Anticipation is high for the final season of Game Of Thrones, as we’ve heard about massive production budgets, intense secrecy, and the longest battle scene ever committed to film. It’s all very exciting for fans, and it promises to leave a lot of people very sad when it’s over. Those who might be less sad: the cast and crew.
According to a new interview in Entertainment Weekly, the filming on season eight, which included 11 weeks of shooting at night for that much-ballyhooed battle between humanity and the White Walkers, pretty much put the entire team of workers both on- and off-camera through a nightmarish wringer. Or, to quote Iain Glen, who plays Ser Jorah Mormont: “It was the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on Thrones.” Care to elaborate, Mr. Glen? Mr. Glen would very much care to elaborate: “A real test, really miserable. You get to sleep at seven in the morning and when you wake in the midday you’re still so spent you can’t really do anything, and then you’re back. You have no life outside it. You have an absolute fucked bunch of actors.”
And lest you think it’s just people complaining about working an overnight schedule, this would be trying to perform hours of laborious and exacting fight choreography night after night outdoors in freezing temperatures, often with icy rain and strong winds, periodically while standing in ankle-deep mud and inhaling “reeking horse manure and choking smoke.” Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, said that despite having the better part of a year to prep for the ordeal, the truth is that “nothing can prepare you for how physically draining it is. It’s night after night, and again and again, and it just doesn’t stop. You can’t get sick, and you have to look out for yourself because there’s so much to do that nobody else can do… there are moments you’re just broken as a human and just want to cry.”
It sounds fucking awful, frankly, though the cast will freely admit that the crew often had it worse, as they usually didn’t even get the fleeting moments of respite around a space heater in a tent. “I heard the crew was getting 40,000 steps a day on their pedometers,” is how Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth) puts it. “They’re the fucking heroes.” The interview gives additional details about the extended fight sequence, including how director Miguel Sapochnik would attempt to keep things interesting and maintain actors’ focus on their characters’ motivations in each moment of the battle. But overall, it gives a sense of exhaustion—these people are proud of this last season, but they’re just as excited to be done with it.
Or, as Rory McCann, a.k.a. The Hound, puts it, “Everybody prays they never have to do this again.”