The joy of the job for the Kingsman star is its diversity
NOT everyone's 20s inevitably play out like the HBO sitcom-worthy chaos of a true quarter-life crisis, but I'd always half-assumed the pressures of fame and artistic legacy somehow made those feelings unavoidable in any young actor's mind.
Actors, in some ways, live with two identities: themselves, and the idea of themselves that they build up on screen. We spend our twenties in a half-blind panic as we try to solidify our sense of self, but to do so at the same time as knowing that every role chosen, every character played, might forever determine how we're seen by of thousands of people seems an insurmountable task.
If Taron Egerton - the 27-year-old actor who first shot to fame as Eggsy in 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service - feels even a flicker of that foreboding, that small inkling of a crisis of self, then he's done an incredible job of not letting those feelings surface as he discusses his career with an absolute, calm sense of assuredness, a roll-with-the-punches attitude of someone who is merely focused on the thrill of opportunity.
"I want to have fun," he says.
"I'm not interested in being a serious actor because I think it's boring, and I think we've got plenty of them. So I like to do stuff that has a sense of humour, and stuff that doesn't necessarily take itself too seriously. But equally I'm also now yearning to explore the dark side of life a little bit.
"The joy of the job is the diversity and the variety - and, if you're lucky enough, to have the freedom to do different things. I don't like the idea of a box."
Egerton's explorative approach to his work is evident: his roles are varied, interesting, but not deliberately poised to show range like somebody attempting to thrust their portfolio in everyone's face.
Following Kingsman, he went from playing a lover of Tom Hardy's Ronnie Kray - basically a high-pitched laugh on legs - in Legend to the endearing buffoonery of one of the UK's most beloved underdogs, Eddie the Eagle.
"If something appeals, something appeals," Egerton says. "I don't think I'm particularly calculated about it. I know I have an alarm bell that goes off in my head where something feels like it has no creative integrity to it at all, and it's just about making money. I'm not interested in going and doing a big action-adventure romp with nothing to say about being a human being. Kingsman's become quite a lucrative thing, but it's also a big art house movie in a lot of ways. It defies the parameters within which those big budget commercial films normally operate."
Egerton then entered new territory with Sing, marking both the first time he has lent his voice to an animated feature, and the first musical production he's featured in.
"I didn't go to drama school to be a musical theatre performer," he says.
In Kingsman's highly anticipated sequel The Golden Circle, how does the film's host of A-list Americans (Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal) affect what feels like such a quintessentially British blockbuster?
"I think it's still got that quintessential Britishness and it's still about what being a gentlemen is, and we're still in those beautifully tailored suits," Egerton responds.
"As much as a large portion of the film is spent exploring what the Statesmen are - the American version - by the end, it's very much the Kingsmen who are saving the day again.
"So I think it's very faithful to its identity and what Matthew (Vaughn, director) established in the first one, but equally I think he recognises the importance of there being a new world to explore. I would never presume to know how his mind works, but I think he knew that the audience would have that hunger for stuff they hadn't seen, which was what was fun about the first one, this world of Kingsman opening up before them. So in this one, we discover the Statesmen and we didn't even know they existed, and it's a whole new world to explore again."
Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens on Thursday.
Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pacal, Halle Berry, Mark Strong.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Reviewer's last word: This stylish spy sequel gets a serious injection of Hollywood sparkle, but remains true to its British roots.
Star profile: Taron Egerton
Quirky fact: His name, Taron, is a version of the traditional Welsh name, Taran, which means thunder.
Best known for: Eddie the Eagle, Sing, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
If you like this movie you'll like these: Logan Lucky, X-Men: First Class, Deadpool.
Quote: "Hugh Jackman has got guns to die for. Have you seen his arms? They are bigger than my head!"