Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have repeatedly teased the sixth season’s big battle as the show’s largest ever staged. Writer/producer Bryan Cogman said it had long been the desire to do a “proper” battle justice, with two armies arrayed on opposite sides and the strategy therein. Now, thanks to EW, we know what goes into making the biggest Thrones battle ever (SPOILER: HBO made it rain).
Prepare to get rope-a-doped by some staggering numbers (especially for a TV production).
- 600 crewmembers
- 500 extras
- 160 tons of gravel
- 70 horses
- 25 stuntmen and women
- 25 shooting days
- 4 camera crews
- Over $10 million
The battle took 25 days to film in Northern Ireland. That’s just the battle, not the episode itself. For perspective, usual TV episode production turnaround is 8-12 days. HBO did not release a full budget for the episode, but it averaged $10 million an episode this season (to give you a comparison, Season 2’s acclaimed battle episode “Blackwater” cost $6 million). This one assuredly cost more, maybe much more, almost certainly making it the most expensive episode in the show’s history.
The extras who formed the Stark and Bolton armies were trained separately to foster a competitive atmosphere between them while visual effects made them number thousands. The horses, who needed the gravel to run on the muddy ground, are notoriously expensive, usually prohibitively so for TV. After success directing last year’s big budget sequence in “Hardhome” Miguel Sapochnik was brought back to helm this hour as well as the finale and spoke to EW.
“Every battle on Thrones is unique. I think that’s why [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] keep doing them. In the case of ‘Battle of the Bastards’ – or ‘BOB’ as we affectionately called it in production – David and Dan wanted to do a thing of spectacle, a strategic pitchfield battle they hadn’t had the resources to do back in season 1 or 2. I was particularly interested in depicting both the horror of war and the roll of luck in battle.”
Benioff and Weiss also elaborated on the cinematic prowess Sapochnik brought to the show.
Benioff: “Miguel did such a fantastic job with ‘Hardhome’ last season, we thought we should bring him back, this time with horses. Some of the shots he’s pulled off are some of the best on the show.”
Weiss: “Miguel’s really outdone himself. Fully fleshed out medieval battles require a tremendous amount of resources and choreography to get them right. It feels like we’re doing something fresh that you don’t see on TV and movies very often.”
While HBO is not releasing synopses for either ‘Battle of the Bastards’ or the finale “The Winds of Winter,” they did release some gorgeous photos from the former. You can also check out the trailer below. While we wait till Sunday, catch up on our Thrones coverage with our 5 predictions for the last two Game of Thrones episodes of 2016 or learn the 5 ways the show revolutionized fantasy and TV at the same time. Lastly, get up to speed with our recaps and check back shortly after Sunday’s episode for my in-depth look at the episode.