British director Matthew Vaughn goes from being producer of the ultra-cool crime flicks by Guy Ritchie, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, to being both husband of model Claudia Schiffer and creator of Layer Cake — a slick, complicated crime caper that showcases the brilliant Daniel Craig as the nameless protagonist — a drug dealer trying to get out of the trade with his millions intact. It recalls the era of stylish crime films from the likes of Steve McQueen and because Vaughn has done it so very well, this newcomer is helming the next X-Men feature while also making his own spy thriller, Stardust.
The L Magazine: What made you decide to leap into the director’s chair?
Matthew Vaughn: Guy decided not to do it. To be frank, or honest, I think there’s a real mystique about directing and directors and it began to piss me off. Everyone goes “Oh, he’s a director” and sort of bow, and I wanted to try and prove that there are geniuses out there — which I’ll never be — some guys that make a film and you go, “Wow, and I’ll never be one of those.” I did this to try and prove to the world not that anyone could direct but that I think anyone given the chance could make it work. To my amazement, I really enjoyed it and I want to carry on now. That’s the problem. It blows producing away.
The L: Is it true that you hadn’t looked through a camera lens before?
MV: On a 35 mil, yeah. I was a right idiot to tell everyone.
The L: How much did you have to do with writing this screenplay?
MV: Quite a bit. I don’t know how much is in the production notes, but the writer did the first draft on his own and it was 408 pages.
The L: How long was the book?
MV: About 390! Absolutely stupid. So I went okay, rolled up my sleeves… It took eight months, which really surprised me. The new project I’m on, we just did the script in six days so I’ve done both extremes now.
The L: Everyone but your wife thought you were mad to direct but haven’t a lot of producers turned to directing?
MV: But how many of them did a good film? I can answer that for you; probably one that I can think of.
The L: Other than yourself?
MV: Well, maybe two then. It’s not a good training, being a producer. The normal producer — if a carbon copy of me came in and said they wanted to direct Layer Cake after being a producer — I would kick them out as quick as I could. I would never give myself the job-although I did.
The L: Did you make a point of steering away from the Guy Ritchie’s visual style; some of Ritchie’s influences were in a few scenes.
MV: Which scenes?
The L: The jump cuts.
MV: There are only two scenes with jump cuts.
The L: So those scenes then!
MV: Yeah but they were a little more subtle. They had a reason [for being there]. You know, visually he’s got a hell of a flair, a style, but the only thing Guy and I used to argue about was when he’d, sometimes I’d be like, “Why the hell are we doing this? Why is the camera flying around?” I’m more interested in sort of classic storytelling. I think that’s what lasts. When we made Lock Stock… in England, it caused a lot of imitation. A lot of MTV style, what I call 1990s crash zooms, frame cutting which you watch now and are like, ugh. It’s like blue light and smoke from the 80s. I love the movies from the 1970s. The 70s is when I first started watching movies and they had a real impact on me and that was, I think, style over content. It had been a mantra of mine when working with directors, so I figured I better adhere to it. I think you’ve got to try to do things in an interesting way with the camera, but if you notice the camerawork too much, you’ve gone too far.