Kit Harington, the ‘Game of Thrones’ heartthrob, has broken out of his warrior furs to take on Vera Brittain’s ‘Testament of Youth’. But will it lead to as many marriage proposals as his most famous role?
Vera Brittain wasn’t going to settle for any old chap. Long before she was the author of perhaps the greatest memoir of the First World War era and the generational carnage it wrought on early-20thcentury Britain, she was a spirited young woman, out of step with her time and her position.
An upper-middle-class teenager who stood up to her father. A girl determined to follow her own intellectual path, all the way to Oxford. A feminist when the term was barely known. A writer of firm principle and precocious talent.
So when it came to making the film adaptation of Brittain’s Testament of Youth, the producers knew their casting had to be pitch-perfect. And they found their Vera in Scandinavia. It was an inspired choice. In this sweeping-yetintimate realisation of the 600-page autobiography, 26-year-old Swede Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina, this month’s Ex Machina) is mesmerising as the railblazing, well-to-do young Edwardian whose life is shattered when her earest
and dearest are all killed in France.
بعد نجاحه وشهرته في
دور الحبيب والمحارب من
خلال المسلسل الشهير
،”Game of Thrones“
يعود النجم كيت
هارنغتون بعمل جديد
من خلال فيلم دراما تحت
Testament of“ عنوان
خلال الحرب ”Youth
العالمية الأولى، ليمثل إلى
جانب الممثلة فير ابريتين.
ولكن ذلك يؤدي إلى العديد
من مقترحات الزواج من
خلال دوره الأكثر شهرة؟
What man, then, could match that?
“Vera aimed high in her choice of lover,” says Testament of Youth’s director James Kent. “She’s an extraordinary young lady and she’s not going to go with just anyone. So I needed an actor who could be
someone that she would respect and admire, and would see in Vera the qualities that she brings into the world. And Kit Harington did that,” states the filmmaker of the actor he cast in the pivotal part of Roland Leighton, Brittain’s first love, a poet and young officer killed on the Western Front aged only 20.
Kit’s very soulful. Bright. Artistic. And at the same time he’s incredibly handsome and quite rugged. That combination provided acomplexity that in a way elevated Vera.
“Kit’s very soulful. Bright. Artistic. And at the same time he’s incredibly handsome and quite rugged. That combination provided a complexity that in a way elevated Vera.That’s the kind of man, the magnetic personality, that she would go towards. And Kit just had all that.”
Harington is used to such ffusiveness. As Jon Snow, fur-draped warrior of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones, he’s enjoyed four seasons of near-rabid idolatory, first from the source books’ legions of fans, then from the wildly successful HBO series’ huge global audience.
As the Londoner told he me the ast time we met, in 2013, prior to the broadcast of the third series, he had heaps of fanmail “stocked up at home. My favourite thing I got was a little hand puppet from Japan – you get it from literally every country. That’s incredible.” At the annual San Diego Comic- Con, ground zero for the sci-fi, fantasy and horror hardcore, “people come dressed as you! And they do a bloody good job. And I’ve had a couple of proposals of marriage. Which is nice.”
Even after one series, the GoT phenomenon had upended the life of this young actor for whom it was his debut screen job out of drama school. When I first interviewed him, on the show’s Belfast set in 2011, Harington was well aware already that the son of House Stark
is “beloved by fans, and that is a pressure – you want to do it justice.
And you won’t please everybody. But you know what’s weird? People come up to you and say, ‘Now when I read the books you’re the person in my head’.”
Doubly weird, as in George RR Martin’s novels, Snow is introduced as a 14-year-old. To help the actor “age up” the character, Harington
had to grow a proto-hipster beard and a wild thatch of hair.
When we meet this time, in a central London hotel, that barnet is on full, lustrous display. Harington shot Testament of Youth last year, in his annual six-month hiatus between GoT filming commitments. But he’s just finished filming season five, and his hair remains fully warriorshaggy – as it must do the year round. It’s a contractual stipulation that necessitated the wearing of an all-concealing hairpiece to play Leighton.
“It was fine,” insists the stocky 28-year-old of the enforced wiggery-pokery. Folded as casually as he can into an upright chair in the large suite, packet of cigarettes twitchily to hand, Harington shrugs. “Preferably I wouldn’t have to. I’d like to cut this off and have short hair for this [film], naturally. But that was the only way we could
Playing the male lead in Testament of Youth offered a drawing together of his interests, personal and professional. His first gig out of Central School of Speech and Drama was in the original London West End production of War Horse. And prior to that, as a schoolboy, he’d visited the First World War battlefields with his father, a businessman (now retired) who ran trade shows.
