Game of Thrones season 7 has brought its A-game with big battles this season but none have topped the fiery effort from Game of Thrones season 7, episode 4. The director of that skirmish has opened up on the ins-and-outs of producing such an intense scene, and whether he’ll be back to direct another jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, dragon-bopping battle.
Why Pompeii was important
Director Matt Shakman told Variety that, for Drogon’s explosive attack, the team looked back, way back, for influences. “So we looked a lot at Pompeii as reference,” Shakman explains, “Which led to the idea of people just turning to ash in an instant. The people on the edge of the fire are cooking in their armor and rushing to the water to try to save themselves. But the people in the middle, their humanity is just gone in an instant.” Ouch.
A flaming world record
You may have noticed a lot of people being immolated during the carnage and chaos of Drogon’s assault. What you may not have realised is that the brave stuntmen becoming human fireballs broke a few world records, as Shakman reveals to Inverse: “We set 20 stunt performers on fire in a single shot — which I understand is the record. The total number of stunt performers burned in the sequence is around 63, which is also a record for total number of burns in a sequence.”
Wondering why the scene didn't stick to one main character POV?
Allegiances were torn for the entirety of the 13-minute stretch from Dothraki ambush to Jaime’s plunge to the depths, not least of all Tyrion Lannister. Shakman wanted to reflect that on-screen and so chose to split his time between several fan-favourites.
“In this collision of all these people that we love and have been rooting for and have been following, that any one of them could die at any minute… I think the goal always was to keep the possibility of death imminent.” Well. Mission accomplished.
Just how powerful is Drogon?
In the world of Westeros there aren’t many forces that can initiate a scorched earth policy as literally as Drogon can, and Shakman sees the dragon’s introduction onto the battlefield as a watershed moment, comparing it to a few modern-day destructive forces, “[Drogon’s appearance is] when the war changes forever, to see the shift from traditional fighting to what a dragon brings — introducing napalm or an atom bomb into the fighting.”
How other Thrones battles influenced Dany's assault
Thrones has a long and storied history of gigantic battles – think Blackwater Bay, Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards – and Shakman even took inspiration from the latter pair when constructing his cacophony of chaos: “I love Hardhome. I think Miguel Sapochnik did an unbelievable job on that. I looked at that quite a few times while I was prepping. I also looked at the Battle of the Bastards from last year.” I think Shakman may have topped the lot, though…
So, any hints about Jaime's fate?
No, sorry. Shakman says the final shot of the episode was taken from the script “with Jaime sinking into the deep” being close to showrunners Dan Weiss and D.B Benioff’s vision. As for who rescued him from a dragon-y doom, Shakman revealed to IGN that all will be made clear, even if it didn’t come across as intended in the final cut, “Not so much, no. That was not as intended [not knowing who saved Jaime], but I think you will also get clarity on that later.”
There’s always next week because – hey, would you look at that – Matt Shakman is directing that too!