Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Matthew Vaughn – Movies Spotlight – April 2010

Matthew Vaughn is best known for producing Guy Ritchie’s breakout films, but he is also a very talented director. His third film, Kick-Ass, comes out this month on the 16th. The film, based on Mark Millar’s comic book series, is touted to be loads of fun.

First as a Producer:

After graduating from Stowe School in England, Vaughn decided to take a year off before going to university and travel the world on a Hard Rock Café tour, which landed him eventually in Los Angeles. There, he began working as an assistant to a director, but decided to return to university in the U.K. However, just a few weeks into his first semester he was determined to return to L.A. and make movies, having caught the film bug. Though, upon his return to Hollywood, he realized that everyone else in town had the same dream; so he again returned to England. But in England he found success. In 1995 he produced his first film, a thriller called The Innocent Sleep. While the film itself was unsuccessful, it did give Vaughn the chance to break into the British film industry and garner him some experience. Next, in 1998, he would produce his good friend Guy Ritchie’s feature debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a film that would propel Ritchie to fame worldwide. With the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Vaughn and Ritchie would team up again for Snatch., which was just as well received. The pair then worked on Mean Machine, Vaughn producing and Ritchie executively producing. The film was made as a vehicle for their friend and co-collaborator on their first two films, Vinnie Jones. Then the luck ran out: the team of Vaughn producing and Ritchie writing and directing made Swept Away, a film that Ritchie wrote for his new wife Madonna to star in. The film was lambasted by critics and fans alike. It also marked the last time the duo would work together in any capacity. Vaughn worked on a few English television series as executive producer before deciding to direct films himself as well as produce them. In 2009, Vaughn worked with Michael Caine and director Daniel Barber on the well-received thriller Harry Brown.

Then as a Director:

For his first feature, Vaughn chose J.J. Connolly’s novel Layer Cake, a crime drama/thriller very much in the style of Ritchie’s early work. The film is also notable for being the breakthrough film for Sienna Miller as well as for Daniel Craig both as a leading man and as an action star, which certainly facilitated his winning of the James Bond role in Casino Royale. Vaughn also worked with cinematographer Ben Davis and composer Ilan Eshkeri, both of whom would work on Vaughn’s next two films. Due to the box office and critical success of Layer Cake, Vaughn was offered to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, which he accepted. However, late in pre-production (two weeks before filming was scheduled to start), Vaughn left the project. Brett Ratner was hired to direct the film, not so much for his filmmaking talent, but more for his ability to work fast and on budget. (Like everyone else) Vaughn was critical of Ratner’s final product. Vaughn left the film due to Fox and Marvel putting too much pressure on him to finish the film in a short amount of time, when Vaughn still had issues with the script, which he felt was not very good and flawed. There was also a large amount of studio creative interference (similar to Sam Raimi’s experience with Spider-Man 3). Vaughn decided he could not make the quality film he wanted to under those conditions and left the film. With X-Men behind him, Stardust was his next project. Along with producing and directing the film, Vaughn worked with Jane Goldman on the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel. Goldman, like Davis and Eshkeri, would join Vaughn’s collaborative team, again working with him on Kick-Ass. Stardust was again a success for Vaughn, and showed that he had the range to make different types of films and that he was quite adept at combining the comedy, action and fantasy genres, something that would prove important for his next project. The film also boosts a fantastic cast. At the premier of Stardust, Vaughn met Mark Millar. The two talked about Kick-Ass, and Vaughn bought the rights before the first issue even came out. The comic and script were done at the same time making the process very collaborative and organic. Vaughn decided to finance the film independently so that he could maintain control over the project, fearing what happened during X-Men. Kick-Ass premiered at the SXSW Film Festival to rave reviews. Vaughn seems to get better with each film he makes. Vaughn was also briefly attached to direct Thor, but left the project when his deal with Marvel expired.

Comic Book Hits:

Vaughn’s last two films have been excellent, both among the top comic book films made to date. Kick-Ass showed off his ability to garner brilliant performances from his cast (notably from Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz). He also did a great job of mixing humor, drama and action together to make a very compelling and thrilling narrative (though, for some it might have been too violent). For his next film, X-Men: First Class, Vaughn again shows off his talent to mix genres and hit multiple varying emotional and excitingly enthralling beats. The film also showcases his keen visual eye and stylistic skill, as it has a wonderful aesthetic to it. X-Men: First Class opened to very good reviews from both critics and (especially) fans (I feel it is the X-Men film we all deserved by never got with the first four). The best aspect of the film is Vaughn’s crafting of the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the performances he gets from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. It is a great film that will hopefully have future installments with the same cast and Vaughn at the helm.

Future Projects:

Upcoming in 2011, Vaughn is producing the film The Debt. The film yet again features co-collaborators Davis (D.P.) and Goldman, who worked on the script with Vaughn. The film is directed by John Madden and features Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, and Tom Wilkinson. It is a remake of the 2007 Israeli film about three Mossad agents on a mission to capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal, set in 1965. Vaughn is also linked as a producer to One Chance, the story of unlikely British reality star Paul Potts, and another Mark Millar creation American Jesus, which Vaughn is slated to direct as well, but the project is nowhere near ready for production. Also up in the air are possible sequels to Kick-Ass (Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall) and X-Men: First Class.

Matthew Vaughn Career Highlights:

1)      Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – producer [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
2)      Snatch. (2000) – producer [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
3)      Layer Cake (2004) – director [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
4)      Stardust (2007) – director* [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
5)      Kick-Ass (2010) – director* [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
6)      X-Men: First Class (2011) – director* [Blu-ray/DVD/Rent]
* Editor’s picks

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