Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” Season 8, Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”]
On “Game of Thrones,” Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) excels at drinking and knowing things, which is why his skills are best served by hiding out in the crypts during the War of Winterfell. But while sailing to Dragonstone, he suddenly finds himself in the thick of battle when Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) and the Golden Company fire bolts from the giant crossbow-like Scorpions at Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) fleet.
As the ship’s railing and deck are literally being demolished under his feet, Tyrion scrambles around, decides he’s safer abandoning ship, and then takes a leap into the water below. IndieWire spoke with VFX supervisor Stefen Fangmeier about the stunt sequence that was shot without cuts until he jumps by using a large crane to follow all the chaos.
“It was one of my favorite shots because it’s Tyrion’s one-er,” said Fangmeier. “It was just kind of fun because since Season 2 we haven’t really seen him in any action. He didn’t get into any fight in Episode 3 [‘The Longest Night’], which I thought was a little disappointing. Arya gets to do it all.”
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The production team used a practical set enhanced by computer-generated effects for the destruction, but Dinklage’s moves were choreographed down to the second to make it appear that the he was in the midst of battle. “We basically shot it with a big old crane move following as he runs out and he falls down,” Fangmeier said. “He did that over and over again and seemed to be fine doing that stunt himself. Then he gets back up and he runs up the deck, but the bolt hits there, and the guy falls off the stairs.”
At that point, Tyrion has to duck from debris, which is when the camera cuts to the next shot for his jump, which required a much taller set than the ship’s deck that they were using.
“The height wasn’t there to give us some duration we could work with, so basically we moved onto a stage,” he said. “We assembled one of the water tanks that was used for last year for the ice lake. Remember when all the wights fell into the broken ice? They were actually falling into a tank, which was supposed to be the lake below them. We assembled one of those and then built a tower of the height that was maybe 12 feet.”
To provide the right amount of drama, the camera had to be close enough to Dinklage to capture his reaction, and yet far enough to follow the action all the way down to the water. The timing and framing for this was far trickier to manage than they initially thought.
“You’re up there with him and then the crane has got to pull back to pan and keep him in frame. We did that six, seven times with the stunt double and it was always very difficult to keep him in frame. We never really quite got it,” Fangmeier said.
Eventually the team decided to just try the shot with Dinklage in it – even though that could potentially take more time in the long run. “The trick was that with Peter, we’d have to completely dry him off for a second take,” said Fangmeier. “And it was his birthday. So we looked at that and said now let’s just see if we can’t just make this happen in a way where we get it with one take. And somehow, which we hadn’t been able to do with the stunt guy before, it just worked. We got it in one take. And then his wife and child showed up with a birthday cake, and it was really sweet. So we didn’t torture him for too long.”
Watch a behind-the-scenes video of Tyrion’s one-er on deck and his big jump:
”Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.