Interview

Director Alex Graves on The Lion and the Rose and setting up for a grand finale

graves

After his stellar work on Game of Thrones Season 3, Director Alex Graves was told by the powers that be that in Season 4 “we’ll give you all the big stuff.” The big stuff started off with a bang, with his Season 4 directorial debut of The Lion and the Rose including what was sure to be one of the year’s most talked about scenes.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter Alex Graves discusses the challenges of creating a truly monumental event, the Purple Wedding.

“The Purple Wedding took six months to prepare. It was a show-wide, gigantic effort on everybody’s part — from the design of the set to the costumes to the circus performers. There was a lot of pressure I put on myself. It was a 32-page scene that was actually 18 scenes, and it involved an enormous number of the cast, who were going to hang out for five days in Croatia while we put on dwarf shows and allowed jailed birds to literally go free. We had the death, and almost more important, we had Tyrion’s humiliation in the middle of it. It was a lot for five days — especially with rain.”

At the end of the episode viewer’s are not only left with the shock of King Joffrey’s death, but the so far unanswered question of who did it. Graves reveals that there are some clues hidden between the cuts.

“I tried to shoot it and then edit in such a way that so that if they reveal later in the season who did it, it makes sense. If you watch what’s going on, where the killer is and when, you’ll go, “Oh, it’s happening and progressing visually.” It’s not like you see it happen, because of the way he dies, but you will notice the movements and the adjustments.”

The shock factor of King Joffrey’s death was increased by placing it so early in Season 4, Graves explains that it is a catalyst for much bigger things to come.

“Episode two is completely intertwined with the end of the season. Joffrey’s death is a beginning. Ned Stark’s death was not an end — it was a beginning. It’s when the show began. All the deaths are like that, and Joffrey’s is no different. Joffrey’s death affects the show through to the climax.”

Graves expands on the idea in another new interview with Huffington Post, saying that of the four episodes he helms in season four (2, 3, 8, and 10), the second was the smallest, and unlike previous seasons, episode 10 is not reserved for the falling action, but instead will be grand finale.

“Well let me just say this, I directed four episodes [this season] and number two [“The Lion and the Rose”] was the smallest episode. Wait till you see episode 10. The finale is really a finale. It’s not the episode after episode nine, it’s the big one.”

Looking forward to next week’s episode, “Breaker of Chains,” Graves says we can expect much more from Daenerys, and touches on the challenges of creating the great city of Meereen.

“Daenerys’ story really kicks in a big way in episode three. That was a case of a real starting from scratch. We had the script, we knew what happened, we had the dialogue, but it was like where in the world and how in the world are we going do this sequence? That was a real blast, it was like making a movie, you’re starting from nothing. It’s basically the largest city she’s ever gone to and the biggest challenge she’s ever had, yet there was no set for that. That was fun, but I won’t say anymore than that.”

For more from Alex Graves visit The Hollywood Reporter and Huffington Post.

66 Comments

  • Going off this interview it looks like we should be seeing a decent sized siege of Mereen next week.

  • Even as I watch its first fifth, the more I hear about this season the greater my excitement levels.

  • I find the whole Daenerys Essos storyline to be boring.

    It was intresting up to the point they left Astapor, everything after that is a yawn.

    I hope she flies away on Drogon at the end of this season. I fear the tought of having to watch her sitting in Mereen in season 5.

  • One season to rule them all. Best GOT episodes 1 and 2 to date (ever?) and the season is only just beginning. This was the set up!

    Kind of relevant since Alex Graves does episodes 8 and 10:
    Glad to see Moat Cailin make the cut- as it was mentioned in episode 2 and appears briefly in the intro. For a moment I thought they would rearrange the story and replace Moat Cailin with Winterfell or something. This also gives credence to my original theory about where Yara’s story is going- that after she fails her attack on the Dreadfort, she runs to regroup with the Ironborn in Moat Cailin only to hear that her father is dead and her uncle Euron (aka Notma Dsmikkelsen) has layed claim to the Islands. From there (since Moat Cailin is by the sea, and since the Ironborn likely have ships waiting there anyway) she sets off to Pyke to see what’s what before Ramsay attacks the place.

