5 Questions with Isaac Hempstead-Wright of “The Boxtrolls” and “Game of Thrones”

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Whether you’re being raised by trolls, surviving a Westoros defenestration, or making a career in the wild and wacky world of international show business, it never hurts to be both enthusiastic and, believe it not, genuine. Now 15 years old, Isaac Hempstead-Wright is best known to most as Bran Stark on “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s Emmy-winning adult fantasy sensation based on George R.R. Martin’s gazillion-selling literary doorstops. His voice is also soon to become known to family film audiences as the heroic young Eggs in “The Boxtrolls,” the latest from Laika Studios, the stop-motion animation whizzes who brought us the rightfully acclaimed “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.”

An apparently very down-to-earth youth from an industrial English village, Hempstead-Wright seems unaffected by the fact that he’s spent several of his formative years working on a long-form dark fantasy spiked with graphic violence and NC-17-esque sexuality. Soulful and earnest on TV, in person, the young actor is eager and friendly to a fault – after we were told our interview was completed, he engaged us in some neighborly small-talk until yours truly was very nearly forcibly ejected by publicity.

That enthusiasm has no doubt been a plus in the physically and emotionally challenging role of the disabled, steadfast young Bran alongside the stellar “Game of Thrones” cast. It also must have factored into Laika’s decision to place Hempstead-Wright alongside the top-drawer “Boxtrolls” voice ensemble, which includes Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg and Sir Ben Kingsley.

As the old saying goes, you need sincerity to succeed in show business and, if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Here are five pretty sincere answers we don’t think young Hempstead-Wright had to fake.

1. Can you persuade the Bullz-Eye core audience of males, aged 18-35, that it’s safe to see “The Boxtrolls” despite it’s family-friendly PG rating?

IHW: I would say go and see “The Boxtrolls” just because the Boxtrolls are really cute, even if you’re sort of this big, butch person, I think you would enjoy how cute they are, because that’s kind of what they are. They look like, on the outside, they are these terrifying creatures, but you realize they are very soft and sweet inside.

[My character, Eggs] is a boy who thinks he’s a Boxtroll. He’s an orphan who was raised by Boxtrolls because they’re the only people who really care for him. If you look at a lot of the people in the upper world – the Boxtrolls live in an underground cavern – [the human parents are] all really horrible. Well, not horrible — they just don’t care for the children. If you look at [lead female character, voiced by Elle Fanning] Winnie’s parents, they are much more interested in cheese than in [their] daughter.

2. Now we move on to the very sexy and violent elephant in the room, i.e., “Game of Thrones.” We read in another interview that you’ve been watching the show with your parents. It sounds potentially a bit awkward. Let me ask you this, when did they start letting you watch it?

IHW: The first season, they didn’t let me watch because I was still only about 11. Really, it wasn’t too much of a problem watching it [later on] because the mature themes were kind of dealt with, in a sense. The violence wasn’t a problem at all because I just knew that it was all fake. I would be hanging around on set with all the stuff that they use to do it. I’d watch it and say, “That doesn’t even look real – that’s not a real head!”

The sexual themes opened up the door to talk about that with my parents in a way that other people can’t… It’s a sort of new way of doing [sex ed] — instead of doing it in school. “Game of Thrones”; any questions? [Laughs]

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3. We understand you haven’t read the books. Considering the show’s notorious body count, aren’t you ever tempted to read them, just to find out how long your job’s going to last?

IHW: Oh, no. I’ve Wikipediad it. Hello! I still want to know, but I don’t know if I’m quite dedicated enough to read it.

4. You spend a lot of time being carried on “GoT.” Did you ever wish Westeros would manage to invent a wheelchair for you?

We did have a wheelchair thing, but my legs were actually so long, because I’m growing so much, that they were just dragging along the floors whenever it moved. Then we moved to the snowy areas, so it wasn’t really feasible. Then we changed to a sort of [sled], and now, we’re in a cave so it doesn’t matter.

5. It says on Wikipedia that you the only reason you started acting was because you didn’t like playing soccer – football to English folks like you – on cold Saturdays.

I joined a drama group because football was too cold. It was quite ironic, though, because that was too cold. Then, when we started “Game of Thrones,” it’s [shot] in Belfast, where’s it too cold. I need to try something else now!

  

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