Tommy Dunne, weapons master for HBO series Game of Thrones and films such as Gladiator, The Mask of Zorro and V for Vendetta, talks about the challenges of arming all those Lannisters, Starks and Dornishmen.
Who among the Game of Thrones cast is the most impressive with their weapon?
“Nikolaj Coster-Waldau [who plays Jaime Lannister]. When he came into this, he had done a bit of swordplay in films. But his attitude now and skill level is far beyond what a normal actor would be capable of. He’s got the presence and he’s got the look – and he has an effective manner in swordplay.”
Weaponry isn't described in detail in the Game of Thrones books. What inspired your creations?
"The Lannisters were rich, so their world is flamboyant, but you're also then dealing with the likes of the Starks, who are homey and down to earth, grounded and traditional - less opulent. We tried to keep to the medieval theme but at times we were also dealing with futuristic weapons, like the White Walkers' translucent blade. It's a hard one but it seems to have worked out."
How do you design a weapon? "The key factor about a weapon is what the character is going to do with it. If it's something for show that's gonna hang on a wall, we can go overboard. But if they have to wield it, fight with it and ride off into the sunset with it on a horse then it has to be practical."
Have you taken inspiration from ancient Chinese weapons? "Last season Li Yang, a wushu master and a stunt double, taught Oberyn Martell [portrayed by Pedro Pascal] how to use the spear. But as much as I love Chinese weapons - and I've worked on a few Jackie Chan movies - their relevance depends on the war we're getting into. I can't bring them in unless the storyline brings them to me. If another world were to come into the show which suits that style, then sure. Otherwise Chinese weaponry would look out of place in a medieval context."
The Dorne peninsula is a highlight this season. What inspired the weapons of the Dornishmen? "The snake is their symbol, so their spear is like a slithered body in a tongue shape. Tyene Sand's two daggers have a crisp blade with a snake-like handle. This season we're dealing with a whip that's supposed to be the tongue of the snake."
The iron throne that author George R.R. Martin envisioned is made up of 1,000 blades and described as being "huge, hulking, black and twisted". Is such a thing possible? "Yes. Oh yes! Don't get me started on this one, because I wanted to do this at the very start. A lot of the swords we used were from my moulds and so the art department basically moulded and distressed about 200 [swords and fixed them] onto a throne. But I really want to make the actual solid iron throne, and probably will. The price will be silly, but it will be worth it."
Season five of Game of Thrones is airing on HBO on Mondays at 9am and 9pm.