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LET’S GET PHYSICAL — It was while watching the second episode (Don’t You Ever Stop) of Physical’s Second season, on Apple +, that I realized that this show has some of the best writing around -and Bryne is a smash- since the first season of The Morning Show. Smart, incisive, cutting … Physical has it all right now. Even Hacks, which I out-and-out loved -and still do- whose second season was a bit of a let-down, can’t match the quality of this show.

Bryne’s a 1980’s housewife (Sheila Rubin) from San Diego who literally stumbles into the fitness craze – creates a tape and now is out selling it at everything from a  local state fair to some rather inept TV commercials. Her husband., Danny, is a wild card who will go on a protest about almost anything. He fancies himself an environmentalist and I guess he is … but with a taste for the ladies.

Bryne’s interior-dialogue scenes are a hoot – she’s tired of her marriage and wants out and she has an eating disorder to boot. Created and written by Annie Weisman, she’s got a hair-trigger touch on what’s going on all around her. And her choices of music are just sensational. That Kate Bush song wouldn’t be right for this show, but other music from the same era is stone-cold perfect. So far, there’s been Yaz; The Dazz Band; Sheila E and Toto.

This is one of those shows you’ve got to stay with or you’ll get left behind. Bryne’s a star and this could well be the best-thing she’s done. Funny, irreverent, true and telling, its a stone-cold smash.

Stranger Things’s David Harbour

WHAT ABOUT BARB — We just finished watching  Season 4, Part 1 of Netflix’s Stranger Things and absolutely have to applaud everything about it. These initial super-sized episodes had a lot of intel to disclose -sometimes at a dizzying rate- but overall, just masterfully executed.

The whole Kate Bush-situation notwithstanding; each show had just exemplary writing and acting – most notably David Harbour who has knocked around for years, but in this role has found his touchstone. He gives two monologues in Part 1 that are well worth the price of admission. Just astonishing.

In the final episode in Part 1 we finally find out what the heck happened happen to Barb – seemingly disappeared from season 1 from way back in 2016.  For am more detailed breakdown, check this out:

The Duffer Brothers phenomena remains just that … a phenomena. Just brilliant! Bravo!

BLACK HEALTH MATTERS — In honor and recognition of Juneteenth this coming weekend (June 19), Square One publishing wants to applaud their author Richard W. Walker, Jr., MD and his book Black Health MattersThe Vital Facts You Must Know to Protect Your Health and That of Your Loved Ones. This Library Journal, said the book “is well supported, clearly presented, and helpful. Walker’s inclusion of historical context for Black health issues is key.”

Now based in Texas, Dr. Walker grew up in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and completed his residency at the University of Michigan. Much of his life as a physician has been devoted to helping his fellow Black Americans understand the many health problems especially common to the community—and how to avoid or better manage those conditions. Dr. Walker has already begun to share his experience and expertise with a variety of programs nationwide, and this will only continue as things move forward.

On this year’s 156th Juneteenth anniversary, it is also important to point out that Black Health Matters also presents several informative insets and historical timelines—all of which illustrate the harrowing health and healthcare journey of African Americans from slavery times to current day. As an independent health book publisher, Square One wants to help ensure that as many as possible are made aware of this troubling past history as present and future history continues to be shaped.SHORT TAKES — Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Sean Harkness and his Unusual Suspects show this Saturday at NY’s Chelsea Table & Stage has been postponed. Stay tuned for new dates later this summer

Chris Gilman

Has Chris Gilman returned to the Palm in East Hampton?

Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band begins a run at Dizzy’s in NYC (6-17-19). Jazzheads-prexy Randy Klein will be on-hand for the opening night performance … SIGHTING: President Obama in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen Wednesday …

Chris Blackwell book The Islander

We just got the lavishly produced- Chris Blackwell book (The Islander) and a quick scan revealed tons of intel on everyone from Grace Jones to U2. Because we knew them well we looked for tales on producer/DJ Mark Kamins; Herb Corsack and Alex Masucci from Mango Records; Murray Elias and Judy Cacase. Nada. Too bad as these were the worker-bees that made it all happen for the much lauded label. We did see some intel on art-man Tony Wright; singer Robert Palmer; the much-missed Cristina Monet and August Darnell aka Kid Creole. We’ll read it this weekend. Blackwell’s a visionary – no question … And, yesterday ABC News interviewed one of the Depp/Heard jurors and they said that the jury for the most part did NOT use social media at all and just didn’t believe Heard. And, they felt that Depp’s lawyers were more on-point than Heard’s. My lawyer tells me that the jury’s verdict is usually correct. Go figure!

NAMES IN THE NEWS –- Jill Siegal; Anthony Scaduto; Paul Morley; David Keeps; Melissa Davis; Tony Wright; Mark Kamins; Nancy Erman; Marjorie Schwartz; Debbie Lansing; Melissa Davis; Mark Kamins; Andy Greene; Ken Dashow; Peter Shendell; Victor Kastel; and, CHIP!

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

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G.H. Harding

MORE MURDER — (Via Deadline) Sophie Ellis-Bextor is gearing up to tour around North America for the first time and adding more cities for fans to see her perform “Murder on the Dance Floor” live.

The British singer’s song is featured in the final scene of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, where Barry Keoghan’s Oliver dances naked around the manor. After the scene went viral, the song, co-written by Ellis-Bextor and Gregg Alexander, also went viral on social media. “Murder on the Dance Floor” was originally released in 2001, but it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 until now, peaking at 51 recently.

