It’s been over a year since Game of Thrones wrapped its eight-season run on HBO. However, plenty of new information about the show has surfaced by way of James Hibberd’s book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, which includes behind-the-scenes stories from Game of Thrones' cast and crew that are often more candid than they were when the show was still airing. Most recently, Iwan Rheon revealed which Game of Thrones episode was responsible for the “worst day” of his career.
For several seasons, Iwan Rheon’s Ramsay Bolton was one of the most vicious and brutal villains ever seen on Game of Thrones. That’s saying a whole lot considering the sheer amount of terrible characters who appeared throughout its eight seasons, both ones named Joffrey and ones who weren't. That said, one of Ramsay’s worst acts involved raping Sansa Stark in the Season 5 episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” while also forcing Theon Greyjoy to watch. Speaking with Metro.co.uk, Rheon recalled his experience filming the violent sequence. In his words:
That was horrible. Nobody wanted to be there. Nobody wants to do that, but if it’s telling a story then you have to tell it truthfully. They didn’t sensationalise it or anything. It was very, very hard watching. It’s a horrible thing that happens, unfortunately, and it shouldn’t be. It was the worst day of my career.
I agree that the scene was incredibly hard to watch (and arguably unnecessary to include in its entirety). That said, the sheer ruthlessness of Ramsay’s onscreen actions makes it understandable why it was so “horrible” to film for Iwan Rheon. Ramsay was the guy who took pleasure in other people’s pain and this scene was no different in capitalizing on the character's monstrousness. I still shudder thinking about it.
The rape scene in question was heavily criticized by many at the time, with some arguing that it was primarily used for shock value rather than as a way to advance either of Theon or Sansa’s storylines. For Iwan Rheon, filming a rape scene was certainly not the same thing as filming other violent scenes on Game of Thrones (of which there are many). Here’s how he put it:
Chopping someone’s finger off you don’t really see it, and when you’re doing like a close up, it’s a piece of plastic. We’re just acting, it’s not real. Then something like that where you’re in the actual reality of the situation is very difficult to deal with. It was a horrible, horrible day.
While filming that particular scene was very difficult for Iwan Rheon, it was at least in line with the disturbing nature of his character. Meanwhile, fellow Game of Thrones vet Liam Cunningham actually refused to show romantic interest in Missandei because he believed it wasn’t on par with how Ser Davos Seaworth had been depicted onscreen. You tell ‘em, Mr. Cunningham!
All eight seasons of Game of Thrones are available to stream on HBO Max. For more on what to watch, be sure to check out our 2020 fall premiere guide for everything coming to streaming and network television.