David Benioff and Dan Weiss tease Sunday’s big episode, and detail the challenges of filming the battle

This week’s new episode of Game of Thrones is going to take place completely at The Wall, with Castle Black going to battle against Mance Rayder’s Wildling army, and from what we’ve heard so far, it’s going to be big. Given the largest budget of any episode thus far, we’re in for a lot of action, and some “magnificent” sets and visual effects.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss discuss the challenges of filming such a unique episode, and drop some details on what we can expect to see on Sunday night.

So for episode 9, what’s uniquely challenging about this battle compared to previous ones you’ve staged?
Well it’s at The Wall. Which is tricky. Because there is no Wall.
Weiss: Just the general visual effects integration of this episode.
Benioff: Giants. Giants are tricky. Having Neil Marshall directing it, you have confidence; like going to a really good doctor who’s going to make everything better. Neil is very soft spoken, but he’s the kind of guy when he’s on the set everyone is calm because he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a very intense episode, more intense than Blackwater. We’re seeing it now, even before visual effects have gone in, and it’s still magnificent.
Weiss: With Blackwater when we got the episode in, so much of it was visual effects dependent we were kind of unsure — the performances were fantastic and the action was great, but we weren’t entirely sure what we had until the pieces were put together. But with this, even Neil’s first director’s cut that we saw without a single frame of visual effects finished, just something about it really grabbed us by the neck that’s very rare even with the great directors we’re fortunate to work with.
Benioff: In terms of the sets, our new production designer Deborah Riley did this magnificent top-of-The Wall set, far bigger than what we had before, so you can do walk-and-talks, you can have massive action sequences. It’s completely surrounded by green screen, which is apparently the biggest green screen in Europe.
Weiss: Neil and Deb both spent a lot of time watching the Kubrick film Paths of Glory to get a sense of how to apply trench warfare set-building to an icy top-of-The Wall environment. She did a really fantastic job. It has to be the biggest Styrofoam piece in existence.

What was the biggest challenge to shooting the episode?
I wouldn’t say it’s wall-to-wall action — because it doesn’t start right away — but once it gets going about 15 minutes into the episode it doesn’t stop. And we’re still on a TV budget. So the amount of action beats Neil had to shoot every day with a limited number of takes with the number of visual effects shots makes everything more complicated.
Weiss: With so much action, the more layered it gets, and then the easier it is to stop making any sense and just show a lot of random guys hacking and beating away at each other. And Neil’s sense of what was happening in an extremely complicated environment is so strong.

David and Dan also discussed last week’s trial by combat, and Sansa’s transformation. Visit Entertainment Weekly for the full interview.


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