We can now add last night’s trial by combat to the long list of unforgettable scenes that Alex Graves has directed for Game of Thrones Season 4. But last night’s episode was also full of quieter scenes that carry a lot of importance moving forward, with many of the character’s storylines taking a turn.
In a great new interview with Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Graves talks about his approach to the fight scene, and how they achieved the more gruesome effects. He also discusses which of the other storylines he found most challenging, explains the importance of Tyrion’s beetle story, and reveals that the Bolton’s newfound place of power is going to really set the tone for Season 5.
How did you approach the big fight scene?
I looked at it as the story of the fight. “At this point in the fight we don’t think this, but we think this.” Then they would rehearse it with the stunt fighters, and I would go in and edit it, and we’d put the actors in. We discovered tings like wanting to get the Mountain’s helmet off early so you could see his face — we were crazy about Hafthor. He’s so great and I love him.
How’d you get the gruesome effects down for Oberyn’s death?
I storyboarded it for, “This is when we’re going to use Pedro, and this is when we’re going to need some kind of a head that can implode.” I sent our makeup supervisor off and he built this head to use for the shots. Then the visual effects guys took it home by putting a little swelling in the head, and making the one eye look really bad. The last composition that we barely got before the sun went down was of the two of them lying dead – the effects team made that even more gruesome. They rearranged some of his brain matter.
Pretty much every storyline had a major turning point last night. Which was the most challenging to get right?
The moment I was most worried about in that hour was Dany and Jorah. I knew about that moment since I started the show. When you get into a scene with Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen, you get twice as worried that you make it in a way that they will be happy [with], because you just fall in love with them. I was stressed out, wanting to take it to a level of tension that was unusual, and hopefully we got it there.
Tyrion is absolutely captivating in his cell scene, even though it’s the rare Thrones scene that doesn’t really move the plot forward. How’s that work so well?
It’s really about the futility of where Tyrion is as he’s waiting for the trial by combat. We went in to rehearse, and Peter [Dinkage] and Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] did the scene, and it was unbelievable. I didn’t prepare, Peter did. And Nikolaj did. I literally turned to David and Dan after rehearsal and said, “That’s one of the most brilliant scenes I’ve seen on the show.” I hadn’t digested how incredible it would be until Peter did it. It’s like you read sheet music, and then Yo-Yo Ma plays it.
Ramsay, of course, double-crosses the men [at Moat Cailin].
It’s a typical Ramsay move, but it’s in fact setting up next season. The Boltons have taken the North and they are now powerful. The man who helped carry out the Red Wedding has capitalized on his success in a very significant way. Ramsay and Roose — one of the things that really sets the tone for next year is they’ve really got some serious power going now.
For more from Alex including how he handled Sansa and Littlefinger’s performances, visit The Hollywood Reporter!
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