By Cat Taylor
Poor old Jaime, having to fight with only one hand. Don’t worry – those three men taunting him weren’t extras with vicious natures, but rather part of the stunt team.
As for Varys' special delivery, our man in the box required no stunts. The sorcerer was played by a local actor and the crate he arrives in was specially made – as so many of the props are – to a finish of appropriate roughness. One of a few designs, it was eventually chosen for its sturdiness.
On the other end of the scale is the perfect finish and grandeur of the Sept of Baelor. The Sept is actually a little over half a sept; the appearance of a full circle was created using camera angle tricks and VFX. The massive space where the Sept was built in is shared with something unexpected, that you don’t get to see until Episode 306: the huge ice wall that Jon and Ygritte must climb with the wildlings.
The ice wall was built by our amazing construction team and it took six weeks of testing and sampling to find a construction method and materials that worked. This was then tested by stunts for safety, and once filming of the climb began, we had crews working through the night to repair the damage done during the day's shooting.
In Westeros, the Wall and King's Landing are thousands of miles away from each other, but things are a little different in the real world. In Belfast, you’ll find the Wall sandwiched between the Throne Room and parts of the Red Keep, and more specifically Tywin’s new chamber, where Cersei confronts her father.
When you see Tywin writing a number of scrolls in his chamber, keep this in mind: each and every scroll, document or map that you see on screen throughout all the episodes, is accurate to the story and where we are in the series. The contents of each of the letters are directly relevant to what’s happening on screen or where we are in the series.
Over at Craster’s Keep, the death of Commander Mormont, played by the wonderful James Cosmo, happened months before James' last shooting day on the show, which took place when he filmed his final scene in Iceland, just days before wrap. It was a strange day, knowing his end was not in fact, the real end – in terms of production at least. But rising from the grave does seem to be something of a custom on the show, though perhaps this is true of Beric Dondarrion above all others.
Beric is played by Belfast actor Richard Dormer, a perfect fit the Lighting Lord. Remember this? Now you’ve seen it in action. Imagine a small cave set with several burners and fires going at the same time. Our poor actors were basically fighting in an oven, and all the cast and crew came out of the stage that day a few layers lighter. One or two got more than a little bit sooty.
The day we shot the approach to a very different cave scene was not nearly as warm. Though the interior of the hot pool shared by Jon and Ygritte was shot in Belfast, in a redressed set that also appeared as the Brotherhood’s hideout, the approach was filmed in a lower field by a frozen lake just outside Kalfastrond, Iceland. There had been several days of heavy snow before we arrived in the area and the location was thigh deep in snow. Tracks one-person-wide were carved through the drifts and the crew had to carry in almost all the kit by hand.
Speaking of hands, I cannot watch Theon’s finger being peeled in the torture scene. It is a prosthetic of course, but as it was thrown at me, I can tell you now – it is genuinely disgusting despite its fraudulent nature. Knowing it’s not real doesn’t make scenes any less difficult to watch, especially when it means losing a player from the game.
Esmé Bianco, who plays Ros, has been in the show since the beginning and to say goodbye to a character is always hard. The day she was shot, in both senses of the word, was both sad and funny at the same time. To attach the bolts to her body, rods were fixed to the skin and positioned carefully for the best effect. The feathered crossbow bolts were then placed over the rods, and finally, blood was added. Imagine, though, trying to move around with arrows sticking out at all angles and to do so gracefully. I think only Esmé could pull it off, but sitting down comfortably would be an impossible task for anyone.