'Game of Thrones' actress on her brutal finale fight: 'I was screaming, going insane'
Gwendoline Christie wants to reveal her big secret. We were sitting on a wooden bench on the Game of Thrones set in Croatia last September and talking about standard character details — Brienne’s relationship with Jaime, her new suit of armor, her run-in with Cersei. But there was something the passionate and high-spirited Christie was holding back. Something that she was incredibly excited about for this season, yet wasn’t supposed to mention because it was a huge finale spoiler that’s not in George R.R. Martin’s novels. Would I promise to keep it secret, keep it safe? Would I swear to not tell a single solitary soul between now and the finale nine months later? I promised.
“I fight The Hound!” she exclaimed with a big grin. “We filmed it—three days in Iceland and it’s the biggest hardest fight I’ve ever done. It was on the rocks with swords and fists and we both came out unscathed, but it was one of the f–king hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. My hands were like tramps feet — like swollen. They looked after me, they always do, but inevitably things happen. We were fighting up hills, down hills, rolling, fighting on rock face with a sheer down drop. [The Hound actor] Rory McCann is an amazing actor and a very strong man, and that was a challenge — not just as actors, but as characters. It’s a f–king really intense challenge.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you do additional training?
Yeah, I did. I trained for six weeks beforehand — three, four days a week — and then I was with my trainer the rest of the time. I was just knackered. I didn’t know how any of my friends put up put up with me because I was no fun.
Now you’ve gotten pretty much as many sword fight scenes as anyone in the show.
Yeah, I suppose. I mean this one is really long and very complex. It’s one of the biggest they’ve had. And it’s not just physical fighting.
And what was going through your mind when you were filming that? Having to face such a huge opponent?
It was boiling hot, as it happened, and I really felt for Rory. The costumes are amazing, and they did a great job at making it much easier for me than it has been before, but they’re tough to work with. What’s going through my mind? I’m so into the scene that it becomes real. Rory and I might not be killing each other, but you’re both making contact with those swords. We are two people that really go for it in that situation. Like poor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau last season with the [sword fight] said, “Can you take 10 percent off this please, rather than smashing at me?” Rory and I were quite serious about it. We want there to be contact —rolling around in the dirt on a rock face with your hand bleeding. You’re in pain, just emotional and screaming through it, and blood is pouring out of your mouth and you’re falling over when you’re meant to and falling when you’re not meant to. I like it to be real. So certain things that are done that are very real and you’re genuinely scared because you look into the other person’s eyes and they mean it. It’s frightening—that is one of the few times I’ve not had to do any acting. I was screaming, “F–k you! Come on!” Blood everywhere, going insane. It is f–king mental. You were there on top of a mountain with this surreal landscape around you and the sun is shining and your adrenaline is pumping and you’ve got what looks like blood everywhere and you’re in pain and you’ve got swords and you’re on the floor hitting the living daylights out of each other. I actually lost it at points and would just go in screaming … There’s a beautiful arc to it. The fighting is an immaculate story that goes on and Alex and C.C. Smiff and poor [Paul] Herbert and Dave [Foreman]—all the stuntmen. I didn’t just want it to be a fight, I wanted it to be a physical story that was being told. I worked with [director] Alex Graves and he made it one of the most wonderful experiences. It just looks beautiful and earthy and surreal and it’s a complex emotional scene — and it’s not over yet.
How long did it take you to recover?
I was very lucky because I worked with my amazing conditioning expert Phil Murney—he’s very good with me about all these things like recovery and stuff. I think physically it took me only a week to recover. And you know, I have to admit I had pretty strange dreams going on. Rory said the same thing. It’s an emotional, hard, physical thing — I wish I could come up with other adjectives, or be lighter about it but…
Well you’re always so passionate about your character, and that’s awesome. I think it comes across in your performance.
It’s very good casting. We’re both insane — you get like this explosion of hard core aggression, physicality, and combat. He’s bigger than her, stronger than her, he’s merciless. He doesn’t care—he even says that. He’s literally killing her.
Game of Thrones
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'