  • I’m no film maker, but as someone who loves watching movies and television, I have to say I was impressed by the directing and camerawork of “The Lion and the Rose”. Every shot seemed significant, and as Graves himself says, if you look carefully the episode’s direction gives little nods and nudges about what’s really going on in between each cut of the camera.

    It really rewards second and third viewings. Simply brilliant job.

  • Deadline also had an interview with him, and he talks a bit about the season finale in it –

    http://www.deadline.com/2014/04/game-of-thrones-spoilers-hbo-death-alex-graves-season-4-episode-2/

    DEADLINE: What are we going to see as the aftermath of Joffrey’s death now moving forward for the rest of the season?
    GRAVES: I think the thing is that like any death in Game of Thrones and Ned Stark’s being a great example, every death is not an end to a story; it is the beginning of a story. Joffrey’s death turns a new page in the book but oh, what a page it turns to. And the season basically starts there and loses total control.

    DEADLINE: That’s a pretty big statement for Game of Thrones where the bodies fall fast and the blood flows frequently.
    GRAVES: I think that this season is going to be the most exciting season that they’ve ever done. I will say that as somebody who directed 4 out of the 10 episodes this year, episode 2 is the smallest episode I directed. It’s hard to talk more about it without starting to give away things because the spoilers and the secrets in this season are many and are big.

    DEADLINE: So EPs David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have more surprises planned in Westeros and Essos?
    GRAVES: It’s the largest season and most challenging season that they’ve mounted, not only physically and technically. It’s the first of what happens with the actors and the reason for that is that basically the end of a new season is the turning point in the middle of the story and a lot happened.

    DEADLINE: Tonight’s episode once again showed us the power that Tywin Lannister (played by Charles Dance) holds over the Iron Throne, even if he lost a grandson King.
    GRAVES: On the one hand the Red Wedding has placed Tywin in a place where he has now pretty much won the war for five kings. The Purple Wedding is meant to be a very in-your-face celebration of that fact and the fact that Joffrey took a hit during the wedding is not going to stop Tywin Lannister from gaining ultimate power if he has any say in it.

    DEADLINE: So what are we going to see next with Tyrion Lannister? First humiliated by his nephew the King and then accused of his murder, how long are we going to see Peter Dinklage in prison?
    GRAVES: Well, you’re going to see things play out between Mr. Dance and Mr. Dinklage throughout the season until the end.

    DEADLINE: And there will be a confrontation between the father Tywin and the son Tyrion?
    GRAVES: Yeah, there’s a confrontation between the father and son but that’s in the final episode. Episode 10 of the season is, you know, as David and Dan will tell you, it’s the first true finale they’ve ever done and it’s really the episode to end all episodes. It’s the largest episode they’ve ever made.

  • HBO’s website has episode titles through Episode 8. Since Alex Graves directed 8, I’m really looking forward to “The Mountain and the Viper.”

  • oracle86,

    You missed the most interesting part:

    DEADLINE: The show is getting close to almost completely catching up to George R.R. Martin’s books. Where can we go for the rest of the season and the other two seasons that HBO has renewed the show for?
    GRAVES: I have to be careful how I answer that. First of all the show is still in the books and it won’t be out of the books here for another season and hopefully by then the first of the last book will be done. But I can only say that David and Dan and George have it all very well in hand.

    Color me cautiously optimistic.

  • It’s gonna be the best season so far. Good thing D&D seem to have gotten all the budget and directors they wanted.

  • oracle86,

    What a big, beautiful interview you’ve found. I could just kiss it. *Loads* of intrigue in Alex’s words here, whether he realized it or not. :P

  • Director Alex Graves was told by the powers that be that in Season 4 “we’ll give you all the big stuff.”

    Way to go to minimize what is going to happen in episode 9. All the “good stuff” meaning Kings Landing?

    Anyway I hope I am wrong and the powers that be also care about the other stuff.

  • Great interviews. Graves seems like a really thoughtful guy, not to mention extremely knowledgeable about his craft. After witnessing the excellence of three episodes of the show that he’s directed so far (And Now His Watch Is Ended, Kissed By Fire, The Lion and the Rose), I’m very excited to see what he has in store for his remaining episodes this season, starting next Sunday.

