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Mona Lisa Neuboeck lures us into the surf.

born-again hero is ris­ing. “Thrones can be used as a metaphor way too much, but if there’s one truth, I think, it’s that peo­ple who re­ally de­sire power are the peo­ple who shouldn’t have it,” he says. “Maybe Jon’s the one per­son who should have it, be­cause he’s not look­ing for it.”

As Jon Snow’s

power on the show has grown, so too has the shadow the char­ac­ter casts over Harington’s fu­ture. “If I try and com­pete with Thrones,” he says, shak­ing his head, “if I’m like, ‘I need a Marvel movie, or the next big show on Ama­zon, or an­other one on HBO,’ then I’m just set­ting my­self up for one hell of a fall.”

Prece­dent isn’t much of a guide. TV stars used to need Hol­ly­wood block­busters to build a last­ing ca­reer. Some made the move spec­tac­u­larly (Ge­orge Clooney af­ter ER, Johnny Depp af­ter 21 Jump Street); oth­ers, less so (Fri­day Night Lights full­back Tay­lor Kitsch hasn’t yet re­cov­ered from the onetwo flop combo of John Carter and Bat­tle­ship).

The ac­tor’s life has long been a capri­cious one, full of sleeper hits and box-of­fice bombs, can­cel­la­tions and come­backs. To­day, they must also con­front the tec­tonic shifts to­ward stream­ing and global au­di­ences, which have shaken the very foun­da­tion of celebrity.

For a cau­tion­ary tale, Harington need look no fur­ther than his own IMDb page: In be­tween film­ing sea­sons of Thrones, he starred in a hand­ful of movies that played off his ac­tion-hero rep­u­ta­tion but failed to bur­nish his ca­reer: 2012’s hor­ror se­quel Silent

Hill: Rev­e­la­tion; 2014’s sword-and-san­dals epic Pom­peii; 2015’s for­get­table spy thriller

MI-5 and generic fan­tasy flick Sev­enth Son.

Only in the well-re­viewed World War I pe­riod ro­mance Tes­ta­ment of Youth (2015), op­po­site Ali­cia Vikan­der, did Harington sur­prise. (“He brings such sen­si­tiv­ity to his roles,” Vikan­der told me. “And his eyes! . . . Do you know he writes poetry?”) His non­film projects al­lowed him to flex a dif­fer­ent set of ac­torly mus­cles. Op­po­site Andy Sam­berg in HBO’s 2015 slap­stick ten­nis mock­u­men­tary 7 Days in Hell, Harington proved he’s “got the tim­ing of a nat­u­ral straight man, in the man­ner of a Hugh Grant,” as Be­nioff and Weiss de­scribe his per­for­mance, “with­out be­ing a douchebag, in the man­ner of a Hugh Grant.” Last year, he re­turned to the Lon­don stage, in a con­tem­po­rized pro­duc­tion of his name­sake Christo­pher “Kit” Mar­lowe’s Doctor Faus­tus.

But Harington, scratch­ing at the scruff of his beard, ad­mits that he has some re­grets: “A few years back, I should have said, ‘I want to do sto­ries that may not be as block­bustery but are in­ter­est­ing.’ ”

For his next film, Harington is putting his celebrity in the ser­vice of cin­ema’s brash 28-year-old Cana­dian en­fant ter­ri­ble, Xavier Dolan, as the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter in The

Death and Life of John F. Dono­van, op­po­site Jessica Chas­tain and Natalie Port­man. Harington de­scribes the role as “a fa­mous tele­vi­sion ac­tor who plays a heart­throb­by­type per­son.” Dono­van, who is gay, is outed just as a jour­nal­ist, played by Chas­tain, sen­sa­tion­al­izes his in­no­cent cor­re­spon­dence with an 11-year-old fan; as a re­sult, the press wrongly paints him as a pe­dophile. Sword­play this is not.

By tak­ing a ca­reer risk such as this—an indie movie about a con­tro­ver­sial sub­ject— Harington is cap­i­tal­iz­ing on his good for­tune. He’s a spokesman for In­finiti; soon he’ll be the face of Dolce & Gab­bana’s fra­grance the One for Men. “At the mo­ment, I don’t have too much pres­sure on my shoul­ders,” he says.

