'Game of Thrones' showrunners tease Oberyn vs. The Mountain: 'The fight delivers beyond our expectations'

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When Game of Thrones returns after the Memorial Weekend holiday, fans will witness what is arguably the best fight scene in the show’s history of gripping fight scenes.

It’s a Trial by Combat grudge match to the death between Prince Oberyn Martell (aka The Red Viper) and Ser Gregor Clegane (a.k.a The Mountain That Rides), with the life of fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (a.k.a The Imp) hanging in the balance. As viewers saw on Sunday’s episode, Oberyn volunteered (“I will be your champion”) to fight for the unjustly condemned Tyrion against the crown’s formidable victor The Mountain, whom the prince believes killed his sister Elia and her children many years ago. On a show that typically delights in moral complexity, the stage is set for a gladiatorial spectacle between a Dornish prince who has charmed fans since his introduction in the fourth season premiere and one of the show’s most barbaric longtime villains.

Showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff teased the bout (without spoilers) after shooting the sequence last fall. “It’s one of the best — if not the best — combat scenes we’ve done so far,” Weiss said. “It’s not just people hacking at each other with spears and swords. It’s the culmination of 20 years of anger and hatred and thirst for vengeance coming to a head in this amazing set piece that [stunt coordinator Paul Herbert and swordmaster C.C. Smiff] have put together. The fight delivers beyond our expectations.”

Plus, Tyrion’s neck is on the line, so the stakes are very high. “And there’s that,” Weiss said. “One of the most important characters in the show will live or die based on this fight.”

Thrones recast the role of The Mountain this season due to the demands of the fight sequence, signing 420-pound Icelandic strongman competitor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson to takeover the part.

“It’s one of those fights that from the very beginning of the process of planning the show before season one we knew would be a high point if done properly,” Weiss said. “And it’s a real challenge because The Mountain is The Mountain — you need to find an enormous human being who can also deliver what you need on physical front. And you need an Oberyn who delivers what you need as an actor and pull off the extremely strenuous side of that fight, which we shot over several days. We were lucky to find Pedro Pascal for Oberyn, who gives such a stunning, fun, and dangerous performance. And Hafþór for The Mountain is a truly unusual specimen — I believe he’s the third-strongest man in the world and a former basketball player, so he knows how to move. To see somebody who is 6′ 9″ and moving the way he does in person is a surreal sight to behold.”

Thrones returns for its eighth episode of the season, “The Mountain and the Viper,” on June 1.

UPDATE: ‘Game of Thrones’ looks to Spain for season 5 … Plus, our 5 burning questions for “The Mountain and the Viper” episode (spoiler free)

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