This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
Warning: contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones season 5.
You’re busy people. We know this. Much as you’d like to, you may not have time to watch a dozen hours of Game Of Thrones episode commentaries in order to glean the odd fact with which to impress/bore your nearest and dearest.
That’s where we come in.
Below are 125 Things We Learned from the Game Of Thrones season five Blu-ray set, packaged for your edification. Number 64 will blow your mind!!! Hang on, no, that one’s not actually very interesting. But some of the rest of them are. A bit, anyway. Well, we thought so.
1. The original pilot script described the opening credits as from the perspective of a raven flying over a map from Castle Black to King’s Landing. The idea of the animated game-style opening credits changing as the episode locations changed later replaced that.
2. Conleth Hill, who plays Varys, originally auditioned for the role of King Robert Baratheon, taken by Mark Addy.
3. Season five was intended as “a resetting” according to producer Bryan Cogman. The death of Tywin Lannister was considered a turning point in the show, after which all the different parts of the world, and different characters, would cross over as everything is steadily being brought home and drawn towards a conclusion.
4. The flashback to Cersei’s visit to Maggy the Frog in “The Wars To Come” referenced Apocalypse Now. When Maggy appeared out of the shadows, it was in imitation of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz doing the same in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film.
5. The snow in the air at the Wall and at Hardhome is made from paper or Styrofoam blown around by giant fans. The noise of the fans requires a great deal of the dialogue in snowy scenes to be done in ADR.
6. Alfie Allen originally auditioned for the role of Jon Snow, and was later cast as Theon Greyjoy.
7. The fact that Game Of Thrones films in many tourist spots around the world creates extra work for the units. Pleasure yachts and boats have to be digitally removed from the Croatian coastline used for King’s Landing. The Dornish Water Garden scenes are filmed at Seville’s Alcázar Palace, which only allows limited access thus putting considerable time restrictions on production.
8. The dragon dungeon in Meereen (known as “dragon daycare” on set) is filmed at Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia. As a national landmark, the Palace was concerned about the use of real flames (emitted from a hose which later has a dragon digitally mapped on top of it) but apparently, CGI just doesn’t cut it when it comes to people being lit on fire. You can’t beat the real thing.
9. Similarly, the scene of Mance Rayder being burnt at the stake was done “old school.” No digital face replacements were used for actor Ciaran Hinds. The scene was filmed with a long lens and a fire bar filmed at an angle to cheat the distance, with a dummy for the final scene showing Mance alight.
10. All of the arrows fired in Game Of Thrones however, are CGI, for safety reasons.
11. Hardly a revelation, but interesting to know that Daniel Portman, who plays Pod, is Scottish in real life, Michael McElhatton, who plays Roose Bolton, is Irish and Dean Charles Chapman speaks with an Essex accent that sounds nothing like the RP of his character, King Tommen Baratheon.
12. It took fifteen attempts for the Dornish ‘gift’ to Cersei of a snake wearing Myrcella’s Lannister pendant before it would open properly.
13. Jaime Lannister’s armor has been made of solid brass since season two. In season one, it was made of plastic but afterwards swapped for the real thing for authenticity.
14. In the Braavos set for the House of Black and White, they dug down into the floor to create the pool and discovered tram tracks there from when it was used as a ship-building yard for the Titanic.
15. Season five, according to costume designer Michele Clapton, is the first time you’ll see Cersei re-wearing costumes, representing that she has lost her position. Cersei wears mourning colours not only to mourn the loss of her son Joffrey, but also of her power and control. Clapton describes Cersei’s metal belts as her “armor.”
16. Margaery’s season five costumes, such as her wedding dress, are less revealing than previously to signify her having achieved power and no longer needing to bare as much flesh on her way up the ladder. They’re exclusively gold now to reflect her Queenly status. And rub it in Cersei’s face.
17. Though we don’t see him use it, the square of fabric on the front of Jaqen H’ghar’s House of Black and White costume was designed so that he could put it over his face when dealing with dead bodies, also reflecting his use of disguises as the Faceless Man.
18. The texture of the costumes worn in the House of Black and White was designed to echo the texture of the building’s walls.
19. The shuttered doors and windows in Tommen’s chamber were intended to convey that he was being protected but also caged like a bird and isolated from other people.
20. The main table was spun around in the Winterfell feast hall to signify the change of ownership from the Starks to the Boltons.
21. The Winterfell set, filmed at Banbridge, Northern Ireland, was greatly expanded in season five. A complex of staircases, corridors and bedrooms were added on top of the existing courtyard and feast hall.
