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Game of Thrones cast, crew talk show's largest battle ever in first look

We’ve heard in the past that the final season of GAME OF THRONES will not only bring the stories of a dozen beloved characters to a close but will do so with some of the most spectacular action ever filmed. While this season is the shortest yet with six episodes it took the longest to shoot and meant skipping the show’s return in 2018, and a large reason for that was because of the complexity behind shooting some of the jaw-dropping battle scenes. EW was on set for the biggest of the battles, and in a new exclusive they have the crew and cast opening up about a cold, dark shoot that found their characters fighting the Army of the Dead, and everyone working on the episode surviving what became to be known on set as “The Long Night.”

The episode in question, directed by Miguel Sapochnik of “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards” fame (the latter won him an Emmy), finds many of the series' most cherished characters, like Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and about a dozen more fighting off the Night King and his army of zombies-but-not-zombies at the ultimate Northern stronghold – Winterfell. The battle is teased as being unlike we’ve ever seen in the show (and anywhere else) and took 11 weeks of night shoots to complete. Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman spoke about the grueling production, but that the writing of series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directing of Sapochnik make for an episode that will blow our minds.

“What we have asked the production team and crew to do this year truly has never been done in television or in a movie. This final face-off between the Army of the Dead and the army of the living is completely unprecedented and relentless and a mixture of genres even within the battle. There are sequences built within sequences built within sequences. David and Dan [wrote] an amazing puzzle and Miguel came in and took it apart and put it together again. It’s been exhausting but I think it will blow everybody away.”

Despite her years of training abroad in Braavos, this is the first time Arya has fought in a major battle, and Williams said that Sapochnik told her to start training a year in advance because, yeah, battles are hard. Surely, years of training with the most gifted warriors probably wouldn’t have prepared her for the intense shoot.

“And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ But 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.”

To put it all into perspective, Sapochnik recalls researching for massive battle scenes in movies that were of the same length as the Winterfell battle but came out with an empty goblet. The closest he found was the Helm’s Deep battle in LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (makes sense: battle with a castle; huge army; many characters; crappy weather), which he studied to get a sense of pacing for the episode. Another movie this could be compared to is last year’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, which found the most characters in any Marvel movie all in the same scene and fighting the same massive battle.

“The [GoT battles] I’ve done previously were generally from Jon’s perspective. Here I’ve got 20-some cast members and everyone would like it to be their scene. That’s complicated because I find the best battle sequences are when you have a strong point of view. I keep thinking: ‘Whose story am I telling right now?’”

Along with the extensive piece on the battle and its shoot EW dropped some new images from the final season, including a group photo of the surviving main cast, which also includes Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, looking especially shaggy), Sandor Clegane/The Hound (Rory McCann) and more.

Daenerys looks on with her mighty army of Unsullied behind among her.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) also look on, possibly listening to a very serious monologue.

And that, my friends, is just one episode they've covered. Sure, it's probably among the last episodes in the final season and does give us a big idea how the show may come to an end, but the sheer size of the battle is unfathomable. We've seen how large the dead army is, and the last episode of season seven found the Night King getting a dragon of his very own, so you also have to factor in his dragon and Dany's two of her own, which is a whole other layer of the battle should the winged creatures still be around.

There's a lot to ponder over here, but the big takeaway is this season will be the most epic ever put to television, and it all begins to end on April 14.  

Source: EW

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