For those who have not yet read all the way through the Song Of Ice And Fire series, or not yet watched all the way through the HBO Game of Thrones series, you have now been warned that there may be a SPOILER or two somewhere in this article.
That being said though, the Game of Thrones series is perhaps one of the most successful, widely viewed series currently running, if not of all time. George R.R. Martin’s grand, sweeping story has captured the hearts of millions of people around the world. But how much do you really know about the show, behind the scenes?
Remember, Game of Thrones is not a real game (besides the board game, and the Risk game, and so on). The abundance of cast and crew that work in front of, and behind the camera have lives of their own, and they have some pretty interesting stories when it comes to working on the show. Here are just 25 facts you might not have known about Game of Thrones, and the people who work on it.
25. Sophie Turner Adopted Sansa’s Direwolf, Lady (Real Name Zunni)
Oh Sophie Turner. No matter what one might say about her GoT character of Sansa Stark, Turner is one absolutely gorgeous, and sweet human being. One might recall her darling direwolf, Lady. Lady was, as the story goes, executed by Ned Stark, in place of Nymeria (Lady’s sister), for having bit Prince Joffrey. But so attached was Sophie Turner, outside of shooting the show, to her wonderful direwolf, that she adopted the Northern Inuit dog. This dog’s actual name is Zunni. Turner had always wanted a dog, and remarked in an interview that, “We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set. We knew Lady died and they wanted to re-home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her.” It turns out that Turner’s parents never wanted to have a dog in the first place, but who could say no to such a cutie…and her on screen direwolf?
24. Wun Wun Was Not Always A Giant
It turns out that Wun Wun was not only a giant, but he was also once a White Walker, and he even happened to be a mountain! Of course, it’s not Wun Wun who was any of these things, but the actor who played him was. Ian Whyte, who is not only an actor, but also a stuntman, really had his work cut out for him during the shooting of GoT. During seasons one and two, Whyte played a White Walker (which does seem like an apt role, given his name). This work was obviously because of his stunt training. From there, Whyte got a big bump in pay, to play one of three different actors to take on the role of “The Mountain That Rides”, Gregor Clegane. That was in season two. In season three (once the role of Clegane was again recast), Whyte went on to play a giant, but not one of any particular note. It wasn’t until season five that Whyte became the well-known Wun Wun.
23. The Insults Thrown At Daenerys In Valyrian Are… Colorful
Who would have guessed that a show being shot predominantly in Croatia, written by an American, would have such connections between it and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Shooting the original pilot for GoT (most of which was cut or re-shot due to the incredibly steep learning curve), the castle in which much of the action takes place, happens also to be one of the castles used for The Holy Grail. But that’s by no means the most exciting, or most hilarious connection. In the third episode of the fourth season of the show, there is a Meereenese militant who shouts insults at Daenerys. What are these insults? They include: “Your mother was a hamster,” “Go and boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person,” and “I blow my nose at you”. You might be inclined to go and find the exact moments these insults are shouted, and for that, the title of the episode is “Breaker of Chains”…but you won’t recognize the above words. The insults are shouted in Low Valyrian.
22. Getting “A Head” In Life
For those who are still reading about Ned Stark’s work at Winterfell, or as the Hand of the King at King’s Landing…skip over this entry (and shame on you for not being caught up).
It’s no real secret that Ned Stark, played by famed Sean Bean, gets his head lobbed off right on the steps of the Sept at King’s Landing. Of course he does (there’s hardly a show or film that Sean Bean has been a part of, in which he hasn’t died). But there’s actually a very amusing little behind-the-scenes fact regarding Sean Bean and his severed Ned Stark head. It just so happens that, while on set (obviously between takes), Sean Bean would kick his own severed head around to others, as if it was a soccer ball (or football – depending on where you’re reading this article). Could you imagine bouncing around on set, watching Ned Stark kicking his own severed head back and forth between him and his daughters?