22. Sansa’s costumes and travelling cloak in season five mimics Littlefinger’s in order to visually bond them and reflect the fact that Sansa sees them as a team. At the beginning of the season at least…
22. There are four versions of Brienne’s armor, two in metal and two rubber copies used for fighting and tumbling.
23. Michele Clapton jokes that the costume department love brothel scenes because there’s so much nudity that they have hardly any work to do.
24. The rustic tunics worn by the Sparrows in King’s Landing were designed so that they could be worn lifted up with the neck hole transforming into a cowl, or hood to use as a disguise. They’re never seen worn like this, but were designed that way to add interest and reflect the Sparrows’ monastic values.
25. In contrast, the prodigal, lustful High Septon’s costume reflects his excess and lack of holiness through the amount of voluminous fabric used in the sleeves alone.
26. There’s a rumor on-set that Shane’s Castle in Northern Ireland, where among many others, Qyburn’s laboratory scenes are filmed, is haunted. One of the painters refuses to go there for that reason.
27. Worse than rain, wind is the real enemy of shooting on Game Of Thrones because of the way it interferes with costume and hair continuity.
28. The Volantis Bridge design was loosely based on the Phoenix Bridge in Huaiyang County, China. Its markets and timber dwellings were based on old Shanghai.
29. The Volantis set is the same used for House Tully homestead Moat Cailin in season four and for Riverlands castle Harrenhal in season two. There was no budget left to pay for an entirely new set, so Volantis was constructed from every door, window and shutter that had previously been used on Game Of Thrones. It became a game among cast and crew to spot where set elements had been repurposed from.
30. The brothel set in Volantis was previously used as the Molestown brothel where Gilly lived in season four.
31. Michele Clapton’s original design for the Dany-alike prostitute in the Volantis brothel also had the front of her dress cut out, to mirror the exposed back of the skirt, but showrunners David and Dan made the costume designer change it so it would be less shocking.
32. When Maisie Williams threw her old Arya clothes into the Braavosi sea, she couldn’t have been more pleased to get rid of the same costume she’d worn for five years. The bane of her existence on set now? That’d be the tricky to manoeuvre oyster cart that Cat of the Canals has to push everywhere.
33. Bryan Cogman says that an I, Claudius thing is going on with Lord Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), who is only pretending to be a useless buffoon at court as a survival tactic. His mother, Lady Olenna (Dame Diana Rigg), says different.
34. As no major characters were located there, originally, there were no plans to go to Dorne in season five, until Bryan Cogman came up with the idea of sending two established characters there and pairing Jaime up with Bronn.
35. Everybody is in awe of Jonathan Pryce, aka the High Sparrow. Bryan Cogman saw him in a play at the age of thirteen, while showrunners David and Dan list Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, in which he starred, as one of their top ten favorite films.
36. The change was made from the books that Cersei should decide to arm the Faith Militant so that her complicity in her downfall would become all the more apparent.
37. Natalie Dormer says she was continually asked by journalists about filming sex scenes in light of the age difference between her character, Margaery, and husband King Tommen. People wouldn’t blink an eye at a similar age difference with the gender reversed, such as that between Harrison Ford and Sean Young’s characters in Blade Runner, she notes.
38. When Natalie Dormer was in a real-life hot air balloon accident, her partner noted how quiet and still she became in the face of death. She used this observation to play Margaery’s stillness confronting Tommen about her brother Loras’ arrest.
39. Director Mark Mylod choreographs sex scenes like dances. “Hand to thigh, two three, hand to breast, two three…”
40. The scene of Stannis telling Shireen the story of her greyscale was included to build their relationship and make his betrayal of her all the more painful when she is sacrificed to the God of Light in episode nine.
41. The scene of Sansa lighting candles in the Stark tombs at Winterfell was a deliberate homage to the scene in the same location between Ned Stark and King Robert in season one, episode one.
42. Any scenes in Shane’s Castle involving candles or fires make the spiders living in the castle walls crawl out and away from the heat source. We can’t see them on screen, but actors see, hear and sometimes feel them while filming.
43. The Dornish beach Jaime and Bronn land at is filmed at Portstewart in Northern Ireland
44. For the scene in which Jaime and Bronn eat a cooked snake, they had a tasting with a chef to make sure that each actor was happy to actually eat the pretend snake.
45. Filming a fight scene on sand presents specific continuity difficulties. When Jaime and Bronn are attacked after landing in Dorne, the whole area had to be painstakingly raked with the relevant continuity footprints replaced after each take.
