Argylle: Everything you need to know about Apple’s big-budget blockbuster
A mystery author, a massive budget, and a terrible haircut.
Landing Argylle was a big deal for Apple TV Plus. Ever since the release of sparkly fantasy adventure Stardust in 2007, director Matthew Vaughn has only overseen the release of blockbusters, blockbusters that have included three Kingsman movies, X-Men prequel First Class and the beloved festival of violence, Kick Ass.
So, when Deadline reported in August 2021 (opens in new tab) that Apple had offered up a reported $200 million to snag Vaughn's next project, a spy thriller named Argylle, there was much excitement and reports about a new frontier for the still-quite-new streaming service. That excitement then reached fever pitch when the cast list was revealed, with Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, and Bryan Cranston among the roll call, as well as singer Dua Lipa making her acting debut.
But, for a giant movie with a huge budget and Vaughn in the hot seat, we don’t actually know all that much about Argylle. That’s where we come in. Over at iMore, we've pulled together everything we know about Argylle, including a mystery surrounding the author's identity, the start of a potential franchise, and a very questionable haircut for Cavill.
Who is Argylle? A potted history of Apple’s new blockbuster
Normally when it’s announced that a director of Vaughn’s stature is bringing a book to the screen, it is a book that has already sold millions of copies with multiple sequels already on the shelves and a blueprint for a franchise, as we’ve seen play out with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Studios and streamers want a fanbase ready and willing to make the leap from page to screen with them and the more fans there already are, the better.
None of these things, however, are true of Argylle.
For one, the novel the movie is based on hasn't even come out and it won't until, at present, March 30 in 2023. Originally both it and the movie were due in the winter of 2022, but it subsequently got pushed back. Not only that, but the writer isn't an established name. You could understand why Steven Spielberg's Amblin snapped up the rights to Jurassic Park for a cool $1.5 million before Michael Crichton's novel had even been published, the man was already a bestselling author, but Argylle's author Ellie Conway is a debutant with no track record.
Despite that, Vaughn and his production company Marv acquired Argylle on the strength of a draft manuscript and immediately began work on the movie, which has been adapted by Woman Woman scribe Jason Fuchs.
When the movie was announced, Vaughn gushed about the project, telling the media: "When I read this early draft manuscript I felt it was the most incredible and original spy franchise since Ian Fleming’s books of the 50s. This is going to reinvent the spy genre", while his producing partner Zygi Kamasa, CEO of Marv added: "We are delighted that we will be starting our fourth, and by far the biggest, feature film production since the start of the global pandemic. It demonstrates both our desire to scale up our production activity and our ambition to continue to launch new franchises beyond the Kingsman series of films."
Big talk. And to go alongside that you'd expect we'd have already read big interviews with Conway and found out all about the woman behind Apple's new $200 million dollar blockbuster. As it turned out, not so much.
Argylle - who is Ellie Conway?
Ellie Conway is a mystery. A proper mystery. Her author biography on her publisher's website reads as follows: "Elly Conway is the author of the heavily anticipated debut thriller, Argylle. She lives in the United States and is currently working on the next instalment in the series." Not much to go on there, next clue, please.
Actually, there is a clue in there. Is it Ellie or Elly? In Apple's announcement, she's Ellie, to Penguin, she's Elly. Clearly she's not precious about spelling.
Now, you'd expect an author who inspired a $200 million dollar blockbuster to have some kind of social media presence. Again, no dice. No Twitter, no Facebook, just a single Instagram account with no posts and a grand total of 67 followers. Those are the kind of statistics that have publishers' marketing departments tearing their hair out, unless, of course, it's all part of the plan.
The Hollywood Reporter have attempted to do a deep dive on Conway (opens in new tab) and they didn't get very far. The magazine asked for a copy of Argylle, they were denied and then stonewalled when they asked for more details about the elusive author.
Theories have now begun to swirl that Conway is a pen name for another actor or writer, a Robert Galbraith to J.K Rowling or a Richard Bachman to Stephen King. At some point, the truth will come out, maybe Conway is just shy. Who knows?