21. As A Joke, Dinklage Was Told The Show Was Cancelled After The Pilot
After the pilot episode for Game of Thrones had been given the go-ahead (the second, and far more polished pilot), one of the show-runners, David Benioff did something rather cruel to actor Peter Dinklage, who played the “Imp” Tyrion Lannister. Even though the pilot had been picked up, Benioff called up Dinklage to deliver the bad news that the show had indeed been cancelled. This was clearly a blow for Dinklage who had landed perhaps one of the greatest television roles imaginable. For six long hours, Peter Dinklage was left to stew in what must have been an awful interlude of sadness. Having left one of his stars to muddle about in mediocrity for long enough, Benioff called Dinklage back to inform him that it was all just one big joke. The show had been picked up, and Dinklage would be rocking the role of Tyrion Lannister for at least a full season. It didn’t take long for the show to get the green light on the following seasons.
20. The Gummy, Sticky, Bleachy, Sticky Horse Heart
Emilia Clarke, also known as Daenerys Targaryen, had one hell of a time when it came to the shooting of the scene where she eats the heart of a horse. Essentially, the horse heart was one gigantic gummy. So imagine how sticky that would already be, just chomping into that without blood effects. Carke said the heart tasted “a little bit like bleach”, which is hardly appetizing to say the least…though one wonders just how she knows what bleach tastes like. On top of that though, the blood (most likely using some measurement of corn syrup in it – “the same stuff they used for pig’s blood in Carrie“) was overwhelmingly sticky. So a giant, sticky gummy, covered in fake, sticky blood. If you wanted an idea of just how sticky this all ended up making Clarke by the end of the shoot…well she ended up getting stuck to a toilet. Equal parts embarrassing, hilarious, and disgusting.
19. “A Stark In The Streets, But A Wildling In The Sheets”
Yes, that’s right: “A Stark in the streets, but a Wildling in the sheets” is the header of a Craigslist ad that a woman posted back in 2013. This was meant to be the ultimate sexy role play, it seems. She was searching only for people who looked like Robb Stark, and while she wanted photos as proof, she wanted no knowledge of their names. Why? Well, her scenario is such that she would be Daenerys, having just conquered all, sat on the Iron Throne, and Robb (somehow still alive) would be her “lover of dragons”, who would do as she commanded him…all over the throne (which would presumably hurt both parties involved). Either way, She apparently managed to get her hands on a replica of the Iron Throne, even though no throne had been sold from the set, and HBO’s official replica had still yet to be sold (going for a breathtaking thirty thousand British pounds). Maybe she pieced together her own from some harrowing, sexual campaign to gain the seat of power?
18. The Most Illegally Downloaded Show For Four Years Straight
These are no pirates as the likes of the Onion Knight, Sir Davos. No, no. These are mere internet pirates, having their way with one of the most acclaimed Home Box Office shows of all time. It turns out that Game of Thrones managed the title of “Most Illegally Downloaded Show”, for four years straight! Now that might change in the near future with shows like West World, and Designated Survivor hitting screens everywhere, but that still seems a bit of a stretch. The fan base for Game of Thrones is so intense, that it is in no way surprising that it made the aforementioned title from 2012, to 2015. And as it happens, in 2015, GoT more than doubled the amount of downloads of the second show in that list. What show is that? The Walking Dead. That’s how intensely popular GoT really is. Sorry Grimes and company.
17. Grayscale Is Based On A Real Life Medical Condition
Grayscale is one of those terrifying, but thankfully rare diseases in the Game of Thrones universe. The very unfortunate princess Shireen managed to be affected by only surface, stone-like scales…though that’s taking into consideration that her life came to an end much earlier than it should have, and the disease thusly had comparatively little time to do its full job. But that aside, it seems this horrible disease is based fairly closely on a real life ailment, which is also, very thankfully, rare. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressive, is essentially a disease in which soft and damaged tissue in the body hardens, and basically becomes like stone. This hardening is due to the soft tissue repairing itself by becoming bone. As the incurable disease continues to work its way through the body, the afflicted essentially turns into a living statue…and then, not long after, becomes a rather dead statue. So before you think that GoT is entirely fantastical…think again.
