St Neots actor makes major film debut with Kingsman: The Secret Service starring Colin Firth

Nicholas Banks.

Nicholas Banks. - Credit: Archant

It’s a stellar cast featuring names such as Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine – and now a St Neots actor has joined their ranks for his major film debut.

Nicholas Banks – whose real name is Nick Johnson – plays wannabe recruit Digby in Matthew Vaughn’s latest venture Kingsman: The Secret Service. And on Wednesday (January 14) he got to walk the red carpet for the first time as an actor – rather than a guest - for the premiere at London’s Leicester Square.

He said: “About 30 flashes would go off and then you’d move along and do the next bank of photographers – by the end of it I couldn’t see a thing.

“I had a few of my family there which was nice - obviously my dad was pretty chuffed to be there. The premiere was a huge highlight.”

The film stars Colin Firth as a suave spy who recruits brilliant but troubled petty criminal Eggsy (Taron Egerton) to his secret organisation.

Firth’s character Harry Hart heads up his very own league of gentlemen – known as the Kingsmen - in this off-the-wall action adventure.

But before his young protégé can begin his career in espionage, he must undergo a rigorous training regime. Mr Banks’ character Digby is a fellow aspiring member of the spy organisation.

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The 27-year-old, of Fishers Yard, said: “Digby is a practical joker and he’s incredibly fortunate in terms of wealth – he’s a bit of a nasty character.

“It is similar to Kick Ass because it is based on a comic book – it’s a make-believe world but set in real life.

“It was pretty amazing – it was hard work and Matthew Vaughn has a real vision for his movies.

“The pressure of being involved is quite big. It was pretty daunting, especially being a first project.”

Mr Banks, who is a graduate of The Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, has previously starred in programmes including ITV’s Law & Order: UK and Pramface on BBC Three.

The opportunity to work with Vaughn – who has credits to his name such as Kick Ass, X Men: First Class, and Layer Cake – came in the summer of 2013.

A day before he was due to jet off on a family holiday, his agent contacted him to say that he had been called to a casting meeting. Unable to reschedule, he submitted a poolside video of him auditioning for a role in the film. Two or three months went by before the call to meet Vaughn came.

He said: “The next day he said he would like to offer me a role in the movie. It was one of the most surreal experiences because I had already seen who was cast – Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson. I was suddenly realising I was going to be able to work with all these amazing actors.”

Filming lasted six months – until February last year - and included everything from underwater scenes to sky diving.

The former player for St Neots Rugby Club, who has lived in the town for five years, said he would ultimately like to secure a role in a long-running TV show such as Game of Thrones. He is also in talks to tutor young hopefuls at Stageworks Studios in Buckden and is working on a back-up career as a tennis coach.

He said: “I would love to be like Tom Hardy but we are nothing alike – he’s a real hard man - we couldn’t be further apart.

“You can’t plan the future as an actor – this experience has been amazing but it hasn’t come without the complete heartbreak of 1,000 failed auditions.

“It is all about the next role – when it comes along it comes along. I don’t expect to become an overnight star at all – this is certainly a step in the right direction.”