Sean Bean Shares Details of Unaired ‘Game of Thrones’ Pilot and Filming Ned Stark’s Death

Bean says more family-centric scenes was included in the "Game of Thrones" pilot that never made it to air.
"Game of Thrones"
"Game of Thrones"

With the end of “Game of Thrones” set to begin next month, Entertainment Weekly has decided to take a trip back into the past with original leading actor Sean Bean. In a new interview with the publication, the man behind Ned Stark opened up about the incredibly mysterious “Game of Thrones” pilot that never made it to air. The original “Thrones” pilot featured some actors that were eventually let go (Jennifer Ehle played Catelyn Stark, later replaced by Michelle Fairley), and it was scrapped after showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did a test screening for friends.

“Watching them watch the pilot was a deeply humiliating, painful experience,” Weiss once told Vanity Fair about the original pilot. “These are very smart individuals, and it just clearly wasn’t working for any of them on a very basic level.”

Speaking to EW, Bean opened up about some of the scenes from the unaired “Thrones” pilot that did not make it into the first episode that aired on television and kickstarted the HBO series. “I remember a scene with Bran in the old tree and [his parents are] talking to him about life,” Bean said. “He was very young at the time, when Isaac was playing the part. There are some nice scenes with [Williams as Arya]. I quite enjoyed those scenes because there was a lot of horrible backstabbing going on, and I think those scenes stood out because they were very natural and people could identity with them: a father and his children.”

“I also remember the banquet, which was quite interesting,” Bean added. “We shot it in Scotland, and it was a banquet with King Robert. All the families were coming together, there was a real feeling of this horrible tension, which represents what we did afterwards.”

Bean also looked back on filming his iconic death scene. Ned’s beheading in the first season’s penultimate episode, “Baelor,” is widely considered one of the biggest twists in television history, despite the fact Ned’s death was a major plot point in George R.R. Martin’s novel.

“The death, that was wonderful because it was so unexpected,” Bean said, while reconfirming he knew from the start that his time on the show was limited. “I thought it was amazing how they shot it. But I died, and then I had to do some scenes from earlier in the episode, so it wasn’t the end for me. We were in Malta; it was very hot. It was very colorful. Everyone was there, and with things like that there’s a sort of gallows humor to it. It’s awful what’s happening, and you start giggling and laughing. When the head fell off, there were mistakes. It didn’t quite work out sometimes. It was quite comic. So it breaks the ice a bit.”

Despite only being featured in the first season, Ned Stark has remained one of the show’s most vital characters. Bean knows why: “He’s very honorable, he’s very honest, he’s a man of integrity, and he does the dirty work. But he’s a man who’s very fair-minded, and he’ll stick to his principles through thick and thin, regardless of who he’s up against.” This description makes Ned one of the more noble character stop ever be featured in the “Thrones” universe.

Head over to Entertainment Weekly to read Bean’s interview in its entirety. The final season of “Game of Thrones” begins Sunday, April 14 on HBO.

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