We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Kit Harington in support of their new film, Pompeii. While the actors narrowly missed what Atlantans had dubbed snowpocalypse, they didn’t miss the chance to jump on a call with us! Check out our interview with the Pompeii‘s leading men below.
This movie is heavy with special effects. I’m wondering how difficult that was for you to act off of? Was there a particular scene that, because of the green screen, was particularly hard for you?
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: It’s always a tricky discipline, acting with green screen and stuff. I think it’s pretty much second nature now. I just came off of Thor doing it. I was in that kind of realm. Going in to Pompeii, it’s back to usual. Probably the most challenging of those scenes, it’s an amazing scene where Mt. Vesuvius erupts, and as Mt. Vesuvius erupts, it also simultaneously causes this tsunami to go off in the other direction.
Rocks are raining down out of the sky. All of these things are going on at the same time. I’m observing them. You have to relate that to the audience with your eyes. Obviously all I’m looking at is a red cross to my left, to my right, and center. You know, that’s where your work as an actor comes in. You don’t want to overplay it or underplay it. Because you know, it just won’t look right.
Kit Harington: There were certain horse-riding scenes where it was tricky, because I was in a green box essentially pretending to ride a horse. That’s not easy and certainly looking at orange dots and pretending it’s your imminent death is not an easy feat, sometimes.
Essentially, they tried to build as much they could. We had big sets built around us. There were real live explosions at times. They tried to make it as tactile as they possibly could. The whole thing wasn’t just in a green-screened room. No, it wasn’t too bad at all.
You both obviously got in great shape for the film. I wonder if you could walk me through a little bit about how you had to train for the project, how intense it was and how long all of that lasted?
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: The length of time, we started training about four weeks prior to production. I came on a little late. Went to a project about three weeks in, so the pressure was a little bit more intense to get to where we needed to for the character to shoot. The training really consisted of about four hours a day. Four hours of training and working out for four weeks.
That was broken down to two hours of fight training, with weaponry and swordsmanship with Jean Frenette, the great choreographer from 300. Then an hour of working out with weights and calisthenics with a Portuguese trainer, Nuno de Salles. Then I’d have to run for an hour on the treadmill. It was about four hours of that. Then we had nutritionists build special diets for us, to shred quickly.
You know, keep muscle that we needed to wield this very heavy weaponry. The axes weighed about 15 to 40 pounds, so you needed to be very strong and agile just to use those things. It also reminds me of how strong gladiators were when you pick up those weapons.
Kit Harington: I always liked immersing myself physically in something. This was an opportunity to do a body-transformation thing, and then I jumped at that because it’s a great route into a character, I think. Yeah, I became a little bit obsessed with it, this obsessive thing, getting into shape for a movie. I was exhausted a lot of the time.
Then on the side, we had gladiator training where we would spend all day in a room fighting each other and prepping for fights. It was a very physical movie. I felt like fighting in a hamster pit sometimes. Yeah, it could be a bit tough.
What kind of food did they have you eating?
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: It was very high protein diet. No meat for me. Only fish. We had three meals a day and two snacks. Breakfast consisted of raw oatmeal and berries. We would have a snack of fruit and nuts. Lunch consisted of fish. Perhaps a piece of sweet potato and vegetables. Dinner was again fish and vegetables. There would be a snack in between them of fruit and maybe again berries.
That was what we had for pretty much four and a half months. About 1800 to 2000 calories a day. You might think that’s sufficient, but on that workout program, it really was the bare minimum to get us through. It was really meticulously done. As you can see from the form of gladiators we were in, it did the job.
Kit Harington: For me, it was about five weeks of eating my body weight every day. Not really my bodyweight… [laughs] It was five weeks of bulking up, and then three weeks of shredding down. So, you go from stuffing yourself and trying not to move and just lifting weights and getting … I put on two stone which is about 10, 11 kilograms in five weeks. Then I dropped that amount in three weeks. You have to be able to do these things with a nutritionist and with a trainer and so you’re doing it safely. I loved it. I’d do it again for a movie, but maybe not for a little while.
Did you reward yourself after going through all of that? Did you go to your favorite restaurant and then just binge on your favorite foods?
Kit Harington: Yeah. [laughs] We have something called a cheat day when you do that – so you stick to exactly what they send you food-wise everyday for six days. Then the seventh day you’re encouraged to go out and get a burger or binge. So, those days became f**king sacred. I would enjoy Sundays like no other, but when it all came to an end, I still … When you spend four months doing something that extreme, it’s hard to let go of so, it took a couple months to readjust back into being a normal human being, eating normal foods.
Did any of your weapon training or fight training from Game of Thrones help you in this role?
Kit Harington: Yeah, it did. I’ve had a lot of experience in that field from Thrones. I think that’s one of the reasons why I was approached to do the movie, but I never really done quite the amount of sword fighting that I did in this movie for this role. Thrones is a different type of fighting, and it’s shot in a different way, so there were big differences, but, yes, essentially fighting’s like a dance routine. Like you become a better dancer, you become a better fighter. I think I’m alright at holding a sword now.
I think you’ve got that down.
Kit Harington: Yeah, I’ve got that down, I’d like to move on with a gun or something. [laughs]
Have you ever been to Pompeii?
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: You know what? That was my next trip. I was planning on going, but I started the movie straight after I stopped shooting Annie. I was going to go then, but the movie came in, so I’m still looking to go down there. Maybe just after this summer. When I finish, I’m going to do a TV show for NBC. I thought, well, I’ll go after then.
My curiosity has been peaked after shooting the film. It’ll be fascinating to see. I can’t wait to see the actual relics of these human beings enshrined in volcanic ash that we were portraying in the movie.
I myself want to go. I imagine it’s a very emotional experience to see it. I can’t even imagine.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: I did get to see some of the exhibition while we were in Philadelphia doing some press for the movie. They had an exhibit in Philadelphia of Pompeii in a museum. So, I did get to see some of that. It’s quite eerie. It just gives the movie a different kind of dimension and resonance when you really realized that this really happened, and you have the evidence right before you. It makes the movie all the more exciting to watch.
Have you been Kit?
Kit Harington: I went after filming. I didn’t go before the film, but I went after and did a little trip there. I felt the need to go. I’d done the movie. I’ve tried to imagine this place on a green screen for four months. I actually wanted to see the ruins. It’s fascinating. It’s just a fascinating archaeological site. I would urge anyone to go. It’s just an amazing place.
Being there and seeing it, did that change at all how you looked at the project, or do you wish you had done anything differently after having been there and seeing it?
Kit Harington: No, luckily not. I thought, oh God if I get there and it’s not what I had imagined and therefore portrayed onscreen, then I’d be disappointed, but they did their research well. It’s very similar to what we tried to show. What hit me when I got there was really the human element of it. We’ve been making this big action film with a love story running through it, and it’s going to be a fun film to watch the death and destruction… then going there and seeing the casts of these bodies is incredibly moving.
Interview By: Emma Loggins
Pompeii is out in theaters today!