A few weeks ago in the “Game of Thrones” episode “Home” (S06E02), Balon Greyjoy (Mr. Malahide) met his end on a rainy bridge at Pyke, as we’ve known he would since the beginning. Both Admin and I had high hopes the writers might give him more to do in the preceding seasons before they bumped him off – okay, threw him off – but alas, it was not to be. 🙁 You can read Admin’s excellent review of the episode here.
However, it almost (almost) makes up for Balon being thrown off the bridge to get this interesting behind-the-scenes look at how it was filmed – skip ahead to the 5:50 mark:
It’s a fascinating look at how the scene was done. I admit I initially was sure that the entire thing had been CG’ed, so I was surprised to find that it had actually been shot on location in a quarry in Northern Ireland, with the aid of some green screen and rain and wind machines. I also have to admire Mr. Malahide and Mr. Pilou Asbæk’s (Euron Greyjoy) fortitude in going out to shoot the scene over two nights in November, while being soaked to the skin both times! Pilou Asbæk talked about the experience in a Vulture interview (links are in the original):
[…] That bridge scene, that was a hard shoot. We stood there for ten hours in hard, cold rain, in the middle of the night. And Patrick [Malahide] was a true champ. Didn’t complain. I’m 40 years younger than him, and I was being a little bitch sometimes, going, “This is cold!” or “I’m getting a headache!” Not very Euron Greyjoy-like. [Laughs.]
Well, aside from Mr. Asbæk’s math being a bit off (he’s 34, Mr. Malahide is 71, so not quite forty years), it’s good to know that being heavily rained on on a swaying suspension bridge in a high wind didn’t affect Mr. Malahide’s professionalism. 😉 He also discussed the bridge shoot in a different Vulture interview, which Admin posted about previously:
Since they asked your agent, how are you with heights?
I was fine! I’m a sailor. It’s not so much the height as the movement, because the bridge was kind of swinging around and there were these rain machines that were fierce. It was November, and it was cold, and the water was icy. It was not a pleasant night to work, I have to say. It felt like you didn’t have to act — you just had to survive. Just say your lines while this bridge is swinging and this water is shooting down on you. We were in an abandoned quarry about 30 miles north of Belfast on the coast, and it was one of the most forbidding, bleak places I had ever been in my life. You’re surrounded by these cliffs of granite, and underfoot is this big thick slimy mud. You’re just picking your way through the mud, and you get up to this bridge and then they turn on the machines. You felt pretty much in character after doing that for six hours, I’ll tell you.
Just from the small part of the filming we saw in the clip, I can easily believe all of that. Being able to keep your footing on a slippery, constantly shifting ship’s deck would certainly help. I did wonder just how water-resistant Balon’s costume was, though of course an Ironborn would never complain about something petty like that. However, it was good to hear that he and Mr. Asbæk could go fortify themselves with hot chocolate (or perhaps something stronger?) once shooting was done.
I also found it interesting that the bit where Euron throws Balon off the bridge was a mix of stunt work and CG, with Mr. Malahide describing how his CG likeness was taken so he could be digitally thrown off:
I’d never had this done before. There was a cyber-capture, as they call it, where I was in full costume and makeup, and I was standing on a dais, surrounded by about 20 pillars around me, in a circle, and each of these pillars has about ten digital cameras, all pointing at me. They’re all linked together, and they all go off in one go, in a blinding flash. So they have a 360-degree image of you, which they can now manipulate with CGI, so they could actually do anything they wanted with me, which was weird. And there was a stuntman. It was part stunt, part CGI.
It ended up looking very convincing. I still say Euron is the one who should’ve been thrown off, but I’m biased. I did like the fact that Balon’s final shout on the way down was much more infuriated than frightened, though. Very fitting.
Overall, the clip is a fascinating look at parts of the entire process, from the small model mock-ups, to the animatronic storyboard (animated Balon doesn’t look much like real Balon, but that’s okay), to the actual filming with huge green screens, to the finished product. Even though they weren’t really as high off the ground as they appeared to be, it would still be unsettling just to cross that bridge with the rain and artificial wind going, never mind having to deliver dialogue! No wonder the producers wanted to know if Mr. Malahide was afraid of heights. I also have to give him kudos for projecting his voice to make himself heard above everything. All put together, as “Game of Thrones” death scenes go (and we’ve seen quite a few of them by now), it was a great exit for Balon and Mr. Malahide.