*Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen “The Winds of Winter.”
Sapochnik is known for his impacting episodes such as the bloody “Battle of the Bastards,” “The Gift” and “Hardhome.” The helmer discussed his inspiration for the epic finale, where Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) destroys King’s Landing’s historic Sept of Baelor with a massive explosion of wildfire, and how he crafted the episode.
“When I first read it, I wondered how we would do this and avoid it feeling cheesy or cheap,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “After all, blowing everyone up in the third act isn’t uncommon in Hollywood action movies.”
Inspired by “James Bond” and “The Godfather” movies, he determined how exactly the explosion should be. “The first thing that came to mind was making the explosion more like a James Bond movie,” he explained. “Sometimes they actually used to blow up the sets they’d built, and then use miniatures for everything else. There was always something so satisfying about that for me as a kid.”
The big scene was shot at multiple locations, but was filmed mostly on a soundstage in Belfast, Ireland. He first thought that the wildfire explosion would be the hardest to shoot, but it was really the practical shoot on the Sept stage that was more challenging.
“It’s a funny set because there’s only ever been half of it built. If you want to shoot 360 degrees you have to pretend you’ve turned around, but just mirror where everyone is standing,” said Sapochnik. “This is a complete cluster f— for continuity, because usually you end up doing it later in the day, and if you’ve ever wondered what 350 people look like when they’re scratching their head, really confused, trying to work out their blocking after you’ve told them their rights are now their lefts, try switching directions on the Sept stage.”
As for filming Cersei and her reaction, Sapochnik emphasized that Headey was great to work with.
“Lena is pretty sharp when it comes to charting her own arc,” the director added. “The thing we discussed the most was how to react to the Sept’s destruction. This was mainly because there was obviously no Sept, just a huge blue screen with a bunch of dots on it and a fan and such to create a shockwave. With such a big event taking place, having nothing there to see or even interact with complicated what in the end was already a complicated enough emotional response. So I would talk her through what was happening in each take and she’d react accordingly. Lena does not need much hand-holding. She brings her A game to work. Mostly you just have to get out her way and let her do her thing.”
And that look of satisfaction on Cersei’s face can never be forgotten.