‘Game of Thrones’ poised for big battle

Cine­matog­ra­pher says next episode even bet­ter than dragon one

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

“Game of Thrones’’ fans who thought last Sun­day’s fiery dragon battle was a doozy may be even fur­ther blown away by this com­ing episode, says Van­cou­ver-raised cine­matog­ra­pher Robert McLach­lan.

“When I saw the rough cuts of both Sun­day night’s episode and this up­com­ing one, most of us ac­tu­ally ... liked the up­com­ing one bet­ter than the battle scene one,’’ the Los An­ge­les-based McLach­lan said in a phone in­ter­view.

“Hav­ing said that, the battle one wasn’t put to­gether and all the el­e­ments weren’t in place and the mu­sic wasn’t there and so forth. But as a re­ally solid, sat­is­fy­ing episode, I ac­tu­ally like (the up­com­ing) episode 5.

“That’s all I can tell you or else HBO will come and chop my head off if I say any­thing more than that.’’

The two-time Emmy nom­i­nee worked on both “The Spoils of War,’’ the dragon episode that had fans in a tizzy on so­cial me­dia, and the up­com­ing “East­watch’’ in­stal­ment. The se­ries is adapted from nov­el­ist Ge­orge R.R. Martin’s fan­tasy se­ries “A Song of Ice and Fire.’’

In “The Spoils of War,’’ di­rected by Matt Shak­man, Daen­erys Tar­garyen rode a fire­breath­ing dragon into battle.

The show now seems poised for an­other big battle with the White Walk­ers, which McLach­lan said he didn’t work on.

“I tried not to pay too much at­ten­tion to that episode,’’ said McLach­lan, whose other cred­its in­clude “Mil­len­nium,’’ “West­world’’ and “Ray Dono­van.’’

“They filmed it in the win­ter af­ter I’d come back to L.A. to start this sea­son of ‘Ray Dono­van,’ be­cause be­lieve it or not I’d like to be as sur­prised as the rest of the au­di­ence, if I can.’’

Last Sun­day’s episode was huge, not just be­cause of the plot and visual ef­fects but also the scale of pro­duc­tion.

“What I’m hear­ing is that that was maybe the most ex­pen­sive episode of tele­vi­sion ever made, ac­tu­ally,’’ said McLach­lan, 61, who was born in San Fran­cisco but grew up in Van­cou­ver.

“As soon as you put a dragon in a shot, the price of the shot goes up ab­so­lutely mas­sively, if it’s go­ing to be fully 3D an­i­mated.’’

Shot over about 3 1/2 weeks on the out­skirts of a small town in Spain late last year, the battle scene for “The Spoils of War’’ was planned months in ad­vance, first with sto­ry­board­ing and then a rough an­i­mated ver­sion.

Chal­lenges in­cluded “mis­er­able’’ weather and hav­ing to wran­gle 400 ex­tras, dozens of horses, horse rid­ers, fog ma­chines, 50 stunt pro­fes­sion­als — and lots of fire.

“I think at one point we were oc­cu­py­ing about 600 ho­tel rooms, at the be­gin­ning of the shoot,’’ said McLach­lan.

The dragon was cre­ated through CGI so Emilia Clarke, who plays Daen­erys, had to ride “a big green mech­a­nism’’ that was “al­most like a me­chan­i­cal bull’’ on set, said McLach­lan.

With ev­ery de­tail painstak­ingly planned so far in ad­vance, McLach­lan said it was an ef­fi­cient shoot that wasn’t as daunt­ing as a cer­tain in­fa­mous scene he did in a pre­vi­ous sea­son.

“I think I felt less pres­sure, even though it was ob­vi­ously a mas­sively more ex­pen­sive un­der­tak­ing, than I did when I pho­tographed the Red Wed­ding scene in sea­son 3,’’ said McLach­lan.

“Be­cause the ex­pec­ta­tions for it to be flaw­less and sur­pris­ing were so much higher. We def­i­nitely felt the pres­sure on that.’’

McLach­lan be­lieves the show’s height­ened drama will be sus­tained through the fi­nale.

“I know for sure that these writ­ers are go­ing to be able to do that,’’ he said. “(David) Be­nioff and (D.B. Weiss) are ex­tremely tal­ented and un­like any show ever on TV, they have the en­tire story plot­ted out.

“So I have ab­so­lutely no doubt that the fi­nal six episodes will be ab­so­lutely knock­out fan­tas­tic and I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to them — be­cause for the first time in a long time, I won’t have worked on them, so I’ll be able to prop­erly en­joy them.’

CP PHOTO

This photo pro­vided by HBO shows a scene from Sea­son 7, Episode 4 of “Game of Thrones.” “Game of Thrones” fans who thought last Sun­day’s fiery dragon battle was a doozy may be even fur­ther blown away in this com­ing episode, says Van­cou­ver-raised cine­matog­ra­pher Robert McLach­lan.

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