After being turned down by four drama schools, Welsh teen Taron Egerton cooled his heels working at a clothing store for eight months, wondering where life would take him.

“There was a point where I thought about being an English teacher,” he recalls. “But I probably would have been really bad at that.”

Nine years later, it’s safe to say the 27-year-old won’t be explaining iambic pentameter or counting heads in homeroom anytime soon.

A key player in 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service—which grossed more than $414 million worldwide—Egerton has been promoted to headliner, first in this month’s sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, then in next year’s twigs-and-tights romp, Robin Hood.

“Not to be crude or vulgar,” he says, “but for a person my age, it’s really well-paid work.”

In Golden Circle, his character, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, morphs from a wimpy kid into a charismatic spy with an Archer-like physique—a transformation he credits to one torture device in particular.

“I love the Versa-Climber,” he says. “When I’ve been on one of those things for 25 or 30 minutes, it makes me feel like I’ve worked really hard.”

It’s not Egerton’s first brush with fitness equipment. He got a lesson in weight training during the filming of the 2016 biopic Eddie the Eagle when he worked out alongside known gym hound Hugh Jackman.

“Yeah, I’m absolutely not as strong as Hugh,” he says. “He lifts crazy-heavy weights and eats an astonishing amount of food, whereas I lift lighter and eat less.”

He’s also, he readily admits, not as famous as his Wolverine workout buddy, though it doesn’t seem to bother him a bit.

“It’s not like I need security or an escort,” he says. “That’s ‘proper famous’. I’d say ‘potentially recognizable’ is a more accurate description of me.”