SYFY – HBO’s Game of Thrones wasn’t your average fantasy epic. It was grim, dirty, violent, and sexual. In fact, it had such frequent and graphic nudity that it helped coin the phrase “sexposition” when referring to plot exposition being doled out by a nude character. But according to a new book, the experiences of the cast in these intimate scenes left plenty to be desired — especially in the hit show’s early, scrappy days.
James Hibberd’s new oral history Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series digs into this plenty, including interviews with everyone from Khal Drogo’s Jason Momoa to Cersei’s body double, Rebecca Van Cleave. Few were complementary to the series’ handling of its sex scenes, most of which took place long before HBO mandated hiring intimacy coordinators for all its shows in 2018.
Momoa took first-time showrunners D. B. Weiss and David Benioff’s unprofessional handling of the situations in stride, though he needed to sometimes refuse their requests. Momoa recalled a time while shooting a Season 1 sex scene when he placed the intimacy pouch (which covers an actor’s genitals in nude scenes) in Benioff’s hand: “That was because David had been like, ‘Momoa, just take it off!’ You know, giving me s***. ‘Sacrifice! Do it for your art!’ I’m just like, ‘F*** you, bro. My wife would be pissed. That’s for one lady only, man.'”
Momoa added: “So afterward I ripped the thing off and kept it in my hand and gave him a big hug and a handshake and was like, ‘Hey, now you have a little bit of me on you, buddy.'”
His scene partner, Daenerys Targaryen actress Emilia Clarke, has spoken at length about her uncomfortable experiences doing nudity on the show. “Because Jason had experience — he was an experienced actor who had done a bunch of stuff before coming on to this — he was like, ‘Sweetie, this is how it’s meant to be, this is how it’s not meant to be, and I’m going to make sure that that’s the f***ing gaze,’ Clarke said on the podcast Armchair Expert. “He was always like, ‘Can we get her a f***ing robe? She’s shivering!’ … He was so kind and considerate and cared about me as a human being.”
“I was so desperate to be the most professional actor I could be that I’d be like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ for anything they threw at me,” Clarke said in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon. “I’ll just cry about it in the bathroom later, whatever, you won’t know.”
The actress, who appeared fully nude in sex scenes and when Daenerys is “reborn” in fire alongside her dragons, spoke about the pressures of being an actress fresh from drama school on that set. “Those were tough days,” she said of the first season, adding, “I’ve had fights on set before where I’m like, ‘No, the sheet stays up.’”
Misleading promises from production reportedly ranged from people sneaking onto a closed set to a supposedly closed set being thrown wide open. Hodor actor Kristian Nairn remembered during his Season 1 nude scene (“probably the most traumatic day of my life,” he previously said), when a prosthetic was worn because there was a child in the scene. Alas, things did not go as planned.
“I was s*** scared, but I did it because of the whole body-positive thing — Game of Thrones has a lot of people of different shapes and sizes, probably more than any other show ever,” Nairn said. “It was a very busy day on set, which was the opposite of what they told me. I’ve never seen a busier set!”