“It was a nightmare”: Emilia Clarke Unknowingly Became the Biggest Thorn for Game of Thrones VFX Team Who Went Through Hell to Make the Dragon Queen Look Authentic

Emilia Clarke’s dragon riding scenes in Game of Thrones was a painstaking process for the VFX team.

Emilia Clarke has become a household name by portraying the role of Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s acclaimed show, Game of Thrones. Her character, Daenerys, also known as Khaleesi and the Mother of Dragons, had a significant development from an exiled princess to a formidable leader with dragons at her command.

Game Of Thrones
Emilia Clarke in Game Of Thrones (image credit: HBO)

However, she unknowingly made things difficult for the VFX team as they admitted facing harsh challenges to make her look authentic on-screen. Her movements while being with her dragons led to unique hurdles for the VFX team that needed their major attention.

Emilia Clarke’s Movements Atop Dragon Created Trouble for Game of Thrones VFX Team

The Game of Thrones series has garnered widespread acclaim among audiences and critics alike. Its enduring popularity has also helped give its cast a significant career boost, including stars like Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Jason Momoa, and Lena Headey among others.

Clarke played a significant role in the GOT saga as she evolved her character, Daenerys Targaryen into an endearing leader. Given that she was well acquainted with dragons in the show, many might be unaware of the fact that even her movements apart from animated creatures are VFX’s work.

Fans want season 8 of Game of Thrones to be rebooted/re-done | HBO
Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones | HBO

In particular, Targaryen’s legs while she was riding atop a flying dragon were a significant challenge that the VFX team had to work on. Pixomodo VFX supervisor Derek Spears in an interview with Vulture, reflected on Daenerys’ dragon-flying journey, explaining the challenges that the team had to tackle.

To make Daenerys atop a dragon on-screen, they decided to use a wooden “buck” as a stand-in for the mythical creature, in which the Secret Invasion actress would sit to shoot her sequences.

Spears shared,

What we found out is that dragons aren’t like solid pieces of wood. They move, and when they move, they flex, and their muscles move too. So we had the dragon flying and the muscles moving — but Dany’s legs didn’t react to any of it. So we had to replace her legs.

Since the actress was sitting on a stationary prop, the initial results came out to be different than expected. Given that the mythical creature had complex movements, it would technically affect Clarke’s movements, but her legs were majorly motionless, leaving them with no choice but to replace it entirely with visual effects.

Emilia Clarke’s Legs Were Replaced With VFX in Game of Thrones Dragon Riding Scenes

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones season 6
Emilia Clarke as in Game of Thrones | HBO

Not only did the VFX team have to create the dragons from scratch, but they also had to adjust Daenerys’ movements accordingly to synchronize her with the creatures.

Since any inconsistency would have resulted in a less believable scenario, making the dragons fly while keeping Clarke’s legs constant would have been an odd choice.

Thus, they decided to swap her legs with digital counterparts, to maintain consistency between the mother of dragons with the creatures. Spears in the same interview continued,

We ended up replacing her legs on so many of the shots just to get it to follow the trap muscles on the back of the dragon. It was a nightmare. Everything else in those sequences was easy compared to trying to get her to sit on top of the stupid dragon with its stupid muscles.

There are even sequences where the VFX team had to deform her lower body to make it believable.

Some of the shots, we replaced her legs completely; others we mapped them on to a new piece of geometry and moved them around. Literally we had to deform the lower half of her body to make it fit.”

Given that the VFX team had to take note of every minute detail, working specifically on recreating Clarke’s legs digitally became a painstaking process, taking countless hours of work and rework.

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