‘Game of Thrones’: Just How Big Will ‘Battle of the Bastards’ Be?

     June 16, 2016

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The title clash in HBO’s “Battle of the Bastards,” the upcoming episode in Season 6 of ratings juggernaut Game of Thrones, is expected to be the biggest military conflict in the history of the series. Long-time fans of the show will think back to such climactic engagements as the titular battles in “Blackwater” and “Hardhome,” but this one should reduce those to mere skirmishes.

EW got an angle on the numbers behind the production of the show’s biggest battle to date. It’ll be a chance for director Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed “Hardhome,” to work with a presumably bigger budget and show off his handling of large-scale action on the biggest screens available without escalating to feature-size. The fully hour-long episode will also give Jon Snow (Kit Harington) an opportunity to right his family’s wrongs when he comes up against Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and his bloodthirsty army.


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Image via HBO

While it’s one thing for George R.R. Martin to write about an epic battle in the pages of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” it’s a whole other beast to bring that to life on screen. That takes hundreds of crew members and extras, plus a number of other episode-specific requirements that push the budget higher and higher. Here’s how Sapochnik described the reasoning behind filming such a big battle (via EW):

“Every battle on Thrones is unique. I think that’s why [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] keep doing them. In the case of ‘Battle of the Bastards’ – or ‘BOB’ as we affectionately called it in production – David and Dan wanted to do a thing of spectacle, a strategic pitchfield battle they hadn’t had the resources to do back in season 1 or 2. I was particularly interested in depicting both the horror of war and the roll of luck in battle.”

Let’s take a look at EW’s breakdown of the numbers behind the mayhem:

  • Crew: Including everyone from the episode’s four camera crews, to prop teams, the costume department, and even caterers, “Battle of the Bastards” tops out at around 600.
  • Extras: The battle in “Hardhome” was certainly enhanced with computer-generated wights, and “Battle of the Bastards” will use the same technology to beef up the fighting lines. But 500 extras were brought in to flesh out the armies allied with Snow and Bolton, playing wildlings and soldiers alike. In an interesting twist, the armies were apparently trained separately in order to generate a rivalry that could be brought to the screen during filming. We’ll see if that added twist pays off!
  • Check out my gravel pit: Due to the heavy rain and muddy conditions of the Northern Ireland-set production’s field, 160 tons of gravel were brought in to provide the 70 horses needed for the battle a little more traction. A happy horse makes for happy riders, which is a good thing since coordinating that many horses in a war sequence is not only pricey, but takes twice as long to shoot.

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    Image via HBO

    Stunt team: More than two dozen stuntmen and stuntwomen were needed to fall off those horses we mentioned above and to take the literal slings and arrows in place of Harington’s pretty, marketable face.

  • Shooting Time: Keep in mind that TV dramas tend to take one to two weeks per episode to shoot; the battle sequence in “Battle of the Bastards” alone took 25 days. This includes the fight itself along with additional drama scenes.

Are you looking forward to the events of “Battle of the Bastards,” even if it will likely result in the deaths of some major characters? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

For more on Game of Thrones, be sure to check out our recent coverage provided at the links below:

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Image via HBO


game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards

Image via HBO

game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards

Image via HBO

game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards

Image via HBO

game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards

Image via HBO

game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards

Image via HBO


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