Monday 19 November 2018

Given cold shoulder by Mr Schiffer

Matthew Vaughn tells Donal Lynch about his new film, model wife, and being friends with Madonna and Guy

The director Matthew Vaughn is tucked up in a throne-like armchair blowing over a cup of herb tea. He's sporting two days of stubble and dying with a cold but gamely soldiering on with the interviews for the sake of his newest film, Stardust -- a sort of adult fairytale in which Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the baddies. But you can tell he's not on fabulous form. When I jokingly mention that Charlie Cox, the youngest star of Stardust, had playfully suggested I ask Vaughn whether it was difficult to direct someone who had beaten him at tennis, Vaughn responds, "Charlie's probably the most uncoordinated actor we've ever come across. We were actually scared he'd injure himself."

If Vaughn isn't in the mood to take a public ribbing from his young star it might be because Stardust is just his second outing in the director's chair. And while he says that he "couldn't afford to be intimidated" by the array of talent in front of the lens -- Robert De Niro and Peter O'Toole in addition to Pfeiffer -- he seems slightly over-eager to make sure you know he was the gaffer on set.

"Sometimes, the actors would try to outdo each other being funny on set, and I'd have to go, 'Guys, we've written a screenplay here and we need to stick to it a bit.'''

The tactic seems to have worked, and Stardust, which also stars Ricky Gervais, blends eye-popping fantasy with a sometimes sly sense of humour.

Until now, Vaughn has mostly been a producer and best known as Mr Claudia Schiffer and a good friend of Madonna and Guy Ritchie -- he was best man at their wedding. He made his name alongside Ritchie on Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch -- which made him and Ritchie £9m each -- and the critically mauled Swept Away. "I have had one big blip," he concedes, not mentioning the Madonna vehicle by name. "I said to Guy if anyone can make this work you can and ironically I think you can make Madonna work as well. I don't think it was a great movie but I don't think it was as bad as people said, either."

Vaughn may have jumped that particular ship just in time -- Ritchie's follow up, Revolver, was widely dubbed "the worst film of all time", but he remains resolutely loyal to both of them, arguing that the first 40 minutes of Revolver was "actually rather good", that Ritchie was "let down by his distributors" and that Madonna "doesn't need any advice from me. She knows what goes up and what comes down."

Like Ritchie, Vaughn has some blue blood coursing in his veins. He was brought up to believe that his father was the actor Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in the television series The Man From Uncle. Matthew's mother, the actress Kathy Ceaton, had been in a relationship with Robert Vaughn at the time of Matthew's conception but the relationship soon ended and he always denied that he was Matthew's father.

Matthew's paternity was resolved in the Eighties in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, which determined by virtue of DNA tests, that Matthew's father was in fact George Harley Drummond, a minor British aristocrat who was godson to the late George VI and godfather to the model Jodie Kidd.

Matthew was reported to have eventually adopted his father's surname for private use whilst retaining Vaughn as a professional moniker. "That's semi-true," he says. "I use it [Vaughn] for some legal and professional reasons. But it's so complicated, it would take hours to explain it. That's a whole other conversation."

I feel it's not a conversation we'll ever have. He is very cagey -- even by Hollywood standards -- if asked about his personal life. When I ask him if he has a relationship with his father and that side of the family he says bluntly: "I do but it's not really relevant to the movie." Similarly, even the gentlest line of questioning in relation to his supermodel wife is met with another attempt to turn the conversation round to the marketing effort.

"I met her while she was auditioning for Stardust," he deadpans. "Seriously, that's too personal a question," he adds, and then says, "I don't like talking about myself."

This is rather odd, because he seems to have an astute and down-to-earth understanding of the quid pro quo of press and public interest and the enormous benefits of stardom -- at least when it relates to other people.

"I get very annoyed with celebrities who moan about being famous," he says. "I ask them if they know how they afford sitting in a fancy restaurant. If you're going to dance with the devil, don't complain about it."

He and Schiffer are regularly tailed in LA but he's become used to it. "You get to know the paps and they know if you're into it or if you're not. And you can stop and ask if they've got their shot and if they have you can move on. It's when you go like this [he covers his face with his hands] that they come after you to get the photo. I only got annoyed once, when they punched and kicked one of our nannies to get a picture of my kid, who was six weeks old in the pram."

The distinction he draws is between people who appear in front of the camera and those behind it, perhaps subtly acknowledging that it's his marriage more than anything that causes that level of intrusion. "I don't think I'm ever going to get that level of attention by myself, and I'm happy with that."

The PR person has appeared over his shoulder and my audience is nearly over but for Vaughn the interview slog continues while the cold seems to have gotten worse. The tea in front of him has gone cold.

"I think I might need something stronger," he murmurs to no one in particular. "A Guinness maybe."

And suddenly I feel I missed out by not coming at the end of the day. It's always easier to talk after a few pints.

'Stardust' is on general release

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