done anything of that size, so there was a lovely camaraderie about it, and wanting to learn, and [we were] all on the same page.
Who’s on your wish list to work with now, because you’ve got the box office clout to be like “hey, I was in Kingsman”.
I don’t know, the list is – the list goes on and on and on. At [the Empire Awards] last night seeing Christopher Nolan speak was amazing, he’s incredible. And then seeing Ralph Fiennes get the Legend Award. They’re just – I dunno. The list goes on and on and on. Which is good, it’s how it should be. Endless possibilities. It’s so exciting, you don’t know what’s gonna come next.
I haven’t had a chance to follow what happened at the Empire Awards last night, did Kingsman pick anything up?
Kingsman got Best British Film!
Nice, glad to hear it.
I actually voted for it.
Did you! Yay, good. Are you just saying that?
No, honestly. I love seeing Matthew Vaughan do what he does, because Hollywood really embraces him and I feel like America really eats up that British sensibility – it’s kind of this healthy cynicism with a nice dollop of wittiness.
Mm, yeah. It was fun, I’m very glad it got it, because I think we deserved it [laughs].
I have to ask just one last time about the sequel, is Matthew just thinking about the story, is Mark Millar making another comic book?
As far as I know, even when we were filming, there’s always been discussion about it, because Matthew really loves that genre and Mark and Jane and the whole team have just really enjoyed working on it. So I’m not sure what order it would come in, but I hope to know soon [giggles].
Did you read The Secret Service comic book before-?
I didn’t read it before my audition ‘cause I wanted to go at it fresh and I’m not someone that reads a lot of comic books, this world was totally new to me. And then I wanted to come at it from a very real point of view, because they need to be real people. And then I read it afterwards. After we’d finished filming and everything, because I felt was Matthew was offering up was so clear, what he wanted, and I kind of knew what I was doing. And y’know, Roxy doesn’t feature incredibly heavily [in the comic] so it was up to me to embellish and discover, but no, I’ve read it loads now! [Laughs]
With Roxy, because parts of her history are still in the dark, because it’s Taron’s film – and Colin Firth, they have their whole story. So you’d think Roxy gets that opportunity to explore her backstory in the potential sequel more. Are these conversations that you had on set with Matthew or Jane?
I spoke a bit with Jane about it. But I think there is a beautiful thing about playing the moment, and Matthew’s direction is so clear – it’s great knowing what you ate for breakfast in 2003 but also there is playing what’s there in front of you and being reactive like that. It’s also very stunt-driven as well, you have to be in the moment. But no, I’ve got a backstory. I don’t know whether it’s the same as Jane’s! [Laughs]
I know this year we’ve got a couple of these spy comedies coming out, like the Melissa McCarthy one, Spy, which is a bit on the nose, but-
The Guy Ritchie one as well-
The Man from UNCLE, yeah.
Do you think you’ve set a really high bar?
Yeah, I think we have! I think we have. And Matthew’s very clever, he’s used the films that he loved growing up and put his own spin on it. And what he’s created is very unique and although there are films of a slightly similar ilk, no one compares to Matthew, his brain is bonkers in the best possible way. He’s exciting to watch. So, y’know… they won’t touch Kingsman [laughs].
What do you have coming up next? Is it a Lee Tamahori film, is that right?
Yep, Emperor, I’ve still got a tiny bit to film on that. And then I start something in June, but I’m not allowed to say what yet!
A vague hint? Genre?
It’s a film, I can tell you that [laughs]. There you go, that’s as much as you’re getting!
What’s Emperor about?
Emperor is about Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. I play Johanna, and her dad is a printer, in Ghent, and he’s been printing a lot of Lutheran pamphlets, and Charles V is obviously heavily Catholic, and he executes my father. But I don’t see it as an execution, I see it as murder. So I then go on a revenge mission to kill the Emperor.
Yeah. And he’s being played by Adrien Brody, which is – it’s a pretty cool cast. Bill Skarsgard’s in it, who I love, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega – it’s very cool.
Very international cast.
Yeah, totally. Which has been really nice to mix with a lot of different actors like that, you learn so much. And working with Adrien is just the best, I’m very lucky.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
[Whistles] The last film I saw at the cinema… I went to the cinema really recently. What was it? Maybe it wasn’t, maybe that was on a plane? Birdman. I think. I think it would have been Birdman. Although I’ve still yet to see Whiplash, which is really annoying me, because whenever I go, it’s totally sold out. And like, they had it on the plane, but I was like – I can’t watch this on the plane. It has to be seen in a big cinema. But I might have missed my chance. I’m just gonna have to wait for the DVD.
If your life was turned into a film, who would you want to direct it?
To direct it? That’s an incredibly good question. It depends. Someone like Matthew would make it a lot more exciting and I’d think that I’d lived a more full life [laughs]. Baz Luhrmann could turn it into a musical? I don’t know! Because a lot of the directors that spring to mind, it could be quite bleak. And I don’t want it to be bleak, if it’s my life! I’m gonna say Matthew. Matthew would have a ball with it!
Some exploding heads in there somewhere [laughter]. Everyone that’s ever annoyed me in life, head exploding [more laughter].
I’d probably watch that film, just ‘cause of the exploding heads.
Exactly. I’d want people to go and see it! [Laughs]