Over the past three years, Kit Harington has segued his successful theater career (starring as the original Albert in the West End’s production of War Horse) into a starring role on HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones! Playing fan-favorite Jon Snow has not only created a legion of diehard fans, but has also brought numerous film opportunities his way. Pompeii, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil), is the first of these films.
Taking cues from Gladiator and Titanic, Pompeii tells the story of Milo (Harington), a Celt who was enslaved and made a gladiator after Roman soldiers wiped out his entire village, including his parents. The murder of his family fuels Milo’s fighting prowess and thirst for revenge for the rest of his life. Due to his fighting skills, Milo is moved to a gladiator arena in the thriving city of Pompeii. There he meets Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant. When romance starts to blossom between the star-crossed couple, Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) comes into the picture to mess everything up. Not only does Milo have to try to prove his worth in the arena and save Cassia from the evil Cal Hockley-esque Corvus, but there’s also that whole looming volcanic eruption thing. No big deal.
First and foremost, I am happy to report that Kit Harington is just as charming and affable as you would imagine. I had a great time talking to him about the difference between fighting styles in Jon Snow’s furs vs. a barely there gladiator outfit; his 4,000 calorie diet to beef up for the role; his chemistry with costar Emily Browning; and whether his broken ankle affected this role. Also, don’t miss him talking about a few upcoming movies he’s working on AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, his thoughts on the quote “You know nothing, Jon Snow!” Spoiler alert: It’s not his favorite.
While Kit and Thrones fans have become used to hearing, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!” on a day-to-day basis, it was obvious that Kit in fact, knows everything. Check out my and Lauren Veneziani’s (DCfilmgirl.com) interview with Kit below!
Make sure you go see Pompeii, which opens in theaters this Friday, February 21, in theaters near you!
Lauren B. (ClotureClub.com): Both Pompeii and Game of Thrones have a lot of fight scenes for you. What is the difference between the two styles and do you prefer one over the other? I know it was probably easier to move around in your Pompeii costume as opposed to the big Game of Thrones furs…
Kit: Both have their… both are very different but very enjoyable. I like the furs and the big things because it gives you a certain weight… but also when you’re holding a broad sword, and that weight, it gives you a certain way of moving. I remember with the second season the Qhorin Halfhand fight, we did it without our costumes on and it became very eloquent. Then you put your costumes on and it’s a slug match. That’s the difference between the two things…they’re very practical earthy, gritty fights in Thrones and in [Pompeii] it’s more showmanship, more… you’re a gladiator. You’re there to entertain. It’s kind of different for that reason. This was much more complex.
Lauren B: Really?
Kit: A sword fight is a dance. It’s like men’s ballet and it’s like… a dialogue as well. I really enjoy them. I love sword fighting. It’s one of my favorite things.
Lauren B: Yeah! It’s fun to watch.
Lauren V: Bouncing off of that. You obviously have to stay very in shape for Game of Thrones, but I feel like for this movie you really beefed up. Did you do anything in particular to prepare for all the physicality in the movie?
Kit: Yeah I did…
Lauren V: Especially the gladiator scenes.
Kit: I spent weeks prior to going out to do the movie, bulking up… so I was eating over 4,000 calories a day!
Lauren B: Wow. What did that consist of?
Lauren V: That sounds amazing!
Kit: It’s really isn’t [everyone laughs]. You think it’s going to be and it’s really horrible. Two steaks in the morning with the equivalent amount of eggs, then a protein shake, then you can have like two chicken burgers. I really went for it. I put on two stones, so 12 kilos, in 5 weeks! Then you get out there and you do something called shredding, which is where you eat under 2,000 calories a day and you start starving yourself really. Then all of the muscle stays and you just sort of shred down into a very lean fitness.
Lauren V: Nevermind. It doesn’t sound awesome. I thought it was like milkshakes.
Kit: It’s not fun but it becomes obsessional and becomes your life and it’s your job really. It’s a full time fucking job and you really go for it.
Lauren B: So you’ve played characters in two different major time periods, first in Pompeii and then Albert in War Horse. Are there any characters in other specific time periods that you would want to play?
Kit: Funny enough, in my next project I’m going back to the first World War. I’m playing an officer in the first World War. After that, I’m playing a spy in a modern, contemporary drama so I’m stepping very much out of the… after years in it… I’m stepping out of the historical kind of fantasy/ancient history side of things because I felt that was very important for me now. As much as I love sword fighting, I want to hold a gun.
Lauren B: What projects are those, or can you say?
Kit: And it’s also important for me because they’re both British films and I’ve done a lot in America now. I had a really strong feeling that I wanted to return and do stuff in the UK because I think that’s what the really clever British actors do; they flip between. They’re not going to be huge budget like this, but they’re very well-written and very interesting projects. One is Testament of Youth, which is a very moving piece. I’m a supporting role in that. That’s with Alicia Vikander, who’s a good friend.
