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What The Final Days On The Set Of Game Of Thrones Were Like

If you thought Game of Thrones' on-screen ending was explosive, the behind-the-scenes process was even crazier.

In May of 2019, HBO's legendary fantastic epic came to an end after eight seasons and nearly a decade of dominating the television landscape, but unfortunately, fans weren't exactly wild about the show's huge conclusion. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, whose work on Game of Thrones earned them new opportunities throughout their tenure — including a now-canceled Star Wars project — seemed in a huge rush to reach the finish line, leaving fans utterly dismayed as they raced through Thrones' final season, leaving huge plot holes and ruined character development in their wake.

As the tenth anniversary of the show's premiere approaches this month, HBO is set to celebrate a series that won numerous Emmys and became one of the biggest pop culture sensations of all time — disappointing ending and all. Fans probably remember where they were when this show drew to a close, but for the actors — a large percentage of whom were unknown and even children when they joined the project — it was undoubtedly a hugely emotional experience to say goodbye to a show they'd called home for a decade. Here's what it was like behind the scenes during the final days of Game of Thrones.

The final season of Game of Thrones was difficult to film

The cast and crew of Game of Thrones were certainly no stranger to difficult shoots or intricate battle scenes by the time they hit their eighth and final season, but even still, the last season of Game of Thrones was reportedly one of the toughest and priciest filming experiences in television history. Perhaps the most difficult was the Battle of Winterfell — the only focus of the episode "The Long Night" — which became the most harrowing experience throughout Thrones' run by a long shot.

Over a whopping eleven weeks, the Thrones cast and crew gathered at the Winterfell set in Belfast to pull off this on-screen feat. With 750 people, including the actors and the entire creative team and crew, on set at any given moment, the Battle of Winterfell earned its place in history by becoming the longest battle sequence ever committed to film. However, it sounds like it was a pretty awful time for all involved, including a few medical emergencies.

Speaking with GQ Australia, Kit Harington — who plays faux Stark bastard Jon Snow — admitted that the process was horrible. "The last season of Thrones seemed to be designed to break us. Everyone was broken at the end," Harington said, also clarifying that everyone seemed to spend a lot of time crying for one reason or another. "I don't know if we were crying because we were sad it was ending, or if we were crying because it was so f*****g tiring."

Other cast members were much clearer about why they were crying. In an Entertainment Weekly feature on the process of the Battle of Winterfell, Iain Glen, who portrays Jorah Mormont, bluntly described the process as "really miserable," calling it "the most unpleasant experience [he's] had on Thrones." Likewise, The Hound actor Rory McCann simply said, "everybody prays they never have to do this again."

Filming the Game of Thrones finale was emotional for everybody involved

Despite some of the more difficult experiences throughout filming the last season, the cast and crew of Thrones were still devastated to leave the experience behind. Harington told Variety that during his last scene, he experienced "a huge heave of emotion" and was "just blubbing," a few minutes of which can be glimpsed in the HBO documentary The Last Watch about the final season. In a different clip, Benioff and Weiss thank Harington for his years of work as the actor films his last scene, saying, "Thank you for being Jon Snow...and thank you more than that for being you."

In James Hibberd's sprawling Game of Thrones oral history Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth, said one of the final days of filming was a struggle for everyone involved. "The last day of shooting was the scene where Jacob [Anderson, who played Unsullied captain Grey Worm] was going to kill the King's Landing guards [after the siege of King's Landing]," Cunningham recalled. "It was incredibly difficult because, coldheartedly, it was another filming day. Jacob, Kit, and I, during shooting breaks, we were just looking at the f***ing ground. Whenever we caught each other's eyes we couldn't prolong the gaze because we knew how momentous the moment was. We knew David and Dan would be there at the end of the day presenting us with sh*t. It was really weird, trying to be professional while at the same time wanting to bawl your eyes out."

Glen agreed, describing the scene where his body is laid to rest after Jorah sacrifices himself to save his queen, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). "In that moment, I was aurally saying goodbye, listening to the set operating," Glen said poetically. "What a vast, slick machine it had become, and to hear it orchestrating... I got into it. Everything echoes backward over the past decade. Trying to let the whole thing go." Glen also revealed that Clarke whispered unscripted words into his ear... that will remain unknown forever, since he won't reveal what they were.

Game of Thrones was an unforgettable experience for its cast

As Sophie Turner, who plays highborn Stark daughter Sansa, told Hibberd, I she wanted to keep part of her costume — the necklace with "the chain leading down" — but that didn't fly. "I just kept my corset instead, the one thing that brought me so much pain," the actress revealed. "It's the one thing I had that led me through this experience to the end."

Even so, she still had a moment to take it all in: "On one of my last days on the set, I had a moment where I was just walking in my Sansa costume on the grounds of Winterfell and thinking, 'This is one of the last times I will be here, as Sansa, in your home.' It was this emotional, powerful moment when I really truly appreciated the character and Game of Thrones itself."

Peter Dinklage, whom Harington also told Variety broke down in tears after his final scene, made it clear that Game of Thrones wasn't just a job to him. "This was so nice to come to every year," Dinklage said to the crew in a video chronicling the show's final days. "I looked forward to coming back here to Belfast and seeing my family again, my Game of Thrones family. And I mean that sincerely." Harington agreed: "It's my life. It has been since I was twenty one, twenty two. I'll never get this again." a did

Benioff and Weiss still had one trick up their sleeve. According to the video, each main character was presented with a hand-drawn storyboard — crafted by William Simpson — of their character's very best moments throughout the show, giving each actor a memento of their time and hard work, leading to even more tears on everyone's final day of shooting.

All of Game of Thrones is streaming on HBO Max now.