Sean Bean remembers what he was thinking during Ned Stark’s death scene


Ned Stark’s death is one the best scenes Game of Thrones produced during its eight seasons. Sean Bean gives us his perspective.

The execution of Ned Stark is one of the most iconic death scenes in recent TV history. It’s unexpected on several levels. For one, the vile King Joffrey, at the urging of his Small Council, has agreed to merely exile Ned to the Wall, punishment for his trumped-up “crimes” against the Crown, so when he reverses course in front of everyone and decides to kill the guy, it’s a shock.

Also, Sean Bean was easily the biggest actor the show had. He was playing the main character, and now he’s going to killed? Surely not. And yet…

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about his new animated show Wolfwalkers, Bean remembered what he was thinking on set that day. “It was horror and disbelief – that Joffrey changed his mind [about exiling Ned] – and then resignation and [realizing that he was] seeing his daughter for the last time, Arya,” he recalled. “I was trying to think of all four [things]. It wasn’t just, ‘Oh God, I’m getting my head chopped off.’ Those mix of feelings is what made it what it was, I suppose.”

"It took like a whole day or so to film it and you so you have to just keep focused on the fact that you’re about to meet your death without messing around. I was very hot at the time, so that probably helped. And everybody else’s reactions were fantastic – Cersei and the kids. It was very moving with a lot of pathos in that scene. Then I put my head in the block and I was finished for the day."

I’ve always loved the layers of that scene, since it’s not just Ned who’s dumbstruck by the ego-tripping Joffrey’s about-face. Even his own mother Cersei is surprised and tries to stop him, since she knows the consequences of executing aren’t worth it. Ned’s daughter Sansa is frantic while his daughter Arya, watching from the stands, tries to rush the dias but can’t.

Just before Ned dies, he whispers something quietly to himself. “[Bean] asked somebody what an appropriate prayer would be for somebody of his belief,” director Alan Taylor explained in the Game of Thrones oral history book Fire Cannot KIll a Dragon. “People have tried to guess what he said, but it’s something private Sean created based on that.” More layers!

Finally, Bean weighed in on the infamous original pilot episode for Game of Thrones, which was more or less completely reshot before it made it to air:

"I thought [the original pilot] was all right, but I was only focused on the scenes I was in. We filmed in Northern Ireland and in Scotland and then the producers [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] made some major changes. I felt the body of it was there, that the spirit of the piece was there, but I think they felt the development of the characters and the story could be improved. So we ended up doing quite a lot of reshoots. It was a testing time for us all trying to get to know what we were doing in the whole scheme of things, and it was for the best."

Maybe, but I would still 100% buy it on Blu-ray, just saying.

You can watch Wolfwalkers on Apple TV+ right now.

Next. 20 takeaways from Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon, behind the scenes of Game of Thrones. dark

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