Ellis-Bextor recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon where she performed the viral hit and the star is now embarking on a North America tour.

The artist announced her first-ever live show in NYC, set to take place on June 6 at Webster Hall, and the date quickly sold out. Ellis-Bextor has now announced more dates across the U.S. and Canada that will take her to San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

“Oh my… the New York show sold out in a day! Thank you thank you thank you,” Ellis-Bextor said in her newsletter announcing the additional tour dates. “So – how about some more shows in some more cities?! My band and I are coming for you! Super excited. Come and dance with me….”

May 30: August Hall (San Francisco, CA)May 31: The Observatory North Park (San Diego, CA)June 3: 9:30 Club (Washington D.C.)June 4: Royale Boston (Boston, MA)June 5: Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA)June 6: Webster Hall (New York City, NY)June 8: Danforth Music Hall (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

I love this record, because its an actual song. Sure, they repeat the title about three-dozen times, but its a great track.

Neil Diamond and Micky Dolenz

NOISE CLOSES — (Via Deadline) Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical will play its final performance on Sunday, June 30, before launching a national tour this fall, producers announced today.

The musical, which began previews on November 2, 2022, at the Broadhurst Theatre and opened that year on December 4, will have played 35 preview performances and 657 regular performances when it closes.

As I’ve said, early reviews of the show, kind of stopped me from going to this. An artist who is even referenced in the play said to me ‘why would I go to a play that got bad reviews.’ Understood.

But, I did see it and absolutely loved it. Of course, I’m somewhat on the business side and loved all the insider-nuances. And, I saw it with the original performers in it.

There will be a national tour and I predict it will be a huge hit as Diamond’s music is multi-generational. As I’ve said, I preferred Diamond’s “Solitary Man”-period more than “America” and “I Am, I Said.” Although, “Turn On Your Heart Light” (written with Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach) was a great record.

An icon for certain.

SHORT TAKES — Warner’s second Aquaman movie; Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will stream on MAX on February 27. The first Aquaman movie, out in 2018, remains the highest-grossing DC film of all time. The sequel, after a plethora of media, mostly about Amber Heard, disappeared in a matter of weeks … Broadway-journeyman and Rockers On Broadway-creator Donnie Kehr recupping. Get well soon brother! … Keith Girard’s New York Independent featured an interview with 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long. Check it out:

Pet Shop Boys

Just listened to the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls.” What a tremendous record that hold up amazingly well all these years later. It came out in 1984 and produced by Bobby Orlando … Amazon shuttering Freevee? First off, as an offshoot of Amazon, this has got to be one of the worst monikers ever! I mean, FreeVee ... always sounded like frisbee!  Adios … Thursday’s Law & Order was the ode to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy-character (Last Dance).

Sam Waterston

After 404 episodes, we had to say goodbye. It wasn’t the greatest episode, but when McCoy took over the case and presented it to the jury, Waterston shone brightly. When McCoy said to Hugh Dancy (Nolan Ryan), it was a hell of a ride, it resonated terrifically. Thanks Jack! …

True Detective

I loved the finale on HBO of True Detective with Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. I didn’t understand it all, but the look and direction (by Issa Lopez) and Jodie Foster was just superb. I had forgotten just how good an actress Foster was. Sure, she was good in Nyad, but it was a supporting role. Here, she was just stellar. I’d like to see more of her …

Micky Jones

It was a grim week medically speaking as talk-show hostess Wendy Williams was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia and Mick Jones of Foreigner, with Parkinson’s. Sending prayers to both … And finally, news surfaced Thursday that an “inebriated” Andy Cohen harassed Brandi Glanville. I don’t know Andy at all, but his bad-boy antics of the last several years were clearly leading to something like this. Glanville’s lawyers even invoked NBC’s Matt Lauer in their brief. Expect a huge media brouhaha over this one. Sad for sure … Happy Bday Lou Christie; Niki Avers and Chloe Gaier.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Walter; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent Kotal; Ace Frehley; Alex Saltzman; Lush Ice; Tony King; Barry Zelman; Justin Ridener; Kent & Laura Denmark; Mark Bego; Mark Scheerer; Barbara Shelley; and SADIE!

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G.H. Harding

McCALLUM’S FAREWELL — Last night was the NCIS show dedicated to David McCallum (The Stories We Leave Behind) and it was simply terrific. Written by Brian Dietzen, who essays Dr. Jimmy Palmer on the show, it was extremely touching and featured some great clips from past shows.

The vibrant opening theme for the show was re-cast in a memorial-type tone and worked perfectly. There was also a reference to his cat named ‘Solo’ – a fitting nod to his Man From U.N.C.L.E. costar Robert Vaughn.

McCallum was just a tremendous actor. I one met him once in Bloomingdale’s of all places and he couldn’t have been nicer. There was also last-minute cameo from Michael Weatherly, who left the show several years ago. It was just a brilliant moment and though pundits are already saying he’ll return, I don’t think it will come to pass.

There was also a letter from Gibbs (Mark Harmon) whose shadow always lingers.

A touching tribute well done on every level. McCallum will be missed tremendously; an icon for sure. 7 million viewers thought so too.

