January 31, 2014 by Sankha Wanigasekara
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has been hosting an exhibition titled “One Day in Pompeii,” since Nov. 9, 2013, which displays numerous artifacts preserved by the volcanic eruption in A.D. 79 that wiped out the entire ancient city of Pompeii, Italy. It was then highly fitting that the initial screening and red carpet event for the upcoming film “Pompeii” was held at the institute itself.
The red carpet event was not entirely on par with those at awards shows or at New York premieres, as it was set up just outside the Franklin Theater adjacent to the museum’s space exhibition. This made the environment somewhat simple in nature. The celebrity crowd was also sparse, with several cast members such as Jared Harris of “Mad Men” and Kiefer Sutherland of “24” being absent.
But my disappointment was buried once I saw the two actors who did make appearances. One happened to be Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who many would recognize as Mr. Eko from ABC’s “Lost.” The other was Kit Harrington, who plays the character Jon Snow on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The arrival of the latter turned me into a giddy high school teenage girl, being an ardent fan of the television show since its premiere in 2011. Both gentlemen opted to wear rather casual clothes to the gathering, which was understandable given the rather low profile nature of the event.
As soon as the duo arrived, the cameras began flashing and clicking unceasingly, and the two actors instantly began to pose for pictures as they’ve done countless times before. Slowly, at a snail’s pace, each actor progressed down the red carpet, answering questions other journalists threw at them before Harrington first made contact with The Triangle team. It was Anne Most from The Triangle who had the opportunity to interview both the stars of the upcoming film.
Without hesitation, she asked the “Game of Thrones” star about details of the movie and the preparation for his role as Milo, a gladiator who finds himself taken from Britannia (present day England) to Pompeii. He was keen on promoting the film’s action pieces, given that most of the combat takes place in the gladiators’ arena. Harrington told us to expect some “high-octane fight scenes.” His preparation was of great interest due to the state of his physique in photos for and the trailer of the movie. He went through five months of prep, mostly gym time, to get into fighting shape for his role. His hard work paid off, because his muscle definition could rival that of the Greek Gods themselves. Akinnuoye-Agbaje offered similar answers to those of Harrington. His most interesting quote was when he said that “you need to look the part to be the part,” as he too plays a gladiator in the film. It was surprising that the two weren’t weary or annoyed after giving repetitive replies.
Soon, all the journalists and fans that had turned up were ushered into the Franklin Theater, where there was a question-and-answer session with just the two actors. Each actor gave a brief background of their respective characters. Harrington described how Milo was taken as a slave and forced to be a gladiator when he was a child after the Romans massacred the Celtic Horse Tribe. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Atticus, was an enslaved African man who rose to prominence through his gladiatorial conquests. The panel had the actors talking about how exhausting the fight scenes were, working with director Paul W.S. Anderson, whom Akinnuoye-Agbaje described as a humorous man of few words, and their favorite memories on set. However, it all came back to the duo’s fitness regimen. Some might have even mistaken the affair for a health and fitness forum. Harrington was asked by the panel host if his abs were “green-screened,” to which he jokingly replied, “Unfortunately not.”
The two men used to pump iron when the director offered breaks in between shooting, and Harrington said the diet he was on left him feeling “starved.” Other interesting trivia popped up throughout the panel, such as Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s use of method acting to stay in character hours before filming to compensate for the fact that he had never formally trained to become an actor.
The whole event progressed seamlessly, with both journalists and fans who had turned up treating the stars with respect and praise. Fans who had packed into the theater laughed at the actors’ jokes and applauded their responses, especially when the effort behind the scenes and their general knowledge of Philadelphia were brought up. While it wasn’t the most typical red carpet setting, the presence of the two leading stars and their amiable nature in the Q&A session made the event a standout.
“Pompeii” is set to hit theaters Feb. 21 and “One Day in Pompeii” will be at the Franklin Institute until April 27.