Actor Rory McCann played Sandor “the Hound” Clegane on Game of Thrones until the penultimate episode, “The Bells,” where he died in a pit of fire. He sat down with HBO’s Making Game of Thrones blog to talk about his final scene and just how excited he was for CLEGANEBOWL.
Unlike his castmate Kit Harington, McCann had already read the final six scripts by the time they got to the table read. He was excited to find out if and when he was going to die. “I’m probably the same as most actors [when we get scripts]. First thing we do is find our bits — to hell with everyone else, when am I going to die? What the hell is going to go on? — but I was aware of quite a few actors who said they didn’t do that.”
I didn’t actually believe them, but when we got together for the read-through I could see by the tears and shock some of them really didn’t know what was going on. Particularly Kit Harington [who plays Jon Snow]. That was funny. He had no idea, he was just in shock.
We’ll probably get to see some of that shock when HBO airs The Last Watch the Sunday after the series finale. Here’s a preview of McCann finding Harington’s shock funny:
But enough of that. Let’s talk CLEGANEBOWL GET HYPE! I can hear the air horn blasts now…
McCann — fully aware of the hype surrounding the Hound’s inevitable confrontation with his brother the Mountain — was so excited to get to this part of the script that he brought his own prop to the table read:
I remember bringing a big trumpet and keeping it underneath the table; I told [writer] Bryan Cogman, who usually does all the narration in between the dialogue with great passion, to take a pause when Gregor and Sandor meet for the final showdown. I brought the trumpet out and blew it with the whole cast in the room. I don’t think they knew what was going on but it was me pretending that Clegane Bowl is on.
That is amazing, and I hope to all the old gods and the new we get to see that happen in The Last Watch.
Like the fans, McCann has been looking forward to the brotherly clash for years. “We had this sparring session in Season 1 all those years ago, and this was the end of the journey, a completion. I’m so grateful they decided to write that in. It was a lot of fun.”
Cleganebowl aside, was McCann satisfied with the Hound’s death?
I’d written myself off once the fight started — there’s a chance by the end of it that Sandor is probably blinded and he’s pretty broken up. But he had enough energy to complete his mission and stuff his brother’s face in the fire, even if it meant ending his own life. I think the Hound would have been quite happy with that. I think he knew when he rode out with Arya and said, “I don’t plan on coming back.”
For a character who spent his entire Game of Thrones arc being terrified of fire, it was a poetic ending.
The fight itself was a challenge for McCann, as he had to take on the literal strongest man in the world in Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. “I had the stuntmen saying to the strongest man in the world ‘When you pick up Rory, just throw him at half strength onto the wall over there’ and I’m going, ‘Woah, woah, woah, that’s still a lot of brute force, can we go down to 10 percent maybe?’ So I was a bit battered and bruised,” he recalled.
But Hafþór was suffering big time as well. He had a prosthetic in which he could barely drink, nevermind eat, and was extremely hot as well. But he did fantastically. He’s actually a gentle soul. I had to encourage him to strangle me more, to press into my eyes more; he’s absolutely a big gentle man and aware of his strength, thank God. He’s a great guy, and it was a legendary fight.
Before the Hound and the Mountain clashed one last time, McCann and co-star Maisie Williams had a fantastic scene where Sandor told Arya to give up her mission for revenge. He was happy to be doing scenes with Williams once again. “We’ve been on a hell of a road trip together,” he said. “Arya’s completely different from the little girl the Hound first met. There’s a real respect for her. In that scene, there’s a dragon above us, things are tumbling down, but he’s trying to get one last message through to her: she doesn’t need to live her life full of hate and anger, there can be another way. It’s too late for the Hound, he’s decided.”
Working with Maisie has been magical. I still can’t quite believe that amongst all the politics of this big story we were almost allowed our little road trip on the side. It’s definitely one of the happiest jobs I’ve ever had. I love working outside. So it brought back great memories working with her. She’s a fantastic actress and she kept me on my tip-toes that’s for sure.
McCann is going to miss plenty about being on the set of Game of Thrones. He’s going to miss his fellow castmates and the family atmosphere that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss brought with them. However, it’s the character he’ll miss most:
Am I going to ever have a greater written story or character that’s so perfect for me? The amount of different directors was a great opportunity too. Working with the best of the best. They all work differently, so I learned a lot from that. I still haven’t watched the whole show, but I may try to set up a projector on my boat and play Game of Thrones on my mainsail as I go. One of my sails has a dog on it as well. It’s just a little nod.
Rory McCann putting the sigil of House Clegane on one of the sails of his boat is just another reason why he is one of my all-time favorite Game of Thrones actors.