The 13 minute behind-the-scenes featurette from HBO’s Game of Thrones showcases how the frozen lake scene was shot in season seven episode six titled ‘Beyond the Wall.’ In the lengthy video, series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss talk about the complex staging of the scene, the choreography, shooting in the ice and snow, and how the characters who accompanied Jon Snow (Kit Harington) were chosen.
“Our story is seven guys on a rock being attacked by wights and trying to tell a clear story of your task is to defend the perimeter and as you lose, your perimeter is going to fall back and fall back. ‘How do you hold order against pure chaos?’ It’s herding kittens,” said episode director Alan Taylor explains staging the battle in the middle of the lake. “You can’t see anything except people whacking each other. It takes some effort to talk to the cast and say, ‘No, the story is here’s the line and we have to show that it’s not being broken, or that it is being broken.'”
D.B. Weiss admits that even though he was a writer on the episode, he watched it and thought Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) was going to die. “Somehow he managed to override my rational brain and make me think Tormund was going to die.”
David Benioff says there’s nothing like shooting on location, if at all possible. “Iceland exists and it’s real and it’s cold as hell. It’s beautiful and there’s just nothing like having that reality on screen,” explained Benioff.
“There’s an extent to which nothing ever surprises you on this job anymore. But this…you still can’t help but be impressed by this. It’s nuts,” said Joe Dempsie who plays Robert Baratheon’s illegitimate son, Gendry.
As for that undead polar bear, Weiss and Benioff revealed the visual effects team was not in the least bit happy about having to create it. “What we had to go through to get the zombie polar bear was writing the zombie polar bear into every season of the show for about four seasons,” said Weiss. Benioff added, “We thought they’d be so excited to do a zombie bear, and it was kind of like, ‘Oh my god, they’re serious about doing this f*cking bear.'”
“Only to have Bernie and the visual effects guys tell us in the nicest possible way, ‘F*ck you. We cannot afford a zombie polar bear,'” said Weiss. “This year made perfect sense that you could have one of these things out there. We really put our four feet down and we said, ‘Goddammit, we want a zombie polar bear.'”
The behind-the-scenes video shows how the scene was shot in multiple locations in Iceland and Belfast, and how the massive frozen lake was staged and the ice was created. 3,500 bags of snow were used to cover the cliffs surrounding the fake lake. “It’s a really cool set,” said Kit Harington. “It’s an amazing set. They cemented a whole quarry to flatten out to make it look like an ice lake.”
“The amount of workmanship is incredible,” added Rory McCann (‘The Hound’). “We’ve had to run across that ice and it just looks so real. It’s fantastic.”
The 13 minute video also reveals how the dragon rescue scene was shot, footage of Emilia Clarke riding Drogon, and burning the wights with the dragon’s fire.
Watch the Game of Thrones behind the scenes video: