Toby Kebbell and Pilou Asbæk talk Game of Thrones and training for ‘Ben-Hur’

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When it comes to Ben-Hur, there are no bigger sandals to file than Judah Ben-Hur and Messala Severus. Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd won Oscars for their roles in Ben-Hur and are an integral part of the film. Just as important is Pontius Pilate because you absolutely cannot have a film chronicling the last days Jesus Christ without Pontius Pilate. So who are the actors brave enough to tackle these roles? Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four) and Pilou Asbæk (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), that’s who.

We got to sit down with Toby Kebbell and Pilou Asbæk and asked the two actors a few burning questions such as…

When asked what his training regimen was like for the hand-to-hand combat, Kebbell said:
“I had an incredible stunt double for my fighting, I had an incredible double for my horse riding. Thankfully, once we trained to that level we could do the chariot racing. So I really trained with Andre, my stunt double, for all my conditioning for my sword fights, and the battles that went on for days. Andre was the guy who took me through that regimen of being flexible enough. It’s really a stamina drive, our job. That’s what it ends up being, you can be buff and cool, but it’s stamina. It’s a 14-hour day. It’s a night shoot into a day shoot into a flipping back-and-forth.”

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As for which scene was the most grueling? Kebbell replied:
“The night shoot with Pilou. Not joking, that night shoot in the rain was horrendous.”

“That was at the end of the shoot,” Asbæk added. “After 5 or 6 months, they just kept on shooting the same beats again and again and again. The problem wasn’t [Toby and me], the problem was that there was an arrow that wasn’t straight or there was a guy who wasn’t [dying right]. At the end of the day, when we’ve been shooting 10 hours you’re like just be f*cking dead. Timur was a perfectionist.”

When asked if there were any reservations taking on Ben-Hur, Asbæk said:
“This is my first American film. I’m not in a position where I can choose to pick. I’ve done 8 or 10 years of acting in Denmark, so I can pick and choose back home. When you have to transcend into the American market, it’s very, very different. I’m just 1 out of 10 thousand actors. So when I was given the role after Pedro [Pascal] dropped out because of ‘Narcos,’ people were open about it. You’re like, okay next in line. So it was a no-brainer for me.”

“It’s the same for me,” Kebbell added. “I’m an Englishman. Yes, I’ve done some larger films… Some not very successful ones, but the truth is, you still audition. I did a 10-page audition. I got the role, and once I got the role, I figured I get to go to Rome for 6 months. I was going to be taught how to ride chariots. Stupid people don’t turn down those roles.”

When asked why now was the right time to remake Ben-Hur, Kebbell said:
“I think they chose to remake this movie because my generation… I remember watching it on Easter Sunday with my mum and hearing how handsome Charlton Heston was.” He joking says, “Ugh, I don’t care mum!” In his best impersonation of his mom, Kebbell said, “But he’s so handsome! Such a handsome man.”

“I watched the film and I should’ve been aware that this film won 11 Oscars.  Stephen [Boyd], who played Messala last time, and Charlton won Oscars for both their roles. You can see why when you watched it back then. I should’ve been brighter about it.”

Was Kebbell’s mom happy when she heard he was going to be a part of the remake? Kebbell said:
“No, no, no, no. When she heard they were making Ben-Hur, she was like, ‘Why? It’s such a good film. They’re going to ruin it!’” He jokingly added, “Thanks, mum.”

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When asked what it was like to take on the highly disliked role of Pontius Pilate, Asbæk said:
“Yeah. I don’t get it. [laughs] He’s very loved in Europe. When we were shooting the chariot race, there were around 25 Italian journalists and I came in and they were like, ‘who is this idiot?’ Then they said, ‘this is Pontius Pilatus.’ All [the journalists] were like ‘OHH! OH MY GOD!’ They love him because, according to the New Testament, he tried to save Jesus.”

Pilou Asbæk, who plays Euron Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, was asked what it’s like to be part of the fanatical Game of Thrones fan base, he says:
“In my mind, it’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the people they love it so much; the curse is that they’re so f*cking fanatical to where you can’t do anything. Whatever you do it gets analyzed. Sometimes, if you analyze, you’re not in it with your heart. Films should be watched with your heart. Do I like it? Do I don’t like it? Does it give me anything? Does it not give me anything?”

When asked if Pontius Pilate thinks he won at the end of Ben-Hur, Asbæk said:
“That’s what Timur wanted. He wanted Pontius Pilate to win because he wanted him to [be like] ‘if it’s going bad then I’m just going to entertain you.’ Timur really wanted him to win so that both sides would win.”

As we found out there was a lot of people in that arena, Kebbell said:
“It was supposed to be a 20 thousand seat arena, and we switched [5,000 extras] from one corner to the next quadrant to when Pilou has his scenes cheering us on [with the extras] surrounding him. So there are digital effects added to the scene but they built it for real. We had a beautiful time, though. That night shoot we did Morgan, we’re standing there and Morgan just comes up [saying his line]. I’m like ‘he’s doing a line with Pilou… Pilou! Pilou!’ He went straight to the line. I told him, ‘that’s not my line, Pilou that’s yours.’”

Check back this week as we’ll have more interviews with the cast of Ben-Hur.

BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but an encounter with Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) leads him to the Crucifixion, where he discovers forgiveness and finds redemption.

Ben-Hur races into theaters on August 19th.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1442 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.