“Game of Thrones” actor Iwan Rheon starred as the villainous Ramsey Bolton from 2013 to 2016, appearing in 20 episodes of the HBO fantasy series and becoming perhaps the most reviled character in “Thrones” history. Ramsey’s rape of Sansa Stark on their wedding night in the fifth season episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” resulted in outrage over the series’ depiction of sexual assault and violence against female characters. In a new interview with Metro (via Insider), Rheon says filming the controversial rape scene was a rock bottom moment for his career.
“That was horrible. Nobody wanted to be there. Nobody wants to do that, but if it’s telling a story then you have to tell it truthfully,” Rheon said. “They didn’t sensationalize it or anything. It was very, very hard watching. It’s a horrible thing that happens, unfortunately… It was the worst day of my career.”
Rheon continued, “Chopping someone’s finger off you don’t really see it, and when you’re doing like a close up, it’s a piece of plastic. We’re just acting, it’s not real. Then something like that where you’re in the actual reality of the situation is very difficult to deal with. It was a horrible, horrible day. This is something that we shouldn’t even have to worry about, because it’s something that shouldn’t exist in this world but unfortunately it does.”
Filming a sexual assault scene troubled Rheon just as did fellow “Thrones” cast member Emilia Clarke. As revealed by co-star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in an interview last month, Clarke felt “degraded” by having to film a rape scene in the “Game of Thrones” pilot.
“For Emilia to play that in Series One was really tough and degrading, because what that character goes through is horrific,” Coster-Waldau said. “She’s sold to a guy who rapes her, but her way of getting through that is a massive journey, right?”
For Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner, being the central character in a sexual assault scene played a role in getting her to advocate for womens’ rights issues in the real world. As Turner told Harper’s Bazaar in 2019, “Initially, I didn’t feel there was anything that stayed with me from all the things Sansa went through. But though I think it hasn’t affected me emotionally, I did start thinking about the domestic abuse and rape, and it spurred this little part of me that might be an activist.”
Following his role on “Game of Thrones,” Rheon went on to star in films such as “The Dirt” and “Berlin, I Love You,” plus television shows like “Inhumans” and “American Gods.” All eight season of “Game of Thrones” are currently streaming on HBO Max.