10 Things You Didn't Know About The Red Wedding

A decade after its debut, Inverse talks to the director and others about the darkest chapter in Game of Thrones history.

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Red Wedding

The Game of Thrones cast and crew send their regards. Ten years ago on June 2, 2013, a dagger was plunged into the hearts of viewers as House Stark was annihilated and the balance of power in Westeros shifted.

If ever a television episode broke the internet, it was this one as the treachery of House Frey and Lannister sent shockwaves around the world. Invited into the Frey’s mighty bridge-fortress, the Twins, for a diplomacy-fueled wedding, House Stark is instead betrayed in a move that breaks with Westeros norms. By the end of the episode, Stark matriarch Catelyn is dead, as is her son Robb Stark (the self-proclaimed King in the North), Robb’s wife, and their unborn baby. It was a scene that shocked fans — assuming they hadn’t read the books — and changed the course of Game of Thrones irreparably.

“It was the hardest thing I directed in terms of emotion,” director David Nutter tells Inverse.

To mark the anniversary of “The Rains of Castamere,” Inverse talked to Nutter, along with Mark Taylor (1st assistant director), Tim Plester (who plays Black Walder Rivers and slit Catelyn Stark’s throat), and Kenneth Hadley (the Septon who performed the wedding) to unearth new details about the iconic moment in TV history.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Red Wedding, the most devastating episode of Game of Thrones ever made.

10. Extensive rehearsals and planning

David Nutter (second from right) with Game of Thrones cast members Lena Headey and John Bradley, and co-showrunner D.B. Weiss.

Mark Davis/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nutter was entrusted as the man to helm the episode and in a delicious piece of irony, he was asked to direct it during a meal in Iceland while filming Season 2. Before shooting began, the Emmy Award-winning director spent weeks planning the scene’s blocking and set coordination.

“I worked at my computer on the weekends,” Nutter says. “I changed the set design by arranging the top tables in a diagonal pattern. That helped separate the main characters and give them moments alone.”

The director insisted on a vital rehearsal period that allowed his cast to perfect their performances, which he says was so successful that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to use it for future episodes. “For me, it's all about rehearsals, even if it’s just stealing an hour to work with the group”

9. Keeping the cast in the dark


Some actors didn’t realize the carnage that was about to unfold because they only got those parts of the script that were relevant to their scenes (although reading the books might have cleared that up quickly).

“When I filmed my scenes for the wedding mass, I had no idea about what came after,” says Kenneth Hadley. “I didn't know about the horrific murders that were going to happen because I only got those parts of the script that applied to my scene. I thought that maybe there's going to be some animosity, but not to the extent that followed. It was a complete shock.”

8. An iconic moment was improvised

As the doors are sealed and the band starts playing, you can feel something awful stirring. Any illusion of safety is shattered when Roose Bolton’s (Michael McElhatton) superb shit-eating look goads Catelyn to notice his chainmail, revealing that he had worn battle gear to a wedding and tipping off the Lannisters’ devious plot.

According to Nutter, that was entirely improvised.

That was something Michael brought, which I thought was fantastic,” the director says. “My attitude when working with actors of such caliber is to get the most out of them as possible. I want them to contribute and improvise whatever they feel, then I can figure out if I like it or not.”

7. Why the massacre was shot chronologically

“You could feel the electricity, apprehension, and sadness build over the week.”


The episode was shot chronologically to help the cast reach the emotional heights required. As the actor that slit Catelyn’s throat, Plester had the perfect insight into these emotions.

“You could feel the electricity, apprehension, and sadness build over the week,” he says. “Richard (Robb) and Michelle (Catelyn) were nervous, it was a big deal for them. Their death scenes were the last thing they filmed, that scene really was them saying goodbye to their characters and friends.”

For the director, this sense of melancholy was applicable both on and off camera.

“The crew loved Richard, Oona (Talisa), and Michelle,” Nutter says. “Saying goodbye to those very real friendships only added to the emotional weight of the scene.”

6. “How brutal do you want this stabbing to be?”

“The Lannisters send their regards.”


Even by the shocking standards of previous deaths, seeing the knife repeatedly plunged into Talisa and her unborn child was brutal. But this scene was never going to be toned down, says Plester: “I remember Tom (Lothar Frey) asking, ‘How brutal do you want this stabbing to be? As many stabs as possible in 30 seconds, is that what you're looking for?’”

