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Kit Harington: the man who would be king

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Poor Kit Harington. Here he is in Cannes, scorching sun outside, and he’s under orders from his Game Of Thrones bosses to make like Dracula. “I can’t turn up to shoot with a tan,” he says.

“They shove so much mud on your face it doesn’t really matter anyway, but yeah, I have to stay pale.”

If you’ve seen Thrones, you’ll know insubordination can have violent, often terminal consequences. For a character, that is. So it’s no wonder that Harington – who plays ice-bound Night’s Watch bastard Jon Snow in the show – is sticking to the shadows.

Metaphorically, however, he’s emerging from them – one of a few names beginning to stand out among the show’s enormous cast. He’s already had his first big feature film lead as a 3D lava-dodger in Pompeii and now his voice joins those of Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Cate Blanchett in How To Train Your Dragon 2, the excellent sequel to the animated mega-hit. All sun-based sympathy has evaporated.

So, voiceovers – are they money for nothing?

No. It’s wonderful work, because it’s incredibly liberating. You don’t have someone fixing your hair or make-up, and you haven’t got a camera in your face. It’s like any other job, you can’t just turn up. You don’t learn the lines for it exactly, but you can’t just turn up.

Were you with the other cast?

I did one session with America Ferrara in New York, but other than that... I met Jay Baruchel last night for the first time. I’ve now done two films with Djimon Hounsou and I only met him last night.

A bit like Thrones. You’ve done four series, yet you haven’t acted with many of your co-stars.

Yeah. I only met Jerome Flynn for the first time the other day, and he’s been in it for years. It’s kind of one of those questions where they go, “Is it odd?” And you go, “Well, not really,” because you’ve never known anything different.

So, this film is about dragons and ancient warriors. You can’t leave that stuff alone at the moment, can you?

No. Doing that genre in this [film] didn’t bother me at all, because it’s an animated family movie – as far from the horrors of Thrones as you can get. But I’ve filled my quota of swords and dragons, so I’m going to do stuff that’s a bit different.

A lot was made about your abs being on show in Pompeii. Was the training hard work?

It f*cking was. It was a film that was going to be very visual, and wasn’t realism per se, so I wanted to look very, very fit, toned and muscular. I always wanted to do a body transformation, so I went for it.

Body transformation seems to be in vogue. Is there a limit?

You’ve got to do it for the right reasons – for a role and not just so people go, “Look how committed to his art he is.” My worry is that the image portrayed is that people should starve themselves and go to the gym every day. I’m doing it for a film. I don’t do it every day. It’s not how anyone should be.

How are you coping with your rising fame?

The fame thing is not something I chase. It’s a by-product. The show is famous, not me, so I deal with it in that way. If I get my own career, that’s another thing.

How do you feel about the female attention?

I think men are objectified more than the press makes clear. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me, I enjoy it. I enjoy the attention. I’m an actor – of course I do! But I feel like I’m letting female fans down when I meet them. They fancy the character. I think that’s why some actors are quite private, because you want them to see you as a character and not you as a person.

You needed a body double for a nude scene in Thrones, due to breaking your ankle. Were you worried he’d look out of shape?

The thing is, you have more of a hold over your character than you think. The painful part was watching someone running and walking for me. It’s a wide shot and no one will ever notice, but if I think about season three, it bothers me.

Did he have a funny run?

No, it’s just not you. It’s not your run. You feel like your character’s been taken away from you.

You mentioned how big the show is now. Do you notice that in your daily life?

Yeah, each season I’ve noticed it. This season’s been the biggest jump. It was the Red Wedding thing and the moment it blew up on social media. I think everyone was like, “Why’s everyone talking about this thing?”

Do you get annoyed that all your scenes are in Iceland while half the cast are sunning it up in Morocco or Croatia?

I’m going to Croatia this year. I’m going to do a set visit because I’m sick and tired of them coming back and saying, “Oh we just finished on set and jumped into the sea – it was great!”

Away from Westeros, you’re doing the film version of Spooks. Did you ever want to be a spy?

I don’t have the brain to be a spy. You have to be emotionless and calculating, and I’m neither of those things.

Have you learned a lot of spy stuff doing it?

Yeah. I got SAS gun training; how to strip a gun, how to cover a room. The great thing about acting is that you get to learn these skills.

Is it basically a Bond audition?

[Laughs] No, not really. It’s not like Bond. I’m not like, beating up seven men. It’s quite gritty.

But you’d like to be Bond at some point, right?

I don’t really freak out over actors or celebrities, but I was at a Golden Globes party last year, and saw Daniel Craig was stood at the bar with a martini and a tux and I really freaked out. I mean, if I was Daniel Craig in a tux, I’d go to get a drink. “Hello sir, what would you like today?” Come on! Don’t even ask – just give me what I want.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is at cinemas on 11 July

(Image: Rex Features)

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