Just the other day, we reported on an interview Game of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik gave on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. He talked about some of the clashes he had with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss early in his run, back in season 5 when he directed “The Gift” and “Hardhome.” Over time, he learned how to work with his bosses in a way that pleased everybody, but disagreements still happened, including during the shooting of the season 8 landmark episode “The Long Night.”
“I wanted to kill everyone,” Sapochnik said. “I wanted to kill Jorah in the horse charge at the beginning. I was up for killing absolutely everyone. I wanted it to be ruthless, so that in the first 10 minutes you say, ‘All bets are off; anyone could die.’ And David and Dan didn’t want to. There was a lot of back-and-forth on that.”
There were definitely fans who complained about the death count not being high enough during the Battle of Winterfell. At the same time, Sapochnik obviously couldn’t kill everyone, because a lot of characters still had narrative, emotional, or thematic weight to lift later in the story. And personally, I really liked Jorah’s death scene, so I’m glad he didn’t die in that initial charge.
I’m shocked Podrick lived, though. And if everyone in the crypts was going to live maybe they shouldn’t have them in danger in the first place. But let’s not relitigate the episode.
“With credit to them, they let me engage early,” Sapochnik said of Benioffand and Weiss. “It was a sustained engagement. I got to really question and argue with them, and I’ve learned with them when to stop arguing because there comes a point when they dig in and you just don’t want to be there.”
Sapochnik always was the rare Game of Thrones director who put his stamp on the show without being too ostentatious, a needle he had to thread carefully. You knew when you were watching one of his episodes, but it never called so much attention to itself that it was distracting. And of course, Benioff and Weiss had the final say at the end of the day. “I think a key thing is like it’s not my show right?” he asked “I didn’t come up with the show and make it. I am a hired director to go and do that. They have let me in and let me be involved, and I’ve really loved doing that. But final cut is not mine. Final cut is theirs; it’s their choice.”
Sapochnik’s next project is a movie called BIOS, about a robot on a post-apocalyptic Earth built to protect the life of his dying creator’s beloved dog. It’s out next year. That movie sounds fun, but I have to wonder if he’s being sought out by big-ticket Hollywood types to work on action blockbusters; with talent and exposure, he could pretty much go anywhere he wanted.