Top 10 Interesting Directors of the Now: Matthew Vaughn

Welcome back to our celebration of the Most Interesting Directors Working Today! If you missed the first two entries, catch up on them HERE and HERE before we get into number three: Matthew Vaughn.

Many of the directors on this list were known for their dramatic and unique debut features, and most of them started their interest in film-making at a young age with their skills having been honed over years of refinement. Englishman Matthew Vaughn found himself working as a professional director by an altogether different route.

During a gap year, Vaughn travelled the world on a Hard Rock Café tour, landing in L.A. where he picked up work as an assistant to a director. Having been bitten by the showbiz bug, he returned to his studies in anthropology and ancient history for only a few weeks before dropping out of university. At 25 he produced little-seen thriller The Innocent Sleep starring Michael Gambon.

When Vaughn’s close friends Guy Ritchie got into directing, his experience was put to good use, earning industry acclaim for his work producing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. It was only six years after beginning work as a producer that he moved into directing himself using a style similar to Ritchie with Layer Cake.

Layer Cake was a critical and commercial success, although many viewers assumed it was Ritchie at the helm. Whilst it is easy to mistake the two film-makers in this example, it did show Vaughn’s savvy camera sense by using bright, primary colours when portraying strong themes without over-doing either, or using the old ‘dark lights = serious business’ routine employed by less capable film-makers. Layer Cake also holds the distinction of bringing Daniel Craig to the attention of James Bond producers.

Wisely leaving directors chair on X-Men 3, possibly due to the heavy influence from studio heads on the creative aspects of the film, he went on to direct Neil Gaiman’s Stardust  (he was later highly critical of Ratner’s work on the film, but then again who wasn’t). Stardust was seen as a weak adaptation of the source material by some, but it showed the directors ability to take liberties with the source material whilst maintaining the tone of the original. Vaughn shows with Stardust and later Kick-Ass, that he understands that taking stories directly of the page and putting on the film can be akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole, and the films often benefit from these alterations.

Both Stardust and Kick-Ass continued his style of mixing grittiness with a strong colour palette. Kick-Ass in particular demonstrated a well-applied motive of the characters view of the world being bright until the violent reality added a gritty tone to the visuals.

Vaughn’s best work to date is also his most recent – X-Men First Class. Whilst the X-Men movie franchise had a strong start, the lacklustre third outing and downright terrible Wolverine spin-off saw audience grow weary with the mutant adventures. Vaughn’s new take on the material gave the series a fresh start to a lagging franchise by turning back the clock and effectively ignoring anything that happened in the previous two films. Combining real world politics and sci-fi action, an ensemble cast with a character piece, this is a project that needs more than a competent director – it needed a visionary.

Matthew Vaughn delivered in spades and the movie heralded in some of the years most quoted lines and memorable scenes. Fassbender’s stock has taken a massive boost after out-doing Sir Ian McKellen playing Magneto and McAvoy gave us a unique take on a firmly established character.

Whilst Vaughn hasn’t announced his next job as a director (another ‘X-Men’ would be nice…) but he is inline to produce Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall. Whatever he does, we can be assured of it being a damn fine rollercoaster.