Kelly Rowland

SHORT TAKES — Last week’s kerfuffle with Kelly Rowland abruptly leaving the Today Show, where she was pegged to co-host the fourth hour with Hoda, is much ado about nothing. Gossip pundits claimed it was because her dressing room was too small and Hoda herself sort of copped to it on Monday’s show. I predict she’ll be banned from the entire show for quite some time. It was probably more of a stunt pulled by her PR-people, as she generated a heap of press. For those who don’t know: most all of their dressing rooms are small …

Kjersti Long

17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long (her “Sad Song” was just released) looks to have her Relative Space-play begin in the West End, pegged for later this year  …

Vanessa Williams will have for the role of Miranda Priestly in the upcoming musical adaption of The Devil Wears Prada by Elton John, It’ll debut in the West End shortly … SiriusXM’s Evan Levy left the station for Amazon, but has now officially surfaced at Jason Spiewak’s Noble Steed Music.

Congrats … Micky Dolenz speaks to Goldmine’s Tone Scott today about his I’m Told I Had A Good Timebook and upcoming appearance at LA’s Troubadour on April 5 … The media was ablaze Tuesday with news that director Sam Mendes would make 4 movies featuring each of The Beatles. Astonishing. Mendez is a great director and this looms as a challenge for sure. As a group they were invincible, but it’ll be interesting to see how Mendes handles each of their post-Beatles work; which had their ups and downs. Stay tuned, this is a big one …

Rod Stewart sells his catalog for $100 million? … We started watching Feud: Capote vs. The Swans -featuring a bravura performance by Tom Hollander as Truman Capote- and am loving it tremendously. Hollander’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen in years on the small-screen. Absolutely stunning with the direction by none other than the stellar Gus Van Sant. More on this brilliant series next time …

Yoko Ono

Happy 90th Bday Yoko Ono.NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Leeds; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Adam Sandler; Jennifer Aniston; Curt Smith; Bob Small; Andy Forrester; Rob Dickens; Daryl Estrea; Jane Blunkell; Jane Berk; Eloise Keene; Eppy; June Pointre; Ken Kragen; Kent Denmark; Mark Bego; Jake Malooley; Graydon Carter; and ZIGGY!

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G.H. Harding

WE ARE THE WORLD DOC ON NETFLIX — I just watched the Netflix doc on the 1985’s We Are The World record and session and enjoyed it immensely. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago and the participants that appeared on it and are no longer with us. I interacted with manager Ken Kragen who brought the idea to Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson after being approached by Harry Belafonte. Kragen was a savvy manager back then and even managed the Smothers Brothers for a while.

Recorded after Dick Clark’s AMA Awards, it was simply a stellar turnout. Every article on the record said that at the last-minute Quincy Jones took a blank piece of paper and scribbled Leave Your Egos At The Door – inspired for sure. Today, it’d be Leave Yor Egos At The Door With Your Glam Squad.

I don’t know if a session like that could even happen today with so much natural unrest – even in the music  business. Even A&M Studios where the session took place has changed to Henson Studios.

Its a funny doc as we start with insider-comments from two women who worked for Kragen and producer Larry Klein – who was involved with Dick Clark back then. Then, the three of them sort of disappear and Richie takes over as narrator; engineer Humberto Gatica has some nice memories too; as doe Tom Bahler, an associate of Jones who worked with him for years.

There were some funny reminiscences, mostly from Huey Lewis, who found himself amazed to be with the likes of Paul Simon and Willie Nelson. At one point Wonder starts playing Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and then the entire ensemble continues to sing it.

Wonder, definitely a musical genius, even coaches Bob Dylan by mimicking his voice. Diane Ross ambles over to Daryl Hall and asks for his autograph. Funny stuff for sure.

It’d be nice if something like this happened today, but I fear it’s near impossible. JLO doing a charity record with Selena Gomez, Arianna Grande and Beyonce? Never.

Micky Dolenz

DOLENZ ON AMERICAN POP FLASHBACK — Over a dozen of the most successful singing artists in the history of American music including Glen Campbell, Lesley Gore, Bill Medley and many more are presented live-on-stage with thrilling concert performances in the new Public Television special AMERICAN POP FLASHBACK! GREAT HITS OF THE ‘60s & ‘70s premiering nationwide beginning the weekend of February 23 (please check local listings for air-dates/times).

Join program host, legendary singer Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, as he salutes the groundbreaking musicians, teen idols, TV stars and vocal greats from rock, pop and country whose hits make us sing along, tap our feet, shed a tear, fall in love and recall the great memory-filled times of our lives.

Appearing exclusively on American Public Television stations, the all-star concert features performances by late legends Glen Campbell (“Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman”) and Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party”) in addition to a cavalcade of timeless classics and Number One Hits by Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration),” The Chiffons (“One Fine Day”), Bobby Vinton (“Blue Velvet”), Ray Stevens (“Everything Is Beautiful”), Debby Boone (“You Light Up My Life”), Chris Montez (“Let’s Dance”),Tony Orlando (“Candida”/”Knock Three Times”) The Osmond Brothers (“One Bad Apple,” “He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother)”, Crystal Gayle “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”) and other chart-topping favorites.

Additionally, the programs legendary host Micky Dolenz thrills fans with a performance of The Monkees’ signature hit I’m a Believer. AMERICAN POP FLASHBACK! GREAT HITS OF THE ‘60s & ‘70s presented by American Public Television is a production of DEB Entertainment and Emmy-nominated producer Jim Pierson (“California Dreamin’” – The Songs of The Mamas & The Papas, Fever The Music of Peggy Lee) in association with Emmy Award-winning producers Rene Reyes and Shane Rosamond

SHORT TAKES — We’ve written about how similar TV’s Yellowstone is to Dallas; a huge hit back-in-the-day. Sure, the language is a bit more torrid, but the similarities are indeed many.

