For those unfamiliar with “Argylle,” the film — starring Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Dua Lipa and more — is said to be based on a book of the same name by Conway, an unknown, first-time author. Indeed, the book itself is real, published by Penguin and available for purchase.
But in a twist revealed by the movie’s trailer, Conway is also the name of Howard’s character, a bestselling spy novelist who finds herself involved in some real-life espionage. The identity of the true Conway — if there is one — has yet to be revealed, and some fans have even postulated that Taylor Swift is the person behind the “Argylle” novel, a rumor that Vaughn was quick to shut down. At the world premiere of “Argylle” in London on Wednesday night, Vaughn affirmed that the author is a real person and not another meta twist.
“It’s not Taylor Swift, but books do not write themselves. I wish they did. I wish screenplays wrote themselves. I wish movies directed themselves,” Vaughn told Variety. “There is a Elly Conway. I am begging Elly Conway to come out of the shadows because this Taylor Swift thing freaked me out. And it’s going to happen.”
The stars of the film seemed to know even less about Conway’s identity, with Bryan Cranston playing into the Swift theory.
“It’s very real,” Cranston said of Conway. “I can’t confirm or deny the rumors about Ms. Swift. I wouldn’t put it past her, she’s certainly capable of writing a novel or several novels. But I really shouldn’t say any more.”
Cavill was equally concerned about spilling the beans. “Afraid I can’t tell you, at least not without killing you,” he said to Variety at the film’s junket before the London premiere. “If I told you, I’d be persona non grata, and I like Matthew. It was something he was very particular about. We wanted to make sure that the mystery was maintained, because she wants the same thing.”
Meanwhile, John Cena admitted that he is not privy to any information about Conway. “I don’t know, but I think it’s wonderful that a movie based on espionage with the tag line ‘the greater the spy the bigger the lie’ has espionage and misdirection on the way to the release,” he said.
Lorne Balfe, the film’s composer, also remains in the dark about Conway’s identity. Despite boarding the film three-and-a-half years ago and working closely with Vaughn throughout the process, he said he’s never had any contact with the mysterious author either in person, by phone or email. “Honestly, I don’t know who she is,” Balfe told Variety, although he was adamant the novel was not written by Vaughn. “I know that. I know that he didn’t [write it].”
Balfe said he has also questioned Vaughn about Conway and suspects she is an established author writing under a pseudonym. “[Matthew] said a couple of names. Real names,” the composer said of his conversations with Vaughn.
The book is copyrighted in the U.K. to Marv Quinn Holdings Limited, the same company that produced “Argylle.” The company’s directors are Vaughn and his wife Claudia Schiffer and its majority owner is Vaughn’s production company Marv Studios. The copyright page does state, however, that Conway has “asserted her right…to be identified as the author of this work.”
Unusually, Conway is not an executive producer on the film and the end credits do not state the film is based on her book. The novel opens with a quote from Vladimir Putin: “Sometimes it is necessary to be lonely in order to prove that you are right.”
Variety reached out to Penguin, the publisher of “Argylle,” for an interview with Conway and were told a publicist would discuss it “with Elly’s team” before the request was ultimately declined. “We aren’t currently scheduling interviews with Elly,” the Penguin publicist told Variety.
Conway has not done any interviews with any major media outlet although she did join X (formerly known as Twitter) last June, where she has since posted 23 times.
When asked directly whether Conway exists, the publicist said: “Elly Conway is a real person who wrote a brilliant spy thriller a couple of years ago; Matthew Vaughn heard about the manuscript pre-publication via her agent and decided to put Elly’s novel at the heart of his new film ‘Argylle,’ with a distinctive Matthew Vaughn twist. The book and the film are now being released almost simultaneously.”
“Argylle” premieres in theaters on Feb. 2.