‘Game Of Thrones’: Liam Cunningham Explains How They Filmed The Red Priestess Birth Scene
First Published: April 26, 2012 12:14 PM EDT Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Last week’s “Game of Thrones” episode proved to be a shocker not just to the audience, but to one of its stars — Liam Cunningham.
The Irish actor was part of the eye-popping cliffhanger scene where his character, Davos Seaworth, watched the red priestess, Melisandre (played by Carice van Houten), give birth to some sort of “monster.”
“After I lifted my jaw off the ground, when I read the end of it, I was astonished,” he told AccessHollywood.com of his initial reaction to the script. “I just really wanted to know how they were gonna shoot this.
“When I saw where we were shooting it and what it was gonna look like, I thought, ‘This is like a Caravaggio — a beautiful painting.’ And [Director David Petrarca] said, ‘That’s exactly what our brief was — to make it look like this,’” Liam continued. “And this thing — it’s just so weird to watch.
“When I do turn around — you have to get your head around this as an actor — to turn around and see the red priestess dropping the robe and [she’s] nine months pregnant, and two second before, she wasn’t pregnant at all? And for my character, who’s very real, he’s very human, and to see this thing crawl along the ground… this CGI-ed monster, is very, very scary and it’s an amazing end shot,” he enthused.
Liam previously told Access he’s someone who likes to rehearse scenes many times before filming – something he did in past on projects with Michael Fassbender (“Hunger”), and on “Game of Thrones” Season 2 with Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon) – but this scene forced him to break the pattern.
“It’s not something you can rehearse. You kind of have to just play it and it’s very taxing on Carice, as well, because of the screaming and the different angles and the basic delivery — it’s not as difficult as a real one. However, when you’re in a cave, in the cold weather, and she’s virtually naked, it’s, I mean she had the tougher job of that,” he said.
To make the lithe Carice look pregnant in the scene, they brought in the experts, who made her faux belly move.
“Carice had a prosthetic on which was operated by pneumatics, so we had the wonderful Conor O’Sullivan, who did ‘Clash of the Titans,’ he did ‘The Dark Knight’ — incredible guy, top of his game, whose operating this um, tummy,” he said.
Many “GOT” fans know that prior to joining for Season 2, Liam and Carice played lovers in “Black Butterflies,” a dramatic film about late South African poet Ingrid Jonker, but filming the scene for this past Sunday’s episode was an entirely different experience.
“It’s just really surreal. You’ve got a film crew and somebody’s giving birth to a monster in a cave, in Northern Ireland, in the middle of the night,” Liam said. “You’ve gotta laugh at that stuff. It could twist the mind of a sane person.”
“Is there any scene in television history that you think is creepier than this one?” Access asked.
“I’ll tell you, this is certainly up there. There’s some weird stuff and this is a wonderful cliffhanger… to finish [the episode]. ‘What the hell is this woman up to and what is she doing at this point?’ And we just cut it,” Liam laughed. “That’s what’s great about this show. These cliffhangers at the end of a lot of the episodes, or each episode — it’s not done. It’s old school. Things aren’t wrapped up. You’re kind of going ‘I have to see next week!’”
Tune in to find out what happens next, when “Game of Thrones” returns Sunday night at 9 PM on HBO.
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