The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


Belfast Set Visit: Part 2

[You can read the first part of the set visit report here.]

To get to the next set required a journey outside ... and that ended up leading to a detour to the props department. I had noticed a giant, wooden stag’s head outside and wondered if it was a part of the tourney set, and Bryan confirmed. With Parris’s encouragement, we we went into the prop room. A true treasure trove! A very special saddle for one of the actors, various household ornaments, a cute child’s drawing (which I suspect came from the hand of Arya, given the subject matter of a warrior woman on horseback slashing at soldiers), banners galore, a certain (dead) direwolf which has been reported on before, a prototype for the Iron Throne, and much more.

The direwolf was especially massive, very much the size of a pony. I asked Bryan about this, saying that of course right now the direwolf pups need not be much bigger than dogs ... but what happens later on (if there is a later on, *knock on wood*)? Would the production use digital compositing or forced perspective… ? That was one of the things he said they would have to deal with when it came to it. I had the sense that they were very hopeful of having such a problem to deal with, giving that that would mean additional seasons in which to tell the story.

Now, as you know, the heraldry of the setting is near and dear to my heart, and I only wish those banners hadn’t been wrapped up so I could look at them. However, I did notice that they all had labels indicating who they belonged to. They comprised many names straight out of the novels: Karstark, Umber, Hornwood, Cerwyn, Glover ... and Bolton, I couldn’t help but notice. The sheer number of northern houses represented put me in mind of the fact that at the pilot shoot in Doune Castle, it was stated that the feasting hall was hung with many banners. But they weren’t all northern. There were two different Lannister banners, including one very fancy one, and I also noticed a more obscure house of the westerlands, House Swyft, represented, which pleased me to no end. Little did I know I’d get an eyeful of heraldry soon enough…

Shelves were lined with objects, and had tags indicating where they belonged. There was this terrific wheeled horse ornament which apparently belonged in Ned Stark’s chamber at the Red Keep, which I believe is a memento he carried with him from King’s Landing with him to remember Bran by, some textiles and things that belonged to Cersei, even a long row of objects that were part of the Dothraki setting.

We then went on to another exterior set, this one representing one of the sky cells beneath the Eyrie. I was amazed at just how heavy the wooden door was, just as it would be. I had to really push to get it open. When we were inside, they mentioned that they had already filmed scenes with Mord, played by Ciaran Bermingham. Everyone had thought he was a terrific actor and person, and really enjoyed his portrayal of the character (later, George mused that Bermingham would have been a fine choice for a character from the second novel, Biter, as well). The sky cell itself… the first thing I noted was that it didn’t seem to be subtly tilted, as in the books, but when I was actually standing on it I have to say it did feel like it was just the tiniest bit angled. The idea, of course, being that it would keep prisoners terrified to sleep on the floor for fear that its incline would lead them to roll out into the open sky and the long, long fall below.

There were all sorts of little details in the cell that added to the sense that this was a place where many people had suffered over the centuries. George discussed some of the details of his own description of the cells, such as the fact that they’re sort of honeycombed beneath the Eyrie. He also pointed out one change that he seemed to approve of, a measure to make sure no one could climb out. There’s a few pictures (thanks, Parris!) of myself, George, and Bryan Cogman in the cell. I couldn’t resist flapping my arms for one of them as I stood at the cell’s edge.

We were about to head on to the Paint Hall when a noise distracted us. Barking, specifically. Yep, a bunch of the dogs playing the direwolves were present. Bryan took us to meet them. I couldn’t say the exact number of them, but I know for sure there were at least two dogs for Ghost, and in total I’m certain there were at least eight dogs. They’re all quite beautiful animals, and a few seemed quite curious at the attention. George and Parris seemed quite familiar with them, as well, knowing them by name.

After that, someone said we should visit the ravens, in a tent-like structure next to where the dogs were. One of the animal handlers, named Esther, personally showed us around. Not only does it have a couple of rooms for the production’s two ravens (who have to be kept separate or they would fight), but it also had large, separate kennels for each of the dogs, plus a couple of dog runs. She went to take out the ravens, and discussed their training, issues with getting them to carry messages (it took a lot of time and effort to figure out how to do it; at one point they thought of just having them carry them in their beaks, but I gather they took to eating them), and so on. I hadn’t realized just how BIG ravens are. The bigger of the two, Ronnie, was also very greedy and kept leaping for Esther’s hand which was holding the food, rather than hopping onto her left arm to await being fed as he was trained.

One detail Esther noted? She had a bruised rib . . . because she had been practicing the Grey Wind “hits” on a certain “great” character, and she had been bowled over. Despite this injury, she seemed to really love her work. This was the general sense of the whole thing: all the crew I met seemed genuinely excited to be involved in a production like this.

Tomorrow, part 3, with a lengthy look at the armor department, and a visit to the throne room…