16. There Are About 70 Different Ways To Express “Hodor”
Readers of the books certainly wouldn’t know this, and viewers of the show might not quite guess it, but there are seventy different ways in which to express “Hodor”! Kristian Nairn, the gigantic actor who plays the seemingly simple Hodor, explained in an interview that “There’s angry Hodor, happy Hodor, sad Hodor, frightened Hodor, curious Hodor, bashful Hodor, sheepish Hodor … and naked Hodor.” So in depth is this seemingly simple man that he even has a special way of saying Hodor when he’s naked (apparently just in case there are others around him). Imagine having the easiest job, in terms of dialogue, but then having to make it one of the hardest jobs, trying to find so many bloody ways to convey every single feeling, and thought via only one word; only two syllables. Kristian Nairn is probably one of the most talented actors, or at least most hard working on the show for this very reason. Oh, and he’s actually a club DJ…who’d have thought?
15. The Show Saved A Breed Of Pig
One might not expect this of a show that revolves around the slaughter of almost everything, but the Game of Thrones series has actually been the saviour for a certain breed of rare pig. Ultimately the more important issue is that the show saved the farm on which this certain type of pig was being bred, so GoT has done quite a bit of good for the local economy in general. There was such a great need for medieval-looking farm animals, that the Forthill Farm was kept afloat by doing business with the show, and the aptly named Iron Age Pigs were saved. This specific breed of pig has been raised on the Forthill Farm for several centuries by the Gracey family. No one can say that the wealth of Westeros does not get passed around, even to the lowly farmers. Why is it that the peasants didn’t like Joffrey again?
14. This Is What The Iron Throne Should Look Like
The above picture might seem a little far fetched with regards to its structure, and practicality, but this is more in line with George R. R. Martin’s vision, than the comparatively tiny throne that features in the show. According to Martin, the throne is meant to be “Ugly. Asymmetric. It’s a throne made by blacksmiths hammering together half-melted, broken, twisted swords, wrenched from the hands of dead men or yielded up by defeated foes. And there are thousands of swords in it, not just a few.” – and that would make total sense considering the history of King’s Landing, and the Targaryens. It’s not like they defeated only a hundred enemies. The history of King’s Landing is overwhelmingly bloody. So of course there would be thousands of blades, in varying states of battered and broken. It might have cost a little more, but how cool would it have been to have a throne like this in the show!?
13. George R. R. Martin Prefers Sex Over Violence
Surprise, surprise, author George R. R. Martin prefers sex over violence. Both the books and the show contain a heavy amount of both, but Martin has been prodded far more about the amount of sexual content in his work. To which he gave one of the greatest quotes of all time, regarding the difference between sex and violence. “I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of the world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.” Sure, many have had that awful one night stand, but surely it was still more pleasurable than getting an axe in the head.
12. You’re Probably Saying ‘Khaleesi’ Wrong
It’s a very strange thing when parents name their children something like Prince, or Duke, or Queenie…but somehow people seem to think that Khaleesi is in no way comparable to the silliness of these names. It is a Dothraki title though, and not a name, so why it is one of the most popular names out there now, is just mind boggling. Regardless, it might be a fun fact to know that you’re saying Khaleesi wrong. Almost without a doubt. David J. Peterson, who is a linguist, and the creator of several languages on the show has pointed out that, thanks to Ser Jorah Mormont (played by Iain Glen), everyone now pronounces the title incorrectly. Mormont has a specific way of saying “ka-LEE-see”, which everyone is accustomed to, but one is actually meant to pronounce it “KHAH-lay-see”. Peterson is now resigned to the mistake on the show, but think about this: now not only are there parents out there who have given their children a title instead of a name, but they’re also saying it wrong.
