Nominations for BIFA awards, BAFTA’s and a few Golden Raspberries are scattered throughout the diverse filmography of Matthew Vaughn. The 46 year old filmmaker from London has worked on movies as varied as Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough gangster flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (which Vaughn produced), the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy tale Stardust, and mega-blockbuster X-Men: First Class. It is no surprise to see the huge James Bond fan back in the director’s chair a second time for Kingsman: The Golden Circle as he bids to continue his love affair with espionage thrillers.
Educated at the prestigious independent Stowe School in Buckinghamshire before embarking on a career in film, you would be hard pushed trying to convince anybody that he came from humble beginnings. Matthew Allard de Vere Drummond grew up assuming the surname of the Academy Award nominated American actor Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE, The Magnificent Seven, The Young Philadelphians) who had relations with his mother Kathy Ceaton, the daughter of a wealthy property tycoon, in the 1970’s. However, in 2002 Matthew found out his father was actually British aristocrat George Albert Harley de Vere Drummond. But he didn’t let that hold him back…
After producer and minor roles on smaller features, it wasn’t until a collaboration with his friend Guy Ritchie for the aforementioned Lock Stock in 1998 that his career really took off. Both Vaughn as producer and Ritchie as director earned £9million each for their work on the east-end crime comedy that propelled them into the mainstream. Such was the cultural impact of the poker game-gone-bad story that even now, some two decades later, it sits proudly at #143 on the IMDb Top 250 list, nestled between chess game-gone-bad story The Seventh Seal and politics-gone-bad story Mr Smith Goes to Washington.
The two would reunite multiple times thereafter, following up with the bigger budget Snatch in 2000, and the far less well received Vinnie Jones vehicle Mean Machine one year later. Things would go from bad to worse for the Vaughn-Ritchie partnership when Swept Away (starring Ritchie’s wife Madonna) tanked quite spectacularly, grossing 5% of its original $10million budget at the US box office. Within the space of five years, Vaughn in the role of Producer went from BAFTA nominated moviemaker to recipient of a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture. It would be the last time the pair worked so closely together.
It was around this time that Vaughn married German model Claudia Schiffer. The pair are still together despite a series of unfounded claims from online news sites both here and across the pond in 2011 that Vaughn is the secret father of January Jones’ son. Vaughn has publicly denied several times that he and Jones had an affair.
As for his movies, it was a return to the British criminal underworld that revived his flailing career in 2004 as he stepped behind the camera for writer J. J. Connolly’s adaptation of his own novel, Layer Cake. It was star Daniel Craig’s role in the film that supposedly led to his consideration for the part of James Bond. Vaughn is of course a huge admirer of 007 and would later direct the Kingsman movies, which themselves are spy thrillers heavily influenced by the Ian Fleming adaptations.
Frequent collaborators are a recurring pattern throughout much of Vaughn’s career, not least of all screenwriter Jane Goldman. His partnership with Goldman for Neil Gaiman’s Stardust proved to be tremendously important in turning his fortunes around. They later joined forces again in 2011 for the big budget superhero cold war sci-fi, X-Men: First Class, after working alongside Mark Millar to turn his superhero spoof comic-book Kick-Ass into a profanity-laden feature film. Not to mention their later work on the enormously successful Kingsman: The Secret Service, which also started life as a Millar comic.
Matthew Vaughn has covered a lot of ground as his career has swung him out wildly from his indie-Brit-flick beginnings and back to his current situation helming big-budget-Brit-flicks full of A-listers. But still that character of the spy is what drives him forward, with Kingsman 3 slated alongside the Terry Hayes adaptation I Am Pilgrim. Vaughn has yet to be given the opportunity to direct a Bond film, but surely it is only a matter of time for one of the most interesting British filmmakers working today.