The Red Wedding
Episode: "The Rains of Castamere" (Season 3)
The Red Wedding is a gut-wrenching sequence, partly due to McLachlan's stroke of inspiration, which both helped set the stage for the wedding itself and helped pull the rug out from under the audience. The cinematographer wanted to help build up the idea that "we were going to get the happy ending, the Disney ending that they were so desperate for" by completely overloading the banquet room with candlesticks and torches, to get the "brightest scene we'd ever seen on Game of Thrones history at that point." When he proposed this to the art department, however, he got a bit of resistance. He was told, "Walder Frey is cheap. He wouldn't have that many candles." McLachlan explained his idea to Benioff and Weiss, who then overruled the art department, so that McLachlan ended up with about quadruple the amount of light they were originally planning.
Then, during the bedding ceremony, it was McLachlan's idea to have the various wedding guests grab as many of the torches and candlesticks as they could carry (along with the bridal couple) when exiting the room, which sucked the light out. Before the door even closes, before the band begins to play "The Rains of Castamere," the room dims, becoming darker, scarier. "It's perceptible," he said. "And the good thing is, it's organic. If we had done it theatrically, with theatrical lights, it would have called attention to itself."
The ensuing mayhem was almost entirely lit with candles and torchlight, which hadn't been done on such a large scale, McLachlan said, since Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. The problem there, he explained, was that the lenses were of such shallow depth, very little could be in focus, and "everybody's stuck being still." Here, it was an action scene, and one where everything had to be in focus, because they wouldn't have a chance of shooting some moments more than once. It also had to be shot in sequence.
"One of the reasons is that there are practical considerations because of the blood," McLachlan explained. "Putting prosthetic blood rigs on, it's very cumbersome. Fitting a blood-rig on Oona Chaplin, for when she gets stabbed in the stomach, that can take an hour. They have to put on a molded rubber prosthetic, with a tube running up the inside to squirt the blood out. And poor Oona, once she's stabbed and completely drenched in blood, she had to play dead on the floor for hours. She was shivering and freezing, because those stages in Belfast are not very warm at that time of the year! Ultimately they put her in a wetsuit to keep her warm."
If an actor had on a blood-rig prosthetic (such as Chaplin, Richard Madden, or Michelle Fairley), they tried to do their death scene in one take, because there was also the time required to clean up the blood and reset. "When the Frey comes up to slit Cat's throat, [director] David Nutter just let it play and play and play," McLachlan said. "And then he looked at Dan Weiss, and when Dan nodded, that's when her throat was slit. We only did one take."
To plan these shots, McLachlan and Nutter "talked that scene through to the nth degree" -- what shots they were going to do, what order they were going to do them, and how many cameras (three instead of the usual two). During rehearsals, McLachlan's wife, who was visiting the set, saw director David Nutter "vigorously acting out" the sequence of events for the blocking, and she ran out in tears. "We were supposed to go to dinner afterwards," he said. "And my wife was sobbing, ''Tell me Robb Stark is going to be OK! You've got to tell me that Robb Stark is going to be OK! You're not really going to do that?!'"