Want to see Jon Snow learn to flirt? In Kit Harington’s latest film, Testament of Youth, he plays a student turned World War I soldier who captures the interest of our heroine, Vera Brittain, played by Ex Machina’s decidedly non-robotic Alicia Vikander. Brittain, whose memoir forms the basis of the film, became a passionate advocate for pacifism after nursing soldiers on both sides during the war.
But this exclusive scene takes place before war breaks out, and Vera is seen in a more relaxed state, hanging out with her brother and his school chums. “I wanted the modernity,” director James Kent told Vulture at the film’s New York premiere hosted by Peggy Siegal, Interview magazine, and Exclusive Matchmaking. “I wanted it to feel like they were just kids today, enjoying themselves, chilling out, very informal.”
“It’s one of the few scenes where we got to be really light,” Vikander added. “And it’s a scene that means a lot. I love how it shows the relationships, how she was close with them, and how rare it was for a girl to be as forward as she was, how they totally accept her and actually encourage her to go to university, even though it wasn’t the norm at the time.”
Kent instructed the group of actors, “Remember when you were 19.” Harington, who is now 28, was 27 when he shot the scene. “I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at flirting over the years!” the actor laughed. “I had to remind myself I wasn’t 27, because they’re all young, experiencing the first glimmers of love for the first time, and there’s all that fucking sexual tension flying around everywhere. It’s their first moment of finding something in each other.”
What made the shoot tricky to execute was the weather — “It was supposed to be summer, and it was like 2 degrees!” Vikander said. “Thick, thick fog,” Kent agreed. Probably compounded by the period costumes’ lack of warmth, Kent said the actors behaved a little stiff and formal, which is why he felt he had to exhort them to “feel young.” “It’s quite easy to feel subsumed by the costume, and get quite serious and formal,” he explained. “You have to get them to remember that these are like their underpants. They wore them every day. It’s not like beautiful clothes to them.”
On top of this was the time factor, since it was Harington’s last day of shooting, “and we had to get everything in,” Kent said. “So that was particularly tough. I had in my head a very different scene, but as a director, you have to adapt. It was our toughest day.”
Luckily for Harington, his last day of shooting also meant his last day of having to wear that wig. “It was brilliantly made by a master wig-maker named Peter Owen, give him a shout-out!” he said. When images first surfaced of the actor shooting the film, fans were shocked, believing him to have shorn his famous Game of Thrones locks. “I had no idea when we engaged Kit for the part that, contractually, his hair couldn’t be cut!” Kent laughed. “What a genius move that was, Game of Thrones. But the wig is amazing, and you would never, never know.” “How did he fit all that hair under the wig!” Vikander marveled. Asked to choose which look she liked best, she paused. “That man looks great in everything, that’s what I think.”