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Game of Thrones is, in many ways, the story of an extended and multi-tiered war. It began on a small scale with palace intrigue at King's Landing and has since grown to consume the entire continent of Westeros, but it was always on some level one big fight. In the case of this particular show, that big fight means stunts, and lots of them.
We're now less than one month away from the premiere of Thrones' final season, and to help tide us over HBO has released another installment of its "Inside Game of Thrones" behind-the-scenes video series, this time focusing on stunts. The show's stunt coordinator, Rowley Irlam, has overseen all stunt work on the series for the final four seasons, and while he's certainly helped choreograph and execute plenty of sword fights and impressive falls there's one thing the show's really become known for in the stunt department.
"We burn more people than anybody else, basically," Irlam said.
Yes, while the dragons on Game of Thrones aren't real, the fire they breathe very often is, and real stunt people have to stand in the way of it and allow themselves to be ignited. Safety, of course, becomes a top priority, and that includes multiple layers of clothing — some of it soaked in cold, fireproof gel beforehand — to protect from the blaze, frequent non-fire rehearsals, and a maximum burn time of 15 seconds to keep things from getting too hot.
"We're trying to create this really dynamic frame of action," Irlam said. "We'd love to go home at the end of the day and no one's paid any kind of price for it."
The show's frequent scenes in which Daenerys Targaryen commands her dragons to flambé an enemy started somewhat small in Slaver's Bay, but they've just kept growing in scale, requiring more and more stunt performers to don the multi-layered costume and latex masks that keep them safe in the flames. This reached a new high in the Season 7 episode "The Spoils of War," in which Daenerys and her dragon Drogon attack the Lannister loot train bringing back the gold taken from the House Tyrell seat of Highgarden.
"The show just keeps getting bigger. We did 73 full fire burns during loot train. We did 20 in one shot," Irlam said. "That was a record for TV. We didn't do it wantonly to set a record. I was aware of it, obviously, and everyone likes that, but it was for the shot. That was the shield wall and everyone getting hit. So it had a purpose, not just a record."
Season 8, which promises to feature the biggest battle the show has ever depicted, is fast approaching. Could it feature another record-breaking stunt performance? We'll find out in a few weeks.
Game of Thrones returns April 14 on HBO.