In order for a film or television show to succeed, the audience needs to “suspend their disbelief.” Basically, the viewer has to buy into all of the fantastical elements of the narrative and be so invested in the story that they aren’t stopping to point out everything that “isn’t real.” It's hard to enjoy media when you can’t stop seeing everything that doesn’t make sense.
Game of Thrones is one of the best of the best when it comes to making you buy into their shtick. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the actors’ performances, to the make up and special effects, and the incredible set locations and designs. It’s so easy to get wrapped up into the medieval fantasy that you forget all the work that goes into making it reality.
It’s always a treat when the producers give us a peak behind the scenes, shedding some light on the magic that makes the series so spectacular. We’ve collected 14 of the most incredible behind the scenes pictures for you, as well as some lesser-known tidbits about the show’s production - just don’t let it ruin the TV magic for you.
14 The White Walker
Your favorite ice-zombies in the flesh and make up. It took two full seasons before Thrones revealed the full look of the White Walkers, and that’s because it took so long for them to finalize the aesthetics. While the result is haunting, it’s not quite how George R. R. Martin originally wrote them. The author claims that the White Walkers actually have a certain beauty to them.
“They are strange, beautiful... think, oh... the Sidhe made of ice, something like that... a different sort of life... inhuman, elegant, dangerous." The Sidhe are fairy like creatures from Irish mythology. Martin also says that the White Walkers aren’t "dead", just an inhuman kind of life. With that much skillfully detailed make up and prosthetics, the show certainly sells that idea.
13 Water Dancing
Maisie Williams is seen here displaying some acrobatics for a scene of Arya training. The young actress is so committed to her role as everyone’s favorite little killer in the making that she even uses her non-dominant left hand for sword fighting scenes, as that is how Arya was written in the books.
12 Fit for a King Slayer
Spending the vast majority of Season 2 in chains didn’t prevent Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from celebrating his birthday on July 27th. It’s good to know the Danish actor didn't suffer too much, redeeming his character in our eyes after throwing a child out a window to kick off the series.
11 Men of the Night's Watch
It’s not always such a gloomy time guarding The Wall. Owen Teale (Alliser Thorne), Peter Vaughan (Maester Aemon), and James Cosmo (Commander Mormont) rest between takes over at Castle Black in Northern Ireland.
The weirdest part about this pic? No, it's not the green umbrellas, but seeing Alliser Thorne actually smiling.
10 Mother of Dragons
“Mother of Green Fluff Balls” just isn’t as catchy, is it? Daenerys' dragons have certainly grow over the seasons, coming a long way from the green tennis balls that were used in season 1, and little figures in season 2 used so Emilia Clarke could accurately interact with her onscreen children. Check out how visual effects company PIXOMONDO reached new levels in CGI dragon badassery in Season 4.
9 The Duel in King's Landing
In this picture, Sean Bean is working with a stunt coordinator for the big duel between Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister. You can see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau studying their movements in the background, as well as plenty of others on set in King's Landing. In Season 1, the exterior shots for Kings' Landing took place in Malta, with new filming locations in Croatia added in Season 2.
8 Tyrion's Angels
Sibel Kekilli (Shae), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) goofing off for the camera in-between shooting for Season 2. These three lovely ladies are all in very different places in their careers. Lena Headey has snagged some impressive roles over the years such as Queen Gorgo in both 300 movies and Sarah Connor in the short lived Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series. Sophie Turner on the other hand had her young career kicked off by Game of Thrones and has since landed a huge role as Jean Grey in the new X-Men movie.
Sibel Kekilli has had the most interesting journey of all, leaving a successful career as an adult star over 10 years ago and crossing over into a full-blown film star. Sibel isn’t the only adult entertainment star the show has used, but she certainly had the most talent to be tapped as seen in her inspired performance as Shae.
7 The Battle of Blackwater
The Battle of Blackwater still stands as one of the most epic feats the show has pulled off, but this one came at a steep price, costing $8 million dollars to produce. Even for Game of Thrones that’s a lot, seeing as a standard episode’s budget is $2 million. It took about a full month of filming at night in the cold and wet climate of Belfast.
6 Stone Men
Just because your skin is dead and cracking doesn’t mean you can’t crack a smile yourself! Here’s one of the “Stone Men” in the midst of his four hour processes of being doused in silicon rubber prosthetics. Prosthetics supervisor Barry Gower said that the team had Shireen Baratheon’s case of greyscale to go off of, but they wanted to make the fully progressed version look much more extreme. They took inspiration from textures such as elephant skin and cracked riverbeds to nail the look you see above.
5 Baby Starks!
Remember when they were all together, one big happy family? Yeah, me either. Seeing how young the cast was during filming for the beginning of the series really puts it into perspective just how long an adventure Game of Thrones has been, and will undoubtedly continue to be.
4 The Lion and the Fool
Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Julian Glover (Maester Pycelle) are seen here sitting in between takes for a deleted scene from Season 3. In the scene, Pycelle approaches the Hand of the King about returning to his seat at the Small Council after Tyrion’s dismissal of him. The scene really turns when Tywin calls out the Grand Maester for the games he’s been playing, pretending to be a foolish, hobbled old man. We get a rare look at the real Pycelle, and his motivations. It’s a great scene for a character that never really gets as fleshed out as his cohorts.
The moment when audiences around the world knew that Game of Thrones wasn’t going to be your ordinary series came at the end of episode 9 of the first season, when the hero we had been following and rooting for, Ned Stark, had his head sliced clean off. It took some television magic to allow us to see the gruesome act in its entirety. Actor Sean Bean was just as horrified by Ned’s death as the rest of us, but he claims he got over it by kicking his prop head around like a soccer ball!
2 Beyond the Wall
Game of Thrones flies to some seriously beautiful locations to bring the series to life, and one of the most amazing settings has to be “Beyond the Wall.” The snowy tundra feels empty and riddled with death. The Thrones team accomplishes this by traveling to the unpronounceable Svinafellsjokull glacier in Skaftafell. The Icelandic scenery is as beautiful as it is desolate, the perfect place to hide some White Walkers.
1 One Throne to Rule Them All
What a crew. We’ve got the Starks and Lannisters as well as showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. And of course, atop the Iron Throne is the mind that birthed every inch of this incredible fantasy, George R. R. Martin. While I’m sure it feels good to be King, Martin isn’t quite satisfied with his throne. In a blog post, the author cited how disappointed he was with the show’s design of the all-important Iron Throne.
He says that it is meant to be “HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court... my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and assymetric… 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... a symbol of conquest... it has the steps I describe, and the height. From on top, the king dominates the throne room. And there are thousands of swords in it, not just a few.”
Martin understands why HBO’s throne looks as it does, and recognizes it’s worth and how iconic it’s become, but it’s just one of those itches that he can’t scratch. A lot can be lost in translation when going from page to screen, but lucky for fans most of the story’s wonderful lore has been successfully brought over, and the final product is truly something to behold.
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