Marshall On “Game of Thrones” Wall Battle


Impressed by those mammoths in last night’s “Game of Thrones”? So was the episode’s director Neil Marshall who tells THR he literally didn’t see what the finished beasties looked like until four days ago.

Much like the Marshall-directed “Blackwater” in the second season, last night’s ambitious “The Watchers on the Wall” was a budget blowout, single location set tale showcasing a massive battle. There were also giants, deaths galore and various intimate character moments.

The biggest moment was Jon’s goodbye to Ygritte, the only scene in the episode done in slow-motion. Marshall says:

“I wanted to capture them in a little bubble. It’s in the middle of a battle sequence and you’ re going to have this strong emotional moment. It was the only slow motion shot I put in the whole thing. It was to emphasize what was going in their world verses what was going on around them.”

Because of the single location, Marshall says some elements of filming are easier such as feature film-style block shooting. It took four weeks of prep and two-and-a-half to three weeks to shoot all the live action stuff, followed by another few days in the green screen studio filming elephants and giants.

One shot he’s proud of is one long, continuous take showcasing the battle’s scale:

“I’m really proud of that one. We rehearsed it for an hour – we got it in seven takes. It links all the characters together… I thought we can do this in one shot and we did. Afterwards we all gave a big round of applause.”

Lessons he learned from the Battle of the Blackwater episode also applied here, namely showcasing the battle in a logical way – “What is the strategy of the battle? Who is trying to achieve what? What do they have to attack with and defend with and how do they use these weapons?.”