MOVIE PREVIEW – The greater the spy, the bigger the lie.
From the twisted mind of MATTHEW VAUGHN (Kingsman franchise, Kick-Ass) comes Argylle, a razor-witted, reality-bending, globe-encircling spy thriller.
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD (Jurassic World franchise) is Elly Conway, the reclusive author of a series of best-selling espionage novels, whose idea of bliss is a night at home with her computer and her cat, Alfie. But when the plots of Elly’s fictional books—which center on secret agent Argylle and his mission to unravel a global spy syndicate—begin to mirror the covert actions of a real-life spy organization, quiet evenings at home become a thing of the past.
Accompanied by Aidan, a cat-allergic spy played by Oscar® winner SAM ROCKWELL (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Elly (carrying Alfie in her backpack) races across the world to stay one step ahead of the killers as the line between Elly’s fictional world and her real one begins to blur.
The top-flight ensemble features—as Elly’s imagined book characters—HENRY CAVILL (The Witcher) as agent Argylle; JOHN CENA (Fast X) as Argylle’s best friend, Wyatt; Oscar® winner ARIANA DEBOSE (West Side Story) as their fearless field tech, Keira; Oscar® nominee RICHARD E. GRANT (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) as Fowler, a senior member of agent Argylle’s organization, and Grammy winning superstar DUA LIPA (Barbie) as Argylle’s elegant, lethal nemesis, Lagrange.
The film’s real-world characters include Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee BRYAN CRANSTON (Breaking Bad) as Ritter, the director of the evil spy organization known as The Division; Emmy winner and comedy icon CATHERINE O’HARA (Schitt’s Creek) as Elly’s mother, Ruth; SOFIA BOUTELLA (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Saba Al-Badr, the mysterious “Keeper of Secrets,” and the legendary SAMUEL L. JACKSON as former CIA deputy director Alfred Solomon. Alfie is played by CHIP, the real-life cat of supermodel Claudia Vaughn (née Schiffer).
Argylle is directed by MATTHEW VAUGHN and is written by JASON FUCHS (Wonder Woman). The film is produced by MATTHEW VAUGHN p.g.a, ADAM BOHLING p.g.a. (Kingsman franchise), DAVID REID p.g.a. (Kingsman franchise) and JASON FUCHS p.g.a.. The executive producers are CLAUDIA VAUGHN, CARLOS PERES, ZYGI KAMASA and ADAM FISHBACH.
Apple Original Films presents, in association with MARV, a Cloudy production. Argylle is distributed by Universal Pictures and Apple Original Films.
Argylle’s director of photography is GEORGE RICHMOND bsc (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Kingsman: The Secret Service); the costume designer is STEPHANIE COLLIE (London Has Fallen, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and the production designers are DANIEL TAYLOR (Tetris, art director Mr. Turner) and RUSSELL DE ROZARIO (Kick-Ass films, The Hitman’s Bodyguard). The film is edited by Academy Award® winner LEE SMITH ace (Dunkirk, The Dark Knight), TOM HARRISON-READ bfe (2018’s Tomb Raider) and COL GOUDIE bfe (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Tetris).
The music is by Grammy winner LORNE BALFE (Mission: Impossible -Dead Reckoning Part One, Black Widow) and the casting is by REGINALD POERSCOUT-EDGERTON csa/cdg (The Kingsman franchise, Rocketman) and by LILLIE JEFFREY (Tetris). The hair and make-up Designer is MY ALEHAMMAR (Bodyguard, Silent Night); the VFX supervisor is MARTIN WATERS (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Tetris). The music producers are Emmy and Grammy winner GILES MARTIN (The Beatles: Get Back, Rocketman) and Grammy winner STUART PRICE (W.E., X-Men: First Class). The co-producers are IAIN MACKENZIE (UPM on Tetris and The King’s Man) and TOBY HEFFERMAN (First AD on Dune: Part Two, The Batman).
In 2020, with the world in lockdown, visionary filmmaker Matthew Vaughn—the director and producer of The Kingsman films, Kick-Ass, Stardust and Layer Cake, and the producer of Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Rocketman and Tetris— sat down at his home outside London and decided to stage a film-appreciation class for his wife, Claudia Vaughn (née Schiffer), and their two daughters, who were around 10 and 15 years old at the time. “Because it was lockdown, it gave me license to keep screening movies for them to watch,” Vaughn says. He showed them movies such as John Hughes’ 1986 high school comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it was the 1984 Robert Zemeckis comedy-adventure Romancing the Stone, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, which made the biggest impression on them. “It played like gangbusters,” Vaughn says.
