Director Alan Taylor Breaks Down Ned Stark Execution Scene, David Benioff and Dan Weiss to Receive International Emmys

Ned Stark on Game of Thrones

What do we do to stave off those remaining few days before Game of Thrones returns for its final season? Anything we can, of course! Today, that includes a video in which veteran director Alan Taylor does a play-by-play of season 1’s episode 9, Baelor, or, more specifically, the (spoilers) death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). In other news, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss  will be receiving International Emmys!

“It winds up being quite a major event in the series, and my approach was therefore to cover it like it’s nothing…We had a very conscious choice not to amp it up, not to do sensational shots, but just to shoot it as though we were covering dialogue, and the most horrible thing int he world happens.”

Alan Taylor makes it sound almost easy, even though this video shows the depth and detail into which he and the production team went to make this iconic scene. There’s a symmetry to the scene that I, myself never even realized. At the beginning of the scene, Arya (Maisie Williams) is about to eat a dead bird, and then drops it when she hears the bells ringing. Turns out this was to intentionally parallel the birds that fly at the drop of Ilyn Payne’s (Wilko Johnson) axe at the episode’s end. I feel like a lightbulb just went off over my head.

As the camera follows Arya into the Sept, Alan tells us that the visual shot was actually supposed to be much bigger than it is, but due to the much smaller budget at the time of shooting season 1, “That shot was designed to show us the awesome architecture to the Sept of Baelor, which is this dome-like structure that covers the whole square, which we lost in post, so the shot remains, but not the structure.” He goes on to speak about how he set up the majority of the scene to be from mostly Arya’s POV, before switching to a little bit of Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) POV when Ned walks in.

It’s wild how much thought was put into this. He speaks about how the camera pans to Arya putting her hand on her sword, not just because that’s something that Arya would do, but also because it gives the audience hope: “Fortunately, the audience thinks she’s going to run up and lead a revolution and save her father.” I, for one, am very glad Arya did just that and that Ned Stark has been nothing if not our steady leading man these last 7 seasons!

There’s a ton more about the CGI (or lack thereof due to budgets) and what was going through Sean Bean’s head, so check out the awesome breakdown from Alan Taylor!


Lastly, the award that David and Dan will receive at this year’s International Emmy Awards in November is known as the ‘Founders Award,’ or “creative accomplishments [that] have contributed in some way to the quality of global television production.” The justification (other than generally being awesome) for their inclusion is that “David and D.B. are absolute game changers, visionary storytellers who have created, with their first foray into television, a record breaking global cultural phenomenon with an international following like no other.”

Well, duh!

8 responses

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    1. ASNAWP!

      First of all great video! So Alan circling the foam rock that would hit Sean’s head was pretty hilarious. “In the old days, we hit our actors with foam rocks!”

      I loved how this scene was shot! Sansa’s hopeful look (much like fans), and Arya’s worried look (like book readers) and how Ned looked towards the empty statue always struck a chord with me. I very much appreciated how they went about this scene like any other because that’s basically how Ned’s death was: sudden and unexpected. Beautifully acted and beautifully shot.

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    2. This is an outstanding video. Good details from Alan.

      Sean Bean does such an outstanding acting job. I love what he did with his eyes throughout the entire clip. Good acting gives so much to the viewer.

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    3. viki:
      Great scene breakdown, I hope they do more of these!

      This is an outstanding video. Good details from Alan.

      Sean Bean does such an outstanding acting job. I love what he did with his eyes throughout the entire clip. Good acting gives so much to the viewer.

      Ditto these comments!
      Before this show I had very little concept of what goes into directing, of how writing/production/acting come together for a scene. I would really love more of these breakdowns… terrific insight into intentions, limitations, decisions, etc

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    4. I just finished my S1 re-watch early this week so the scene is fresh in my mind and extra interesting to hear Alan Taylor break it down. I remember when it first aired having no clue Ned was going to die, in fact I watched the episode on +1 (one hour delay) and heard the Sky (our UK broadcaster) commentator say as the credits rolled “Ned’s dead baby, can you believe that?!” I was in total shock as I had no idea it would happen.

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