Argylle - what's the plot?
We don't have much to go on, especially as no one has been allowed to read the flipping book, but this is what Apple confirmed when Argylle's production was announced, with a short synopsis reading: "A world-class spy suffering from amnesia is tricked into believing he is a best-selling spy novelist. After his memories and lethal skills return, he goes down a path of revenge against the shadowy organization he used to work for, the Division."
Sounds like great fun. A globe-trotting spy thriller. And we got some more detail on what to expect from Penguin, with pre-order details about the novel reading as follows: "A luxury train speeding towards Moscow and a date with destiny. A CIA plane downed in the jungles of the Golden Triangle. A Nazi hoard entombed in the remote mountains of South-West Poland. A missing treasure, the eighth wonder of the world, lost for seven decades."
It continues: "One Russian magnate's dream of restoring a nation to greatness has set in motion a chain of events which will take the world to the brink of chaos. Only Frances Coffey, the CIA's most legendary spymaster, can prevent it. But to do so, she needs someone special. Enter Argylle, a troubled agent with a tarnished past who may just have the skills to take on one of the most powerful men in the world. If only he can save himself first..."
As you might expect with a set-up like that, comparisons to the ultimate globe-trotting spy, James Bond, have naturally been forthcoming and Vaughn isn't the least bit shy about that. Talking to the Hollywood Reporter in a profile of Henry Cavill, he admitted that Cavill would be his choice for 007, but he's got in first.
He said: "I needed someone who was born to play Bond — which Henry is — and then nick him before Bond did. He plays a larger-than-life action hero with a wink. It’s very different from Kingsman.”
In that profile, comparisons are made to the big-ticket thrillers of the 1980s, to Lethal Weapon, and to Die Hard, so you can expect the tongue-in-cheek sensibility that Vaughn showed off in the Kingsman franchise to still be there.
Argylle - who's in the cast?
It's a fine list, with the likes of Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Samuel L. Jackson in key roles as well as an acting debut for singer Dua Lipa. We still though don't know who is playing who, you'd expect that Cavill will be Argylle himself , but that's not confirmed. The only other character listed is a spymaster named Frances Coffey, but is that Lipa or Howard? Or someone else.
Here's everyone we know in the cast list for Argylle:
- Henry Cavill
- Sam Rockwell
- Bryce Dallas Howard
- Bryan Cranston
- Catherine O'Hara
- John Cena
- Samuel L. Jackson
- Dua Lipa
- Ariana DeBose
- Rob Delaney
- Jing Lusi
Argylle - who's behind the camera?
Matthew Vaughn directs from a script by Fuchs, Lee Smith, who has overseen most of Christopher Nolan's blockbusters as well as Spectre and 1917, is in charge of the editing suite, while Lorne Balfe, the go-to composter for a tentpole movie, with the likes of Top Gun: Maverick and Black Adam in recent months and the Dungeons & Dragons reboot and Mission: Impossible double-header Dead Reckoning coming soon, is in charge of the score.
A stellar crew indeed.
Argylle - can I see a trailer?
There is a short teaser, one that was unveiled as part of Apple's March event. It's eight seconds long, we get a brief look at Dua Lipa on the dancefloor, an extraordinarily bad haircut from Cavill and one line, "The greater the spy, the bigger the lie."
You'd expect to see a full trailer later this year, but Apple are generally in the habit of unveiling their teasers with premieres weeks away rather than months, so for now, enjoy those eight seconds.
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Release date - when will we see Argylle?
It was expected that Argylle would land on Apple TV Plus in the winter months of 2022, but it was then pushed to 2023. We don't have any more detail than that at this stage, you'd expect the movie to debut sometime after the book, which is due out in March. For the time being, all we have is the words "Coming" and "Soon".
The start of a franchise? Are there plans for more Argylle?
When it was announced that Apple had landed Argylle, it was made clear that a franchise was the aim, with Conway already hard at work on the sequel. However, the deal with Marv is just for one movie, so if it's a success, Apple may find itself bidding against other streamers and studios, Knives Out style. You'd expect they have first option though...
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