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Jason Momoa's intimidating Khal Drogo helped make Game of Thrones' first season stick, and was a breakout character for the actor. But his role opposite Daenerys would've lacked a character-solidifying fight scene if Momoa hadn't spoken up to showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
Revealed in James Hibberd's new oral history, Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series, the killer, messy, gory, showdown between Drogo and fellow Dothraki rider Mago wasn't just missing from George R.R. Martin's original novel, it wasn't even in the HBO script for "The Pointy End."
If you'll recall the Season 1 episode, after Mago disrespects the khaleesi, Drogo's ready to throw down. And apparently it was all Momoa's idea. "I told David and Dan one thing missing in the book for me was to see Drogo fight," Momoa said. The whole buildup and the myth of him is amazing, and George is phenomenal. But I want to see him f**k s**t up. That’s why I did the haka in the audition, so you could just see what it would be like if he went into battle. I said, 'I can make this simple. I can just bob and weave and then we see his quickness.'"
"Jason had a high batting average of ideas he’d come to us [with] that we liked and ended up using," said Benioff. "And one thing he said fairly early on was, 'I’m supposed to be the baddest man on the planet, I got this long braid because I’ve never lost a fight, and everybody is afraid of me. But nobody sees me fight, and isn’t that kind of lame?' We told him, 'No, it’s good, you’re so badass you don’t have to prove yourself. You’re the victor of a thousand battles, Jason, go back to your trailer.' But there was something kind of strange with not getting to see this guy do what he does best."
So came the quick-and-dirty fight, ending with Mago getting his tongue ripped out. This too came from Momoa: "Then I had a dream where somebody dumped on my wife and I ripped his tongue out through his throat."
"Jason said, 'I don’t think I should chop his head off; we’ve chopped off so many people’s heads. I think I should cut his throat open and pull his tongue out through his throat,'" said episode director Daniel Minahan. "I’m like, 'Okay, let me get a tongue made.'"
The result was a quintessential Game of Thrones fight where the violence was inventive and gross, and the aftereffects (a scratch becomes infected and ultimately leads to the death of Drogo) were unanticipated. And it could've not happened at all.
Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon is out in bookstores now.