‘Game of Thrones’ Director Says Ramsay’s Deadly Dogs Were ‘Ferocious In Real Life’

Miguel Sapochnik talks about filming the show’s highly-anticipated death scene, while cramped in a kennel with actor Iwan Rheon, 40 crew members and the vicious hunting hounds

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched the Season 6 episode “Battle of the Bastards.”)

In a season of “Game of Thrones” that got fans constantly talking, the biggest scene of them all came at the end of the Emmy-nominated “Battle of the Bastards,” when Sansa Stark finally gave Ramsay Bolton the brutal death that had been coming to him for so long. So what was it like on set when this critical moment was filmed?

Director Miguel Sapochnik, who earned his first Emmy nomination for his work in that brutal Season 6 episode, told TheWrap that Ramsay’s final scene was filmed in a kennel on a cold winter night, and the crew was looking forward to filming it just as much as the fans were looking forward to seeing it.

“There’s always a level of excitement or anxiety when shooting the death scene of any of the characters in the show,” Sapochnik revealed. “That said, it was also a complicated scene because it was late in the shoot and therefore late in the year. Iwan [Rheon, who plays Ramsay] was covered in sticky blood and actually tied to the chair. And then there were the dogs who were pretty ferocious in real life.”

In case you were wondering, the breed Ramsay’s vicious hunting hounds come from is called the Cane Corso, a.k.a. the Italian Mastiff. According to the American Kennel Club, the Cane Corso was bred to hunt down difficult game like the wild boar. The AKC also recommends that owners have Cane Corsos interact with other people and dogs from an early age so they know the difference between friend and foe — something Ramsay’s dogs clearly didn’t.

Cane Corsos are also said to be fiercely loyal to their masters, but when their master is an abusive, amoral monster like Ramsay who conditions them into seeing anyone and anything as a potential food source, well, you saw what happens.

Sapochnik also says that the kennel they filmed Ramsay’s death in was also very cramped, and he estimates that up to 40 people were crammed into the space during filming.

“That kind of overpowered ‘what’ we were shooting. And it should,” he said. “Part of a crew’s strength is the way they behave in difficult shooting conditions and the Dragon unit of ‘GoT’ are impeccable when it comes to being even-keeled, whether it’s [shooting] the death of a main character, the biggest, most expensive shot of a battle, or an intimate two-hander.

“It also allows the actors to set the tone a bit and I think this was a tough scene for Iwan because it was the death of a character he’s lived with for years. I thought he did a great job as did Sophie [Turner],” Sapochnik said.

For more of TheWrap’s interview with Miguel Sapochnik, click here.