Nutter insisted on brutality and speed to shock viewers.

“It had to be visceral,” he says. “I wanted people to see it and think, What the hell is happening? That came out of nowhere! When they were bloodying up Oona's outfit, I said, ‘Bring me a gallon of fake blood’ and poured it all over her.”

5. Directing Robb’s final goodbye

“As he got closer to her, I said to him, ‘This angel in your arms has just been slaughtered and can no longer say she loves you.’”


But Nutter also found the power in the Red Wedding’s quieter moments, including Robb Stark’s final goodbye to his wife.

“When he’s crawling to Oona, I asked her to be very still and whispered to Richard about love and loss,” the director says. “As he got closer to her, I said to him, ‘This angel in your arms has just been slaughtered and can no longer say she loves you.’ Directing that scene, I made it more about Robb's love for her, which affected Richard. Those stories also brought the crew up to a heightened emotional state, which caused people to cry and sob.”

4. Killing off Catelyn

“We were all waiting on David to give the cue, that felt like it lasted forever.”


In an episode brimming with heartbreak, Catelyn’s final moments are the most gut-wrenching. With her family decimated, not even murdering Walder Frey’s daughter can give Catelyn any joy as the final blow draws closer.

“My memory of killing Catelyn was being told by David, ‘She's already dead, you're putting her out of her misery,’” says Plester. “It felt like I was putting an animal down. That was an agonizing wait with tension in the air, knowing the camera was lingering on Michelle as she poured her heart and soul into that scene. That was one of the most pressurized moments I've ever had on a set.”

It was Benioff who decided to drag every second of despair from that scene.

“When we shot her death, Benioff was next to me,” Nutter recalls. “‘David, tell me when you want Black Walder to slit her throat,’ I asked. That stay of execution had to feel right. We were all waiting on David to give the cue, that felt like it lasted forever.”

Despite playing the world’s most hated character, Plester found humor in his infamous role.

“I was on the tube in London and the photo of me holding the blade to Michelle’s throat was in the newspaper,” he recalls. “Nobody knew it was me, despite the fact everyone was looking at the paper! Over the years, I've been asked to pose for so many photos where I’m holding a knife to people’s throats!”

3. Enjoying the silence

Michelle Fairley in “The Rains of Castamere.”


The Red Wedding is unique because it’s the only episode where music doesn’t play over the final credits.

“​​That was a brilliant David and Dan decision,” Nutter says. “Those characters needed to be recognized with a moment of silence and it was also respectful to the audience, everyone went through so much.”

2. The X-Files influence

“On X-Files, I felt a huge responsibility to make sure certain episodes were a launch pad for the rest of the series,” Nutter says. “Thrones was the same.”

Acey Harper/The Chronicle Collection/Getty Images

Nutter’s impressive resume includes 15 episodes of The X-Files and he says Mulder and Scully’s arc helped inspire his take on the Red Wedding.

The X-Files influenced my thinking because I knew it’s hard to build up and execute key dramatic episodes where plotlines hinge on certain moments,” he says. “On X-Files, I felt a huge responsibility to make sure certain episodes were a launch pad for the rest of the series. Thrones was the same.”

He continues: “On X-Files, people would say, ‘Let's do something wild and crazy’ or suggest huge changes. I said, ‘Guys, the key to The X-Files is creating a believable world with real people in it. If you do that, it's easier for the audience to invest emotionally.’ Both shows lead with the heart.”

1. President Obama reacts

At an event, President Obama told David Nutter: “You’re the guy that kills all my favorite characters!”

Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Even President Barack Obama held a grudge towards House Frey, the Lannisters, and director David Nutter… kind of.

“After Season 5 aired, I was at an event with President Obama, who is a huge Game of Thrones fan,” Nutter says. “He found out I directed the Red Wedding and jokingly said, ‘You’re the guy that kills all my favorite characters!’ He also asked me if Jon Snow was really dead. At the time, I knew something was going to happen with Jon but I had to lie and say, ‘President Obama, he's deader than dead.’ After Jon came back to life, I met Obama again and said, ‘Thank God you didn't send the tax man after me for lying!’”

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