Taylor Sheridan

Now Roger Friedman reports that Yellowstone-creator Taylor Sheridan is creating a show (With Jon Hamm; Demi Moore; and Billy Bob Thornton attached) closer to Dallas than ever before. Of course, Kevin Costner starred in Yellowstone and is being written out. Check it out here:

David Salidor; Scott Shannon and Steve Leeds

… Happy Bday Steve Leeds & Mitch Kanner!NAMES IN THE NEWS — Michelle Grant; Art Rutter; Jimmy Fallon; Vinny Napolitano; Jodi Ritzen; Dan Zelinski; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Robert Funaro; Steve Klein; Steve Leeds; Mark Bego; Sophie Ellis-Bextor; Brad Pitt; and CHIP!

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G.H. Harding

FANTASTIC FOUR SETMarvel announced Wednesday morning the cast for their coming Fantastic Four movie. Actually, there were three before, but not 100% Marvel. As a fan of the comic from the start, the first movie, with Ioan Gruffeud, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba and Chris Evans was just great. Julian McMahon as the bad guy Dr. Doom was great too. The second one was pretty good too as it introduced the Silver Surfer; one of my personal Marvel faves.

silver Surfer

Each did not make a zillion-dollars and when the rights reverted back to Marvel, they went with it.

Pedro Pascal was great in his cable series Narcos and the current Last of Us, but not as Reed Richards. Ioan was excellent and even John Krasinki who made a brief cameo in Dr. Strange, would have been a much, much better choice. Marvel even issued a Valentine Day’s announcement of sorts that made the Fab Four look like something out of The Jetsons … and, clearly, they’re not.

Hey, this is just one opinion … Pascal is the flavor of the moment! Read SHOWBIZ 411’s take on it:

Flash Forward

SHORT TAKESNBC’s LaBrea wound up their abbreviated third and final season Tuesday with an episode wherein all of the major characters resolved their issues and successfully got back home. Honestly, the show started out with a band (who can’t resist a giant-sinkhole in LA?), but then with COVID and the strikes, it began to fall apart. LaBrea joins the hallowed ranks of other sci-fi shows Flash Forward, The Event; Salvation; First Wave; Solos; Another Life; Millennium; and Brave New World – all great shows that slowly-but-surely died on the vine … Check out Joe Cocker-biographer Mark Bego on Leon Russell’s relationship with Joe:

17-year-old Kjersti Long was interviewed by SKOPE in conjunction with her new single “Sad Song” –

I’m Told I Had A Good Time/Micky Dolenz

Micky Dolenz spoke to Billboard’s Gary Graff this week about his book, I’m Told I Had A Good Time

Jennifer Lopez

JLO was the special guest on NBC’s Today Thursday and really dazzled me. Her new album has gotten very mixed reviews, but what a total professional, she looked great; her kids are now each 16; and she answered every question Hoda Kotb had with pizzazz. She announced a tour later this year and posters for it were already displayed in their plaza immediately after the interview. She’s been a star for years and she still is …

Lana Del Rey covering John Denver’s “Tale Me Home Country Roads?” Yes. here it is:
I love it! …

Whatever happened to our guilty-jazz pleasure, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Gary Graff; Tone Scott; Tony King; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Morgan White; Jim Kerr; Graydon Carter; James Clash; Jeremy Long; Van Dean; Dean Scene; Pete Bennett; Chris Cuomo; Dan Zelinski; Barry Fisch; Gary Gershoff; Eppy; Kent & Laura Denmark; Don Wardell; William Schill; and ZIGGY!

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Master Mash-up Movie Maker Matthew Vaughn Kicks Out His Latest Wacky Comic Adventure, “Argylle” – Starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Alfie the Cat



No matter what, British director Matthew Vaughn is having a good time making movies. Besides being married to former supermodel Claudia Schiffer, he’s just seen his mega-wacky, big-budget comic spy thriller, “Argylle,” get released. It’s appeared in theaters through Universal and soon will find its way online through Apple Original Films.

Starring Bryce Dallas Howard [the “Jurassic World” franchise] as author Elly Conway and Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell as agent Aidan, the film folds fictional characters created by the writer into a real-world scenario led by a battalion of killer arch-spies chasing them.

The plots of Elly’s fictional books — centered on the adventures of secret agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his efforts to unravel a global spy syndicate — prompt a real-life spy organization to try killing Elly through deadly covert actions. That’s when the quiet life of evenings at home with her cat Alfie ends. Though the evil agency is rebuffed by Aidan, the two fall into rabbit holes of wild train rides and a global mission in order to pass on illicit secrets to a CIA underboss (Samuel L. Jackson) who can save the day.

Now this isn’t the 52-year-old creator’s first rodeo. He’s established quite a list of credits, some by adding to established franchises such as the “X-Men” or creating new ones such as “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman.” But whatever Vaughn does, he does it with a certain flash and panache.

T2C: Meet the man who directed all these incredible movies: “Layer Cake,” “Stardust,” “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and now, “Argylle.”

Matthew Vaughn: With “Snatch,” they wanted subtitles. I’m not joking. Seriously, the studio didn’t understand that Brad Pitt was meant to not be understood at all.

