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'The King’s Man' star Harris Dickinson on Ralph Fiennes, 'bloody hard' war scenes and a surprise Stormzy set visit

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  • Ralph Fiennes
    Ralph Fiennes
    English actor

The Kingsman movie franchise continues as Matthew Vaughn’s The King’s Man (in theatres Dec. 22) brings us the origin story of the fictional independent intelligence agency featured in the spy series, set in the time of World War I. The film’s breakout star Harris Dickinson, who plays Conrad, son of Ralph Fiennes’ character Orlando Oxford, reveals how it was “bloody hard” to film the recreations of trench warfare.

“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn't realize I'd be doing so much for myself physically,” Dickinson told Yahoo Canada.

“We were doing a lot of preparation for it but…it becomes a bit of a mental game because there's all of the other elements going on, there's explosions and there are flares, and there are cameras on rigs, and you have to really be switched on to your surroundings.”

Harris Dickinson as Conrad in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
Harris Dickinson as Conrad in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Matthew Vaughn 'dares you' to take 'The King's Man' seriously

All the Kingsman films have had a James Bond-eque tone, with sort of kooky plots, and The King’s Man prequel is slightly different. It's largely a quirky look at history, but focused around the story of Conrad and Orlando with the added emotional, more dramatic backdrop of World War I.

“Matthew has definitely ventured into different territory with this film, he's added a slightly weightier tone, but he also dares you to take it seriously because there are those moments of absurdity and sort of comedy that breakthrough, and clearly aren't taking themselves too seriously,” Dickinson explained.

“I think Ralph’s done an amazing job at centering it…and then he also ventured into that slightly more heightened comedy and action.”

(L-R) Harris Dickinson as Conrad and Ralph Fiennes as Oxford in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios.)
(L-R) Harris Dickinson as Conrad and Ralph Fiennes as Oxford in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios.)

In The King’s Man Orlando, a staunch pacifist after his wife, Conrad’s mother, died during the Boer War, is butting heads with his son who has a strong desire to fight in the war.

“That was my entry point into my character really, is that frustration and that pent up desire to want to go against his dad,” Dickinson revealed.

“I think it's always that thing of whatever anyone tells you, sometimes you need to experience it for yourself and sometimes you need to learn the hard way. I think it was important that you both believe that we had a good relationship, but there was also this underlying tension that needed to be figured out.”

Behind the scenes of the war is a group of criminal masterminds who are manipulating Europe’s powerful leaders, cousins King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas (all played by Tom Hollander). These criminals include historical figures Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner) and Gavrilo Princip (Joel Basman).

Dickinson was particularly excited about being able to work with Fiennes, who he said he was able to very naturally and quickly establish that father-son relationship with, with the help of seeing each other frequently coming in and out of stunt training for the movie.

“I feel like when you see each other in those vulnerable moments, when you're exhausted and sweaty, I feel like you see insights into each other and the barriers break down a little quicker,” Dickinson said.

Rhys Ifans as Rasputin in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN (Peter Mountain)
Rhys Ifans as Rasputin in 20th Century Studios' THE KING'S MAN (Peter Mountain)

Surprise set visit from British rap icon Stormzy

Even aside from the war images, other action scenes take on a unique look in The King’s Man, particularly one moment in the film, an action sequence after a formal dinner with Rasputin, Orlando, Conrad and Orlando’s sidekick Shola (Djimon Hounsou), which is like an intricately choreographed dance.

“It was fun, I mean, everyone put in so much to that scene, the stunt department worked extensively with Rhys and the doubles, and there were Georgian dancers that got flown in,” Dickinson said. “So it was like a massive puzzle coming together on the day.”

Possibly even more interesting about that scene, Dickinson revealed that Matthew Vaughn actually invited iconic British rapper Stormzy to set.

“So on that day we were filming, Stormzy came to set,” the actor revealed. “I'm not quite sure why…but I'm a fan.”

“So I remember coming off to the monitors and being like, ‘Oh, hello Stormzy, what are you doing here?’ He was just watching it all.”

We may not know Stormzy's thoughts on The King's Man but the movie is certainly a rollercoaster of emotions and tone, that may just be a bit too complicated to really sink your teeth into.

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