Game of Thrones directors recall the show’s most iconic moments


Empire recently did an epic spread all about Game of Thrones ahead of its final season. We learned about the show’s iconic opening sequence and got a few hints about what’s coming in season 8, but Empire looked backward, too, interviewing some key crew members (and one not so key one) about some of the show’s most memorable moments, starting with the infamous Red Wedding:

Fun fact: Catelyn’s scream was the last thing shot, and Michelle Fairley was so traumatized she refused to talk about the episode for a week. Because wouldn’t you?

David Nutter, the guy who directed that episode, hasn’t been invited to a wedding since, but it’s clear he got what he wanted out of the scene. “I wanted to create a sense of, ‘Ah, it’s so nice and sweet,’ to get the audience to let their guard down,” he said of the early parts of the episode, when Walder Frey lures Robb and Catelyn into a false sense of security. “Once you’ve done that, then you can shock the hell out of them.”

"I remember when Robb crawls over to Talisa and is cradling her in his arms, seeing her life pass away, I was crouched down, whispering quite intimately to Richard [Madden] about relationships and love and all that kind of stuff. And I turned around and three or four of the make-up ladies had lost it. They were sobbing. It was that kind of situation for everyone."

Normally, people crying at the workplace is cause for alarm, but I guess it’s okay if they’re shedding tears because the televised drama they’re making is just that powerful. Coldplay Drummer Will Champion, who played one of the assassin/musicians in the balcony (on the callsheet, he was just “Frey Drummer”), remembers a slightly lighter tone on set:

"It was five days, filming that nine-and-a-half minute scene. They had prosthetic rehearsals, and then rehearsals with blood, and then you hear someone say, ‘We need a couple more tanks of blood!’ It was just amazing to watch it unfold. What a bastard Walder Frey is, eh?"

Filming the Red Wedding was one thing. Watching it air was another. Famously, a lot of people had very strong reactions:

“When you’re directing television you rarely get that immediate response from people,” Nutter said. “So when I started to see all of that happening, I felt very good about how it all came out. People still tell me how it affected them the most.”


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Empire also spoke to Neil Marshall, the guy behind two of the show’s most memorable action episodes: season 2’s “Blackwater” and season 4’s “The Watchers on the Wall.” It ends up that a lot of cool things about the episodes were his ideas. For example, in the script for “Blackwater,” Stannis “just stood on the beach and signaled,” rather than getting into the thick of it with his soldiers. “I wanted our hero-king up a ladder doing suicidal things,” Marshall said. “It’s very important to give everybody something to do in these battles.”

Then, for “Watchers on the Wall,” it was Marshall’s idea to have that 360-degree pan shot around the Castle Black courtyard, where we can see everybody fighting in real time. “It links all the characters together,” Marshall said. “We worked out a system where each section began fighting just as the camera arrived at them, so they hadn’t run out of moves by the time it reached them. It was the first thing we did that night and we nailed it in seven takes.”

He also approached character deaths very carefully. For Ygritte’s death, Marshall used slow motion, which “separated that moment out from the screaming and madness in the background and froze it in time.” The strategy was different for Pyp: “When Sam’s best mate gets shot through the neck with an arrow, I played that more like Saving Private Ryan, with the blood and the mess and his fear.”

And then, of course, there were the mammoths:

"We built a lightweight, mammoth-sized frame, and then we had four guys in green lycra body suits carry each of its legs. It looked ridiculous on set, but once you get rid of it on the computer, you’re left with this empty space they then put the mammoth into."

Turned out pretty good onscreen:

Marshall’s Game of Thrones directing days are over, but Nutter directed three of the six final episodes of the series. If they’re even half as powerful as the Red Wedding, we’re not sure we can take it.

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