David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, creators of HBO’s George RR Martin novel-based series Game Of Thrones, opened their final episode with a bang and provided enough shocking twists, bloody score-settling and power plays in a series record long 69-minutes to hold their own against last week’s seemingly unbeatable
Battle Of The Bastards. That episode brought us a battle between forces commanded by Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton that was one of the most ambitious production feats ever seen on a TV screen. Last night, the field vying to rule the Seven Kingdoms got smaller; the raised-from-the-dead Snow’s birthright was revealed, and new alliances were forged, with the icy Night King and his undead horde serving as the looming doomsday menace. Here, Benioff & Weiss — who this season didn’t have Martin’s books for a road map for the first time — discuss the finale and how it sets up for Season 7.
Shocking Season 6 Finale Game of Thrones
DEADLINE: Before we get into last night’s season finale, let’s spend a moment on the previous episode, Battle of the Bastards, which pitted Jon Snow against Ramsay Bolton. Game Of Thrones has always been distinguished by unforgettable battle scenes, from Blackwater to Jon Snow’s clash with the Night King and his White Walkers. Battle of the Bastards was a high water mark as Ramsay badly outmaneuvered Snow with a ruthless strategy to use his archers to create a wall of bodies — comprised of his infantry and the enemy. He then choked the survivors with a line of shield-bearing soldiers with long spears, pressing forward with deadly precision. That strategy seemed too scary to not have been used successfully. Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? What was your inspiration? WEISS: There were lots of inspirations for it. One of the things we realized going in, the period of the great costume epics were over by the time the 70s and its gritty, grim reality of those films. You’d see big amazing costume period drama battle sequences, and scenes that were gritty and realistic, but there’s never really been a medieval battle with scale and scope, with a few small exceptions. Actually, I wouldn’t call Gladiator and some of those films small exceptions; obviously Ridley Scott is the one who has done most of it. But the combination of the true brutality of that kind of conflict, and the scale and scope of that kind of conflict, we felt there was a niche there. We could maybe do something new, if only because we were in a position to have the scale and scope of the whole thing and to really give us a sense of what that kind of conflict really felt like, on the ground. Which, from all historical accounts, was truly terrible.
DEADLINE: There were unforgettable images of Jon Snow, hacking away with his sword, bodies flying in chaotic war action all around him, and then he’s buried by a wall of bodies, suffocating. What’s the most difficult part of shooting scenes like those? BENIOFF: The hardest part is the horses. They make everything difficult and more complicated. They’re dangerous to themselves and the people around them, and they have their own minds and don’t take direction as well as people do. WEISS: Or dragons. BENIOFF: We’re lucky we have a brilliant horse mistress, Camilla Naprous, who has been in charge of the horses since the first season. She has always said, c’mon guys, give me something more interesting to do this season. We thought we’d really throw a challenge at her and give her Battle of the Bastards. So much of it comes down to the preparation. We have amazing stunt performers and in Miguel Sapochnik, a director who’s so good at spending hours and hours and hours on every shot beforehand, so that he knows exactly what he wants when he gets to the battlefield on the day. We only shoot ten hour days, so you have to pack a lot into those ten hours. I’ve never seen a director so meticulous in his preparation as Miguel. It pays off when you see what he gets onscreen. DEADLINE: How many moving parts, people and horses are involved? WEISS: There is a lot of CG. There are 500 extras and 50 or 60 horses that get blown up to look like a total of between 7000 and 8000 men and an appropriate number of horses for that cavalry charge.