PARIS (AFP) - Although he is 54-year-old, Colin Firth makes for a creditable James Bond-style figure, as evidenced in Kingsman: The Secret Service, a British action romp opening in movie theatres worldwide this month.
The Oscar-winning star of The King's Speech - and, of course, the stuffy Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones' Diary - told reporters in Paris he underwent a gruelling six-month training regimen to pull off the commando-style moves in the new movie.
The trademark plummy accent that rounded out his quippy character, however, was a natural feature that helped land him the part.
"I'm not posh. I wasn't privately educated," he said, explaining: "My family travelled a lot when I was a kid and I guess I got left behind and languages and accents evolved."
As for the "archetype" he represents - well, he admits that such stiff-upper-lip pinstriped gents still inhabit Great Britain, but the movie makes a point that the modern gentleman and spy can just as easily come from the streets as from the private clubs.
That conceit is brought to life by newcomer Taron Egerton, who plays a young man stuck in London's ghettos who finds nobility, purpose and a couple of snobbish rivals when he is recruited as a Kingsman - a member of a super-secret agency.
The villain of the piece, played with hammy gusto, is Samuel L Jackson, while Michael Caine and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars) also put in appearances.
British director-producer Matthew Vaughn, whose 2010 Kick-Ass movie earned him the helm of the Hollywood blockbuster X-Men: First Class, has injected his trademark humour and irreverence into the film.
The R-rating it received for the rampant cartoonish violence - including a bizarre symphony of exploding heads - and a moment of overt sexuality is testament to Vaughn's determination to adapt a graphic novel he had a hand in to the big screen.
"It's exactly the film I had (in mind), frame for frame," he said.
"I didn't have to fight anyone" to keep in any of the more outrageous scenes, such as a lengthy sequence of carnage set in a US church, he said. "I financed it!"
The director, who is married to former German supermodel Claudia Schiffer, joked around with Firth and Egerton as they talked about the movie, underlining the bonhomie among them.
Referring to Firth, Vaughn declared: "He's a truly modern gentleman - and that's what the point of this film is."
While the script (co-written by Vaughn) flirts at times with criticism of Britain's class system, suggesting that nobility is not a silver-spoon privilege, the main thrust is a Bond-ish homage, where the comedy, cartoon violence and flippancy are all amped up to sometimes disconcerting proportions.
The director also worked in some playful winks to an audience well-versed in today's spy movies.
At one moment, a character asks Egerton's recruit what his pet dog's initials, J.B., mean.
"James Bond? Jason Bourne?" The hero answers: "Jack Bauer."