46. A moment in that fight between Jaime and a Dornish attacker, when Jaime sees how tall his opponent is and grimaces, is a deliberate nod to a moment in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
47. George R.R. Martin gave the note on the script for the Jamie/Bronn/Dorne fight that Jaime should be a worse fighter and that his lack of a right hand should prove more of a disability for him. The fight scene was duly re-written and re-choreographed.
48. The actor playing the sea captain who the Sand Snakes have buried up to his neck in sand was actually buried up to his neck, all day, with live scorpions complete with stingers crawling over his face. Apparently scorpions are reluctant to sting unless provoked.
49. Iain Glen actually sails the boat he and Tyrion take to Volantis in those scenes. The crew don’t do it for him.
50. There was a lot of discussion as to whether Ser Barristan should be kept alive, as he is in the books, but it was decided his death needed to happen so that Dany would be increasingly isolated as the season went on.
51. If you see blood spurting or a blade going right through someone, that’s a digital VFX shot. Blood on blades and seeping out of wounds however, is usually done in camera using painted props and blood bags.
52. Joel Fry, the actor who plays villainous Meereen aristocrat Hizdar, is best known for playing comedic roles here in the UK. That’s the case for several Game Of Thrones actors, including Hannah Waddingham, who plays the cruel Septa Unella, a musical theatre and comedy actress.
53. Stunt performers are paid for each time they’re set on fire, so are often keen to go for multiple takes. That’s what the chap playing the Meereenese aristocrat Dany burnt to death in episode five, Kill The Boy.
54. That scene, in which Dany has her dragons kill a man, was originally written in English but the showrunners decided they wanted it in Valyrian (apparently that’s the language Dany speaks whenever she does something nasty). Actor Emilia Clarke pulled together the Valyrian she’d spoken in the past and riffed a translation in around ten minutes.
55. 2007 film Fugitive Pieces has the same director (Jeremy Podeswa), cinematographer (Gregory Middleton) and actor (Stephen Dillane) as episode five, season five, Kill The Boy.
56. The shot of Sansa looking up at Winterfell’s Broken Tower before her reunion with Theon/Reek in Winterfell is an homage to the same shot of Catelyn Stark doing the same in season one, when Bran was pushed from the tower.
57. Fittingly for someone with a flayed man on his sigil, Roose Bolton’s map of the North is made to look as though it’s made from human skin. Nobody has noticed yet, but they did it anyway.
58. The ruins of Old Valyria that Tyrion and Jorah’s boat travels past are inspired by the ruins of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.
59. When Tyrion and Jorah spot Drogon flying overhead on their way to Meereen, he’s emerging from a red sky, which is a deliberate nod to the “red skies of Valyria” from George R.R. Martin’s description in A Song Of Ice And Fire.
60. When the Stone Men begin to attack Tyrion and Jorah’s boat, their first appearance is a nod to a scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien.
61. Around a quarter of the men on horseback marching out from Castle Black to Winterfell in Stannis’ army were really there. The rest were CGI extensions.
62. When Tyrion blacks out after being pulled underwater by a Stone Man (filmed in a swimming pool in Belfast), it’s the longest blackout ever in Game Of Thrones history. They wanted people to momentarily think he had died. The blurriness you can see as he regains consciousness was achieved by cinematographer Greg Middleton holding his fingers over the camera lens.
63. The majority of scenes in “dragon daycare” are filmed using only firelight.
64. To pass the time between filming scenes, Maisie Williams (Arya) and Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen) play 2048. Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Kristofer Hivju (Tormund) play Risk, and Indira Varma (Ellaria), Pedro Pascal (Oberyn) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) play Words With Friends. See? We told you this one wasn’t very interesting.
65. Maisie Williams snuck a photo of the concept art for the House of Black and White on her phone to show her mum. Nobody caught her.
66. In the Hall of Faces at the House of Black and White, the faces on the wall belong to members of the crew. Showrunners David and Dan’s faces are up there, along with producer Chris Newman, all repeated in a variety of skin tones to fill up space. The woman’s face that Arya touches on her first visit to the Hall of Faces belongs to the mother of prop dresser, Barry Caddell, who made the face props.
67. Charles Dance was so sick of filming scenes behind Tywin Lannister’s desk in season four that he lobbied successfully to move a scene between him and Jaime in Tyrion’s trial episode to another room where he would be eating lunch.
68. There are so many standing sets built for the show that they’re running out of space. Increasingly, new sets are built in smaller areas, making it tricky for DPs to set up lighting and backings. The smaller interiors are filmed at Banbridge, while the larger spaces are housed at Titanic Studios.
69. Ser Barristan’s death scene in the Sons of the Harpy ambush was originally filmed for episode six but was moved to episode four.
