In perhaps what was one of the great moments of the Game of Thrones series, Lancel Lannister was one of the many characters -- rest in peace, Margaery, the Prince of Flowers and the High Sparrow -- who perished when the Great Sept exploded at the beginning of the season six finale. The moment unfolded in a chillingly beautiful sequence that saw various characters eventually realize their doom, with Lancel discovering barrels of wildfire in a corridor beneath the building but being unable to stop it from being lit.
For Eugene Simon, the scene was an epic end to his time on the HBO series playing the Lannister who, over the course of his arc, went from being King Baratheon’s squire to a devoted servant to the High Sparrow.
“Game of Thrones is a hugely important and meaningful part of my life and my career. It’s certainly given me recognition in the public eye,” the 25-year-old British actor tells ET by phone, calling from Toronto where he’s promoting the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of his new film, The Lodgers. For many audiences, the gothic ghost story is one of the first times they’re getting to see Simon in something that’s decidedly unlike Game of Thrones.
In The Lodgers, which tells the story of orphaned twins who share a crumbling manor in 1920s Ireland and are controlled by unseen entities, Simon plays Seán, who returns home from war to a very different place than he left it.
In a conversation with ET, the actor talks about what drew him to the project, filming underwater and putting himself out there to crowdsource his next movie.
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ET: First, what drew you to a project like The Lodgers?
Eugene Simon: The underlying gothic element is very unique. But what drew me most to it was the story I'm lucky enough to be able to tell, which is the story of Seán, a handicapped Irish war veteran, returning to Ireland after the Great War to a country on a verge of founding its republic and hates him. And just on that sentence alone I think it's such a rich tapestry of a story.
Did you do any research on the real-life historical elements to prepare for this film?
I made myself aware of certain historical occurrences, specifically PTSD and the effects of shell shock and what that looked like. I felt that was an incredibly important part of Seán's story that had to be present as a ghost on his back for much of this tale. In that sense, he's a very somber character. He's a man looking for some sort of meaning that he can reclaim in his life. And that's where our protagonist Rachel, this mysterious, elusive figure in his life, plays such an important part.
This film is definitely gothic and creepy. Are you into films like this or the horror genre?
I'm very much a lover of horror films. The top three that I love would be The Grudge, The Shining and -- actually, an odd one is Signs. But this is a ghost story. The Lodgers is something I'm into because of its style. It very much draws on a very kind of Edgar Allan Poe attitude to fear. There is an ever-constant fearful story that is being told.
Were there any scenes that were a particular challenge to shoot?
Absolutely! This film has elements that are shot deep underwater, and we had a real success as a film with this. But it's a real challenge. We were having to spend up two days solidly underwater with up to five to 20 minutes on oxygen tanks. All of it done very safely and with absolute attention to detail. We all did our own stunts, as we put it. That was very challenging and enjoyable to do.
I’ve spoken to other actors who had to do underwater shoots, and they talked about the difficulty of minimizing air bubbles and trying to emote in water.
It's very much about keeping calm. So much of the exercises you do to prepare for underwater shoots have very much to do with yoga-esque breathing technics to really calm your heart rate to make sure you could make the most out of your oxygen. Also, learning to dive. We had to fully learn how to scuba dive. However, I was lucky in that I had done a film called Eden. It's a Lord of the Flies-esque survival thriller that I filmed in Malaysia. We were doing all of our stuff underwater. I had a one-mile-high handicam, where I was dumped in the middle of the ocean and left to swim for 20 minutes. And that was very challenging. So I was ready for this push.
You did a couple episodes of Genius, and The Lodgers is the first major film that audiences are seeing following your character’s death on Game of Thrones. What has being part of a show like that done for you and your career?
I've been given the gift of a role that had quite a lot of responsibility to it. It was a medium-size, very pivotal character in terms of the consequences that he put in play. It's given me a sense of real commitment to wanting to push even deeper in this industry. I love what I do. I make absolutely every effort to try to be as good as I possibly can, and I think Game of Thrones gave me a lot of that zealotry. It's made me love any bit of work that I feel passionate about.
Your death is part of one of the most epic moments of the series. Does it feel like a badge of honor? Do you take pride in going out like that?
Well, first of all, the feeling as an actor, if you're given a death as fortunate, it's gratitude for the ride you've had so far. They gave me a death that will always be visibly and also audibly very spectacular. The music was absolutely excellent. I thought it was one of the best bits of the entire scene.
As far as what it has done for me, there's no way I can fully articulate my gratitude. My last day was spent with fake blood all over my underpants, covered in my own sweat and spattered from head to toe in bat crap, cuz the corridor was as long as it looked and was inhabited by a colony of bats. That was my last day on the wonderful adventure that was Game of Thrones -- covered in blood, sweat and shit. And I could not have been happier.
You put your new film, Resonance, on Kickstarter to get funded. What’s it like to put yourself out there like that and ask fans to fund this project?
The Kickstarter crowd-funding process makes the relationship with your fans and the people you're asking to support you very personal. You're asking them to come on the journey with you. One of the reasons Marcos Efron, the writer and director, and I felt a video was very important [is] because this is a labor of real love that everyone on board this film that we’ll shoot in October is feeling. I love the Kickstarter process because it demands authenticity and honesty and enthusiasm and passion and also risk-taking. I don't pretend it's not scary to have to put yourself on the line like that… You want to do right by everyone who has contributed to it.
It must be satisfying to know that with days left, you’ve exceeded your funding. I know you have a stretch goal as well. But you’re fully funded.
We raised our funds in eight days, which was spectacular. We do have a stretch goal. And what I can tell everyone who cares to take a look at this is every single cent that is donated contributes to the increased quality of the film… This means a great deal and I hope we’re able to go above and beyond in our goal with the help of our supporters.
This interview has been edited and condensed.