50 Surprising Things About Season 1 - Part 1

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If you’re not already counting down to Season 6 with #GOT50, it’s time to get busy binging Season 1 on HBO NOW. As you make your way through the classic episodes, peruse through the 50 factoids below.

1. The crew took 10 weeks to create a wintery environment in Northern Ireland for the first scene of the series, featuring the White Walkers.

2. A large section of Castle Black was created at Magheramorne Quarry in Northern Ireland. “It's a composite set with exteriors and interiors,” writer Bryan Cogman marveled. “The courtyard. The ravenry. The mess hall. The barracks chamber. Even a working elevator that climbs up the quarry wall. It's all here.”

3. Set decorator Richard Roberts had a specific vision for Castle Black: "It had to look greasy, grungy, cold and as disgusting as possible.” From giving the extras rotten teeth to including pigs and hanging raw meat, Roberts accomplished his mission: “It smelled foul and looked foul but that's how it should be, so we're happy."

4. When creating Winterfell, and each of the worlds of the show, the production adhered to strict guidelines. “What the characters wore, ate, what building materials they had, how they decorated – everything should come from a 50 mile radius,” producer Frank Doelger explained.

5. Production designer Gemma Jackson was inspired by the Pantheon for the floor of the Throne Room.

6. The  Eyrie’s weirwood throne was created from three different pieces of wood welded together. It is so heavy, it needs to be moved with a crane.

7. Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) dazzled in her audition. “She took the character [and] gave her a real sense of humor that I don’t think was originally there on the page,” David Benioff said. “She gave her a real dynamism.”

8. What stood out the most for George R.R. Martin in Season 1? The child actors. “The kids were a particular revelation, and they were very hard to find,” Martin said. The author was particularly impressed with Maisie Williams, who plays Arya. “She’s just an amazing talent,” Martin noted, thinking back to her audition: “I’d watched that scene a hundred times before I saw Maisie’s take on it, and she was just so alive. The expressions on her face … It was Arya, coming alive.”

9. Although actor Maisie Williams is right-handed, she plays Arya left-handed. “Maisie expressed early on that she wanted to learn her sword fights left-handed to honor the description in the original novels,” explained writer Bryan Cogman. “She's already shot a sequence involving some complex choreography that would challenge any actor, not to mention one not using her favored hand.  What a kid!”

10. The costumes of the Night’s Watch reflect an institution in decline: The clothes the men wear probably came with them from home and are in no way uniform. After Jon Snow arrives at the Wall, he wears the same gear in every episode.

11. The Wall was warmer than appearances let on. Actor Kit Harington recounted filming one such scene: “We were obviously meant to be completely freezing. We’re at the top of the wall, it’s night. In actual fact, we were in the Paint Hall [studio]. For lighting, we had to basically enclose me in kind of what they call ‘witches candles,’ so I’m absolutely boiling and sweating... We had to keep on mopping the sweat away, at the same time pretending that we were absolutely freezing.”*

12. The young direwolves are played by a breed of northern Inuit dog, bred to resemble wolves as much as possible. Inspired by Jaws, series creators D. B. Weiss and David Benioff showed the audience glimpses of the wolves in the pilot, but held off from allowing the audience to really see them until later in the season.

13. The dog that portrayed Lady (named Zunni) was actually adopted by Sophie Turner (Sansa) after shooting wrapped.

14. The assassin's dagger in “The Kingsroad” was designed by storyboard artist William Simpson and armourer Tommy Dunne to be lethal at both ends. The handle and the blade can each be used as weapons.

15. Cersei wears metal belts for a reason: “I quite like the idea that she’s armored, in a sense,” said costume designer Michele Clapton.

16. The Lhazareen village that the Dothraki raid in “The Pointy End” was filmed in an excavated Neolithic Arab village. The crew built outcroppings on top of it which they then burned down.

17. The Stark and Lannister camps in “Baelor” are designed to be in sharp contrast to one another. Robb’s tents differ in size and shape, to signify a more democratic sensibility – fewer rules and regulations. The Lannister camp is much more formal and grand.

18. Drogo’s funeral pyre was constructed so it could be lit on fire multiple times. The design was intended to be grand with the two circles of fire eventually spreading to the center structure.

19. The Temple of the Dosh Khaleen is made from willow trees. The totems in the Temple were recycled from the molds of the totems used during Drogo and Dany’s wedding. Production designer Gemma Jackson liked the idea that the reuse “kept it all in their family.”

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Additional behind the scenes features are available on the Game of Thrones DVD releases.