70. According to Bryan Cogman, there’s a reference to Ned Stark at least once in every episode since he died.
71. In Dorne, the song Bronn is singing on horseback is The Dornishman’s Wife, taken from George R.R. Martin’s books.
72. Nikolai Coster-Waldau isn’t left-handed in real life.
73. The showrunners always planned to bring Jaqen H’ghar back after season two. If the show ever made it as far as Braavos, he was always intended to replace the Kindly Man from the books who trains Arya.
74. Bryan Cogman speaks at length about the thinking that went into Sansa’s rape scene in episode six of season five, following the controversy it created. Here’s a transcript of what he says.
75. The shot they used of Theon reacting to Sansa being raped was simply a wide shot they filmed for coverage, and wasn’t intended as his close-up at all. When they saw Alfie Allen’s performance, they went in closer to it and used that.
76. Filming the fighting pit training scenes, actor Iain Glen scratched his left eye which made it fill up with blood. Instead of writing that into the script, every shot of him in episodes seven and eight had to be digitally fixed in post-production.
78. Maisie Williams had to have shucking lessons to play Cat, the oyster seller. Her gloves are proper functioning gauntlets because oyster shells are really sharp.
79. The poisoned oysters that Arya sells to the Thin Man were actually mushrooms because the actor playing him is a vegetarian. The oysters Maisie Williams is eating when she spies Ser Merryn Trant for the first time were made from bits of chicken.
80. Aemon’s chamber at Castle Black doubles for Jon Snow’s office and Samwell Tarly’s chamber.
81. The paving stone that Cersei laps up water from in her prison cell was made from plastic and covered in cellophane to keep it hygienic.
82. Magheramorne Quarry in Northern Ireland is the location of the Hardhome set. They mapped it with an aerial LIDAR scan of an Icelandic beach, where plates for the sequence were filmed, and composited into the final look.
83. Everything you see in the Hardhome sequence is real up to the rocks. Originally it wasn’t going to be the four-walled set we saw. There were going to be a lot of financial restrictions on the angles they could shoot from, but extra money was petitioned for and won, so it was made into a real space.
84. The script description for Jon Snow arriving by boat to Hardhome said “He looks like George Washington crossing the Delaware, except with much better hair.”
85. Kristofer Hivju (Tormund) broke all four of the prop sticks he was given to beat the Lord of Bones to death with in episode eight.
86. When the Wildling crowd react to Jon saying that he put an arrow through Mance Rayder’s heart at the Hardhome Council, one Northern Irish supporting actress shouted “You fucking c**t!” loud and clear on every single take. It was deliberately lost in the babble.
87. Fifty stunt performers and two hundred extras worked on the Hardhome sequences for a sixteen day filming period over three weeks in a cold, rainy November. The mantra on set used to cope with the gruelling filming conditions was “Go hard or go home.”
88. To keep the extras happy during the Hardhome filming, jokes about who was next to die and how were told over the PA system, until it became waterlogged and broke.
89. Stunt performer Andy Pilgrim broke his ankle filming the Hardhome sequence where the fence is forced down by the invading Wight army.
90. The director of Hardhome, Miguel Sapochnik, used Spielberg’s Jaws as a reference for the attack. The idea was to make it like a scene from a horror movie, instead of an action or battle movie.
91. A moment from 1950s film The Ten Commandments before the Red Sea is parted by Moses was borrowed to signify the start of the Wight Army attack, when the clouds drop down from the sky and touch the water.
92. The Wights that fall off the cliff, then get up and keep coming were not CG but extras who actually walked off the cliff into a box rig.
93. Stunt performer extraordinaire Vladimir Furdik played the Wight that Jon Snow fights in the longhouse at Hardhome. The contact lenses he was wearing reduced his vision to twenty percent. His look was achieved entirely through prosthetics, not with CGI.
94. In the original Hardhome script, Wun-Wun the giant used a whale bone as a weapon, but it was later changed to a log. Why? “Because Wun-Wun prefers logs” say the showrunners.
95. The waves on the sea at Hardhome were created half from plates filmed at a beach in Iceland and half by a dinghy driving around and around at high speed before every take to stir up the water.
96. Ian Whyte played Wun-Wun the giant, who was filmed at thirty frames per second as opposed to the twenty-four frames per second used for everyone else to enable them to play back his movements fractionally slower. His scale is forced simply by adjusting the camera angle.
97. The scene of Wun-Wun breaking out of the longhouse was filmed over three days and included a heavy photographic element, using half-scale models on a green-screen stage.
98. To create the sequence of Wights crawling over Wun-Wun’s back, they built a wooden structure called the “Christmas Tree” which was pulled along on ropes and on top of which stunt performers in grey suits clambered.
