Image: 20th Century Fox

Both the Kingsman movies and the comics are unafraid to root themselves in the events of the real world—and no one is particularly safe from being mocked or blown up, no matter how famous they are. But The Golden Circle drew itself back from targeting one figure in particular: then-Presidential-candidate Donald Trump.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, director Matthew Vaughan revealed that two references to Trump in The Golden Circle—who at the time of the film’s production last year was still in the early days of his Presidential campaign—were cut from the film. The first reference was a line of dialogue from Julianne Moore’s drug-running villain Poppy, who would’ve noted that she was very interested in hosting The Apprentice in Trump’s absence. The second would’ve been more direct: depicting the film’s version of the Oval Office in the style of Trump’s ostentatious, self-named Tower, clad in gold and other lavish accoutrements.

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But the references were ultimately removed from the film, both because Vaughn saw Kingsman as an world of escapism rather than something that could adequately handle the serious nature behind Trump’s divisive campaign, and because Vaughn saw it as a bad attempt at making a joke out of the real danger of Trump’s possible election:

...We felt it was too close to the bone. I think America’s going through a pretty interesting and rough ride at the moment and I wanted this movie to be escapism. And that means not suddenly have half the audience going, ‘That’s not cool, that’s not funny!’ as the other half is cheering.

We were building a White House Oval Office in the style of Trump Tower. We were making it in all gold and blinging it up. This was in May of 2016 and then I had an inkling. I remember saying to my American production designer, ‘Trump might win, you know? Would this be as funny if Trump won?’ And he was like, ‘Trump will never win.’ And I said, ‘You know what, I have a weird feeling he might. So let’s build a normal Oval Office and scrap the Trump version.’ I think my instinct was right. If you go too far—if movies get political when they’re meant to be fun—then it weighs everything down a bit too much.

If the references had stayed in, it wouldn’t have been the first time Kingsman courted political controversy, having caught flak when the first film’s explosive finale depicted a US President who looked very familiar to Barack Obama having his head blown off. But at least in this instance, attempting to make light of a divisive time for America was a step too far even for a film series that’s willing to go to some pretty unseemly places.

[EW]