The movie “Pompeii” marks Kit Harington getting “starring in an action film” off his bucket list. The actor, best known for his breakout role as Jon Snow in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” plays the vengeful gladiator Milo in the Sony Pictures historical epic, which hits theaters on Feb. 21.
“I’ve done a genre action flick now, that’s for sure,” Harington tells Zap2it during a recent interview. “I’m a f***ing action hero. I can tick that box. Forever more, I can tell my grandkids, ‘Your f***ing grandfather was an action hero.'”
But while the action side of the movie was fun for Harington, the actual content of “Pompeii” was a serious matter. The 27-year-old was approached to do “certain kind of fun things” while promoting the flick, but he said he turned them down because he didn’t think the tale of “Pompeii” warranted that sort of levity.
“Although it’s a piece of history and although it’s in the past, to me it is still a very human event. It’s still something that, even if it’s a millennia ago, that needs to be treated with a certain amount of reverence,” he says. “It’s that kind of human element that I think should make a movie like this.”
So despite the fact this is a Paul W.S. Anderson big budget action-romance-natural disaster movie, it’s one that Harington feels is respectful of its source material. “I don’t think we it do any injustice,” he says. “I think there’s some very beautiful moments in it of death and destruction.”
During his rather short career, Harington has largely played genre projects. He first arrived in 2011 as the bastard son of Ned Stark in “Game of Thrones,” and then had his first movie role in 2012’s “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.” Both were adaptations, which is a style of storytelling Harington is keen to move away from.
“When it came through the door, I saw ‘Pompeii’ and I thought, ‘It’s a story I think I know about, everyone thinks they know about. It’s an original disaster story and we all know of the eruption of Vesuvius and the archeological site and we’ve all seen the plaster casts, but it seemed like a natural movie to make, actually,” he tells Zap2it.
Harington adds, “I like scripts that come through the door now that aren’t based on a book or aren’t trilogies, that’s a reboot of ‘Jaws’ or whatever. I like movies that come through that are completely original, and that’s what appealed to me about this one.”
Before shooting “Pompeii,” Harington had never visited the site of the devastation in Italy. He headed there after filming wrapped, and found the plaster casts of the people “locked in time” “so moving.”
“The woman clutching her pregnant belly as she dies or the man clasping his face or this other man just sort of looking up at the gods; they’re horrific things but they’re fascinating to us, these people locked in time,” he says. “I think that was what I liked about, when the movie came through the door, is the idea of telling the stories about these people who were turned to home.”
Harington adds with a laugh, “Remember ‘Narnia,’ when [the White Witch] turns people to stone? It’s like that. That was my comparison.”
At the core of “Pompeii,” it’s a simple “Romeo & Juliet” love story set against the backdrop of impending doom. Harington’s Milo falls in love with Emily Browning‘s Cassia, even though the two are separated by status and politics. There’s also a revenge subplot and, of course, the disaster element of the soon-to-be-exploding Vesuvius, but Harington was most drawn to Milo’s outlook on life.
“What was fascinating to me about the character was that he talks a lot in the movie about there being no point to anything,” Harington says. “He’s a simple character, it’s a simple story, and the irony being the minute he finds a purpose in life, the volcano goes off. But it’s kind of beautiful.”
Harington is also looking to find his purpose. He is fully committed to “Game of Thrones” at the moment, but that is a project that has a finite end. He’s already filmed the fantasy flick “Seventh Son” and recorded a voice in “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” but now he says it’s time for a change.
That’s clear in the fact that Harington opted not to go out for a role in “The Fantastic Four” reboot, and instead joined the historical biopic “The Testament of Youth” in a supporting role.
“I have a clear kind of set goal with my career now,” Harington tells Zap2it. “‘Thrones’ plays a big part of my career for the next few years. Alongside that, I want to balance some really interesting projects. The next few years are more me experimenting with what I want to do.”
He continues, “It’s all about eclectic work. It’s about testing and seeing what you want to do, and so I feel like an actor hits their mid-30s and that’s where they want to be and the parts they want to do. It’s about the next 10 years, 8 years, about figuring out where I want to be in my mid-30s.”
“Pompeii” arrives in theaters today. “Game of Thrones” Season 4 premieres on HBO on April 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.