11. The Real Valyrian Steel
Valyrian steel is the strongest type of steel that could be used for weapons in the world of Westeros. Unfortunately, the method with which it is created was lost, and all that remains are the blades strewn about the kingdoms. New blades can be forged, but only by melting down weapons already made of Valyrian steel (Like Ned Stark’s “Ice”, which was then melted down to create “Oathkeeper”, and “Widow’s Wail”). As it happens, Martin based Valyrian steel off of a real life steal that humanity has indeed lost the recipe for: Damascus steel. Forged in the Middle East, the creation of Damascus steel has been lost to us since the eighteenth century. But it is still known for its durability, power, and the rippled quality to the blade itself. This is a quality that has been utilized by Martin in his descriptions of Valyrian weapons, as well as by the art department in the shooting of them. It really makes a difference when those glimmering blades enter the frame.
Showrunners Weiss and Benioff both happen to be privy to the ending of the entire series! This might seem like an obvious and necessary thing for the creators of the show to know, but given the secrecy with which George R.R. Martin writes his books, one would think that even the writers for the how might be left in the dark. Their justification was “If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends.” This basically led to the two of them going out to Sante Fe to meet with Martin. They had what must have been a very long sit-down, and literally went through the rest of each character’s story, one by one. Imagine the world of that show, and the incredible swath of characters found in it. Then take a look at how many more characters there are in the books, and imagine going through each and every story line, for each and every character!
9. The Franchise Has Inspired The “Other” Industry
It may not be a shock to anyone that the role of Shae (Tyrion Lannister’s favourite, pretty little thing – for a time) was taken up by an adult film performer: Sibel Kekilli. One might be inclined to say “porn star”, but it doesn’t seem like she ever really made it big (well…maybe some things…). Along with her, both “Jessica Jenson and Samantha Bentley, winner of the Adult Video News award for Best Group Sex Scene” have graced the cameras of Game of Thrones as prostitutes. It appears that these two can certainly be called porn stars in their own right. Even an Australian porn performer (in the amateur circuit), Aeryn Walker, made an appearance as one of Craster’s inbred wives. Given how much nudity, and sex there is in Game of Thrones (or almost any HBO show), it would seem like one hell of an asset to have some adult entertainers on set; those who can easily settle in to the sexual atmosphere of those really hot scenes.
8. Yes…A Mix Tape…
For those who are dear fans of the Game of Thrones series, and think that you have everything you need from it…think again. There is an accompanying rap album to go along with the series. In actuality, there are two rap albums! One was released in 2014, and its apparent success (though it was released for free on SoundCloud) saw the release of a Part 2 album in 2015. And it’s not small production either. It doesn’t just feature the names in the above photo. Even Method Man, and Snoop Dogg are featured, rapping for the Game of Thrones. And this was put together, officially, by HBO. So this is an entirely legitimate musical production that has, obviously, some of the most ridiculous rhymes one would ever expect to hear, regarding key moments of everyone’s favourite series. There’s something fitting about the most illegally downloaded show being the inspiration for two rap albums…oh, and there is some metal as well, in the second release of Catch the Throne.
7. Dothraki Has Become The New Klingon
So David J. Peterson is the man who has created several languages for the show. He has brought Valyrian (both high, and low) to life, as well as Dothraki. The latter language is pretty quickly becoming the new Klingon. Any nerd knows that there are dictionaries, and courses for those who want to become fluent in speaking Klingon (from Star Trek, for those who aren’t so nerdy). And it just so happens that Living Language has come out with a conversational language course for the Dothraki language. The course was obviously created by Peterson, and now one can start picking up banished princesses, and horse maidens with great ease. And to think of how many historical languages have become dead over the centuries. All it takes is one popular book, and television series, to bring to life a language of a completely fictitious people.
6. The Night’s King Killed Batman’s Parents
Actor Richard Brake, who plays the Night’s King in Game of Thrones, has been around the industry, and has played some very interesting roles, outside of the HBO series. Perhaps most notably, at least among the general population of geekdom, Brake played the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents in Batman Begins. Who also happens to feature in that film? Why little Prince Joffrey! But more on Brake, besides playing the Night’s King (who is the stuff of legend in the book, and may very well have been a Stark), and a clumsy thief with a gun, he’s also been a cowboy! This might have helped him out with his horse work on the series, given that he featured heavily in Muse’s music video for “Knight of Cydonia”. It’s a shame that the book version of the Night’s King won’t feature in the show. At least according to Martin: “as for the Night’s King, in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have.”
