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FILM3SIXTY – We speak to rising star, Sophie Cookson about working with Matthew Vaughn on Kingsman: Secret Service, the perils of stunt-work, and the importance of perseverance.
“Drama school certainly doesn’t prepare you for hanging upside down in a tree whilst strapped in a harness for hours upon, hours.”
For most actors and actresses the journey to their first big-budget feature film is a slow one. Not, however, for Sophie Cookson, who, fresh from her TV breakthrough in Sky One’s Moonfleet earlier this year, will join Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Caine and fellow newcomer Taron Egerton in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service, released in UK cinemas this Thursday 29 January, 2015.

Based on the graphic novel by Vaughn’s frequent source of inspiration, Mark Millar (Kick-Ass), Kingsman: The Secret Service details the life of a working class hooligan “Eggsy” (Egerton) who is plucked from a South London council estate by the dapper super-spy Harry Hart (Firth) to join a clandestine organisation, The Kingsman.

Sophie’s character Roxy, has also been enrolled in the Kingsman training program. We sat down with Cookson to discuss how, fresh out of drama school, it felt to be plunged into the limelight, and her experiences of working with such a talented cast.

This is your first film, and unlike many actors and actresses you are starting with a bang, with a great cast, and big budget. How have you found the experience?
It has been a baptism of fire. It is amazing working with such an established cast, and people who I have looked up to since I was a child. Working with Matthew was also an honour, because I remember the first time that I watched Layer Cake (2004), I was completely blown away. Working with people like Matthew was nerve-racking, but at the same time I knew that I was in safe hands.

You have gone on a fast-paced journey through drama school, TV and on to a film?
It was, but in a way it was great because it didn’t give me time to freak out about it too much. Also, I don’t know anything, so I have no frame of reference to compare it to. You cope with what you are given, don’t you?

Matthew Vaughn is known for launching the careers of actors such as Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, and working with as-yet undiscovered talent. What do you think Vaughan saw in your audition that made him cast you?
I really don’t know. I just did what was there in the script; I didn’t do anything new, or think, “Oh, no-one else will have done this. Matthew has a very clear image of what he wants, you only have to look at his previous films to see that, where there is such attention to the detail he puts into everything. As soon as he sees something he instantly knows what it is he wants.

Going back to the baptism of fire of starring in Kingsman, the film is very physically demanding. How did you find all the stunt work?
Drama school certainly doesn’t prepare you for hanging upside down in a tree whilst strapped in a harness for hours upon hours upon hours. Taron, Colin and Sofia [Boutella] got put through the mill much more than I did. At the time, I was very jealous, and I said to them, “You guys are working out so much, and I want part of that!” and they looked at me with such daggers in their eyes! Colin does some serious stuff in the film that I think will surprise audiences, because this is a very different Colin Firth to how we have seen him before. This is great for a new generation, who perhaps won’t remember him as Mr. Darcy, or for A Single Man (2009), and will see him as this lead action figure. It blew my mind a bit when I first saw it.

This film has a tremendous cast, Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, but it also has a cast full of new and upcoming talent. What was the atmosphere like on set?
It was brilliant, ultimately we are all doing the same job and in it together. I think it is great to have so much young talent in a movie, it feels refreshing. I think that I am still naïve, and I am not weighed down by years of cynicism. It was a really fun film to shoot and we had a lot of fun doing it!

Did the older members of the cast pass down any advice, or were they ever like mentors?
There wasn’t anything like that; there was never any distinction between old and young. If someone asked a question, there would always be a response, always as a casual chat. I preferred to learn by observation rather than asking lots of questions. I think that is all you can do. The performance that you see on screen is never what is going on when you are filming. Even learning how to keep focused is important, especially when there are long-takes where stunts have to be set up. Keeping your motivation up throughout is as important as the actually acting.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a mash-up of spy-films, comic books and action. When you were at drama school did you ever think that you would, for your first film, be doing a film like this?
No, absolutely not, I never, not in a million years, thought that I would be doing an action film with Colin Firth, ever. Even saying that now I am thinking to myself, “What. Wait a minute.” It is not something that you foresee in your future. I wasn’t prepared. I think that is great in a way, because if you expect things to work out you are either disappointed, or it is not quite what you imagined. Coming in being very fresh and taking what you are given was a really useful thing.

You mentioned earlier how it was a fast journey from drama school to making your first feature. Are you at all apprehensive about being plunged into the limelight when Kingsman is released?
I think if I thought about it too much the answer would be ‘Yes.’ I like to look at what I have got in front of me, and deal with it in the moment. I don’t like to guess what will happen, because if you had told me a year ago, that I would be sitting here now talking to you about Kingsman I wouldn’t have believed you. I think it is important to be conscious of it, and think about it, but ultimately I don’t give it too much thought.

Was the film as much fun to work on as it looks?
Stunts are never as much fun as they look – that’s definitely one thing that I have learned. Be it being suspended from a parachute, or lying on a table pretending that you are flying through the air – it is backbreaking. At the same time, we would all look around at each other and think that it was an absolute joke that this was considered work. I learned a lot of perseverance.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is released in cinemas nationwide Thursday 29 January, 2015

Labels: Interviews, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Movies
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