Interview: ‘Game of Thrones’ Director Miguel Sapochnik on How He Constructed the Battle of the Bastards
Posted on Friday, July 1st, 2016 by Jack Giroux
During the fifth season of Game of Thrones, Repo Men director Miguel Sapochnik left a huge impression with “Hardhome.” HBO and the key talent involved with the series were clearly impressed enough to invite Sapochnik back to direct two of season six’s biggest episodes, “Battle of the Bastards” and the season finale, “The Winds of Winter.”
As with “Hardhome,” both episodes left fans buzzing. The major set piece in “Battle of the Bastards” is a high mark for the series — a brutal, unrelenting battle that’s pure chaos. The finale doesn’t feature a set piece as large in scope, but its opening sequence and pivotal character moments are just as grand to watch unfold as the battle in “Battle of the Bastards,” which Sapochnik refers to as “BOB.”
We were lucky enough to ask the director a couple of questions via email about the two episodes he directed. It should go without saying, but just in case: SPOILERS are ahead. Below, read our Miguel Sapochnik interview.
You’ve said before you always look for an episode’s emotional spine, and its relationship to the rest of the series. For you, what were the emotional spines of “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter”?
Yikes. I guess the “Battle of the Bastards” is about Jon’s journey into the darkness and ultimate rebirth. While “Winds of Winter” is all about the end of a chapter and the beginning of new era for all concerned. The latter is less an emotional throughline and more a philosophical one.
With Karsi’s death [from “Hardhome”], you wanted to cut before it got too graphic. How did you want to approach the major death scenes in the last two episodes? What dictated how much you wanted to show versus how much you wanted to leave to the audience’s imagination?
With “BOB,” I didn’t want to shy away from the violence at all. I wanted it to be in your face because we weren’t trying to color the audience with a sleight of hand. War is cruel and horrific and brutal, and I didn’t want to dilute that idea. With the individual deaths, on the other hand, it seemed that there was no real need to dwell on them. The audience had for the most part already imagined many horrible deaths for Ramsay and their imagination was far more potent than anything we can put on screen.
The “Battle of the Bastards” battle was a massive undertaking, but were there any other sequences in particular that, although a viewer wouldn’t guess it, were also significant challenges?
Between these two episodes, I feel like we got the lot: working with dogs, horses, children, fire, water, stunts, fake weather, real weather, giants and dragons. Did I leave something out?