“You have actors on horseback next to wagons that are on fire, it really was the perfect storm in terms of danger,” exclaims Matt Shakman about directing the epic ‘loot train battle’ for “Game of Thrones.” In our exclusive video interview above, he adds, “They make you sign all these NDAs before you get your script. Then they deliver the scripts to you and it’s like Christmas morning. So I’m reading through and I get to the ‘loot train battle.’ I’m flipping page after page after page, and it’s still going on. I began to realize the task that was ahead of me and also the opportunity. As a director you live for the opportunity to work on that level and that scale.”
The ‘loot train battle’ concluded the fourth episode of the seventh season of “Game of Thrones” called “The Spoils of War.” It’s been submitted on the directing ballot for this year’s Emmy Awards and brought Shakman his first Directors Guild Awards (DGA) nomination earlier this year. The battle saw Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) with dragon attack the Lannister army. Shakman says the show has “been around for many years, but the great thing is that it’s always pushing its limits. Here it’s like taking the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ on the ground, adding Dothraki to that, and adding dragons.”
The battle scene also set a record for the most stunt people set on fire. Shakman explains, “We didn’t set out to break a record. It sort of just happened. A battle like that, especially when you have a big visual effects dragon, can quickly become something that feels unreal. I wanted it to always feel particularly visceral. People on fire: there’s nothing more visceral than that. It also is one of the most dangerous stunts you can do.”
Shakman says the scene also “has a lot of different perspectives. But I chose to focus on Jaime Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) point of view from the ground. Because we’ve seen Daenerys torch the slavers. We’ve been with her in these heroic moments when she was using her dragons to liberate her people. I felt like this was the first time we have a chance to see what it would be like to be on the other side of a dragon attack. To realize how horrific it is. To see what war is like when it changes forever, like when a new weapon is produced. A dragon comes into it and then all of a sudden everything changes forever. I looked a lot at ‘Apocalypse Now,’ where you are down on the ground with these poor villagers as this fire and napalm takes over.”
However Shakman’s favorite character in the series was not in the ‘loot train battle’ scene. He reveals that it is Maisie Williams as “Arya because she is scrappy and fun and smart and the ultimate survivor.”
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