To prep for scenes that required dialogue spoken in the fictional languages of Valyrian or Dothraki, “Game of Thrones” actors often worked with the show’s linguist, David Peterson, months in advance to perfect the accent and pronunciations of each word. Emilia Clarke spent the majority of her time on “Thrones” memorizing pages of dialogue in different languages, which is why it was no problem for the actress to improvise an entire Valyrian monologue during the filming of the show’s fifth season.
In an outtake from James Hibberd’s behind-the-scenes “Thrones” oral history book “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon” (via Entertainment Weekly), “Thrones” director Jeremy Podeswa remembers being shocked by Clarke after she whipped up an entire monologue in a fictional language in just 10 minutes. The monologue was featured in a fifth-season scene where Daenerys orders the execution of a Meereenese nobleman who conspired against her. The scene was originally performed in English, but it wasn’t hitting as hard as the “Thrones” creative team wanted.
“Then [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] came down – they were watching the scene being shot – and they said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the scene was in Valyrian?'” Podeswa said. “There’s usually a lot of preparation for that sort of thing and so much consideration that goes into it and [Emilia] had quite a big monologue before she sets the guy on fire.”
The director continued, “I went over to Emilia and I was like, ‘I know this is a really big ask, but do you think you could figure out a way to do this in Valyrian?’ She said, ‘Yeah, sure, I think I can do this.’ And I’m all, “Really?” Then she went off and cobbled together things that [Daenerys] had said in the past that made sense. She came back in 10 minutes and had this whole monologue down.”
Podeswa was blown away by how fast Clarke came up with something “completely credible” in a fictional language. The director said, “Every single take, every intonation, and the way she phrased everything, you completely understood what she was meant to be saying. Then the subtitles all seemed authentic to what she was doing. She knew the language well enough at that point to make it all work. It wasn’t tracking perfectly in Valyrian, but no fan ever noticed it. She did an amazing job.”
Hibberd’s book “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon” is now available for purchase.