“That’s what kicked it all off, actually,” says Harington, his wellspoken accent betraying neither his childhood as “a proper London boy” nor his teenage years in Worcestershire, where his family moved when he was 11. (That said, it’s not as fruitily-posh as his extended ancestry would suggest – he counts baronets and MPs in his paternal bloodline.) “That’s the first time I was exposed to that
part of history, dad taking me out there. It was a personal trip – he took me and my brother separately at different times. It wasn’t exactly a father-son bonding, but it was something he felt very important for us to see at a young age. Not as a patriotic thing. Not really as a rite of passage. It was just, ‘This is war and you need to know about it’.
“And that, I think, kicked off my interest in doing English literature, where we were studying the war poets, and also history, and studied
the First World War.”
Harington dug deep into Leighton’s life, reading not only Brittain’s account of him, but also poring over his letters and poems. The alumnus of Uppingham – which, like many public schools at the time, had a strong military cadet force – was from a literary background: father, literary editor of the Daily Mail, mother, a novelist. As Brittain said of him, “he may have been only 19, but could easily have passed for 30”. He was also described as “God’s Englishman”. All told, Leighton sounds quite the solemn youth.
Harington nods. “It’s interesting you say that, because when I did some research before even getting into rehearsal, I looked at him and I thought, he is a very serious young It wasn’t a father-son bonding, but it was something he felt very important for us to see at a young age. Not as a patriotic thing. Not really as a rite of passage. It was just, ‘This is war and you need to know about it’ man. He’s completely transfixed and obsessed with the idea of heroism, and honour, and duty. All these things that have kind of been punched out of us since these two [world] wars – in my youth anyway. I wasn’t obsessed with heroism and duty; I had a very cynical view of all that stuff.”
He admits he duly brought those old-fashioned virtues to his initial scenes on set. He also gave Leighton what he thought was the appropriate accent: clipped, RP, the traditional period-drama approach. But refreshingly he admits that he got both of those wrong – the accent he was using “sounded generic and clichéd”, to such an extent that it would “distance” audiences.
“James [Kent] was quite right in saying to me: ‘You need to remember that he’s 19, he’s falling in love for the first time, he’s a teenager – he’s young, he’s young, he’s young’,” he recounts, snapping his fingers rapidly. “I was 27 when I did it; I was almost 10 years older than him. So you need to take yourself back to that place. Because there’s plenty of time for the serious change in him that happens, for the solemn part of Roland [once he’s gone to war], later.”
Kit Harington was first exposed to – and thrilled by – acting, courtesy of his family’s repeated outings to the theatre. When he was a child, his mother was a playwright, although she’s now a painter. His parents’ encouragement led him to try acting at school. Having hit the ground running straight out of drama school, Harington is now, though, looking for a pause. The just-completed season of GoT has been gruelling. No scenes in Iceland this time, but he was on set “every single day in Belfast. And I had more dates than anyone this year – I was there,” he says with a mixture of weariness and pride.
Last year, he also shot Spooks: The Greater Good, a “high-octane” big-screen outing for the longrunning BBC spy drama that’s due in cinemas in May, plus a mockumentary for HBO in which he plays “an unbelievably thick tennis player.
The character was incredibly inward, internal. It wasn’t a movie where I did it for the script. I did it because it was gonna be a chance to look… very tough!
I’ve never dipped my toe into comedy so I hope it will be funny to watch”. So after all that, he’s hoping to take some time off this year, perhaps travelling “with a friend”. Although whether that friend is his rumoured on/off girlfriend Rose Leslie (who plays his GoT onscreen lover/nemesis Ygritte), he isn’t saying.
“I’m in that incredibly privileged position of being financially stable. Of having a show which maintains a profile for me as an actor – one of the biggest shows on TV. And I don’t see the need in taking work for the sake of work. I have done that in the past, over the past five years. Like most actors, I’m terrified if there’s a break – ‘Everyone’s going to forget who I am, I’m never going to work again’.”
He’s probably referring here to Pompeii, last year’s swords’n’lava blockbuster in which he had the lead. The big-budget film may have ramped up his leadingman status, to the extent that he was last month deemed coverstar- worthy by British GQ. But, critically, the film was a disaster flick in all the wrong senses. Among other issues, perhaps his role – a heroic gladiator – was too close to Jon Snow. Harington, though, is sanguine, if not defiant, about the experience.
“I got so buff! The character was incredibly inward, internal. It wasn’t a movie where I did it for the script. I did it because it was gonna be a chance to look… very tough!” he laughs.
“And that’s great. You should be honest about these things… And it was only after that I went, OK, I don’t want to do that any more – I want to do something like Testament of Youth.”
كانت أول تجربة تمثيلية لهارنغتون
عندما شجعه أفراد أسرته في طفولته على
صعود منصة المسرح، وشعر بسعادة
غامرة حينئذ، فقد كانت والدته في ذلك
الوقت كاتبة مسرح، لكنها الآن رسامة،
وكان تشجيع والديه الكبير يجعله يقوم
بتجارب التمثيل في المدرسة، أما في الوقت
الحالي فهو في حاجة إلى قسط من الراحة
خصوصاً بعد انتهائه من التمثيل في
الموسم الأخير من المسلسل.