5. Martin Tested Show-Runners About Jon Snow’s Mom
So we already know that the show-runners begged Martin to know the ending of the show, so that they could plan the remainder of the HBO series. But what some might not know is that Benioff and Weiss, at the very outset of even talking about the show happening, were grilled by Martin, to see if they were worthy. After reading through the books, Benioff and Weiss were given a challenge. They had to come up with who they thought was Jon Snow’s real mother. And they had to justify their answers as well. “Basically, it was like: ‘Guess. I want your guess to be intelligent and I want it to be based in the facts of the world,’” said Weiss. It was apparently well trammelled territory for the pair, and obviously their joint answer sufficed, because now they’re all making tons and tons of money, and are nearing the end of the whole game. Oh, and of course Snow’s real mom is Lyanna Stark.
4. Silver & Violet
For those fans of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, you will know that the Targaryen family is laden with members who predominantly have silver hair, and purple eyes. The silver hair was easy enough to come by, of course. Dying hair takes nothing. Contacts would seem to be the easy fix for the actors who play Daenerys, and Viserys, but that was scrapped pretty quickly into shooting. Why, one might reasonably ask? Benioff and Weiss, the two showrunners, made an executive decision. They felt that the contacts negatively impacted the emotional vulnerability, and effectiveness of both actors to really pull of their performances. So they opted instead to simply go with their natural eye colours. This may not seem like an overlooked detail but for fanatics of the series, but it does essentially take away one of the trademarks of one of the craziest families in the realm.
3. Shutterstock’s Game Of Brands
Shutterstock has created a very interesting world in which the many warring families of Game of Thrones are corporations and companies. For example: The Starks, in this modern world run an outdoor clothing line (very much in line with the drab and “stark” manner with which they grave the books and show). The Freys run an events company, which is in incredibly poor taste, but also villainously hilarious. The Lannisters run an investment company, and since they “always pay their debts” this makes perfect sense. And of course the Targaryens are featured as an airline. Now this isn’t a show or anything. Shutterstock, as one might surmise from the name, is a stock footage company. There are some fantastic, faux television commercials, using their stock footage to advertise these fictitious companies. They are priceless.
2. Aemon’s Eyes
The leader of the Night’s Watch, Aemon Targaryen, is very blind in the show…and as it turns out, actor Peter Vaughan is just about as blind. “As long as you’re fit and healthy to carry on, and the offers come in, you just keep on going.” Vaughan was 84 when he said that. He’d be 94 now, and sure, he’s no longer playing the role of Aemon Targaryen (simply because the character has been dead for the past two years in the series…and he died after he finished shooting), but to be of such an age, with that sort of willingness to just go for it, is absolutely incredible. Not to mention the incredible pain in the ass it must have been to learn your lines without being able to see them. Or make sure that you’re hitting your mark on the set, when you’re basically blind. There’s a lot to learn, not just from the character of Aemon, but also from the oldest cast member of the Game of Thrones gang.
1. Turkey Banned The Show
No, this is not actually a game…or if it is, it’s not something that will be detailed here. No, this is about the banning of Game of Thrones. It turns out that GoT, among a number of other shows, was banned by the Turkish military. It’s seemingly nothing personal against the show. But essentially the argument is that the banning of this show in military schools across their country will spare youth from being exposed to “sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment and all negative behaviours”…which is kind of a ridiculous sell because one might very justifiably suggest that training to kill others is a form of negative behaviour. However, in the pornographic, and sexual exploitation field, they are pretty spot on when it comes to Game of Thrones. But ultimately, abuse, and harassment are pretty unavoidable…however sad that may be. But we cans till encourage them to continue playing the Game of Turkey.