99. Ian Whyte waded through a water tank in hip waders with 10lb weights tied to his ankles to get the reference material for the sequence of Wun-Wun entering the water.
100. The sequence of Jon and the others running to the boats was filmed on a golf cart driving after them, with Wun-Wun’s reference material filmed on a treadmill.
101. For obvious reasons, most of the supporting actors in the boat sequence are wearing immersion suits underneath their costumes.
102. An average VFX-heavy feature film will usually have a forty to fifty week post-production schedule for a two to three hour finished product. Game Of Thrones has fifteen weeks to generate ten hours of footage.
103. The Wight with the arrow through his head became known as “Steve Martin” in post-production, in reference to Martin’s famous comedy prop.
104. Kit Harrington does most if not all of his own stunts. When Jon Snow falls off the deck and onto the floor when fighting that Wight, Harrington did that for real on a wire.
105. The Night King’s look was achieved using silicon prosthetics aided by half an inch of “digital ice.”
106. The Wight boy who leads the attack on Wildling Karsi was in fact a 23-year-old man previously used as a stand-in for Peter Dinklage’s character. As an adult, he could legally work longer hours than a child.
107. In episode nine, “The Dance Of Dragons,” a dead horse carcass prop seen at Stannis’ camp was taken from Ridley Scott film Exodus: Gods And Kings.
108. The exterior shot of the Iron Bank of Braavos was a local church that they weren’t allowed to actually walk inside of. When Arya watches Ser Merryn and the others walk in and out, they’re just faking it.
109. Although it has yet to feature in A Song Of Ice And Fire, George R.R. Martin has confirmed that it was always his intention for Stannis and Melisandre to sacrifice Shireen to the God of Light.
110. When the Fighting Pits scene was filmed in Spain, Game Of Thrones season one had just arrived on Spanish TV and so there was enormous public interest everywhere they filmed, including the bull ring used as the Fighting Pit.
111. Iain Glen’s seven-year-old daughter came on set for episode nine and the make-up artists did her up with fake cuts and bruises so she could be the same as her dad’s character, Jorah.
112. When Drogon arrives at the Fighting Pits, he burnt nineteen bodies, which is a record for the number of full body burns carried out in one day.
113. In the episode nine script, Stannis’ silent realization that he was going to lose to the superior size of the Bolton army was called his FTW, or ‘Fuck The World’ moment.
114. Originally, Stephen Dillane had several lines in the scene when Brienne takes her revenge on him but they were all cut when his performance carried it all. “Go on, do your duty” is the only one he needed.
115. Brienne does 100% kill Stannis in that scene. The only reason they didn’t show him actually dying was to avoid being gratuitous.
116. Episode ten, “Mother’s Mercy,” was costume designer Michele Clapton’s swan song on the show. She’s not returning for season six.
117. The bloody scene in which Arya kills Ser Merryn Trant was influenced by the work of Quentin Tarantino. They don’t say which work, but still.
118. The character of Myranda, Ramsay’s mistress, was written especially for Charlotte Hope after she impressed the showrunners on hire as a day player. Indira Varma, Jacob Anderson and Nathalie Emmanuel’s characters, Ellaria, Grey Worm and Missandei, were also expanded because of how much the showrunners liked their performances.
119. The poison-covered handkerchief that Ellaria Sand throws away after sending Myrcella to her grave is CGI because the real one just landed in the sea with a plonk and didn’t flutter away attractively.
120. When Maisie Williams wears Arya’s blind contact lenses, she really can’t see anything.
121. When Emilia Clarke is acting against Drogon in episode ten, she’s really talking to a giant, green, stuffed pickle.
122. The reason Drogon could be so badly injured in the Fighting Pits is that he’s just an adolescent dragon. His impenetrable adult scales haven’t come in yet, the poor thing. If you want to know how big a fully grown dragon is, look at the dragon skull Arya hides in in season one.
123. Lena Headey’s body double for Cersei’s walk of shame is Rebecca Van Cleave. They filmed Headey and Van Cleave walking the route and digitally swapped the head in. Headey was pregnant at the time of filming, and feels that she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on conveying Cersei’s emotions had she really been naked.
124. The actor who plays young Olly in Castle Black, Brenock O’Connor, is nicknamed “Baby Tom Hanks” on set.
125. The blood leaking from Jon Snow in the season’s final shot wasn’t CGI, but a physical blood bag. Look closely at Kit Harrington’s eyes and you’ll see them dilate at the precise moment Jon dies. That’s right. He’s definitely a goner.
Game Of Thrones season 5 is out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital release on March 15th. Buy it on Amazon.