T2C: Anyway, you fought the good fight and won. That was back in the days when you were a producer alongside Guy Ritchie. Were you always keeping an eye on directing? Did you always plan to direct ultimately?

Matthew Vaughn: Directors can be a pain in the arse and are incredibly egotistical. As a producer, it was exhausting and I thought it couldn’t be that hard. So I gave it a go.

T2C: Fair enough. That led you to “Layer Cake.” Was it always the intention that you direct it?

Matthew Vaughn: Guy Ritchie was meant to direct “Layer Cake” and decided not to. So [J. J. Connolly], the author of the book, said, “Why don’t you have a go?” Then my wife [Claudia Schiffer] –thank God for her – said, “You really should have a go.” Thank God I did because I feel like I’m playing and am going to get caught out very soon. But so far, so good.

T2C: Here’s the terrifying thing. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of “Layer Cake.”

Matthew Vaughn: Yeah, it’s terrifying getting old.

T2C: What was that experience on Layer Cake” switching from producing to directing?

Matthew Vaughn: Terrifying. On the first day, I made a big mistake. I looked through the camera and saw Daniel Craig and casually went, “My God, this is the first time I’ve ever done this, looking through a film camera.” I went back down and all I saw was horror on Daniel’s face. But we got through it. It’s ultimately filmmaking. I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling it, but at the end of the day it’s a camera, a script and actors. If you do it and have passion about telling a story, it sort of looks after you.

T2C: What were the films that got you into filmmaking in the first place?

Matthew Vaughn: I could list them — talk about getting old. But the first three films in the cinema — I was like, “Oh shit, I’ve got to continue watching. They were “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I saw them in the cinema not knowing what any of them going to be!

T2C: “Layer Cake” is an amazing film, but it’s also a bit of an outlier on your directorial CV. After that, you started moving into geek cinema, pursuing fantasy with “Stardust.” And before that, you made a couple of comic book movies: “X-Men: First Class” — and “Kick-Ass.”

Matthew Vaughn: I basically directed [“X-Men: First Class”], but the good stuff didn’t make the cut. It was bizarre because I went from “Layer Cake,” a tiny £3 million movie and suddenly Hollywood was calling up saying, “Would you like to make an X-Men movie?” I was like, “Yes.” I thought “X2” was a masterpiece. I was worried [about] stepping into Bryan Singer’s shoes. But it was a dream come true and I storyboarded the movie.

The movie ended up not being what I was going to make. I was naive and used to working in the way I produce films. “Here’s a budget, here’s a schedule, stick to it.” Hollywood doesn’t work that way at all. They go, “Here’s a budget, here’s the schedule. We pretend we’re going to do it and then we make it all up as we go along.” I didn’t know that back then. I was naïve. I was given the speech, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Yeah, and I sort of believed in that. If that’s not how Hollywood works, then I didn’t want “Stardust” to go that way. I read the book and met Neil Gaiman [its author]. I’d rather do it [my way] so I did that; [I didn’t want to disappoint Neil].

T2C: You ended up making a very successful “X-Men” movie. But what’s amazing is that, by and large, you’ve worked independently. You finance your movies yourself, as well. Is that something that developed over time?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, no, it was a habit that half came out of [producing] “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” this little movie that we made here. We knew nothing and were sort of naive, but in a good way of not realizing anything that should scare us. We made it with £900,000 which we begged, borrowed and literally stole to get the film made, but it made money. Then you get a reputation that you can make people money.

What I learned is that when you raise money, if somebody says, “Well, if it’s so good, why are you not putting in?” I was like, “Yeah, fair enough.” With “Kick-Ass,” I literally bet the house. When we broke [out] “Kick-Ass,” nobody in Hollywood wanted to make it so I took out a mortgage on the house and financed the movie. It was scary because we couldn’t get any distribution. Then, when it was finished my agent at the time said, “It’s not really intelligent.” If everybody in Hollywood says, “No, don’t make it,” that’s because it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy it — and he was right.

They all said no. Well, they [were then] showed clips of the movie after “Avatar.” I really thought I was screwed but the fans went so crazy, Hollywood decided that maybe there was something in there that the fans might like. Then they went for it.

T2C: Was “Kick-Ass” a reaction, in a way, to the trend of comic book movies?

Matthew Vaughn: It was Mark Millar [the graphic story creator of “Kick-Ass.”] He came to the premiere of “Stardust” and he pitched “Kick-Ass” to me over a martini. I’ll never forget it. He said, I’ve written a comic about a superhero with no powers. I thought, “Oh wow, that sounds cool.” And then, off we went and did it and I like the story.

T2C: It was the first time that you properly harnessed your action leanings. There’s some great action sequences. Everything that Hit Girl [Chloë Grace Moretz] does was pretty amazing. Was that a great opportunity for you to prove what you could do, as well?

Matthew Vaughn: I had no idea, but I was a big Jackie Chan fan. I was thinking action would be very gritty and thought, “No, let’s do something a little bit more fun.” It’s not easy but it’s rewarding.

T2C: That movie has got this really glorious, punky, rebellious attitude. Was that something that was a part of you that wanted to express?

Matthew Vaughn: That wasn’t in the script to be very clear.  It wasn’t in the comic. But it wasn’t an ad-lib either. Then little Chloe, read the comic at the time, and her mother came up and said, “Can we do one more take? She wants to try something?” Oh, no, but it happened. Thank God And it was in focus, one take.

