Matthew Vaughn: The director's cut

Until now, he's been happy doing the deals and raking in the money - playing second fiddle to his business partner, Guy Ritchie, and his supermodel wife, Claudia Schiffer. Now he's put his name up in lights as the director of the new British gangster flick. Can he have his Layer Cake and eat it?

Matthew Vaughn can now lay claim to being both the money and the talent. As a film producer his sharp business brain steered him through the reefs of independent UK film-making with his partner, Guy Ritchie, to turn their debut collaboration, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, into a popular commercial success. Given the way it was funded and that they both had a great deal riding on the outcome, they did pretty well in netting £9m apiece.

Matthew Vaughn can now lay claim to being both the money and the talent. As a film producer his sharp business brain steered him through the reefs of independent UK film-making with his partner, Guy Ritchie, to turn their debut collaboration, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, into a popular commercial success. Given the way it was funded and that they both had a great deal riding on the outcome, they did pretty well in netting £9m apiece.

Now Vaughn has tried his hand behind the camera as director of Layer Cake, a gangster movie aiming at a depiction of London similar to that promoted by The Long Good Friday. It's a big, flash, shiny movie, more polished than either Lock, Stock... or the follow-up Snatch, but times have changed; things have moved on. For London, for movies. And for Vaughn.

For one thing, Vaughn isn't really Matthew Vaughn any longer. His official name is Matthew de Vere Drummond, a fact that he discovered in 2002 when his supposed father, the actor Robert Vaughn, produced evidence from an LA patrimony court case in the 1980s proving that he was not and could not be Matthew's father. Vaughn's mother is Kathy Ceaton, who had been in a relationship with Robert Vaughn at the time of Matthew's conception and birth, although the relationship was foundering, and Matthew grew up believing Robert Vaughn to be his father.

With somewhat hideous timing, the 70-year-old actor delivered his bombshell just before Matthew's wedding to the German model Claudia Schiffer. Clearly concerned that his bride-to-be ought to know who she was marrying, Vaughn questioned Ceaton who finally revealed that Matthew's biological father was George Albert Harley Drummond (aka George de Vere Drummond) a minor British aristocrat who is godson to the late King George VI. Sadly for Schiffer, she is not to be Countess of Oxford, as Matthew's illegitimacy, among other genealogical complications, disqualifies him from inheriting the earldom of Oxford and Mortimer.

Never mind. Vaughn is not doing too badly. Aside from the nice little earners of his first two Ritchie films - a record rather spoilt by their third collaboration, Swept Away, which broke several records for awfulness - Vaughn is married to one of the most beautiful women on the planet and is about to become a father for the second time. And with his directorial debut gathering reasonably polite notices and an immodest amount of publicity, he is already in the frame for helming the next James Bond movie, a task that would probably suit his brand of widescreen flash no end.

Born in Beverly Hills, California, in 1971, Vaughn was educated at Stowe and University College London. He admits to being a shameless popcorn movie-goer - the directors who always make his lists are Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Brian de Palma and Michael Mann.

Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark were his earliest influences; Brian de Palma movies and Michael Mann's thrillers are his later role models. Shortly before he started shooting Layer Cake, he made the cast and crew sit down and watch Michael Mann's LA thriller Heat.

"I asked a lot of people why British films look so bad," he has said. "And they say it's the bad light. It is grey and flat. But I didn't believe that. What I don't get about England is that we have brilliant film-makers. We have brilliant technicians; we have proven, with James Bond and Harry Potter, that we can do the big stuff. Every year there are one or two small films that do well, and this mess of people who just want to get their film made. There are not many people who are making films that could be a commercial success."

It is, of course, comments like this that have not endeared him to the British film community which has a tendency to take itself rather seriously. When he and Ritchie set up SKA Films their intention was to make the kind of movies that entertained them. In spite of an earlier attempt to produce with Innocent Sleep - a film that came and went without undue fuss - Vaughn was itching to have another go. When Ritchie brought him his script for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels he grasped the opportunity.

It wasn't an easy ride. Lock, Stock... was turned down by several institutions including Miramax, and it wasn't until Vaughn managed to secure equity funding from Stephen Marks, founder of French Connection, that he managed to get it made. The final bit of money came from Trudie Styler, aka Mrs Sting, and in return a grateful Vaughn cast Sting in the film.

For a while he was happy to be the puppet master, the shadowy money man who could facilitate his friend's more flamboyant cinematic showmanship. Indeed, this is how they presented themselves. While Ritchie was giving movie-goers a good kicking with his mockney gangster movies Vaughn was in the shadows urging him on. Together they were chalkstripe and cheese - Ritchie the surly geezer, while Vaughn was the quiet, subtly dangerous presence, invariably at interviews to ensure things went smoothly. Both are wary of the press and of potential public intrusion, yet both have married high-profile women who can only serve to increase the paparazzi quotient.

And you only have to watch him interviewed on the red carpet with Schiffer on his arm to see how uncomfortable he is. He rarely smiles, seems ill at ease, always looking for the exit. Such is the contrast between him and his outgoing wife that some wags refer to him as Mr Schiffer. Yet he clearly has the mind and temperament for producing. As his friends have pointed out, his success in the business derives from the fact that "he has the ability to talk a load of bollocks".

Creative partnerships have a tendency to become strained, however, and none more so than those in the film business. In spite of being friends - Vaughn was best man when Ritchie married Madonna - they have had major disagreements. The notorious Swept Away almost brought them to blows. Ritchie wanted Madonna in the role of the heiress trapped on an island with her chauffeur while Vaughn preferred Penelope Cruz. Ritchie believed that Vaughn was implying that Madge wasn't up to the job. In fact, he was taking the line of a producer which was simply that Cruz would sell the movie more easily to investors. Ritchie got his way, however, with the result that we have seen.

Clearly, Vaughn's got the chops to continue producing movies in the UK, a terrifyingly difficult thing to do even with a successful track record. And while he produced Layer Cake, having acquired the rights from its author J J Connolly after meeting him on a train to Belgium, the opportunity to direct the movie has given him a taste for the creative side. In the four years it took to develop Layer Cake, Guy Ritchie pulled out of directing the film and Vaughn was reluctant to give it to anyone else.

"I had put so much effort into it that I wasn't willing to let it go," he said. "I thought, I am not going to run around town and find some director who will start doing things I wouldn't want. I knew every shot of this movie. Why go through the hell of giving it to someone else?"

In the closed and jealously protective world that is the British film industry, Vaughn and Ritchie are still regarded as rogue upstarts, cinematic spivs who got lucky. But now that Vaughn has shown himself capable of being both the money and the talent, his detractors are going to have to start taking him seriously. Goodbye Mr Schiffer. Hello Mr de Vere Drummond.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape