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Filming a fight between ice and fire is no small feat, and Game of Thrones didn’t cut any corners for Season 7 episode 6 “Beyond the Wall.” A behind-the-scenes video from the show shares how the actors, set designers, and visual effects artists teamed up to create a spectacular frozen battle unlike anything we’ve seen before — including that bear.
“What we had to go through to get the zombie polar bear was writing the zombie polar bear into every season of the show for about four seasons,” explains show runner Dan Weiss. “Only to have Bernie and the visual effects guys tell us in the nicest possible way ‘Fuck you, we cannot afford a zombie polar bear.'”
“This year it made perfect sense that you could have one of these things out there, and we really put our four feet down and we said ‘God dammit, we want a zombie polar bear,'” he added.
After studying the movement of bears, the visual effects team built a sort of skeletal bear head to set on fire and use in the scene, held by a stuntman in a green bodysuit.
“I’ve never really worked with this ping pong ball thing…and pretend that’s a bear,” says a skeptical Rory McCann, who plays the Hound. “And had people going ‘Oh, when I come towards you I’m a bear.’ No you’re not. Your name’s Toby!”
The sequence was filmed on location in Iceland and Belfast, where the cliffs had to be covered in fake snow to match the icy landscape established. The lake itself was all set dressing, and actors fell into small tanks of water whenever their characters were falling through the ice.
“Everyone’s always like, ‘Ah you get to shoot in a tank, great!'” says Kit Harington. “No. It’s the end of the season and I get plunged into cold water with a full costume on. It’s going to be miserable.”
Good thing “miserable” is Jon Snow’s M.O.
The Game of Thrones season finale airs Sunday at 9 P.M. on HBO.
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