It’s been just over a year now since the Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne,” aired on HBO. The show set a lot of benchmarks, for special effects, for long-form storytelling, and for insane levels of security to make sure fans didn’t learn anything they weren’t supposed to ahead of time.
Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark, Lord of the Six Kingdoms) talked to news.com.au about the heightened security on set when he, Sophie Turner (Sansa) and Maisie Williams (Arya) filmed the scene where they bid Jon Snow (Kit Harington) goodbye on the docks of King’s Landing. “It was ridiculous, the security and secrecy,” he said, likening it to a “CIA site.”
When we shot in [Dubrovnik, Croatia] for that scene where we’re saying goodbye to Jon Snow, I’ve never experienced anything like that, it was like being a secret agent. We came into the country on a chartered flight so nobody would see us, we stayed in this hotel and they booked out the entire hotel just for us. We weren’t allowed to go out, we couldn’t walk outside.
And who knew that the whole world would basically be living that after the coronavirus set in? Eh?
When it came time to film that heartwrenching moment, producers made sure no over-eager fans could get a sneak peek:
On that day, HBO rented out every single apartment and every single hotel room that could possibly overlook where we were shooting. We had coast guards patrolling just outside in the water to check no boats were coming by. When we were coming in and out of cars we had to be covered in coats, and when we flew back we were the last people on the flight and we had to sneak in. It was really amazing that people loved this story so much and were so desperate to get any nugget of information. You had a pinch yourself moment every day.
Then there was the scene in the Dragonpit where Tyrion Lannister convinced the other great lords of Westeros to name Bran king. (That was filmed in an entirely different city and country, by the way.) If you were shocked by that outcome, you are not alone.
“I did not see it coming at all,” Hempstead Wright said. “A lot of the time it was fans and friends talking and saying ‘I feel like it’s got to be Bran’, and I said ‘You are so wrong, it’ll be someone else.'”
Even when I read the script I thought, ‘Is this really true?’ I wasn’t entirely sure, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t Bran. I thought it was going to be an obvious one, maybe Sansa [Sophie Turner]. (But) no complaints there. It couldn’t have gone any better for me. It went badly for other people.
After Game of Thrones was through, Hempstead Wright returned to the University of Birmingham to study neuroscience. However, he’s still acting, and even has an upcoming role alongside Colin Farrell and Lily-Rose Depp in a science fiction movie Voyagers, from director Neil Norman Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless, Divergent).
Beyond that, he’s content with life slowing down a bit so he can stop and smell the roses. “It’s certainly more normal now, I’m enjoying actually doing something different and living a normal life, getting on the tube every day. It’s a really funny one, I will still get recognized elsewhere like at pubs and restaurants often I’ll have someone clocking me, but on the underground, never. People are just so focused on getting to work, the misery of commuting is that even seeing Bran Stark isn’t exciting.”
Part of Hempstead Wright’s humility may come from his family, who apparently never let his head get too big back when Game of Thrones was at its height. “Whenever there was excitement around it, or somebody wanted to take pictures of me or gave me a free ticket or clothes, they were very adamant that doesn’t make you special. (They’d say) ‘You’re incredibly lucky, this could’ve been anybody else.’ I think that’s when people lose it is when they suddenly feel they’re entitled. I feel as though I won the biggest competition ever, a 10-year prize.”
As for staying in contact with his castmates, Hempstead Wright says the group’s main form of communication is still WhatsApp, despite his saying it was dead just a few months after the show’s finale. “Let me put this rumor to bed, it got misconstrued. I said ‘It’s a bit dead at the moment’ and then suddenly headlines were like ‘GoT cast hate each other.’ That’s not at all the case.”
And now that everyone is stuck in their homes thank to the coronavirus, group chatter in the Game of Thrones WhatsApp has once again picked up. “Particularly during the pandemic, there’s been more activity, everyone has been checking in on everyone especially given it’s been a year since the last episode. Everyone is in contact with each other.”
Voyagers is still set to hit theaters on November 25. I’m thinking Lionsgate didn’t buy out a whole hotel just for the cast on this one.