He then screened Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest for them, in which an ordinary man (albeit one who looks like Cary Grant) gets swept up in an extraordinary, espionage-tinged adventure. His girls went crazy for it. “And I thought, ‘I want to make a movie like that for my daughters,’” Vaughn says.
As it turned out, the answer—or rather, the genesis of one—would soon land on his desk in the form of a manuscript for an unpublished spy novel by an unknown author. Elly Conway’s book, Argylle, was, Vaughn says, the best spy thriller he had ever read. But the structure of the novel was straightforward, focused on a young secret agent named Argylle, and Vaughn is not a straightforward filmmaker. Throughout his career, Vaughn has used source material as a cliff from which he can make daring, often breathtaking, creative and narrative leaps, and Argylle would be no exception. Far from a traditional adaptation, the film of Argylle would use the world and characters of the book as inspiration only, functioning as a springboard for an entirely new, original film.
“I’ve helped orchestrate what people have come to expect from spy thrillers, and it felt like the right time to challenge some of the clichés I’ve been guilty of upholding,” Vaughn says. “Those ‘80s films I watched with my kids combined great storytelling with pure escapism. I thought the post-COVID world would need something to make people smile and feel like they’re on an exciting thrill ride.”
Vaughn and screenwriter Jason Fuchs began developing a screenplay with a major meta-shift, in which a fictional version of the real-life author of the Argylle novel, Elly Conway, would become the central character in the film. Rather than being a film about a spy, Argylle would now be a film about a reclusive spy novelist who gets catapulted into real-world espionage when the plots of her books get a little too close to the activities of a nefarious spy organization. “My primary motivation is to craft a compelling narrative,” Vaughn says. “I don’t aim to reinvent the genre, but to provide a fresh perspective. I direct as if I were an audience member, thinking about what I would like to see or what unexpected elements I can incorporate to keep it feeling new.”
Early in the scripting process, Vaughn and Fuchs decided that the film would fuse the real world, in which Elly Conway is on the run with Aidan, and the world she created, in which Argylle, the unstoppable secret agent, holds sway. As the danger for Elly escalates, the lines between her imaginary world and the real one blur with increasing speed and frequency. As a result, the audience is catapulted into a cinematic rocket ride where convention and expectation are constantly upended. “I prefer movies that provide escapism, a combination of glamour and grit,” Vaughn says. “For me, beauty is essential. When I used to watch Bond movies as a kid, I felt I was on an adventure—going places I had never gone and seeing people I had never seen. It was an astonishing feeling and I have tried to recreate that type of feeling with this film.”
For Fuchs, the experience of writing a globe-trotting espionage thriller while the world was in COVID lockdown allowed him to escape, too. “I hadn’t written an original screenplay in a long time, so Argylle became my little passion project,” Fuchs says. “It was cathartic and allowed me to escape my apartment office and traverse the world with Argylle on a Greek island or explore Europe with Elly and Aidan.”
Fuchs and Vaughn collaborated closely, and at all hours, to make sure that every aspect of the script was as sharp, unexpected, witty and thrilling as possible. “What I admire about Matthew’s approach to development is his secure and confident style,” Fuchs says. “From the beginning, it was clear that the elements that excited me about the story were the same things that excited him. Our notes and the development process flowed organically. Matthew’s fearlessness as a storyteller encouraged me to take bolder and unconventional paths, even if it pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
Out of the comfort zone is exactly where Vaughn thrives, and where he loves to transport audiences. “The cinema remains one of the last places where we, as a society, can connect on a deeply human level,” Vaughn says. “It’s a place where we can come together and experience the rollercoaster of emotions, the highs and lows, as a collective. This film, in particular, was made for the big screen. It’s grand and filled with unexpected moments you won’t see coming. When you’re in a theater, surrounded by fellow audience members, and those moments hit, the reactions create an unforgettable experience. It’s more fun, more immersive. It is pure escapism, something we all need in a world that is not always sunny. A little ray of sunshine, even in a dark room, is a good idea.”