T2C: One take. Amazing. With Chloe Moretz, and Aaron Taylor Johnson in that film, as well. Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller are in “Layer Cake;” Charlie Cox is in “Stardust” and Taron Egerton is in pretty much everything you’ve done. You have this incredible eye for talent, for responding to someone just as they’re about to go into the stratosphere. Tom Hardy’s in “X-Men: First Class.” Where does that come from?

Matthew Vaughn: I just use my eyes when an actor comes in and starts reading the lines. You forget that they’re auditioning, you just watch. Then I cast, simple as that. There’s a lot of actors that can’t act. They come in and then you say, “Next” and then someone brilliant comes in and you say, “You got the job.”

T2C: Sometimes that happens and sometimes it takes a while for them to come around again. Take Bryce Dallas Howard. We’ll talk about “Argylle” but Bryce Dallas Howard is in “Argylle” and she was nearly in “Stardust.” Is that right?

Matthew Vaughn: Bryce was the first actress to audition for “Stardust.” She did the best audition. I wanted to cast her immediately but the studio said “No, she’s not famous enough. She’s never going to pop.” Then a month later, she was cast in “Spider-Man 3.” But Bryce is a statement! When an actor is great, I appreciate the art, [though] I have no interest in being an acting coach. I just like to watch great actors do their stuff and just tweak it a little bit.

T2C: Moving on from “Kick-Ass” to “X-Men: First Class.” How did that come about?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, the man who said you’ll never work in this town again, watched “Kick-Ass” and, to his credit, rang me up and said, “You know what, I didn’t mean it when I said that. What I meant was that you will work in this town again.” Yeah, but one of the main reasons that I actually quit “X-Men 3” —  this is a true story and I don’t care if I’m not meant to say it —  [is that] Hollywood is really political and odd. I went into one of the executive’s offices and saw an “X-3” script and I immediately knew it was a lot fatter. I was like, “What the hell is this draft?”

“But don’t worry about it.”

I was like, “No, I’m the director and I’m worrying about this draft. Tell me what it is, please.”

I grabbed the script. It was like a crazy moment, but I opened the first page and it said, “Africa. Storm. Kids dying of no water. She creates a thunderstorm and saves all these children.”

That’s a pretty cool idea. What is this? They went, “Oh, it’s the Halle Berry script.” I went, “OK. She hasn’t signed up yet.” But this is what she wants it to be and once she signs up, we’ll throw it in the bin.

I was like, “Wow, are you going to do that to an Oscar-winning actress who plays Storm? I’m out of here.” I quit at that point. I thought, minced meat. That stayed with me and made me think Hollywood does some stuff well, but not in my style. But “First Class” was interesting because Singer wasn’t involved at first. He rang me up, “Well, Fox isn’t going to work with me,” and he went, “Don’t worry about that. They’ve changed their minds.”

I knew that they threw money at problems, so I thought maybe it would be nice to make a movie where I can think of some stuff and it can actually happen. And we only had 10 months and there was no script. Singer had come up with the idea of the ’60s and the Cuban missile crisis. I thought, “This is pretty cool. I always wanted to do a Bond.” Another story didn’t do it; it nearly got fucked. So I thought, “I’ll do it.” And it was fun, it was good. It was a challenge. I like challenges.

T2C: You had this amazing cast and got Michael Fassbender as Magneto. You had the sense that you were making your own Bond movie essentially with him.

Matthew Vaughn: Yeah. He thought so as well.

T2C: Precisely. What about your memories of shooting “X-Men: First Class” that stands out to you?

Matthew Vaughn: I think making blue people feel real and giving that emotion. It’s not easy. You’re on set and it’s dripping and you are definitely taking fantasy and trying to make it a story that you believe and relate to. That’s the thing I think about for all superheroes or fantasy: it’s got to still have humanity in it. Then you can enjoy it. That’s why I think sometimes people get it wrong because it goes so out there that you just can’t relate to it.

T2C: Weren’t you going to direct “X-Men: Days of Future Past” which was going to be a follow-up to your prequel?”

Matthew Vaughn: I was but Hollywood forgot to tell me after I wrote the damn thing that legally Bryan had directed it first. So I wasn’t mucking around Hollywood anymore. [I decided that] I’m going to go and do “Kingsman.”

T2C: Was “Kingsman” always bubbling away in the background? Where did it come from?

Matthew Vaughn: “Kingsman” literally came with Mark Millar and I in a pub and – I love you, Daniel Craig – but we were just thinking. Bond’s gotten a bit too serious. And, literally, over a few pints of Guinness in a pub called the Windsor Castle, we just came up with it and plotted the whole thing out.

We were talking about how Ian Fleming didn’t want to cast Sean Connery. So the director of “Doctor No” was like, “Fleming, give me two weeks and I will transform the Scottish big bloke into an English gentleman.” He took him to Saville Road and converted Connery into Bond. And we thought, “Well, let’s take that idea and do our own version.” So that was the kernel of the idea.

T2C: You mounted your own search for your Connery equivalent. You had Colin Firth? Did you always see Colin Firth as an action hero? He didn’t.

Matthew Vaughn: Then you didn’t see “Bridget Jones?” I thought, “He rocks that sweater and that fight with Hugh.” I’ve always really liked Colin Firth. He’s one of the sweetest men and I needed someone to play that character with warmth and a non-snobbery attitude, which I knew he could do. You could turn to the wrong actor; then you’d think “Kingsman” was out of touch. But I think Colin was pitch perfect.

