By Cat Taylor
There are moments on 'Game of Thrones,' when you know something coming up in the filming schedule will be different. The apprehension in the days leading up to the filming of the Red Wedding was a palpable feeling – this scene, this moment was one that would shift the direction of so many of our main storylines, and for some, it was the coming of an abrupt end. Readers of the books have known the Red Wedding was imminent, but followers of the show would only know that something, something was reaching a climax.
Before we get to the filming days in the hall at the Twins, let me tell you a few facts from the episode you might find interesting. The Great Hall at the Twins, where Robb Stark holds audience with Walder Frey, was also the Council Chamber at Riverrun where Edmure claimed his victory at the Stone Mill – much to Robb's disgust in Episode 303. The set was completely reworked so that the light and airy rooms of House Tully became a dark, menacing and oppressive space; the walls were refinished, the Tully fish removed, the balcony added and the windows covered. Then Set Dec went to work to bring in the finished elements in just under two weeks, from start to finish.
What the Art Department can do in such a short time frame would blow your mind. Take for example the hand-painted map of Yunkai that Daenerys examines before Daario Naharis takes Grey Worm and Jorah into the city. That one map was handmade using ink on vellum by one of our artists, Michael Eaton. It took him around two days to complete once the concept was agreed upon. In comparison, Robb’s map, with the wolf head markers when he plots with Catelyn to sack Casterly Rock, had so much detailing, it took about a week of solid work to finish.
Those maps were very real, but some things on the show come thanks to a bit of trickery. By now, it is no secret that Kit Harington broke his ankle before the beginning of the season. When the wildlings run to attack the holster in the field, a scene filmed on private land near Saintfield, Kit was still in a cast and could only walk for short periods of time. The actual run across the field was not performed by Kit, but rather a double who had to jump the wall and charge with the rest of the wildling crew. If you read the post last fall with Special Effects Floor Supervisor Jonathan Barrass, you may recognise the day in question.
In the end, there would be no doubles for the Starks. As much as we were all desperate to keep Richard Madden, Michelle Fairley and Oona Chaplin with us, Robb, Catelyn and Talisa had to die. Consummate gentleman David Nutter directed this episode, perhaps the most shocking one since the death of Ned Stark. Starting on a cold, wet Monday in mid-October, and with the help of his 1st AD Mark Taylor, he created an atmosphere on set that was both chilling and intimate. Over the course of a week, the reign of King Robb was cut short by the most brutal betrayal.
When the band in the gallery (including Will Champion of Coldplay) began to play the haunting strains of "The Rains of Castamere," the room seemed to shrink. The entire crew's focus was on Catelyn as the scene unfolded.
The hall was full with some of our best extras and stunt men who acted out the most active killings, each one rehearsed so that the scene would have to be reset a limited number of times. It was Talisa that was first to die and as she finished her last scene, covered from tip to toe in blood, Oona rushed away to change and came back to watch the end of Robb and Catelyn. The stage was full as crew squeezed around monitors to watch the end, a salute to some of our greatest actors who have been so fundamental to our story from the beginning.
Richard was set with crossbow bolts in the same way that Esmé Bianco was when Ros was killed by Joffrey, each one piercing his costume as rivulets of blood were added. When Robb dies, saying his final word to Catelyn, the hall echoed with her scream – and it was the only sound there was. No one dared to breathe as Catelyn cut down Walder Frey’s young wife, and in turn, had her own throat slit by Black Walder. Their prosthetic wounds were nearly identical.
The loss of Richard and Michelle struck a cord with the crew, many of whom had been on the show from the pilot. David Nutter spoke briefly, passionately about his feelings on working on so fundamental and anticipated a scene and those who had come to witness the shoot began to applaud. Sometimes, there really are no words.
At the end of the final day, when all was done, we gathered outside the walls of the Great Hall, the blood still wet and pooling on the floor, and bid goodbye to Richard, Michelle and Oona. There were more than a few tears and endless hugs – their last days in Westeros were their last days on set too. The Red Wedding marked their final moments and the end of three worthy players – for us and the game.