“I’ve been really chuffed that it’s nominated for an Oscar,” says actor Kit Harington, discussing his role in “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” which contends for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars (listen to our podcast below). “Sometimes it’s easy to feel a slight sense of actor-guilt about animated movies. You feel that you’re an actor in an Oscar-nominated movie and you’ve done very minimal work, but I can now forevermore — no matter what happens in my bloody career — I can say to my kids, ‘I was once in an Oscar-nominated movie.'”
Harington voices dragon-trapper Eret, who begins the film at odds with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Viking cohorts, who have made peace with dragons. Harington started his work on the film in 2013, and “for me it was over in the course of a year and a half, and over that time they’ll grab you whenever they can in whatever country you’re in and you’ll do a certain amount of sessions.”
Playing a supporting role in an animated film, he felt freed from some of the pressures of a live-action project, with more room to “experiment,” and “what’s really inspiring about the whole piece is you feel that the animators who you let’s face it only meet a couple of times are really working alongside you in a very collaborative fashion and are using what you’re giving them physically as well.”
It also helped to have the support of the film’s director, Dean DeBlois, who served as Harington’s scene partner for most of his recording sessions, “so you have to have a lot of trust in him. He’s the silent actor in the whole film. And I think it’s essential that you have someone like Dean who can deliver lines to you with the right kind of character sense behind that person and giving you something back … As long as you’ve got a director like Dean who’s really putting his whole heart into it and giving you the right notes.”
This is Harington’s first brush with Oscars, but he’s no stranger to the awards scene thanks to his role as Jon Snow on HBO’s epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” for which Harington has been nominated for three SAG Awards as a member of its ensemble cast. “I really like the SAG Awards,” he says. “I spend all my time filming in Northern Ireland in the winter months, and we’re huddled around fires and we’re incredibly soaking wet … and you can’t get a hot cup of tea for love nor money. And then you all find yourselves in the same room in Hollywood, booze on tap and free food, and it’s all very glamorous, and you’re two tables away from some of my greatest icons. There’s that weird sort of balance in our industry between those two worlds.”
He has spent much of his run on “Thrones” in his own “isolated storyline,” so when his story does intersect with other major characters, as it did at the end of season four when he met Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), he has to remind himself to forget what he knows about them. “The one thing I had to do was take away my vision of who these people were having watched the show,” he explains. “I kind of knew Stephen’s work, and I have a lot of scenes with him this year … and I was trying to remind myself that Jon had no idea what this man was about … Jon Snow doesn’t watch ‘Game of Thrones.'”
Season four also meant the tragic end of Jon’s relationship with wildling love interest Ygritte (Rose Leslie), but even though it was “sad saying goodbye,” Harington doesn’t believe it’s in Jon’s nature to dwell in tragedy. “I don’t believe character-wise and story-wise that Jon ever hangs on to people who died. I think this is a different world that we’re in, and he doesn’t hang around before he moves on and gets on with his job.”
“Thrones” returns for its fifth season in April, but “How to Train Your Dragon 2” will have its moment of truth on February 22, when Oscars are handed out. The first “Dragon” film was nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2010, losing to “Toy Story 3,” but “Dragon 2” currently leads our racetrack odds. Will Harington some day be able to tell his kids that he was once in an Oscar-winning movie? Listen to our complete podcast below, then use our drag-and-drop menu to make your predictions, or click here to enter or edit your picks in all Oscar races.