It’s not as exciting as it looks.
Game of Thrones is basically the Gaston of killing people (it’s especially good at exsanguinating!) but as dramatic as the show’s many deaths have been on screen, it turns out that filming them isn’t quite as thrilling as watching them.
At the recent Con of Thrones convention in Nashville, some of the show’s former cast members shared their memories of their final scenes, and they might spoil the TV magic a little.
For Iwan Rheon, who played the sadistic Ramsay Bolton, leaving the show meant being eaten alive by dogs who didn’t exist.
"There were no actual dogs in the scene while I was there, it was all CGI," he recalled of his character’s grisly death. The hounds were physically present on set, though — it was just a stunt man who had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with them, Rheon revealed, "for insurance reasons."
"The dogs that we were using, they’re not pet dogs," he added. "The first time I met them I was like ‘hello…’ and they were like ‘DON’T LOOK THE DOG IN THE EYE.’ You weren’t allowed to pet them. I was genuinely tied to the chair, which was uncomfortable, with crap all over my face. It must’ve been a good four, five hours."
Roger Ashton-Griffiths’ character, Mace Tyrell, was one of Cersei’s many victims in the wildfire explosion that decimated the Great Sept in the Season 6 finale, but he revealed that the build-up was much more exciting than the death scene itself.
"There was a bit where we were alive; we were being emotional for about four days," he said of Cersei and Loras’ trial scenes, but the actual death just involved standing in front of a green screen and making a shocked expression, with the CGI wildfire added in later.
Kate Dickie, aka Lysa Arryn, admitted that her character’s dramatic exit through the Moon Door at the Eyrie was particularly challenging because she’s "terrified of heights."
While her actual death only involved a foot drop and a crash mat, selling Lysa’s long fall required being strapped into a harness and dangled for hours. "In the books, Lysa’s death is silent. There was no way I could be silent, I was strapped inside and screamed my head off," she laughed.
Sam Coleman was part of one of the most memorable deaths in the show’s history, but he didn’t even know it at the time. The actor played the younger version of Hodor we see when Bran wargs back into his body in the past, but Hodor’s fate was apparently above his pay grade. "I didn’t know Kristian [Nairn] was gonna die because they blacked that part out in my script," he laughed. "I was just rolling around on the floor screaming ‘hold the door.’"
"Are we ruining the show for you?" Rheon wryly asked the audience after the cast finished retelling their tales. "’What was your death like?’ ‘Meh.’
But one of the show’s most harrowing deaths did sound as traumatic for the actor as it looked. Kerry Ingram, who played Shireen Baratheon, admitted that she found out about her death scene halfway through filming Season 5. "They explained everything that was going on and what would happen, and then I had to wait for the script," she said. "I knew exactly what the reaction would be and I was so excited."
Fans were definitely horrified by Shireen’s death — being burned alive by her father, Stannis, as a sacrifice to the Red God — and Ingram revealed that unlike Rheon and Ashton-Griffiths’ death scenes, "there was minimal CGI involved. Minimal acting."
"They had fire a meter away from me and then did angles and stuff. It was very windy that day, and they had big fan machines and fake snow all going on at once," she explained. "As a personal choice I decided I was going to look at the flames, and as I did, I went ‘oh shit,’ because the wind had blown the flames about this close to my dress."
The proximity of the fire apparently made her performance way more realistic, Ingram said, but "it wasn’t until after that shot that they told me my costume was anti-flammable."
Given the showrunners’ penchant for torturing their actors, that sounds about right.