Game of Thrones and HBO have released a 35-minute long video taking you behind the most recent episode, “The Bells.” The first five minutes are a fascinating look into how they turned the deserted parking lot of Titanic Studios, where most of the interior scenes of the series have been filmed, into a sprawling and detailed reconstruction of inner city King’s Landing. If you’ve seen the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, you know what an epic feat of set construction and filmmaking it was. If you haven’t, here’s your spoiler alert. Proceed at your own risk.
King’s Landing has traditionally been filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but given the amount of destruction this episode required King’s Landing to undergo at the hands (mouth?) of Daenerys and her dragon Drogon, that obviously wasn’t feasible.
“The thing about Dubrovnik is it’s a really beautiful city and they love it and they don’t want us to, you know, burn it down,” David Benioff, executive producer, says in the video.
So, the producers and production designers instead had to reconstruct Dubrovnik as King’s Landing from scratch, in the shadow of the gantries at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast city center.
“We’ve had this area out the back of the office, you know, it’s been there since we ever started here,” says producer Chris Newman.
“It’s so close and so easy and Belfast needs a back lot. Why don’t we just call this a back lot and built this set for real?” Deborah Riley, production designer, adds.
Build it they did. Some 17 blocks of main streets, alleyways, side streets, and storefronts, all meticulously rendered where the builders of the Titanic once commuted to work.
Actor Liam Cunningham, who is from Dublin and plays Ser Davos Seaworth on the show, recalls exploring the set prior to filming. “I took a little video for myself on my phone of the backstreets, not even the main drag. The lanes, the offshoots, and the aged doors with tear stains of rust running down them. It absolutely looks like it’s been there for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Naturally, there were some drawbacks to filming one of the most major battles of the show everyone wants to know what happens in in the middle of Belfast city center, paparazzi being chief among them.
“The King’s Landing set was sprawling within Belfast within view of a number of raised buildings. We had an unprecedented number of drones, paparazzi attention, people just following the show around and trying to get a sneak peak,” Robbie Boake, supervising location manager for the show, says. “What we didn’t want them to see was to get the view looking down the King’s Landing street, so we stuck up a five-high container wall and that problem died down pretty quick after that.”
Watch the full clip below:
Interested in more Game of Thrones content? Check out our travel guide to Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland right here. And let us know your thoughts in the comments below!