- Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
- In an interview with INSIDER, the director David Nutter explained Jon Snow’s bittersweet goodbye to Ghost, saying that keeping the wolf apart from the actors helped mitigate any “issues” and simplified the production process.
- This is why Jon didn’t go over to Ghost and pet him goodbye, a choice that has been met with backlash.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
“Game of Thrones” fans who love the Stark direwolves were dealt yet another blow on Sunday night when Jon Snow said goodbye to Ghost from across the Winterfell courtyard.
According to the director of the episode, Jon didn’t have any physical interaction with Ghost, despite Ghost’s sad whining at seeing Jon leave, because the production team needed to streamline the filming process.
“Well, the good thing was [Ghost] wasn’t right next to the actors and so forth,” David Nutter told INSIDER when asked about the challenges of having a CGI wolf in the scene. “So there wasn’t any issues with green screen or situations where we’re dealing with any kind of rotoscoping.”
We asked if this meant that keeping Ghost and Jon separated was part of the plan for simplifying filming, and Nutter responded, “Yes.”
The abrupt goodbye between Jon and Ghost has led to many fans expressing sadness, given how important the direwolves are to the Stark children in George R.R. Martin’s book series.
Why inserting the direwolves on ‘Game of Thrones’ is so tough
Nutter mentioned both green screens and rotoscoping as elements that could’ve introduced more “issues” with the scene. This is because the direwolves on “Game of Thrones” are filmed separately and added into scenes digitally.
Rotoscoping is a time-consuming visual-effects process in which people have to go frame by frame to manually edit one element of a scene. Since the second season of “Game of Thrones,” the wolves used to play Ghost, Grey Wind, Summer, Nymeria, and Shaggydog were real wolves shot on a Canadian green-screen stage.
The VFX team would then effectively cut and paste (or, to use the technical term, rotoscope) the wolves into the scenes you see on the show. This is part of the reason the characters rarely physically interact with the direwolves; it makes it less complicated to work the wolves into a live-action shot if all they’re doing is standing there.
Steve Kullback, the show’s VFX producer, once explained another reason the wolves are kept apart from the cast.
“Wolves remain dangerous even after training,” Kullback said in an “Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones” book. “The reality is, wolves can be trained to do only so much, and that has introduced a challenge in its own right, which the writers sometimes have to work around.”
Jon Snow last physically “touched” Ghost on the fourth season, when his direwolf came trotting up after the Night’s Watch killed all the rebelling men who took up residence at Craster’s Keep.
But Ghost all but vanished from the storyline for the rest of the fourth and fifth seasons. He cropped up again after Jon was assassinated and stood guard beside Jon’s body, but again, Ghost didn’t physically interact with any characters for those scenes. Then he went back off-screen.
Fans noticed his omission during the Battle of the Bastards. Surely Ghost would have been some help against the Bolton army? The director of that episode, Miguel Sapochnik, told Business Insider at the time that Ghost was originally meant to partake in the battle.
“He was in there in spades originally, but it’s also an incredibly time-consuming and expensive character to bring to life,” Sapochnik said. “Ultimately we had to choose between Wun Wun and the direwolf, so the dog bit the dust.”
Ghost once again had a planned scene for the seventh season, but that was cut as well.
So we arrived at the eighth and final season and were gifted with only a few glimpses of Ghost. He first appeared on episode two, standing in the background behind Jon, Sam, and Edd. Then we watched him charge into battle on episode three. And lastly, there was the courtyard goodbye scene.
Each of the Stark direwolves has a much greater importance to the storyline in Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series. And though we know Ghost and Nymeria are still alive in the show’s version of events, we don’t expect any additional meaningful scenes between the Starks and their special wolves.
Fans will have to settle with knowing that the “Game of Thrones” team’s wanting to simplify the production process meant a bittersweet parting of the ways when it came to the direwolves.
- Read more:
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- Next week’s ‘Game of Thrones’ episode will feature the final battle of the whole series. Watch the new teaser here.