Is Kit Harington ready to shoulder the weight of a big-budget epic? Abs-olutely.
ACCORDING to actor Kit Harington, there isn’t much difference between working on a big-budget television series like Game Of Thrones and a film like Pompeii.
On Pompeii, however, he had the luxury of time compared to television which moves at a much faster pace, the Londoner notes in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is talking to the press in conjuction with the film’s release.
The good-looking Brit, who plays fan-favourite character Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones, is making his debut as a lead actor in a big-budget film with Pompeii – surely you’ve noticed the prominence given to his face and very impressive abs in all the trailers and publicity stills. It’s a huge leap ahead for the actor, whose previous role in a film was as a secondary character in Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.
On how it feels to shoulder a movie, Harington replies: “It feels great. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie. It was very physically demanding, and it was a very long shoot. I had a great time.”
The film is set in the Roman city of Pompeii in AD79, just before it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption which wiped out everything and everyone in its path. Harington plays Milo, a slave who becomes a ruthlessly effective gladiator in the arena because he is driven by rage and determination to avenge his parents’ murder.
Amidst the blood and gore, Milo falls in love with Cassia (Emily Browning) the daughter of the wealthiest family in Pompeii. Their forbidden love is tested from the start – owing to the status of her parents (Jared Harris and Carrie-Anne Moss) and the interest of a Roman Senator (Kiefer Sutherland) in Cassia – right up to the film’s fiery centrepiece as Milo races against time to save her when Mount Vesuvius erupts, causing earthquakes and sending a torrent of blazing lava into the city.
Recent excavations have found hundreds of bodies preserved in the volcanic material, with their last emotions virtually intact on their faces. While there is no clear figure on the number of people killed by the eruption of Vesuvius, it is believed to be in the thousands.
Harington says he’s pleased with how the film depicts events with as much accuracy as possible and is thrilled with its ending.
“Yes, you know the volcano is going to erupt. You know there are people who are going to be killed. (But we don’t know) whether it’s the hero or the villain who is going to live ... I think the ending is very original and very interesting.”
To get under the skin of Milo, Harington researched what the gladiators during that time were like. He learned that they were fit and lean, and each fight was a battle to stay alive.
To recreate the same type of fighter in Milo, the 27-year-old immersed himself in the task and became very obsessive about his fitness regimen, acquiring the talents of a skilled gladiator and sculpting the perfect physique.
“I think when you play the lead in a film, it sort of just takes over your life. This is the first time I had to do that. It was, you know, more obsessional than I thought,” says Harington with a laugh.
“When I was filming, my pain threshold was very high. I had to do a lot of exercises and I got hurt during filming, had a lot of knocks and bruises. Now I am back to normal; I’m a wimp again.”
A month before the shoot started, Harington went to a gladiator boot camp where he worked with a stuntman on his “gladiatorial” skills, especially fighting with weapons. His new skills were put to good use in the film, as director Paul WS Anderson wanted his actors to do the stunts themselves.
“There were times when it got a litte hairy and dangerous, but no one got hurt badly,” shares Harington, confessing that he enjoyed the physical demands of the film.
“I got a sword to the head at one point, and I pretty much broke my finger. Other than that, no major problems. One of the stuntmen twisted his ankle, but it was all good,” he says, elaborating on some of the on-set injuries.
All that training also helped him when he returned to Game Of Thrones. “The amount of sword fights I had to do in this really kept me in good shape for Season Four of Thrones. I am a much better sword fighter (now) than I was in Season Three.”
As for what is waiting for Jon Snow in the new season of Game Of Thrones, which is set to premiere in April, Harington deflects the query by throwing this morsel of information. “That is the question, isn’t it? It’s the biggest season he’s had. He doesn’t have to report to any sort of leader or commander this season. He is sort of his own man and he is finally learning how to be a leader. It’s sort of the most expensive TV series produced and most probably the most action packed.”
Getting back to Game Of Thrones also meant Harington is once again shooting in a colder climate (to depict the wintry cold around The Wall) and in really thick outfits. But while working on Pompeii, Harington had very little cloth on him – something he calls liberating.
“For Thrones, I am always cloaked up for the cold and in this one I am letting it all hang out, so it was enjoyable. It was nice to go from a fantasy medieval project to something ... (that) is a piece of history.”
> Pompeii opens in cinemas nationwide today.