Sunday night’s Battle for Castle Black promises to be the biggest war scene in Game of Thrones history, with the entire episode focused on Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch fight with The Wildlings. Below, Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss tease up (spoiler free, of course) the epic confrontation, as well give some insight into last week’s Red Viper vs. Mountain fight and Sansa Stark’s big transformation. Note: The following answers are culled from two interviews, one conducted last week via email where the producers replied with joint statements, and the second by phone shortly after episode 9, “The Watchers on the Wall,” finished filming.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: [Last Sunday's episode was] your first arena fight, a trope of the genre from Gladiator to Spartacus. Was there a sense of challenge to make this scene stand out vs. the ones we’ve seen in the past?
David Benioff and Dan Weiss: Yes, we’ve had a few other trials-by-combat, but this is the first time it’s been in a proper arena setting. A lot of what sets this one apart is the specific situation that led to it, one that ties the fates of the fighters and spectators together so inextricably. The intimacy of the smaller, VIP arena adds to this feeling. There was also something unique about the contrast between the Mountain’s and Oberyn’s very different fighting styles. We were looking forward to watching this massive, powerful monster fighting this lightning quick showboater. The real trick was finding actors capable of embodying these characters in physical performance. We got very lucky on that score — Pedro [Pascal] and Hafthor [Björnsson] are both gifted fighters, and they both worked their asses off. More than anything else, they’re what sets the scene apart from other scenes in the “arena fight” genre — how invested we are in them, and in the other characters whose fates are linked to theirs.
Looking back at making that fight scene, anything in particular you recall that was memorable about shooting it?
Benioff and Weiss: Hafthor is an extraordinarily nice young man. He’s also 6’9”, 420 pounds of Icelandic muscle. There is no stunt double in the world big enough to match his size. Which meant that Hafthor had to do all his own fighting, while wearing a full suit of armor in the hot Croatian sun. After approximately twenty straight takes where he hacked at Oberyn with his great sword, a drenched Hafthor tore off his helmet and shouted, “Armor off!” Believe me, no one on set was going to argue with him. READ FULL STORY