×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Game of Thrones’ Director: Loot Train Battle Inspired by Atom Bomb, Pompei

SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen “Game of Thrones” Season 7, episode 4, titled “The Spoils of War.”

Once or twice a season, “Game of Thrones” delivers an epic battle scene unlike nearly anything previously seen on TV — Blackwater Bay, Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards. Sunday night’s episode, “The Spoils of War,” presented yet another. The Loot Train Battle kicked off with a horde of Dothraki horsemen charging hastily assembled Lannister lines in a scene at first reminiscent of classic Westerns. But then the stakes changed, as viewers got to see a fully grown dragon flown by Daenerys Targaryen and making a first fiery assault on Westerosi ground troops. The result was, in “Game of Thrones” fashion, carnage.

Matt Shakman, who directed “The Spoils of War,” spoke with Variety about Season 7’s biggest battle thus far.

How long did the Loot Train Battle take to shoot?
The battle, I think, was 18 main-unit days, roughly around five second-unit days, and then several weeks of the effects-unit shooting back in Belfast, which is where we did Daenerys flying on her dragon and shots of flamethrowers and people turning to ash and all that stuff that got added into it.

We’re used to seeing big battle scenes in the show. What did you want to do to distinguish this one?
I started by trying to focus on whose point of view I wanted to prioritize, because there are a lot of points of view in it. You see Tyrion’s point of view, you see Daenerys, you see Jaime, Bronn. And I also decided with Jaime and Bronn to focus on what it was like to be the man on the ground in the middle of a dragon attack. We rooted for Daenerys as she burned slavers in Meereen from the sky. We’ve been with her in sort of heroic moments with the dragons. But we’ve never been in a battle between two people that we love and are rooting for, and I wanted to see what it was like for those men on the ground when war changed forever, when traditional fighting goes out the window because of a giant weapon like napalm or even an atom bomb is suddenly introduced and what that sort of horror is like on the ground.

It seemed like you were looking to play with the way that viewers have perceived the dragons so far, which is essentially that they are just really cool.
Right. The horror on the ground is much larger than it has been, I think – the damage and the destruction from the last time we saw a dragon attack in Season 6. Now Drogon is the size of a 747 and the cone of flame that he sends out is 30-feet wide. So we discussed early on that the center of that flame would be so hot that it would carbonize almost instantly. So we looked a lot at Pompei as reference, 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.

When Bronn was being chased by the Dothraki, it seemed like you were setting up a potential death scene for him, then subverting that. Was that where you were intending to take the audience with that sequence?
I wanted there to exist the chance for someone to die at any minute. I hoped the people watching it would fear for Jaime, that they would fear for Daenerys when she was on the ground, that they would fear for Drogon, that they would fear for Bronn — and that 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. You have Tyrion stuck between the people that he loves, watching Jaime rush to what could be his death, watching Daenerys highly vulnerable down there, pulling that Scorpion bolt from Drogon’s side. I think the goal always was to keep the possibility of death imminent. Also, with Bronn, following him through the horror, he’s really our guide through the worst part of it. He’s running through the most dangerous part of the battlefield, and that’s why I wanted to have a very long, uninterrupted shot of him.

Was this more VFX-intensive than previous battle scenes in the series?
The VFX aspect of it is enormous. Yes, you’re right that in terms of the Battle of the Bastards or even maybe Hardhome to some degree, it’s more person-on-person fighting. So the beginning of this battle in “The Spoils of War” is more similar to the Battle of the Bastards in that you have lines colliding, horses hitting men on the ground. So it’s more traditional warfare. But once Drogon comes into it, it changes completely. The dragon is able to fly to any part of the battlefield. So the rules of the battlefield changed. The geography is constantly shifting. The point of view is constantly shifting.

How did you approach the cliffhanger ending with Jaime?
David and Dan [Benioff and Weiss, showrunners], who wrote script, definitely ended it the way you saw it with Jaime sinking into the deep. We shot a lot of underwater stuff, including the final shot of him drifting down which was done outside of water, but was made to look like it was shot in water. What you saw there was very similar to what the guys described in their scripts.

More TV

  • Nick Offerman Amy Poehler

    'Parks and Recreation' Cast Talks Possibility of a Revival at 10th Anniversary Reunion

    For one night, Hollywood felt a little like Pawnee. The cast of NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” reunited at PaleyFest on Thursday in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary. The whole Pawnee gang showed up: Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Retta, and Jim [...]

  • "Raven's Home" Executive Producer, Eunetta Boone.

    Bob Greenblatt Pays Tribute to Eunetta Boone: 'Love Just Radiated From Her'

    Eunetta T. Boone was funny, sharp and extremely warm-hearted. That’s how WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt remembered Boone as he paid tribute to the showrunner who died Wednesday at the age of 63. Greenblatt worked with Boone in the early 2000s when he was partnered with David Janollari in the Greenblatt-Janollari Studio production venture. Greenblatt-Janollari [...]

  • Writer-Director Dominik Moll on Series Mania

    Writer-Director Dominik Moll on Series Mania Competition Contender ‘Eden’

    LILLE, France — “I must down to the seas again,” Amaré, an teen African illegal immigrant, reads aloud in a poetry lesson at a refugee center near the beach in Greece. Thoughts of wander-lust seen comically out of place. Amaré has just been seen in the prolog to “Eden” leaping out of a dinghy beaching [...]

  • John Simm Talks ‘Cold Courage' as

    John Simm Talks 'Cold Courage' as Lionsgate Boards International Drama (EXCLUSIVE)

    John Simm plays a rabble-rousing populist politician in “Cold Courage,” and Lionsgate has stepped up and taken international rights to the series. Based on the series of novels by Pekka Hiltunen, the drama is billed as the biggest yet out of Finland and will bow on the Viaplay streaming service in Scandinavia. With a cast [...]

  • "Raven's Home" Executive Producer, Eunetta Boone.

    Eunetta Boone, Showrunner and Creator of 'One on One,' Dies at 63

    Writer-producer Eunetta Boone, creator of the UPN comedy “One on One” and showrunner of Disney Channel’s “Raven’s Home,” died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 63. Boone was found dead at her home of an apparent heart attack. Boone had most recently worked as showrunner on the third season of the Disney [...]

  • Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Series

    Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Starring Dominic West Ahead of Series Mania

    The BBC and Masterpiece adaptation of “Les Miserables” will play on a numerous international channels after a raft of deals were sealed for the series, which features Dominic West, David Oyelowo, and Lily Collins. Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic has been acquired by broadcasters in Scandinavia and southern Europe, and by several buyers [...]

  • Kevin Hart

    TV News Roundup: Kevin Hart Netflix Comedy Special Drops First Trailer

    In today’s roundup, Netflix releases the official trailer for the comedy special “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” and Josh Charles joins Showtime’s Roger Ailes series “The Loudest Voice.” DATES Season two of “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, will premiere on Paramount Network on June 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The sophomore season will continue the story of rancher John Dutton [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content