T2C: How did you discover Taron Egerton? That was his first film?

Matthew Vaughn: He just walked through the door. Two other actors that I wanted to cast were Daniel Kaluuya and John Wade, they were both unknown as well. They did incredible auditions but then Taron came in and I knew he had it. All three of them actually did. But Taron was amazing and that’s why I keep working with him. He’d never been on a movie set before. It was a pretty big risk. Literally, his first day on a movie set was his first day in “Kingsman.” I had to explain to him what a boom was. But his audition was so good; he’s an effortless actor, intelligent as well.

T2C: With the insanity of “Kick-Ass” and then “Kingsman” you go for broke. You don’t hold back. You want exploding heads, you have exploding heads. You want a church massacre, you have a church massacre. Was that something that you wanted to pursue?

Matthew Vaughn: Obviously Yes! I don’t know how my mind got the idea but I remember ringing up Jane Goldman, my writing partner. We were writing the third act. So I said, “I’ve got a crazy idea. It would be really amazing if their heads exploded, but not in a ‘Scanners’ style. I’ll make it look like a beautiful sort of fireworks.” She said, “I don’t know about this.” But then I got it pre-visualized and showed it to her. She’s like, “OK, let’s go!”

T2C: What did you want to do with the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle?”

Matthew Vaughn: Well, for some people, it’s an acquired taste. For “Golden Circle,” I wante— to dial up the fun, which I did. I think my teenage son may have influenced me a bit too much. But I was watching movies again, getting too serious and I really enjoyed working with Colin and Taron. I’ve always loved America and Americana. I grew up with ’70s culture, which was coming from America, whether it was “Magnum,” “A-Team,” “Dukes of Hazzard” or “Miami Vice.”

I thought I’d love to do a “Kingsman” version of that and that’s where “The Statesman” came from – just to have a bit of fun. I don’t like boring, serious films. I like entertaining escapism, so I only make what I want to watch. Sadly, I’m making big home videos in a weird way. Home movies are probably a better way of saying it now.

T2C: There’s a lot of ongoing debate about the greatest shots in cinema history. To nominate a possible contender, it’s that scene with Elton John kicking someone in the face in slow motion in the “Kingsman 2″ [“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”] film. How the hell did that come about?

Matthew Vaughn: If you eat sausages and your guys like hot dogs, do you continue enjoying them and not know how they’re actually made?

T2C: That’s why you’re saying Elton John didn’t actually kick someone in the face?

Matthew Vaughn: I think Elton’s kicked many people in the face…

T2C: Which led to “Rocketman” [the film based on Elton John’s life starring Taron Edgerton] of course.

Matthew Vaughn: “Rocketman” was surreal because it was literally one of the greatest days of my life, with Elton playing a piano in between takes. He didn’t need any of me, or of everyone [but he asked], “What do you want to hear?” It was like having an Elton John jukebox and he was so sweet to the crew; it was pretty surreal. I mean, my whole life has been surreal, but that was one of those moments.

At the end of the day, he said to me, “I have a screenplay about my life and my music, but nobody wants to make it. Would you read it?” I was like, “Oh fuck, this has to be the world’s worst if nobody wants to make an Elton John film with his music and he’s been trying to make it for 15 years. Yeah, this is going to be a dogshit of a script.”

Welcome to Hollywood, by the way, that sums up Hollywood in all its glory, not universally of course. Everyone said “no” to it and then I read the script – literally going from the set to back home and couldn’t put it down. I was like, “What am I missing?”

Then I did some digging and [found out that] no one in Hollywood wanted to make it because they thought there was too much homosexuality and I’m like, “Whatever.” Too much drugs and, it should be a PG 13? I was like, “You can’t make an Elton John PG 13 movie.” But we did it.

T2C: You made it, but you didn’t direct it because you were going to direct “Kingman 3” at one point?

Matthew Vaughn: I actually will be doing a musical next year. I can’t talk about it. It’s taking me so long to find a musical to do because, a musical…. It’s like an action movie is only as good as the action. Or a comedy is only as good as the humor. A musical is only as good as the music. And Elton John’s catalog is pretty hard to beat. So I’m trying to mash it, at least. And I think we’ve nearly got that.

T2C: A Matthew Vaughn musical might be one hell of a thing! You were going to direct “Kingsman 3” as well. But then you ended up directing “The King’s Man,” which of course is the prequel. Why the switch?

Matthew Vaughn: I think “The King’s Man” was meant to be a TV series with the anniversary of World War One and what was going on in the world. We found what “The Kingsman” was about — the sort of aristocratic, rich people losing their children and then founding The Kingsman and giving the money to an agency to make sure war would never happen again.

I always thought that was fascinating. I think history is really important. I wanted to do something where historical events go back to the masses, making people look up characters and learn that we’ve made mistakes in the past. Let’s try and learn from them and not repeat them.

T2C: There was a change of tone as well.

Matthew Vaughn: It’s kind of a World War 1 action comedy. But the whole thing is, if you do a prequel, like you’re going to do a prequel to “Bond” or “Superman,” you don’t start with Bond being 007 or Superman flying with a cape on. They have to start somewhere different for the journey to begin. As I said, the death of Conrad is the birth of “Kingsman.” That’s why the first half was a bit more serious.

