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The Game Of Thrones Scene That Made All The Actors Sick In Real Life

Game of Thrones fans know the show can get pretty disgusting from time to time, but one unexpected scene made its actors incredibly ill on set as well.

In an early scene during Game of Thrones' first season, House Stark patriarch Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) and his sons — including eldest Robb (Richard Madden), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) — stumble upon a dead stag in the woods. When asked if it might have been killed by a mountain lion, Ned says there are no mountain lions in the woods surrounding Winterfell, and he's right. Just a few feet away, the crew finds a dead direwolf, gored by a stag's horns and surrounded by her now motherless pups.

Though Ned, Theon, and Ned's men suggest killing the pups, who may not make it without their mother, Jon points out that there are five direwolves, one for each of Ned's children. As the direwolf is the sigil of the Stark house, the pets are appropriate, if not unprecedented, and Ned begrudgingly agrees to let each of the Stark children take ownership of a wolf pup. (Jon takes the albino runt, who he later names Ghost.)

This scene sets the stage for the story of the Stark children and their wolves, but as James Hibberd reveals in his new Game of Thrones oral history Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, it was surprisingly disgusting to shoot. Here's the full story behind the Game of Thrones scene that made all the actors sick in real life.

The dead stag on the Game of Thrones set caused quite a stink

As director Daniel Minahan told Hibberd, "There was a scene where they opened up the stomach of a stag [when the Starks find the direwolves in the reshot version of the first episode]. They did it for real, and it releases this horrible smell. All the actors — the boys — threw up."

Fellow director and producer Tim Van Patten fleshed out the story alongside Minahan. "That is a fact," Van Patten agreed. "Instead of using a taxidermy stag and then cutting to show some organ meats, we had an actual dead stag. It was bloated and filled with gas. We did everything in the scene up to opening the stag's belly. Then we got to that moment when we drive the knife into it. Nobody was expecting this. The entrails fell out, and the odor sent the crew scrambling and vomiting."

Bryan Cogman, who began his time on Thrones as an assistant to showrunner David Benioff and eventually became an executive producer, described the experience as horrifyingly unforgettable: "I've still never smelled anything so terrible, and I wasn't even anywhere near it. I was across the meadow in a producer's tent. Just thinking about it, I can smell it right now." Van Patten backed him up, recalling, "I was sick and gagging and crying laughing."

The Game of Thrones team learned from their disgusting mistake

Clearly, nobody on the Game of Thrones crew forgot about the aftermath of this truly traumatic practical effect, so when the time came for a similar stunt, they took a much more sensible approach.

Later in the show's first season, when another Game of Thrones scene required a dead stag, the producers learned from their smelly mistake. In Charles Dance's very first scene as Tywin Lannister, the inscrutable patriarch of his wealthy, proud house, he skins a stag, but this time, the producers didn't use a real one. As Minahan said, "We weren't going to make the mistake they made with cutting open the deer's belly in the first episode. The producers got us two stags that were already dressed from a butcher and put rubber entrails inside of them." Clearly, this was a much smarter way to go about the issue, and Dance made it through his scene without any issue.

Game of Thrones, including its multiple scenes involving dead stags, is available to stream in its entirety on HBO Max.