Total Nerd Behind the Scenes Facts About "Battle of the Bastards"  

Lisa Waugh
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It’s SPOILER TIME!  How are you feeling about "Battle of the Bastards" and Season 6's epic battle scene? Pretty gnarly and grisly and the antithesis to the battle at Meereen which was very satisfying, right?
 
The stakes were high in the war for Winterfell and not just any director was going to do. HBO wanted Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik did such an amazing job with “Hardhome” in Season 5, he was asked back to tackle the two battles in episode nine of Season 6. As spectacular as the battle at Meereen was, it pales in comparison to shooting the Battle of the Bastards scene - there's a reason the episode wasn't called "Some Dragons in Meereen." The math tells the story. The scene took 25 days, 80 horses and riders, 65 stunt actors, seven principle actors, 600 crew members, four camera crews, 500 extras, and 160 tons of gravel to complete.
 
And although BoB was based on two epic battles between Hannibal and the Romans, the most memorable shot comes from an unscripted set of days of shooting because rain had erased the opportunity for the original vision. Jon’s re-rebirth moment, as he pushes to the surface of a sea of wildlings, was one of those pieces of magic that could win the series and director Sapochnik one of those little statues they give out every year.   
 
Just watching the "Battle of the Bastards" behind the scenes piece from HBO makes you feel, wet, cold, tired, and really angry at Ramsay Bolton with each watching. It also makes you appreciate just how hard the cast and crew work to make this show. The incredible attention to detail, the long hours of labor, and the farting during Jon’s lines (a horse did that, not Tormund), make this episode a stand-out in the series.
 
One of the things Kit Harington wants you to know about shooting the Battle of the Bastards scene is that he’s actually standing in front of those 40 charging horses. So don’t bum him out by saying it was CGI. Let’s look at some of the "Battle of the Bastards" Game of Thrones facts that’ll make you appreciate the episode even more.

The Battle of the Bastards Was the First Battle of Its Size and Scale in the Series


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Photo: HBO
The scene was shot at Saintfeld in Northern Ireland and took 25 days, 80 horses and riders, 65 stunt actors, seven principle actors, 600 crew members, four camera crews, 500 extras, and 160 tons of gravel to complete. The gravel was to fill in the muddy earth for better traction.

The Horses Farted During Kit Harington's Lines


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Photo: HBO
Using horses on this scale tends to slow down production. In this case, the director said it made the shoot “about 50% longer.” Also, horses don’t care where they drop a deuce or who’s trying to win an Emmy.
 
Sapochnik is fully familiar with his equine actors. “Horses also get bored and spooked and some perform better than others. They also need an entire separate field to rest in. Oh, and they sh*t and piss all the time.  
 
"In fact, one of the hardest scenes to shoot was the parlay between the different factions prior to the actual battle. Getting a bunch of horses to just stand there all day and do nothing is much harder than getting them to run around. They would fart and pee a lot, often in the middle of [star Kit Harington’s] lines.” The nerve.

The Piles of Bodies Affected the Cast and Crew


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Photo: HBO
Production Designer Deborah Riley said even though she knew the bodies were fake as she and her crew were responsible for dressing each and every one of them in the proper battle gear, it was still “deeply moving.” Other actors said that the deep piles of bodies, even though they were fake, were upsetting and jarring. 
 
Showrunner David Benioff explained, “It comes from reading real accounts of these various battles both medieval and even more modern ones. You read accounts of battles in the Civil War where the bodies were piled so high they actually became an obstruction on the battlefield.”

The Battle Was Inspired by Famous Battles Between Hannibal and the Romans


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Photo: HBO
“Initially, we based BoB on the battle of Agincourt which took place between the French and English in 1415. But as needs changed, as did budgets, it became more like the battle of Cannae between the Romans and Hannibal in 216 BC,” the episode’s director Miguel Sapochnik said. He also noted that it was “The most logistically complicated thing I’ve ever been involved in.”