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Jack Lowden as Nicolai Rostov: ‘War and Peace’ Character of the Day

  Ah yes, my dear,” said the count, addressing the visitor and pointing to Nicholas, “his friend Boris has become an officer, and so for friendships sake he is leaving the university and me, his old father, and entering the military service, my dear. And there was a place and everything waiting for him in the Archives Department! Isn’t that friendship?” remarked the count in an inquiring tone.”  
War and Peace, page 60

The need Nicolai Rostov has to follow his friend Boris into war in War and Peace isn’t a foreign concept. During the dwindling days of the Vietnam era I went out with a guy—a long-haired, pot-smoking, dangerous-looking type (as dangerous as any 23 year old can be)—who confessed that not only had he served in Viet Nam, he’d actually enlisted. This was in an era when thousands of our young men were dying for an unjust war and those at home doing everything they could to avoid the draft. “All my buddies got drafted,” he shrugged. “I had to sign up.” It was clear to him. No quandary. No choice. He couldn’t let his friends go fight without him, no matter how much he disagreed with the fight (and he did). That kind of bravery (or foolery) seems an essential part of a boy’s transition to manhood even though there may not always be a war where one can test oneself.

For Nicolai, the war was calling. Believing it was his calling, something he could do well, Nicolai threw himself into the Napoleonic War with innocence and had his youthful enthusiasm tested.

Jack Lowden, the young actor playing the young Romantic, Nicolai hasn’t had to be tested. For Jack, playing Nicolai was a lot of fun:
Nikolai is fun to play. He’s who you wish you could be, he’s very well read, he can ride and fence to a high level, and he goes to endless parties. But there are also other sides to him, which are interesting to explore. He’s also very blunt and very proud. All in all, he’s just a joy to play!
He got to play dress up as a soldier. Boys just love playing soldier, dont they?
Did you enjoy wearing the military uniforms?
“Absolutely. We shot at Catherine the Great’s Summer Palace in St Petersburg. That was something else. I was amazed by the number of mirrors they had. The amount of time they must have spent looking at themselves! They wore their military uniforms over one arm – they must have been so vain! They even rode into battle like that, with their coat over one arm. They just didn’t care – they were that cool. I’d definitely think about wearing that now!” 

The BBC asked him if hed read the book. His answer took me aback.
“Yes. I’m not normally a big fan of novels, but War & Peace is amazing. It takes ages to read – it’s about a foot thick! We’re all carrying it around and it’s so heavy that our posture is now lop-sided!
You take it out to read on the tube, and you can see the people next to you thinking, “How pretentious!” But it’s well worth it. It’s such a rich novel – it’s incredible that one man wrote it. It’s also very useful as an actor to go back to it to refresh your ideas about your character.
 I wouldn’t be that shocked to learn Lowden acted like he was reading the book but in reality he read the Cliff notes! 

I should talk! If I don’t get moving I’ll have to resort to the Cliff notes to get War and Peace under my belt before the four-part series coming to Lifetime, A&E & the History Channel this Monday, January 18th, ends. 

War and Peace stars Lily James, Paul Dano and James Norton with Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea, Tuppence Middleton, Aisling Loftus, Callum Turner, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Burke and Jack Lowden. Directed by Tom Harper from a script by Andrew Davies—happily accused of sexing it up—with cinematography by George Steel. The costume design, including those dashing military uniforms, are by Edward K. Gibbon. I’m seeing Emmy noms in their future.