Winter is coming… to an end.
“Game of Thrones” spinoffs are popping up like wights rising from the dead, but the OG show is shutting its throne room doors after six episodes of Season 8 next year. And that means actors, directors and showrunners are moving on to different projects.
For director David Nutter, who helmed half of the series’ final six episodes ― including the season opener ― life outside of “GoT” starts with “Rising,” part of the Emmy-winning Love Has No Labels initiative and the Ad Council’s first ever official short film, which has qualified for Oscar consideration. The film, scripted by Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, asks the question, “Why does it take a disaster to bring us together?”
Nutter, who’s in his late 50s, spoke to us about the film, as well as returning to direct “Game of Thrones” and why the security on set was like the “Gestapo.”
After missing Season 6 and 7, what was it like coming back for the final season of “Game Of Thrones”?
After 2015, after the fifth season, I had a couple back surgeries and I missed Season 6 and 7. And it broke my heart to do so. You go through physical therapy and all the things you go through for back surgery. There are times when I’d be in excruciating physical therapy sessions, and I’d be wondering if I’d ever have a chance to direct again ― let alone direct “Game of Thrones.” Fortunately, I came back. I was all repaired. They welcomed me back with open arms, and not only welcomed me back with open arms, but welcomed me back to actually have me involved in and direct three of the six episodes [of Season 8].
A lot has happened since you’ve been gone. Now it’s revealed that Jon and Dany are related. Directing the opening for Season 8, and half the episodes overall, how does it feel to have to take on that relationship?
I’m just so honored to be involved in the material because it’s so wonderfully written. It’s so wonderfully performed. It’s so tremendously executed. Just to be a part of that world is a dream come true… [Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] are wonderful to work with. They’re such great collaborators as well as teachers and mentors. In many respects for me, it’s just getting a chance to be involved in what they’re doing.
We’ve heard a lot about fake scenes this year. As a director, do you even know when you’re shooting a fake scene?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah, of course.
It’s all in an effort to keep things secret. So how was security this season for you? Liam Cunningham told me he couldn’t even access his scripts on the secure iPads.
Well, sometimes there were paparazzi in amazing places ― on construction cranes and all kinds of crazy places, to try to get a point of view of things. They were all over, everywhere, trying to get in on what was happening. But it was definitely a situation where there was no paper on the set, [that] type of thing. [The production team] wanted to make sure nobody knew what was happening, and they went to the nth degree, like they do on the show in general. They basically take it to the point where it’s like the Gestapo. It’s tough to get answers.
Obviously, everyone has theories on how it ends. Knowing how it ends, what would you tell those fans?
All I know is that David and Dan spent a lot of time to tell the story in a proper fashion, and the audience will be completely satisfied. Not everybody will be satisfied, but I feel the audience will be satisfied with the direction the series goes. It lives up to all the building it’s coming to, I promise you that.
Directing the opening for Season 8, how did you prepare? Were you watching old episodes?
There’s definitely some of that. To me, it was all about living up to Jeremy Podeswa (a GOT director). He’s done some amazing season openers, most notably Season 7. He’s a tremendous friend and a great director… I was hoping I can live up to his great work.
You’ve been part of the show since Season 2. What’s it like seeing where it is now?
It’s interesting getting a chance to work with all the actors. Sophie, when she first met the Hound and was in Westeros, has now grown into a formidable queen in her own right and respect. Arya, who’s gone from this little kid who wanted to be noticed and seen to very formidable in her own right. The growth of those family members has really been a lot of fun, and getting a chance to work with new exciting actors and fun people as well has been a real pleasure. Things like the Daznak Pit, and of course the Walk of Shame and the Red Wedding, were highlights to my career. It’s something I’ll never forget.
You did an Ask Me Anything interview on the “Game of Thrones” Reddit for your new film “Rising.” What was that experience like?
It was a lot of fun. It was interesting. I have never done that before. It’s pretty much direct questions and so forth. I used to work on “The X-Files” in the first couple seasons… we would actually do chatrooms with fans.
How’d you end up directing it?
They had another director in mind to do the project but something fell through and he couldn’t do it, so I’d worked with the production company before and they contacted me. I said, “My God, I’d love to do it.” Nothing would excite me more than doing something of value, and something that hopefully has a message people could actually relate to.
What is that message?
For someone who watches it ― no matter who they are, no matter what their affiliation or feelings about anything at all ― the hope would be someone who watches it gets perspective about their next-door neighbor, about the people across the street, about themselves, because prejudice is performed through blindness. I think this is a situation where I really wanted people to watch it and have their own personal reaction to it, because to me — because of the length of the project… something that is a little bit longer than a commercial ― we wanted to give the audience a chance to become emotionally invested.
Why does it take disasters to bring people together?
We seem to live in a society that’s all about confrontation and fear and misunderstanding… we don’t listen enough. We think that the key to life is to keep growing and listening and learning.
You have a character in here, a mechanic, who seems like a stereotypical Donald Trump supporter. Where did that character come from? What was the thinking behind him?
It’s interesting, that character could be formed as anything you want it to be. This is a man who’s working on his car, listening to music. This kid comes out. He turns around, watches the kid, turns his music off… it really depends on who you are and where you come from, for your specific take on it. What’s fascinating [is that] everyone who watches it will have their own take, so there was never an occasion or a situation where I wanted to stereotype anyone at all. We are not stereotypes of people… I wanted to make it as real as possible.
If the president ended up seeing this film, what would you want him to take from it?
For him to pause, and that’s about all you’d ever get, and also for him to watch it by himself in a room so he can actually not have to respond in front of everybody, because it’s a very personal story. I think it’s a situation where we all are the same. We all are equal, we all need to respect each other and I think we need each other to survive. I think it’s a situation where if that could happen, if he could pause for one moment and have one less tweet… then we’ve done something positive.
This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.