    Episode 10 of this season, “The Children”, is going to be insane. I strongly believe that it will be the best episode of the series so far. Depending on the material yet to be revealed in the last two books, it might very well be the best episode that Game of Thrones will ever air. I can’t wait!

  • Alex Graves has officially become the best director on the show. We have seen 3 of his episodes so far(‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’,’Kissed By Fire’, and ‘The Lion And The Rose’), and they were all great. I’m very happy that he directed 4 episodes this season and hope he continues to direct 3 or 4 episodes per season.

  • Tourist,

    They wouldn’t have hired back Neil Marshall otherwise. I’m sure this is just a matter of phrasing; we’ve been told “8, 9, and 10 are a major trifecta” before.

  • Tyrion Pimpslap:
    Alex Graves has officially become the best director on the show. We have seen 3 of his episodes so far(‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’,’Kissed By Fire’, and ‘The Lion And The Rose’), and they were all great. I’m very happy that he directed 4 episodes this season and hope he continues to direct 3 or 4 episodes per season.

    Freakin’ A, man. He’s even better than Taylor and Marshall for me; 3×04 is my favorite episode and 3×05 and 4×02 are both reasonably close. Man’s amazing.

  • Tourist,

    I consider what happened in episode 2 and what will happen in episode 10 to be bigger than what happens in episode 9. Obviously they consider what happens in episode nine to be big, because they brought back Neil Marshall and are dedicating the entire episode to the events at the Wall and spent more money on that episode than any other so far.

  • Tourist,

    Well, it’s obvious that he’ll think less of episode 9 than the finale since he didn’t actually work on it. D&D have already been quoted to say that the big battle will hopefully be even bigger and better than Blackwater (which in my opinion remains the best episode of the show to date) so don’t you worry about episode 9. With all that said, episode 10 IS going to be a big one this time- rivaling episode 9 even. We’ve got Jamie and Varys freeing Tyrion followed by Tyrion killing Shae and Tywin (which is huge), Sansa narrowly escaping death only to see Littlefinger throw Lysa out the moondoor after a surprising revelation that ties the whole series together (revealing that he is the big mastermind), we’ve got Dany chaining her dragons and Drogon escaping (which should be difficult for the CGI team), Bran meeting the Three Eyed Crow in the cave and seeing the children of the forest (also huge), Arya sailing off to Braavos, Team Dragonstone colliding with the Wall into what will probably be an epic set of scenes (Jon’s election might be there too) and last but not least- Lady Stoneheart. It’ll be a huge episode to say the least.

  • jentario,

    Yep. He’s their best yet. I hope he comes back next season, though maybe (like David Nutter did) he’ll want a break.

  • Also reading his quote about episode 10 makes it sound like it might be a longer than normal episode, like Winter is Coming or Valor Morgulus. It unusual for HBO to throw an extra 15 minutes at a season ender, and this one seems packed to the gills.

  • Tyrion Pimpslap:
    Alex Graves has officially become the best director on the show. We have seen 3 of his episodes so far(‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’,’Kissed By Fire’, and ‘The Lion And The Rose’), and they were all great. I’m very happy that he directed 4 episodes this season and hope he continues to direct 3 or 4 episodes per season.

    +∞

  • You guys are right. I just got a little mad with that phrase. Every story should have their big moment or moments.

  • Greenjones,

    Well, if we’re looking at the big episodes next season… There are less Alex-Graves-y episodes (let’s call them gravy episodes, shall we?). I expect Stannis’s march could give us two big episodes (the battle against Yara which I now don’t see them removing and the Battle in the Ice against the Freys and Manderlys for episode 9ish), then I expect the finale next season to rock as well (Dany flying off on Drogon leaving a mess behind, Jon getting stabbed, another big glimpse at the rising threat of the others…). Maybe instead of taking a break he could just go down to two episodes again (which is more manageable).

    Next season will be great if we see the return of David Nutter (and season 5 is definitely going to be more in line with his episodes than Alex’s)… All in all, Season 5 will be awesome, Season 4 is now being awesome and season 6 is in the books as well. High times for a GOT fan, really.

