Robin Hood star Taron Egerton scared of horses despite lots of riding
Robin Hood star Taron Egerton says working on back-to-back movies is creatively rewarding but has taken a lot out of him
Taron Egerton initially turned down the title role of the heroic outlaw in the new action-adventure Robin Hood but changed his mind after talking to the director.
The 29-year-old English actor, whose Hollywood breakthrough was the 2014 spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service, said: "I said no because it was (not that long) since the last Robin Hood (the 2010 Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe version), and I worried that I had this great opportunity with Kingsman and I didn't want to rush into something else that felt big unless it felt really right.
"It was only through speaking with (director) Otto (Bathurst) and learning what his vision for the film was that I realised it was something that could be exciting and fun and could reach a wider audience than (the R-rated) Kingsman."
Unfortunately, US audiences have decided that Egerton should have stayed with 'no'.
Robin Hood, opening here tomorrow, earned a tepid US$14.2 million (S$19.5 million) at North American box offices over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period last week, a potentially disastrous result given its roughly US$100 million production budget.
But Egerton doesn't need to worry.
He has the much-anticipated Elton John musical biopic Rocketman coming out in May, and maybe he can also coast on Kingsman's momentum for a while.
And he certainly has that charming, self-deprecating humour that most British actors are blessed with.
It didn't work for me in the movie, but in real life and without scripted lines, it surely did as we sat at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City.
Said Egerton: "There is nothing period or traditional about this movie and that's what drew me in, because it's not the Robin Hood we've all seen before. Our wish was to go beyond that and create something that feels very contemporary."
Ironically, that maybe the problem with this nth iteration of the Robin Hood legend, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Robin of Loxley is an aristocrat who goes to the Crusades and returns to Nottingham to find his home in a shambles and his girlfriend Marian (Eve Hewson, daughter of U2 frontman Bono) married to Will 'Scarlet' Tillman (Jamie Dornan).
Robin is mentored by Jamie Foxx's character, a Moorish commander who is renamed Little John to fit the story.
The duo with their Merry Men take on the English crown to fight corruption, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
What Egerton wasn't a fan of was the horse training.
"I think horses are very beautiful but I prefer to be about 100m away from them than on top of them," he joked.
"I'm scared of horses. I'm in awe of anyone who has a special relationship with them."
We talked about working with the two Jamies - Dornan and Foxx.
"The thing that surprised me most about working with Jamie Dornan is he's actually really ugly in real life," Egerton deadpanned.
"It's a common misconception that he's beautiful. Actually, I'm the good-looking one."
He laughed, then continued: "I think the world of him. It's sickening when someone looks like that and they're also a really lovely person.
"Jamie Foxx, I'm surprised by how quickly I forgot that he's Jamie Foxx. I've worked with some big stars but there's something about Jamie, he's kind of iconic. That's just a testament to what a great guy he is."
There are no plans after Rocketman, especially as Egerton has been busy with back-to-back movies like Legend (2015), Eddie The Eagle (2016) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).
He said: "Right this minute I don't particularly feel like doing anything. I am very lucky that I don't have to right now. Being the lead in something is enormously rewarding creatively, but it really, really takes (a lot) out of you.
"Coming off the back of Rocketman, I just don't want to do something for the sake of doing it. I'm really excited about it and what I dearly hope it will be, but there's something to be said for keeping your powder dry. I just want to sit on it and see how it turns out and then, you know, I might get a bar job or something."
Egerton, who recently broke up with his girlfriend of two years, still wants "all of the fairytale stuff, the family and the kids" - eventually.
He said: "I'm at a time in my life where it's very important that I'm reasonably selfish. That will end one day, but right now I've got to do stuff for me.
"I feel like my 20s have been a time where I've learnt about myself and being possibly my own worst enemy a lot. That is not going to be my 30s.
"I'm going to make sure that I'm best equipped to do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be and not f*** it up."