But gen­er­ally, lucky streaks end. With Hol­ly­wood less pre­dictable than ever, Harington is wise to lever­age his success into pas­sion projects. Like many stars—Clooney, Cruise, DiCaprio, Pitt—he launched his own pro­duc­tion com­pany, Thriker Films, largely to de­velop bet­ter roles for him­self. He quickly sold his first pitch: He and his col­lege pal Dan West part­nered with vet­eran screen­writer Ro­nan Ben­nett on Gun­pow­der, a three-part BBC minis­eries about the Gun­pow­der Plot of 1605, a Catholic con­spir­acy to blow up Par­lia­ment and kill the king, which is now cel­e­brated with fire­works on Guy Fawkes Day. The re­lease date has not yet been an­nounced; Harington will be­gin shoot­ing af­ter he wraps the fi­nal scenes for sea­son seven of Thrones.

In ad­di­tion to serv­ing as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Harington will play the plot’s master­mind, Robert Catesby, who, as it turns out, is a dis­tant an­ces­tor. But the project’s ap­peal isn’t so much the blood­line (“I have no real per­sonal feel­ing about this man,” Harington says. “I can’t claim that I’m do­ing some­thing for my fam­ily; that would be ridicu­lous”) as it is the po­ten­tial for provo­ca­tion. “It’s about a group of dis­en­fran­chised men who’ve been pushed out from society and per­se­cuted, and who turn to ex­treme acts of ter­ror­ism. It’s a story told from the ter­ror­ists’ side, to see why peo­ple might end up do­ing some­thing like this and what mad­ness drives them.”

What­ever comes next, one thing’s for sure: He’s not chas­ing awards. “I don’t re­ally aim to get into that next big Os­car film,” he says. “That’s not re­ally my route.” He and West, who used to write “Dumb and Dumber, Lau­rel and Hardy”–style skits at drama school, “might do a com­edy next,” Harington says.

Or he might not do much of any­thing. “I’ll en­joy the mad­ness qui­et­ing a bit,” he says. “I’d like a few years of rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity.” It’s hard to know if he’s tem­per­ing his ex­pec­ta­tions, hedg­ing his bets, or speak­ing from the heart—or per­haps all three. fter years of shar­ing flats around Lon­don with West, his writ­ing part­ner, it’s time for them both to move on. They’re go­ing through what Harington cheek­ily calls a “con­scious un­cou­pling”: “He’s go­ing off with his girl­friend and I’m liv­ing with my girl­friend.”

That girl­friend is Rose Les­lie, who costarred on Thrones as Ygritte, the flame­haired, feral Wildling who mem­o­rably took Jon Snow’s vir­gin­ity in a cave in sea­son three. As Snow per­forms fore­play, she moans, “You know noth­ing, Jon Snow. Oh. OHHH!” The phrase, sans moan­ing, was re­cited mul­ti­ple times through­out the series, but this was the one that turned it into a meme that has been GIF-ed, used as the sub­ject of a listicle (Buz­zFeed’s “26 Things Jon Snow Knows Noth­ing About”), and adapted into a book ti­tled The Com­pre­hen­sive Col­lec­tion of Things

That Jon Snow Knows. (The pages are blank.) The sex scene—the first for both ac­tors— was shot in Belfast in 2012. Whether that was their de facto first date, he won’t say. He has be­come so pro­tec­tive of his pri­vacy that he won’t even con­firm how long they’ve been to­gether. He po­litely cuts off talk about Les­lie, “’cause it’s as much her re­la­tion­ship as it is mine and I can’t speak for both of us. But yeah, we are very, very happy. So that’s what I’ll say about that.”

His phone be­trays him. It rests on the ta­ble, screen down, close to his fid­gety right hand. Our con­ver­sa­tion is pep­pered with vi­bra­tions— texts, calls—that de­mand at­ten­tion, and Harington gives in. Fi­nally, apol­o­giz­ing for the dis­trac­tion, he ex­plains: Now that he and Les­lie have de­cided to move in to­gether, part of this trip is to see if New York will be their home. They’re co­or­di­nat­ing with a real es­tate agent to look at apart­ments in Man­hat­tan this af­ter­noon. He vows he won’t touch his phone, but he keeps glanc­ing at it, swear­ing that he needs to take just this one call or send just one more text, his goofy grin be­ly­ing his at­tempts at sto­icism. Af­ter one fi­nal call, he throws on his black wool coat, ad­justs his base­ball cap, and pushes open the door into the cold winds of New York’s wan­ing win­ter.

When I call him shortly be­fore this story goes to press, he’s in Eng­land, be­gin­ning the

Gun­pow­der shoot. I ask about the house hunt; he tells me they didn’t pull the trig­ger on a New York apart­ment. “I’m the most fickle per­son,” he says. “Now I’m look­ing for a house in the English coun­try­side; next week it will be Florida. Never take my word on what the fuck I’m do­ing!”



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