  • Am I the only one who thinks they might delay Stannis’ arrival until ep10? Like ep9 will be the battle on both sides of the Wall that the NW repels, but they’re still in dire straits. So in ep10 Jon might get sent out to parley with Mance and maybe there’s a mention of the horn of Joramun before Stannis arrives to save the day. Just my baseless speculation, but would seem like a more natural finishing point for the Wall storyline this season.

  • Tatters,

    To be fair, the whole “let’s conquer a city” thing is soooooo last season. I’m glad they’re getting it over-with this early and are moving on to Meereen intrigue (yes I know, most fans think it’s a borefest in the books but I think the show has the opportunity to make it more interesting with the lack of a constricted POV).

  • I said it last year: Alex Graves is the best director GoT ever had. Him and Alan Taylor. I love his signature thing on GoT: close-ups a bit from above; last episode we saw them on Theon, Ramsay and Melisandre. Last year I really loved how he shot the scenes with Varys in ep 4.

    Ep 10 really is a finale. Of Act 1. Things wrap up. Season 5 will be the beginning of Act 2.
    Also the way he says it, 7 seasons is almost a done deal. “one more season that falls in published story”. So GRRm needs to publish TWoW by Spring 2016, when S6 comes. 2 years from now, and 5 years since the publishing of ADwD.

  • “I tried to shoot it and then edit in such a way that so that if they reveal later in the season who did it, it makes sense. If you watch what’s going on, where the killer is and when, you’ll go, “Oh, it’s happening and progressing visually.” It’s not like you see it happen, because of the way he dies, but you will notice the movements and the adjustments.”

    And that’s why telling any unsullied where to look for it in the scene is a major spoiler. You only notice it IF YOU KNOW WHO DID IT. And it was designed that way.

  • jentario,

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. I think ep9 will end with “you know nothing, Jon Snow”, and ep10 will be “STANNIS!” Personally, I found JS elected as LC a bit anti-climactic, and with so much going on elsewhere in ep10, it would really feel rushed. But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

  • GeekFurious,

    I think they deserve praise for how well they orchestrated it. I knew where to look and still didn’t see the missing stone until the 3rd viewing. It also justifies replacing the hairnet with the necklace. I don’t see how they could have done the same kind of framing with a hairnet.

  • Could they really do Jon’s LC vote this season if Stannis doesn’t arrive at the Wall until ep 10? Same thing with “fetch me a block”. It just seems like there’s too much goin on in ep 10 and would seem rushed.

  • GeekFurious,

    There is a big debate going on in the ‘Previously.tv’ unsullied thread about the possibility of Olenna snatching a gem from Sansa’a necklace and it having poison in it. They all seem to hate that idea and find it convoluted and can’t understand what the QOT would have to gain from it. The show made a mistake by not having Dontos ask Sansa to wear the necklace to the wedding. The big complaint by them is how could Dontos know Sansa would wear it to the wedding? I think plenty of them are going to be disappointed. As much as I enjoy reading their ‘spitballs’, it can be tough to wade through some of their speculation. Especially their leader, ‘StillShimpy’, who seems to not be interested in much outside of King’s Landing and whatever Arya is up to.

  • Ghost,

    I don’t see that happening this season unless they rush it.

    Edit: How come the “Show spoilers” option switches to “Hide spoilers” every time I refresh the page?

  • GeekFurious,

    I read the Unsullied threads on ‘Previously.tv'(formerly twop) and the big debate is over whether or not the QOT plucked a gem from Sansa’s necklace and it contained poison. Most of the posters seem to hate the idea and find it convoluted. They also don’t understand why the QOT would do it(I guess they forgot that we are first introduced to the character in a scene where she grills Sansa on what type of a person Joffrey was). They don’t understand how Dontos could be certain that Sansa would wear the necklace to the wedding, which I agree with. He should have asked Sansa to wear it at the wedding. Most of them seem to still think Cersei is the most likely suspect. As much as I enjoy reading some of their thoughts on the show, it can be tough to wade through some of their ‘spitballs’ and crazy speculation. Also, their leader ‘Still Shimpy’ is my least favorite poster. She doesn’t seem to like anything that isn’t King’s Landing or Arya related. And boy does she hate Stannis.

