10 Facts About Kit Harington

John Phillips, Getty Images for Jameson
John Phillips, Getty Images for Jameson

by Lindsey Young

Everyone knows Kit Harington for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. But there's probably a lot you don't know about the London-born actor, who was born on December 26, 1986 (including the fact that he hates celebrating his birthday).

1. His real name is Christopher—but even he didn't know that until his pre-teens.

Actor Kit Harington arrives at Entertainment Weekly's 5th Annual Comic-Con Celebration sponsored by Batman: Arkham City held at Float, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego on July 23, 2011 in San Diego, California
Michael Buckner, Getty Images For Entertainment Weekly

Christopher Catesby Harington was born in west London on December 26, 1986. But as he has always gone by Kit, it wasn't until Harington was 11 years old that he found out his real name was "Christopher."

2. He was named after Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe.

Harington is named after famed playwright Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, who was an inspiration to William Shakespeare as well as Harington's mother, Deborah Jane Catesby, who is also a playwright. Harington himself dabbles in poetry-writing, though he told The Huffington Post that, "It’s terrible poetry. I would never ever ever read it to anybody. But I do write, I do write poems."

3. He began his career on the stage, in the original production of War Horse.

While still attending the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (he graduated in 2008), Harington landed the lead role in the National Theatre's original production of War Horse. In 2009, when the show transferred to the West End's New London Theatre, Harington continued playing the role of Albert, which brought him much acclaim. It was also the role that led him to the part of Jon Snow: one of the producers for Game of Thrones saw Harington in War Horse and asked him to come in for an audition.

4. He is only 5’8".

Though Harington is a force to be reckoned with on Game of Thrones, the actor is actually only 5’8". 
He once recalled a story about how a woman "came up to me at a bar and said 'OMG OMG you look just like Jon Snow.' and I said 'Well, I am.' And she was like, 'Nah, he’s much taller than you.'" (Ouch.)

5. He showed up to his Game of Thrones audition with a black eye.

The night before his Game of Thrones audition, Harington ended up in a McDonald's late at night with a woman he was dating. Because it was crowded, they grabbed a seat at a table with another couple, whom they didn't know. Shortly thereafter, the man across from them began making rude comments to Harington's date. Unfortunately, it was only after Harington stood up and challenged the stranger that realized just how tall his would-be opponent was. "I got battered," Harington admitted, and ended up with a fresh shiner. On the bright side, he thinks that his damaged face is part of what landed him the role. "I think that man who punched me in the face may have helped me get the job," he said. "So if you're watching, thank you."

6. He wore a wig for the original Game of Thrones pilot.

No, Harington's dark curly locks were not always his signature trademark. Although he later became contractually obligated to keep his hair long for the role of Jon Snow, that wasn't the case when they shot the original pilot for Game of Thrones—the one that never aired, not the one you remember. Harington, for one, is happy that it never saw the light of day. "I had a horrible wig on," he told BBC Breakfast in 2016.

Though that's not the sole reason he's glad they reshot it, though. "The pilot really didn’t work," Harington said. “No one’s ever seen it, it’s in some back room somewhere, and I’d like it to stay there!”

7. He's extremely claustrophobic, which posed an issue while shooting an iconic game of thrones scene.

While filming Game of Thrones's season six episode, "Battle of the Bastards," Harington had to come to terms with his extreme claustrophobia. "I've got a few fears, spiders being one of them," he told the Belfast Telegraph in 2017. "But the worst is my claustrophobia—I'm mortally afraid of crowds. I panic." He went on to describe the climactic scene in the episode as "one of the most terrifying ... and most uncomfortable" things he has ever done.

8. He's related to the guy who invented the flushable toilet.

When asked by Elle about the rumors that he is distantly related to John Harington, the man who invented the first flushable toilet (which was created for Queen Elizabeth I), Harington confirmed that, "That's 100 percent true. It's called 'the John Harington.'" Which is reportedly where the slang term "the john" originated. As for Kit, he's just people don't refer to the toilet as "the Harington."

9. He was forced to reveal Jon Snow's fate to get out of a speeding ticket.

Kit Harington of 'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' attends The IMDb Studio presented By Land Rover At The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival
Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb

After being sworn to secrecy about his fate in the sixth season, Harington was forced to give up the answer after being pulled over for speeding. The officer, a fan of the show, gave him two options: either deal with the punishment for speeding or tell him whether Jon Snow would live or die in the next season. Harington initially thought the man was joking, but after a second look he told him: “I am alive next season.” To which the officer responded, “On your way, Lord Commander."

10. He gets grumpy on his birthday.

December babies have long complained about the challenges of being able to truly celebrate the occasion. (The "dual" birthday-Christmas gift is a particularly annoying tradition.) But being born the day after Christmas—which is its own holiday, Boxing Day, in England—has always been a bummer for Harington. "I always end up getting really grumpy and selfish on my birthday," he told W Magazine, explaining that "I never get enough attention."

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.