Follow along with Season 3 and enjoy the 50 behind-the-scenes facts below.
1. Game of Thrones became a “three unit show” in Season 3, meaning that “there could be three directors, three separate director of photography and three sets of crew ‒ all filming at different locations simultaneously,” explained on-set reporter Cat Taylor.
2. After Jaime lost his hand, there were multiple prostheses for actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to wear, each one tailored to a specific action including horseback riding and jumping into a pit. Nikolaj’s real arm was tucked down by his waist, hidden by his costume.*
3. The shots of direwolf Grey Wind shuffling and hitting the door of his kennel during the Red Wedding were actually swordmaster C.C. Smiff, kicking hay and the door.*
4. Actor Maisie Williams has a favorite prop: “Needle,” she told HBO.com. “It's really beautiful, but I don't always get to use it because they don't really trust me. I thought no one got to use a normal sword, and then everyone was like, ‘I do.’ I realized it was just me. No one trusts me with my sword.”
5. It took artist Michael Eaton two days to complete the hand-painted map of Yunkai featured in “The Rains of Castamere” that Daenerys examines before Daario Naharis takes Grey Worm and Jorah into the city. “It was handmade using ink on vellum,” explained Cat Taylor.
6. Theon’s manhood “was taken from him with a blade that was specially designed for its purpose by [weapons master] Tommy Dunne, based on historical knives made for the job.”
7. The leeches attached to Gendry's skin [in “Second Sons”] were designed by the props department to be as realistic as possible.
8. There were also a few real leeches too, as actor Carice Van Houten, who plays Melisandre, detailed. “You need some movement in the animals for the close-ups. I wasn't keen on touching them – they're tricky little animals. Joe [Dempsie, who plays Gendry] was very, very brave to have them crawl on his chest. They move so much that it can be difficult to place them. Some takes I'd put them on Joe and they'd roll off, so it took us a while to shoot the scene.”
Check out these books featured in the series:
12. On-set reporter Cat Taylor detailed how certain sets were repurposed: “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 ‘Walk of Punishment.’ 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.”
13. Another redressed scene? The Brotherhood’s cave set was transformed for Jon and Ygritte’s natural hot pool scene: “We just generally changed the surface of the rocks and brought in this hot pool,” Jackson detailed. “And then we had a lovely waterfall, which kind of gave it a whole new feeling.”
14. The production design team worked with visual effects to build the ice wall that the wildlings scale. To get the texture and color right, Gemma and her team did layer after layer of wax and paint. The other challenge was that the actors actually spiked into the wall as they “scaled” it in the scene.
15. The Wall climb was shot on a 50-foot plaster wall into which the actors could dig real ice axes.
16. The Wall gave the actors a real sense of fear. “With the wind and the snow, it’s quite easy to imagine yourself there and to put in the performance,” said Mackenzie Crook, who played Orell.
17. Take a look at these images of the concept models for the Wall-climbing sequences:
18. The palm trees scattered around Dany’s camp were constructed by the production design team by hand: “We cast the trunks off real ones, and then we build this piece that goes on top,” Gemma Jackson explained.
19. King’s Landing got a new composite set for Season 3. The new set allowed for the production designers and set decorators to create much-needed variation and diversity in the types of spaces featured. Additional rooms included a courtyard, rooms for Tywin and Tyrion and a balcony off Tyrion’s room.
20. A lot of time and work went into creating Theon’s torture chamber. The pain-inflicting tools included a retractable needle and a torture boot which was meant to screw into Theon’s foot. Prop master Gordon Fitzgerald used two different sizes of screw to protect the actor’s foot while making it look like it was going into his foot. The team coordinated with special effects to make the blood come through the top of the boot after it was affixed.
21. The character of Ros was originally scripted for just one scene in the pilot. Actor Esmé Bianco recalls a note she received from series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss: “They said, ‘We love your character, we really like what you did. Would you consider coming back if we wrote you in?’ So they kept sending me scenes and it went from there.”
22. While the bear pit of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” was built in Northern Ireland, “the bear himself was actually filmed in Castaic, CA,” admitted Cat Taylor. “His name is Bart II, and he lives in Utah. He’s been seen in We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon. He was one of six bears that were looked at, along with the possibility of an animatronic bear and a man in a bear suit – but the last two options were rejected as not realistic enough.”
23. Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau debriefed on filming the namesake scene: “We shot in Belfast with the crowd and the wire work involved with getting out of the pit. Then in January we went to California and we shot it with Bart the Bear II. What you see in the scene is a real bear ‒ it's not a CGI thing, it's a live bear, an actor, kind of a diva I have to say... They built half the pit on a soundstage, and we shot Bart's close-ups, if you will.”
24. The bear pit was constructed solely out of timber so it would complement the architecture of Harrenhal. “It had to look like it had been there forever, and it had to sort of look like it was made from gnarly wood. It wasn’t polished, it’s something on which you had been standing for some time,” explained art director Steve Summersgill.
25. The costume team had to make six of the same dress for Brienne’s scene with the bear in order to cover off the wear and tear of doing all the stunt work.