  • My episode 10 predictions:

    – Tywin/Shae death, Tyrion escape, KL scenes after Oberyn death
    – Sandor “death”, Arya arriving at Braavos or at the boat
    – Jon gets elected and kills Janos Slynt
    – Ramsay and Roose go to Winterfell
    – Balon death and mention of Kingsmoot by Yara POV
    – Brienne meets Lady Stoneheart
    – Only cat, moon door
    – Drogon and the baby, Jorah exile
    – Bran doing something important with the Raven

  • Seanathn:
    Also reading his quote about episode 10 makes it sound like it might be a longer than normal episode, like Winter is Coming or Valor Morgulus. It unusual for HBO to throw an extra 15 minutes at a season ender, and this one seems packed to the gills.

    Agreed. I’m afraid that with what we expect to be there, it will be too rushed and intense. I mean, I love great developments, but Episode 10 might be too much. You have to consider tone, transition and theme. All the events do not match in tone and the transitions would be rough as nails. I hope they really flesh things out beforehand and pull up a few loose ends to leave the money shots for the ending.

  • I’m no expert but I’ve directed state theatre before ;)

    Knowing the text of the books, it would be rough. I mean the Red Wedding was “almost” too much but at least it was a progression of an episode and then just shock for shocks sake. Much in comedy that takes itself seriously, you have to avoid winking at the audience and let the circumstances create the humor.

    If you free Tyrion, he kills the woman he loves and his dad, then escapes Westeros. Plus Sansa almost dies then Littlefinger reveals two major plot points then kills Lysa. The Hound dies then Arya leaves Westeros. Jon elected LC. Lastly Cat stark is alive as a monster El Oh El… that has to be done VERY carefully. I totally think it can be! Just… I hope it’s not ruined because it’s such a money shot.

  • Greenjones:
    Carne,
    Good question, man. I’ve been having the same bloody problem.

    It’s the new security feature….everyone’s Unsullied (no spoilers) now. I want my dick back!

  • It makes me sad when fans seem interested only in Kings Landing and nothing else when in reality EVERYTHING ELSE is more important than K.L. Fault of the show’s producers in placing too much emphasis there? There is a risk in setting people up to believe so much in one thing, then shattering their hopes and dreams.

  • jentario:
    Tourist,

    Well, it’s obvious that he’ll think less of episode 9 than the finale since he didn’t actually work on it. D&D have already been quoted to say that the big battle will hopefully be even bigger and better than Blackwater (which in my opinion remains the best episode of the show to date) so don’t you worry about episode 9. With all that said, episode 10 IS going to be a big one this time- rivaling episode 9 even. We’ve got Jamie and Varys freeing Tyrion followed by Tyrion killing Shae and Tywin (which is huge), Sansa narrowly escaping death only to see Littlefinger throw Lysa out the moondoor after a surprising revelation that ties the whole series together (revealing that he is the big mastermind), we’ve got Dany chaining her dragons and Drogon escaping (which should be difficult for the CGI team), Bran meeting the Three Eyed Crow in the cave and seeing the children of the forest (also huge), Arya sailing off to Braavos, Team Dragonstone colliding with the Wall into what will probably be an epic set of scenes (Jon’s election might be there too) and last but not least- Lady Stoneheart. It’ll be a huge episode to say the least.

    How the hell do they plan on cramming all of that into the season finale, though? It’d have to be like 90 minutes long lol.

  • Qbert:
    Alex Graves >>>>>>>>>>>>> David “captain overrated” Nutter

    100% agreed. Nutter has no style. I’ll give him credit for pulling off the visceral nature of the Red Wedding but he’s a by-the-book director whose shot compositions have no meaning or subtext and little visual flair. There’s no poetry in his work. He’s simply an action director through and through who chooses the most obvious route every time and puts little to no thought to framing. I put him a big notch below Daniel Minahan as far as Game of Thrones directors go. I think people like Nutter cause his work is easily digestible (in the same way that network TV is – no surprise considering he’s directed the pilots for what seems like all the network shows in the past decade).

    Graves on the other hand, brings both the poetry of some of the more static and carefully composed directors of Game of Thrones (Michelle MacLaren, Brian Kirk) and the visceral flow that Minahan and Marshall contribute. Alan Taylor was by far my favourite director on Game of Thrones up till this point but I think Graves is his equal, being the most balanced director they have now. He can pull off the spectacle, the poetry, and the kineticism necessary for the series.

