There are lava bombs in Pompeii, and earthquakes and pyroclastic flow, and even a tsunami. In 3-D, no less.
By MICHAEL ORDOÑA
San Francisco Chronicle
But perhaps the most potent selling points for fans of star Kit Harington frequent eruptions of sword-and-sandal fighting and a sculpted mountain of rock-hard abs required no visual effects.
There was a day when I was so exhausted, three-quarters of the way through the movie, I couldnt get up, Harington says in a suite at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. He looks hale and hearty again, and suspiciously like Jon Snow (the dreamy bastard he plays on HBOs Game of Thrones), complete with rough beard and unkempt hair.
I was lying on my back, and they were calling me to set, and I got up, and my legs buckled underneath me. Then I got up, and my legs buckled again. They called a doctor in, and I was physically exhausted. Medically, physically exhausted.
If the 27-year-old Worcester, England, native seems too young for that kind of wearing down, consider his regimen:
I hit the gym three times a day an hour before set, lunchtime, get back to the gym for an hour, go back to set, at the end of day about 6, I do another training session from 6 til 7, go home, come back, start the whole thing at 5 in the morning, six days a week for four months.
And when I wasnt on set, I was in the training room learning the next fight. I was very proud of what we achieved by the end, but it was like doing a marathon.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil series), Pompeii is a bit of a mashup of Gladiator, Titanic, The Horse Whisperer and Volcano with probably as much action as all four combined.
Haringtons Milo is the last of his Celtic people, enslaved as a boy and expertly trained to kill in the arena. He meets a girl from the right side of the tracks (Sucker Punchs Emily Browning) who is betrothed by force to a scummy Roman politician (Kiefer Sutherland) just as the ground around Mount Vesuvius starts to rumble.
Im a big action-movie fan, Harington says. I love this stuff. A historical, action, destruction, end-of-the-world movie based upon a real event. Imagining who these sort of plaster casts might have been, and playing one of those stories was quite appealing.
Those casts are the startlingly preserved echoes of those who died in the devastating volcanic eruption of A.D. 79. Excavators noticed gaps between the packed ash and the skeletons; pouring plaster into those gaps produced eerie reconstructions of their final moments.
I knew as much as most people know, he says of his awareness of the event before becoming involved in the film. Vesuvius erupts, Pompeii was buried, uncovered millennia later (found in 1599 and explored more fully in 1748). Now we know a bit more about how Romans lived. I read the script and felt an urge to research it.
He screws up a skeptical face: Is this how it really happened? Is this just bull? Are we stretching the truth a bit too far? And it really is quite accurate as to what we think happened on that day.
The actors interest in history can be characterized as inconsistent, at least regarding himself. Consider reports that he is a descendant of Charles II.
You know, Ive been asked that a couple of times, and I had no idea. But I was intrigued, so I went on the Internet the other night and looked it up, and apparently yeah, its true, he says with a mischievous smile. Hes my great-grandfather, ninth removed. You go back far enough in England, everyones related to everyone. Im sure its not that important.
I love our little royal family, but Im not a royalist particularly. I dont believe in the class system. So it doesnt mean anything.
Making Pompeii, however, intrigued him enough that, after wrapping production in Toronto, he traveled to the historical site at the foot of Vesuvius.
I was amazed at how sophisticated they were, he says. There are these little ruts where they had sliding wooden doors. They had flowing water in the houses. Its an amazingly civilized society.
Part of that research included learning how gladiators were really treated.
I was like, Did gladiators really look like this? Were they just fat men? Is this accurate, what were doing, that they were this muscle-y and ripped? And it kind of is, you know? They were celebrities. They were kept like prize pigs.
Which led to that punishing regimen, especially when it came to combat training.
When I started Thrones, I had some swordsmanship from the Central School of Speech and Drama, he says, but I learned on Thrones, really. When Pompeii came along, having done three seasons of Thrones, I thought that I would be quite adept with a sword. But Pompeii taught me more about sword fighting than I think anything ever will.
Double-handed sword fighting, sword and shield, everything. I came back for Season 4 a much better fighter.
Which worked out quite well, apparently. Harington promises that Season 4, starting April 6, contains the most fight scenes and battles of any season so far. Its got the most expensive episode on TV maybe ever produced. It is absolutely my favorite on paper and the most action-packed.
Harington says he first learned of George R.R. Martins feverishly loved series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, while working in a bookstore.
I used to stack George R.R. Martins books, and I used to hate him because they were so big. I had to carry them down in boxes, and I used to think, Who is this (jerk) whos written this massive book?
He says he told that story to Martin once he landed the role of Jon Snow and read the series.
He just laughed, the actor says with a smile, because hes vindictive like that.