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KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Enter The Statesmen
The Golden Circle begins with a huge shock: a devastating attack is launched on the organisation. "It puts Eggsy in a position where he has to go out, spread his wings, and meet other people," explains Vaughn of this epoch-shaking moment. "I didn't feel I had to blow up Kingsman, it was just the natural thing to do."

After the attack, Eggsy teams up with Merlin - who appears to be the only other survivor - to investigate the circumstances behind it. The Kingsman's 'Doomsday Protocal' leads them to Kentucky, where they discover that Kingsman isn't the only name in international espionage. Welcome to the lavishly-funded all-American organisation, Statesman.

"They're the American equivalent to the Kingsmen, and now they have to work together," explains Vaughn. "American and English share a language, but we're very different culturally. I wanted to riff on the special relationship. What people loved about Kingsman: The Secret Service was seeing Colin Firth and Taron Egerton's different worlds colliding, and I wanted to continue that with the American world colliding with ours."

Vaughn and Goldman conceived of the Statesmen as self-made billionaires whose foray into the bourbon business had given them immense wealth and the wherewithal to build incredible gadgets and weapons, on a scale beyond even the Kingsmen. But where Kingsman is all about style and sophistication, Statesman embraces all out Americana. "I used to love cowboy movies as a kid," says Vaughn. "I thought they were amazingly cool characters, and wanted to have some fun with Americana. So where we had an action sequence with an umbrella in the first Kingsman, here I wanted to do an action sequence with a lasso. We've given them whips that are cool as hell, and six-shooters which we've altered to make 12-shooters."

Where Kingsman operates - or operated - out of a Savile Row tailor's shop, a discreet and elegant front befitting of a discreet and elegant organisation, the Statesman HQ is a very different, much larger, and brasher kettle of fish. It's a giant whiskey distillery in the heart of Kentucky - another huge challenge for production designer, Darren Gilford. "Matthew was definitely looking for an American sensibility to steer that," says Gilford, who also had to build the Statesmen's grand private plane. "We started doing research into Southern culture. That was the fabric we started to grow everything from for Statesmen. So with the distillery, there's no hint of the spy organisation above ground. Below ground, we wanted to carry that same bourbon culture into a spy lab, which was really fun."

Vaughn worked closely with Arianne Phillips to carve out a distinctive look for the Statesmen. As Halle Berry notes wryly, "They don't go to the same tailors." That thought was uppermost on Phillips' mind. "I thought of what was quintessentially American," she says. "Denim was a no-brainer, and cowboy boots. There's a rogue cowboy Americana feel, and yet there's similar tailoring to the Kingsmen. Different fabrics, but you can see the subtle connection that binds the two worlds."

Although Statesman is a large organisation, the chief agents encountered by Eggsy and Merlin are: Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). "All of the secret agents at Statesman happen to look like Hollywood A-listers," laughs Egerton. "It's very weird."

The first Statesman we meet is Tatum's Tequila, a swaggering spy who quickly gains the upper hand on the two British interlopers. "He's one of the younger Statesmen, experience-wise," says Tatum of his character. "And definitely the problem child." Tatum was Vaughn and Goldman's first choice for the role. "Channing is enormous fun," says Jane Goldman. "He has such great physicality."

Berry's Ginger Ale is the team's tech guru, the equivalent of Merlin in many ways. "I've never played a techy, cerebral character like this before," says the Oscar-winning actress. "And there's more to Ginger than meets the eye. And I think she can be deadly."

As Champ (short for Champagne, which he thinks is "too frilly"), the experienced leader of the organisation, Vaughn turned to the great Jeff Bridges. No stranger to playing cowboys over the years, Bridges drew upon memories both of his father, Lloyd Bridges, and previous characters like Wild Bill Hickok for the role. "Champ can be laconic at times, and quite tense as well," says Bridges. "And he loves his booze, that's for sure. He really enjoys his job heading this organisation with these brilliant people - that fondness for play and work is something I observed in my father."

The Statesman we, and Eggsy, spend most time with is Agent Whiskey, played by former Game Of Thrones star Pedro Pascal. "The relationship with Whiskey is fantastic," says Egerton. "Eggsy is craving Harry's fatherly guidance, and Whiskey begins to step into that role a little bit. But he's a younger man, a rogue, a bit of a lothario and it's not quite as wholesome as he would expect from Harry."

Just as Harry Hart was inspired by David Niven, Vaughn had a very specific set of references in mind when creating Agent Whiskey. "I would describe him as the Marlboro Man sprinkled with James Coburn and Burt Reynolds," says the director. "He's got swagger. He has that Reynolds vibe. When was the last time we saw that Burt Reynolds-type character, with the smile and the cowboy hat and the moustache? Then Pedro walked into my life and I thought, 'I've found him'."

Pascal, best known for playing The Red Viper on the HBO's, Game Of Thrones, came on board after a phone call with Vaughn, who outlined his vision for the character. He confesses that he was attracted by Whiskey's roguishness. He's a man who, somewhat aptly, lives his life perpetually on the rocks. "Jack has a very practical logic," he says. "Seize the day and seize any opportunity to enjoy oneself. I wouldn't call that sleazy. I'd call it smart. It's just important for him to have a really good time."

One thing that unites all the actors who play Statesmen is a fondness for Kingsman: The Secret Service. "I jumped at the chance," admits Bridges. "I thought, that would be a fun party to attend." Pascal talks fondly of arriving in London to find that the original movie has become something of a national treasure. "You talk to people and they just absolutely love Kingsman," he laughs. "They'd be like, 'what are you doing in London?' I'd say, 'I'm shooting a sequence for Kingsman' and they'd be like, 'OH MY GOD! I LOVE THAT MOVIE!"'

As for Tatum, he admits to being blown away by the first movie. "It turned the genre on its ear," he says. "Matthew says, 'there are no rules. As soon as you make a rule, you break it.' And that's a special tone to hit..."

And when it comes to breaking the rules...

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