    In any case, this is the first season of Game of Thrones where I was completely happy with the entire line-up of directors. Alex Graves, Michelle MacLaren (who was my favourite director on Breaking Bad), Alik Sakharov, Weiss and Benioff (who proved themselves worthy with last year’s episode and did it again with the premiere), and Marshall are all great choices.

  • ebevan91:
    …we’ve got Dany chaining her dragons and Drogon escaping (which should be difficult for the CGI team)…

    Of course the CotF/BR and LS scenes should be spectacular in ep10 (I assume), but I believe the costliest and most demanding scene is the dragon chaining scene. Many UnSullied (hundreds?) will be burned, trampled, broken as they try to forcibly imprison R & V…all the dragons will be going crazy and angry Drogon will escape…Dany will be screaming and heartbroken…absolute chaos. How the heck will they do that scene? Since it was so passively done in the books, this is another chance for the show to kick it up a notch.

    JC,
    Great stuff about Alex Graves. Can’t wait for more from him.

  • why on earth are people so keen on Dany moving on from Mereen? honestly the amount of clammering for her to just bee-line for the endzone is ridiculous. She is a young kid who makes lots of immature discisions, staying to rule and cleaning up her own mess is propably the most level headed and respectable thing she does. If anything the show has an opportunity to make the players and the general story in Mereen more compelling, making them less ironic and more empathatic. Really it comes across as people wanting Tyrion to be the funny dwarf again, because that was how he started out and nothing ever changes, or Arya waking up as a full on warg-faceless assasin because “that is where her story is heading anyway.”

  • JC,

    I agree with you about Graves but not about Nutter. Nutter IS good with actors and got great work out of Michelle Fairley in tRoC and Alfie Allen in tOGatN. I like his episodes a lot. But yeah, Alex Graves and Alan Taylor are a cut above. I hope we don’t lose Alex to the movies like we did Alan.

  • pretty sure all of the LC election stuff will be done in season 5 but most of the other storylines mentioned should feature. They might also save the chaining of the dragons for next season, ending Dany this season with Jorah being sent away,the chaining should be epic and is one of many things the show can use to make the Mereen part more engaging.

  • My favorite director was Alan Taylor. The quality of his work still stands out. I think even the RW would have been better, if he had directed it. It’s too bad they all can’t just get over the problems, for the sake of the show. That being said, Alex Graves’ episodes are a solid 8 or 9/10 so far. I’m not sure if it’s the editing, the staging, pacing, or camera work that’s still not up to Alan Taylor level…

  • Kessell:
    why on earth are people so keen on Dany moving on from Mereen? honestly the amount of clammering for her to just bee-line for the endzone is ridiculous. She is a young kid who makes lots of immature discisions, staying to rule and cleaning up her own mess is propably the most level headed and respectable thing she does. If anything the show has an opportunity to make the players and the general story in Mereen more compelling, making them less ironic and more empathatic. Really it comes across as people wanting Tyrion to be the funny dwarf again, because that was how he started out and nothing ever changes, or Arya waking up as a full on warg-faceless assasin because “that is where her story is heading anyway.”

    Totally agree with that!

  • If that much stuff was in episode 10 the rest of the reason would be slow
    The Hound can die in episode 8, Arya can arrive in Saltpans all starving and shit in episode 10
    Balon’s death can literally come at anytime in the season, and it might not even be onscreen

    Interesting that Graves said David, Dan & George had the situation at hand, that’s a lot better than David & Dan vs George

  • This season sounds extra promising in terms of action.

    Thats why i fear for season 5 where nothing happens but food counting and scenery descriptions.

  • Ser Dosser,

    I couldn’t disagree more. They will be able to really flesh out those story lines and also create new ones. And for me personally as a book reader, I think it’s going to be very exciting not knowing exactly what’s coming. I look at it as kind of turning the page as far as this show goes. We really start getting into some unknown territory next season. This show has not disappointed so far in any way imo, they’ve earned my trust to do it right.

  • Ser Dosser:
    This season sounds extra promising in terms of action.

    Thats why i fear for season 5 where nothing happens but food counting and scenery descriptions.

    They can probably spice it up enough!