‘Game of Thrones’ Director Explains How He Shot the Show’s Hottest Battle
We’ve seen the dragons’ wrath before on Game of Thrones… but never like that.
Now the director of August 6’s “The Spoils of War” is telling us how the Thrones team pulled off that feat.
At the end of the episode, Dany’s Dothraki horde surprised Jaime Lannister and his “loot train” as the latter party carted Tyrell gold from Highgarden to King’s Landing.
The two sides might have had even odds… but then Dany herself flew in on the back of Drogon and torched hundreds of Lannister soldiers and all of the gold.
Though it only represented a portion of the episode, this Battle at Tumbleton took weeks to shoot… and even longer to edit and juice up with special effects.
“The battle, I think, was 18 main-unit days, roughly around 5 second-unit days, and then several weeks of the effects-unit shooting back in Belfast,” director Matt Shakman tells Variety.
“[That’s] where we did Daenerys flying on her dragon and shots of flamethrowers and people turning to ash and all that stuff that got added into it.”
As soon as Drogon showed up, this battle became unlike any other we’ve seen on the HBO hit.
“The beginning of this battle in ‘The Spoils of War’ is more similar to the Battle of the Bastards in that you have lines colliding, horses hitting men on the ground. So it’s more traditional warfare,” Matt says.
“But once Drogon comes into it, it changes completely. The dragon is able to fly to any part of the battlefield. So the rules of the battlefield changed. The geography is constantly shifting. The point of view is constantly shifting.”
And we’re not just talking about any dragon — we’re talking about Daenerys’s biggest and baddest beast.
“The horror on the ground is much larger than it has been, I think — the damage and the destruction — from the last time we saw a dragon attack in Season 6,” Matt explains.
“Now Drogon is the size of a 747, and the cone of flame that he sends out is 30-feet wide.”
Drogon’s power, in fact, is what makes this battle so shocking.
“We discussed early on that the center of that flame would be so hot that it would carbonize almost instantly,” Matt says.
“So we looked a lot at Pompeii as reference, which led to the idea of people just turning to ash in an instant.
“The people on the edge of the fire are cooking in their armor and rushing to the water to try to save themselves. But the people in the middle, their humanity is just gone in an instant.”
In fact, Drogon is such a force to be reckoned with, we don’t know whether to root for the Queen and her pet in the sky or the Kingslayer and his men on the ground, as the director explains:
“We rooted for Daenerys as she burned slavers in Meereen from the sky. We’ve been with her in sort of heroic moments with the dragons.
“But we’ve never been in a battle between two people that we love and are rooting for, and I wanted to see what it was like for those men on the ground when war changed forever, when traditional fighting goes out the window because of a giant weapon like napalm or even an atom bomb is suddenly introduced and what that sort of horror is like on the ground.”
Jaime went out of the frying pan and into the fire — or out of the fire and into the water, as it were — when Bronn tackled Jaime into the river and Jaime latter sank like a stone under the weight of his armor.
Even that involved CGI, as Matt says.
“[The writers] definitely ended it the way you saw it with Jaime sinking into the deep. We shot a lot of underwater stuff, including the final shot of him drifting down which was done outside of water, but was made to look like it was shot in water.”
All in a day’s work — or really, all in months’ work — for the Game of Thrones team!
Game of Thrones Season 7 airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.