Game of Thrones Season 6 has been full of iconic moments already, but the one that seems like it will carry the most weight in the collective pop cultural memory is the death of Hodor in the episode “The Door.” Director Jack Bender was responsible for bringing that moment to life, and his initial idea was something much more brutal that what was ultimately shot and used in the episode.
“Early on I had the idea to make it one shot that just pushes in and gets closer and closer, and then the parallel high shot that gets closer and closer to Wylis, who became Hodor,” Bender tells Observer. “I talked about it with [executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] a lot. I said, ‘What the dead would be doing to Hodor would be ripping his clothes off once they got through that door. They would be ripping his flesh off. If the dead can go through wood, they’re going to be tearing Hodor apart.’”
However, Weiss and Benioff ended up convincing Bender to go for a more restrained approach to the scene. “And they said something to me that really stuck. Which was ‘If it’s too horrific, we’re not going to feel the loss of Hodor,’” Bender recalls. “And that was my compass the entire time, to make us really care at the end. I still wanted to make it scary enough, see Hodor surrounded and engulfed by these skeletal arms and long fingers, that were eventually going to smother and kill and rip him apart, or whatever they were going to do that we didn’t see. But to not let the horror of it overwhelm the emotion of losing that character and making it really land on the idea that he was sacrificing himself so his friends could get away. That was the dominant idea.”
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.