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Harris Dickinson And Gemma Arterton Flirt With Rasputin And Make Ralph Fiennes Laugh - Exclusive Interview

The "Kingsman" franchise just took a huge, intentional step backward with its prequel film "The King's Man." The latest movie in Matthew Vaughn's spy franchise is focused not on World War I, rather than the modern day. "The King's Man" is very much a movie serving two masters — The first is in step with the previous "Kingsman" movie, but there's also a very intentional decision to delve into the genuine horror of the first World War. 

While there's an epic and off-the-wall adventure pitting the burgeoning Kingsman against a plot by shadowy, evil organization which includes Rasputin and is headed by an angry Scotsman (yes, really), "The King's Man" is also about a father and son disagreeing over the best and most ethical way to end the war to end all wars.

Looper had the chance to sit down with Harris Dickinson and Gemma Arterton to talk about working with their scene partners, Rhys Ifans and Ralph Fiennes. We also talked about some of the most fun and most challenging scenes to film during the production of "The King's Man."

Flirting with Rhys Ifans and Ralph Fiennes

Harris, there's a point in the film where your character Conner is meant to flirt with Rasputin and I wanted to know, first of all, how was it flirting with Rhys Ifans, especially when he's in that Rasputin get up?

Harris Dickinson: Well, Rhys is the most wonderful, lovely person, so I had a lot of fun. I think everyone can attest to this as well. We all loved doing those scenes with Rhys, but yeah, it was funny because he really transformed for this in every way. His voice was different, his physicality ... he really put in a lot of work for it. Rhys is a lot of fun in real life and in person, he's got a great sense of humor and stuff. You kind of have to make that quick sort of distinction between, okay, now I'm with Rasputin and now [I'm not], but he's incredible. 

He created such a powerful presence, but it's also hard to have that and also keep it comedic and dance between that sort of intimidation, and that's a really hard thing to do. Rhys just did it perfectly, so I was honored to sit across from him and flirt with him.

Gemma, you in a very different sort of way you get to build this sort of simmering relationship with Ralph Fiennes over the course of the film and I was sort of curious kind of in the same way, how do you work with Ralph to build that relationship over time? Because it really a journey from beginning to end.

Gemma Arterton: Yeah. I knew Ralph before, so we are friends and we are both theater people, so you kind of bump into each other quite a lot. We had a sort of relationship anyway, and I think it was quite natural between us. We didn't have to work too hard on getting all of that. I remember there was this one day where we did shoot quite in sequence with our stuff. We started with the kind of lighter [scenes] and then obviously we ended with the kind of more hefty, more emotional stuff. There was one day where I had to come up and say [something] to him about cracking the code. 

I remember I ran off and I was so excited that I cracked the code and I was making him making him laugh and Ralph can be quite serious so it was quite a challenge, but I quite like the challenge of trying to make him laugh. It became a thing that I would try to do, and that's really the essence of their relationship. She cuts through all of the crap, really. She gets into him and gets into his heart and so it was quite natural when we did get to those bigger scenes. It all just happened quite naturally.

Scenes in the trenches of World War I

Even though this is still a Kingsman movie, there's still the excitement and spy stuff, but there's also this focus on World War I. Harris, there's this tremendous scene where you're sort of in no man's land and running with a person on your back and I think it's one of the most beautiful and touching parts of the entire film and I wanted to ask you about that scene where it's the two of you alone, and then also on a lighter end, like how many times they make you run across the proverbial no man's land?

Dickinson: Yeah. I think I didn't quite realize when I signed up that I'd be doing it physically and I think Matthew said to me from the start, "[It would] be great if you could do a lot of it yourself." We have got an amazing stunt team, and shout out to Troy and Harley, who were my doubles at certain points, because there's certain stuff we just physically shouldn't do. We can't do [it], it's too dangerous, [and] they look better than us. I will take ownership that I did do it and I did have him on my back for real and I thought I was going to only do it a few times, but it ended up being a few more, but we do it for the art. 

It was a lot, man. I was saying that earlier in those moments where there's so much more going on than me, and that's why it's great because it becomes this mass collaboration with everyone, with each department. They're coordinating fireworks and flares and, and explosions, and there's a camera on a crane and there's a camera over there and a camera there. It becomes more than about just you really, you are sort of all working together to get this perfect moment. It was fun. I enjoyed it.

I do want to speak to that moment between you and that actor embraced in no man's land. Harris, it's an incredible scene. I mean, that is about the two of you as performers, they could add anything, but it wouldn't work without the two of you. I just think it's incredible and I wonder if you could speak to that?

Dickinson: I think that was hard. I think when you are in the flow of all those ... all the more physical stuff and the more comedic stuff and Matthew's done it so well. I think ultimately, led by Ralph and Gemma and Djimon really grounding it, I think you have to have those moments throughout the film, in order for the audience to connect with the characters and connect with the drama of the story, otherwise it just becomes, it runs away into a whimsical space. And I think those moments are important to remind the audience of the drama and the trauma and the tragedy of the war as well.

Gemma on learning how to work with weapons on set

You both get a chance to do a lot of great physical stuff too, because it is an action film. And I wanted to find out what it was that maybe you get to learn on this film that you hadn't done before. Gemma, was there some stuff that you had to do in this film that was a first for you?

Arterton: Yeah, weapon work. Learning how to use a rifle and pistols and revolvers and things. I also had to learn how to gun sling, which is a lifelong skill that I [now] have, just in case I need to do it ever again. Yeah, that was all new for me and Harris and I had an amazing guy called Tony who helped us. He was ex-military and he taught us how to really do it like the professionals. He said that he always can spot in films when people are holding guns incorrectly, [and] he was trying to make us look legit. So thanks, Tony, for that.

Not announcing roles you want to play

I was also going to say, Gemma, I realized that I've actually been a fan of yours since you played Lizzie Bennett in "Lost in Austin."

Arterton: Oh my God.

There's so many great roles that come out of books that I think both of you would before and I'm curious if there's any other books, other things that you would love to adapt, other characters you would love to play from fiction?

Arterton: For me there are things, but I never like to say because then they get made and I'm not involved and I find that really, really hard. No, I've realized, I just make it up as I go along, and I think there are some actors that have got a very clear idea of what they want. I'm just not that one. I go with the flow a little bit. What about you, Harris? How do you feel?

Dickinson: Yeah, I'm the same. I think I learned the hard way. One of my first like auditions when I was like 17, it was for a book. I won't say which one, because it's still painful, but it was for a book and it was a book adaption into a film. I was so in the clouds that I thought I'm going to read this whole book and just before my audition. I got so attached to it and so set on doing it and [I] obviously didn't get it. I was rubbish, but yeah. [I] try not to think about it too much.

"The King's Man" is in theaters now.