'Game Of Thrones' Director Miguel Sapochnik Talks Season 6 Finale – 'The Winds Of Winter'

Sunday night's "Game of Thrones" Season 6 finale was a triumphant episode for the franchise, delivering an epic and thrilling 69 minutes of television.

Jon Snow became King In The North, Cersei Lannister was crowned Queen and took her seat on the Iron Throne, Arya Stark got revenge on Walder Frey, Bran Stark learned his half-brother is actually his cousin, several characters were killed off and Daenerys Targaryen and her fleet set off for Westeros. Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the previous week's "Battle of the Bastards" episode, masterfully helmed the finale too, which told the story in remarkable ways, including several scenes without any dialogue.

In a new interview (conducted via email), Access Hollywood asked the director about telling parts of the story in that way. Sapochnik also revealed some interesting behind-the-scenes details, including how one actress' speech in a scene got her a standing ovation.

Miguel Sapochnik and Robert Aramayo as Young Ned Stark on the set of 'Game of Thrones' Season 6

Miguel Sapochnik and Robert Aramayo as Young Ned Stark on the set of 'Game of Thrones' Season 6 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

AccessHollywood.com: There are a number of moments in the finale that have no dialogue or very, very limited dialogue — from the opening montage at King's Landing, to Tommen's death, to the ending sequence on the ships — how challenging was it to do those scenes knowing they had to pack a dramatic punch without dialogue to go off of?
Miguel Sapochnik: Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of smart and witty dialogue. This is something that 'GOT' is probably quite famous for and rightly so, but I love non-verbal film making more than anything probably.

Those moments of silence that speak a thousand words are often some of my favorite moments in film. Like in 'Heat,' when Robert De Niro’s character decides to turn around and go settle the score with his treacherous former partner. To me, this is truly wonderful filmmaking. And so any opportunity I can get to try my hand at that I welcome. From that perspective, I really hit the jackpot this year and I’m very grateful.

Access: Jaime arrives back at King's Landing and sees part of King's Landing burnt to ash. He got his nickname, the Kingslayer, by killing the Mad King, who had threatened to unleash the wildfire way back when. He walks in and his beloved sister, who was behind the wildfire plot that was just carried out, is being crowned the new Queen of Westeros, and their last child is dead. My question is -- tell me about your conversations with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) about what you wanted from that moment and what you three were aiming for with that look they exchange. 
Sapochnik:
The wonderful thing about filmmaking is you make and remake your film or episode a number of times over the duration of its existence. Firstly in the script stage, second is in prep when you plan how you’re going to execute it. Third is in production when you actually get there and have to change everything and finally, in the edit, when you realize what you thought [something] meant means something totally different when put before or after another juxtaposing or complimentary image. It’s pretty awesome. Some say there’s one more stage which is the marketing. I’d like to say that’s not true but it probably is!

Anyway, I thought that non-verbal exchange was a very interesting moment but it wasn’t clear from the script what exactly David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] wanted. So we just tried a few things, following our noses, drawing from what we knew about these characters and what you see was one of the versions we shot. Interestingly in the edit I still couldn’t find a version I felt worked so I actually dropped the moment entirely out of my cut but David and Dan reinstated and to great effect. In fact, I can’t really remember the sequence without it anymore. I think he’s saying 'don’t' and she’s saying 'too late.'

Access: The King In The North scene was a huge highlight from the episode, where after Lyanna Mormont's speech (and by the way, Bella Ramsey rocked!), everyone (except Petyr Baelish) proclaimed Jon Snow King In The North…  How did you manage to make it so emotional? 
Sapochnik: It wasn’t hard. I think as fans we’d been waiting for it for so long. That said, it was a very difficult scene to shoot. Mainly because it was unusually hot over the two days we shot it, everyone was wearing heavy furs and armor, Kit was actually pretty ill and everyone was crammed into this space full of plates of sheep's tongues and chicken carcasses so it got quite smelly and sticky. It’s also quite a long scene and yet Bella did it probably more than a hundred times, only forgetting a line once in the entire time. When we finished the scene she got a standing ovation from all the cast and crew.

-- Jolie Lash

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