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Rhys Ifans And Djimon Hounsou Talk The King's Man, Flirting With Rasputin, And Korath Vs. The Lizard - Exclusive Interview

The "Kingsman" movies are embracing all things historical with the latest entry into the franchise, "The King's Man." This film focuses on the World War I era with the specific intention of explaining the backstory of the Kingsman organization, but it also helps us understand how this world's history differs from ours. One of the biggest differences in this universe relates to how World War I begins: It exists in part thanks to the plot of a shadowy organization led by an angry Scotsman who wants to see England toppled forever.

There's no simple way to take down one of the most powerful kingdoms on Earth, but it sure does help to have the likes of Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) on your side to influence Russia. However, the burgeoning Kingsmen have the leadership of Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) as well as the assistance of Shola (Djimon Hounsou) to help keep England from falling into the Atlantic. Looper sat down with Rhys Ifans and Djimon Hounsou to talk about "The King's Man" and discuss their respective work within the Marvel Universe.

Flirting with Rasputin

I wanted to start with you, Rhys, because you got to do so many absolutely bonkers things with was Rasputin, but you got to be flirted with very badly by Harris, and I wanted to ask, first of all, what was it like playing out that scene in particular, and what's the right way to flirt with Rasputin?

Rhys Ifans: To flirt with Rasputin?

Yeah, what's the correct way, because Harris Dickinson does it very badly.

Ifans: Yeah, I think to flirt with Rasputin, you'd have to cease using language and embrace the animal kingdom. I think Rasputin is a kind of canine creature. Yeah, and I think you'd have to go to your basest, darkest pits of seduction to even get close to turning the great Rasputin on.

Djimon, you have such great fight stuff in this movie and you get a chance to do that in a lot of films, but I was curious, what sort of new stuff did you get to learn specifically for this film?

Djimon Hounsou: Well, what did I get to learn in this film was the idea that if you think you have done multiple action scenes before coming onto a Matthew Vaughn film, it will be a new thing. Certainly it will be shocking because I thought that I've mastered it, and I've been in mixed martial arts, boxing, all that. And so, that becomes handy and you think that you can somewhat manage an action sequence. I was a bit wrong coming onto a Matthew Vaughn film. I was quite nicely surprised how challenging it was to work on his film, and how demanding he was of his cast. So, that in itself was quite a surprise.

The key to becoming Rasputin

Was there a particular sequence that you get to look back now and think how rewarding it was to be able to do?

Hounsou: Oh, absolutely. The sequence I had with my buddy Rhys. That sequence in itself came with a lot of pain, but at the end we were nicely surprised that it was well done. It was well put together and it was quite gratifying just seeing the finished product.

Rhys, what's the key into becoming Rasputin? Is it just listening to Boney M's song "Rasputin" on a loop or is there more to it than that?

Ifans: Slightly. Just a little bit more. Not too much. You're close, though. The extraordinary thing with Rasputin is him as a figure, and a character, lends himself to a franchise like this because Rasputin himself was larger than life, to say the least, and a fantastical figure shrouded in mystery and myth, and a figure who loomed large over Europe then and now to some degree. He looked so completely different to any of the other players responsible for and leading up to the first World War. All the men in Europe seemingly had the same haircut, apart from Rasputin, who looked like he was running some twisted satanic wellness clinic in Russia. So, the look is so specific. Rasputin himself was very much aware of the horror he instilled in the population.

[He] thrived on it and made the most of it. He was someone who was acutely aware of the power of the photographic image, even in its early embryonic days. When you see [how] he looks at all the photographs of him, he somehow looks beyond the lens of the camera and in to the soul of the photographer, which is kind of extraordinary for the time. He ate like a pig, like an animal. Crowds would gather to watch him eat. So, all these things you see in the film, which are magnified and bent and twisted, they're all rooted in real kind of facts about this man. It's the writer's job to serve history. My job is to serve the writer.

Rasputin in this film, it is almost like a gathering kind of storm in the distance at the beginning of the film. There's a weather system that these guys, these Kingsmen, have to get rid of in order for the story to move on. So that was the brief and I kind of run with the ball.

Korath vs Lizard

I'm sure no one will ask this, but I cannot help but take note of the fact that you both have played Marvel characters if hypothetically Korath and Dr.Connors got into a fight who would win? I feel like whoever answers first is going to be right, so.

Ifans: Well, Dr. Connors would lose.

Fair point.

Ifans: The Lizard might have a chance.

Djimon do you have a thought on that? You think he's right?

Hounsou: No, I vote for the Lizard as well.

That's completely fair. Every day, I feel I look online and there's more conversations about Black Panther, which is very complex, but Djimon, you voiced him, and brilliantly. And so I feel like you have insight into this character in a way that a lot of people simply don't so not putting you on the spot and asking you any questions that will get you in trouble. But thinking about this character, thinking about your experience of playing him, what was the joy of playing him and why is he so important?

Hounsou: Well, he's quite an iconic character and a character that one would love to really emulate. A character this very rich, again, suddenly Chad Boseman left it as somewhat unfinished business it would seem but yeah, it's a quite an iconic character and I hope that they revive that.

Working with Ralph Fiennes on The King's Man

You both get really wonderful opportunities to work with Ralph Fiennes. And, I think every scene that both of you get to share with him is just tremendous. Djimon you sort of leading him by the hand to get him the place needs to be. And Rhys challenging him in very different ways. What was that sort of working relationship? Rhys? Can I start with you?

Ifans: Well, I've known Ralph for many years and he's an exquisite actor. He's so committed to his craft and to the role he's playing. He's devoted to his craft and it's just a joy to be around, and he takes it very seriously — appropriately. But, because he's so good, he's also able to play and be free, and be playful, and be unpredictable, and there are scenes, there are several moments in this film, which I think expose his genius as an actor so magnificently. There's a moment with Polly where he almost kisses her involuntarily and stops himself. That English gentleman thing steps in, and it's just such a beautifully observed moment. Tthen there are moments later, which I can't go into because they're spoilers, which are utterly devastating.

It is just an incredible performance, but then the scene I have with him, ["The King's Man" director] Matthew [Vauhgn] basically said to us, "play." As serious as he is, and as devoted as he is, he also has the mischief required to be a great actor, and I think that's definitely an essential component for greatness is mischief and playfulness. He has that, and he displayed that in the scene that we got to work on, which was just wonderful fun to do. You feel safe working with Ralph, but you feel free working with him too.

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