T2C: Is the “Kingsman” journey done?

Matthew Vaughn: No, we’ve got to get on it. We are working on that [“Kingsman: The Blue Blood”] at the moment but it’s a weird time to be in the movie business; we’re not making movies. Well, we are, and I am, but that’s another story. It’s a tough time but next year we will be rebooting “Kick-Ass.”

T2C: You can’t just drop something like that and expect you not to follow it up.

Matthew Vaughn: The clues are the words “reboot” and “Kick-Ass.” Imagine those two terms. “Kick-Ass” sort of changed people’s perceptions of what a superhero film was at that time. So we’re doing it again. It’s none of the characters from the other “Kick-Ass.” We’re going off on a tangent but I can’t really talk about that.

T2C: “Argylle” started off as your little lockdown movie and then grew so much.

Matthew Vaughn: It was a combination of things. There was the lock down. I was with my daughters and showed them “Romancing The Stone.” They loved it. I was like, “Oh God, I really enjoyed it again, I forgot how much I liked it.”

Then I also remembered my first successful date as a teenager was because of “Romancing the Stone.” I wanted to make a movie where that might spawn many more successful dates for an audience which, I hope, this will do. I wish you all luck when you see it. It was an odd time because when the book of “Argylle” arrived in manuscript, all this weird shit was going online saying it’s not real but underneath, it’s a real book. I couldn’t get book #1 breaking as new Intellectual Property but there aren’t many people bothering to do it at the studios. They’re learning now. This has taught me that maybe the audience does want original films.

Anyway, I asked them to only do a trailer for the first 28 minutes of the footage in the film and they did. You’ll see that even what you saw in the film isn’t quite the same as in the trailer. But we wanted to do something sort of very meta because you can’t just remake “Romancing the Stone.” You’ve got to do things differently.

I just so love the idea of what would happen if a wizard went to JK Rowling after book #3 and said, “You know what? Wizards are real. Hogwarts is real. I’m real and I’ll show you what it’s really like going on an adventure.” We thought we’d do that with spies. Elly Conway, in real life, will become the JK Rowling of spy novels. But in the film, we sort of fast-forwarded into the future.

T2C: In the film, you have Henry Cavill who plays Argylle with an amazing hairdo. But then there’s a real world component as well with Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elly Conway.

Matthew Vaughn: I haven’t met Elly Conway. I would be emailed by her, because she actually doesn’t know what to say. I love that. She speaks for herself but she actually doesn’t like traveling and she’s playing an Elly Conway that won’t fly. She’s having to go on a train. We took her love of cats just a little bit further.

T2C: She takes a cat wherever she goes. So for a very eventful train journey, indeed.

Matthew Vaughn: That’s just the beginning. That’s the tip of the iceberg. A real spy comes into her world and she’s trying to understand why, how she thinks spies are. Sam Rockwell is not what she can imagine as what spies are. So she has to go and learn the hard way what real life spies do, compared to the cliche spies I was guilty of making up.

T2C: Was it tricky to shoot, matching up the action sequences – cutting between say, Cavill as the super agent and Rockwell, the “real” agent?

Matthew Vaughn: We actually did the whole thing twice. There’s a lot of scenes where we had to shoot everything twice and make sure it all matched so you just have to have patience.

T2C:  There’s more mad, insane stuff. Where does that come from?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, yeah, as I said, when you see the trailer, we don’t show that the whole movie is about switching off. You’re going to go on a roller coaster ride. Hang on and by the end of what you went through, you’ll actually feel good.

T2C: Talk about the cat. Matthew, who is the cat?

Matthew Vaughn: We had a cat on the first day of filming but I fired the cat because it was very expensive. A pain in the arse. I went into my daughter’s bedroom and said I’m borrowing your cat. I didn’t quite think it through. I’d have to drive to work with the cat every day. With this film, I’m now a director and a cat handler. I didn’t like cats to be very clear. I’m a dog person. but I’m a cat person for a while. The cat won me over. Chip is the real name of the cat, but he plays Alfie in the film.

T2C: He was a natural, he took to it immediately.

Matthew Vaughn: He was a good cat. He behaved and, maybe, that’s the trick — to put your own animals in because they’re relaxed and know you. They say don’t work with kids and animals. If they’re your own kid or animal, that might be the way to do it.

T2C: Is it true that Bryce Dallas Howard now has a cat just like Chip?

Matthew Vaughn: He’s got Chip’s color. As a wrap gift, I got Chip’s cousin who was just born and I gave it to her. I think the cat’s called Moose. And yeah, maybe Moose and Chip will be in the sequel.

T2C: We have this real book, “Argylle,” by Elly Conway not being read by anyone apart from the crew. And we haven’t even scratched the surface. Matthew, this film has the cat. But also, you’ve got an amazing cast. You’ve got Brian Cranston, who else is in there?

Matthew Vaughn: And Catherine O’Hara. We touched upon Henry Carville and Dua Lipa as well. Then there’s John Cena, Ariana Dubose. They’re all in there. Sam Jackson. I was like, who’s on, who’s off? Where’s the great cast? And they all did bring it to me. They’re all different. And yes, indeed. Chip is in “Argylle.” The cat steals the show!

Film: “Argylle”

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Sofia Boutella, Ariana DeBose, Catherine O’Hara, Samuel L. Jackson.

This Q&A is based on a discussion held at New York Comic Con last October. On stage in the Javits Center.

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