Lauren V: Oh my gosh! A Royal Affair!
Kit: I know, gorgeous, right? She’s a brilliant actress. Absolutely fantastic!
Lauren V: She’s been in a bunch of other things but that sticks out.
Kit: Yeah, I worked with her on Seventh Son. We didn’t actually work together on that. We didn’t have a single scene together but we are going to have many in this. Then the other one is something called Spooks, which was a really successful British TV series. It’s now being made into a movie. It was known as something like MI-5 over here. It was never big over in America so it’ll be interesting to see how it does worldwide. It’s a really interesting kind of Carrie (Carrie from Homeland) type character, a little bit highly strung, a little bit neurotic. I quite enjoy doing that rather than the kind of quiet, heroic type.
Lauren V: I have to say, I really loved the romantic element in the movie. I thought that you and Emily had such good chemistry together right off the bat. Do you find it harder to develop romantic chemistry with somebody in a movie or TV show? You also have such good chemistry with the other gladiator in the movie too. Is it harder to develop action-type chemistry with another actor?
Kit: I think chemistry is one of those things that you don’t really know whether you have until people start telling you you do. It’s strange. Me and Emily got on like a house on fire. She’s a mouthy little Aussie but I love Aussies because Brits and Aussies go at each other. So me and her had a few tiffs but we were very, very close. Like she used to kiss me and then go “bleh yuck!” I was like, “Thanks!”
Lauren B: Well I don’t think any other girls…
Kit: You were the one putting the tongue in, love. Calm down! [everyone laughs] I think for me, it’s very important (on a serious level)… I’m not from a really method background. I’m from very British training. For me, it’s very, very important that I get on… that I know who the actor is… that I get on with them… that we go out for dinner… that we have a drink… that I get to know that person as a person before I know them as the character. I don’t know why that is, I just find it helps with chemistry. If I know Emily as a person, then I’ll know her as a character. That’s how I approach it, same with Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje]. So that’s sort of how I do it.
Lauren B: I know you broke… was it your ankle or your foot before Game of Thrones last season?
Lauren B: Did that affect your Pompeii training or fighting at all?
Kit: Yeah, I’m glad you asked! It did. When I met Paul for the movie, I was still doing this [Kit gets up and walks around the room with a limp]. I was still limping like that and he was like, “Are you sure you’re going to be able to do this?” I was like, “yeah man, I’ll be just fine.” But, if anything, it was the best physio you could ask for, because I had to be fighting fit. I had to be ready. When I started the movie, I still had a limp and when I finished the movie, I was jumping off rocks and landing on my right foot, so it was actually good training.
Lauren V: In many scenes in Game of Thrones, you are in natural settings, like Iceland and other countries, but here in Pompeii, you have natural set pieces, but there is a lot of green screen. Is it harder for you to get into character when you have massive green screens around?
Kit: Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of green screen acting and that was one of my worries with this film. Luckily, they built lots of sets. All of the really important scenes for me with the dialogue or the fighting… that was all very much in a real set, where I could imagine I was. I find green screen acting very tricky. I mean, you have to imagine most things as an actor anyway, but there is something about looking at a green screen, then turning to film something, that feels very strange, forced and claustrophobic. I know that sounds weird, but it’s strange. You need a good director when that happens and Paul was very good at directing us and telling us and showing us lookbooks because you never know what they’re going to do with it. I mean, how big is the pyroclastic flow? Is it that big (expands his arms)? Is it seven miles high? What am I seeing? You have to know that because you have to act accordingly. He actually had visuals to show us. So he could go like, “Look, this is what…” on his iPad. (Pretending to be swiping an iPad) Isn’t that funny that we do that now? Instead of looking at pictures, like we used to, we now go like that (swipes finger across a make-believe iPad). So I could see what was going to be the final thing and that was very important.
Lauren B: In Game of Thrones, I’m sure hear this all the time, “You know nothing Jon Snow…”
Kit: Yeah, I still don’t fucking understand it. (everyone laughs) Like what the fuck? What kind of insult is that? I think it frustrates him as much as it frustrates me.
Lauren B: Yeah! What is that? I was just wondering if there’s anything you don’t know (as Kit), that you should know? For example, I don’t know how to drive stick shift, even though I probably should know how to do that.
Kit: Well I know how to drive stick shift; we have to in England. Anything I don’t know that I should… Let me see…what am I not good at? At certain times, I’m not good at holding my drink and I’m sure there are pictures out of there of me like this (puts head on table). I know there are with people playing donkey on me. I’ve been drunk under the table by Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark on the show. She can drink!
Lauren B: Really?? I bet you all have some fun wrap parties!