What Kingsman's Director Initially Hated About Samuel L. Jackson's Performance

Imagine this scenario. You hire Samuel L. Jackson to play the lead villain in your new spy thriller. You are expecting the gravitas of Nick Fury, the dominance of Jules from Pulp Fiction, and perhaps a sliver of the over-the-top insanity Jackson brought to Snakes on a Plane. But then he brings his interpretation of the character to you… and it’s not what you expected at all.

This is how Matthew Vaughn spins it while telling me about his new film Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Sam Jackson’s sinister turn as Valentine. The megalomaniac is cut from the cloth of classic James Bond villains, with an evil plan to rid the world of – well, I don’t want to reveal that. However, when Jackson brought his ideas to Vaughn during pre-production, they included such unusual choices as a lisp, and an extreme aversion to blood. As Vaughn remembers, he didn’t take to the ideas too well, saying:

When he first did it, I was like, ‘Oh God, that’s not good.’ Because I was a little bit paranoid, because, I was worried he took it too far.

But the Oscar-nominated actor had a perfectly good reason for wanting to saddle Valentine with a speech impediment, and when Matthew Vaughn heard it, he realized that it fit the character to a tee. Vaughn explained:

Sam explained to me that when he was younger, he had a lisp and a stutter, and it really drove him on to want to be famous, to succeed. He said, ‘Look, trust me, if you were a guy, if you’re Steve Jobs and you’ve got everything -- you’ve got money, you’ve got power, you’ve got everything you want -- but you’ve still got this God damn stutter and lisp, and people aren’t 100% taking you seriously, it can take you to that next level of going mad. And I thought that was great, because … he played this character as someone who had slowly lost the line between, you know, what should happen and shouldn’t happen, which I thought was a great way of doing it.

You can get a sense of Valentine’s signature lisp in the following clip.

Kingsman: The Secret Service introduces a badass new team of super agents who, according to legend, have been around for decades. Colin Firth plays the mentor to upstart spy Taron Egerton, and the two must join forces to stop Sam Jackson’s maniacal Valentine. The film opens in the States on Friday, February 13, and if you are smart, you’ll be in a theater on opening day.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.