"Game of Thrones" behind the scenes: Emilia Clarke on filming a flying dragon
"Game of Thrones" actress Emilia Clarke explains the challenges of riding a mechanical dragon and anticipating its moves—all while speaking Dothraki
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Anderson Cooper speaks with Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on "Game of Thrones." Below is a transcript.
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Anderson Cooper: So I'm tryin' to think the first time– the first time I saw you riding a dragon. I don't–
Emilia Clarke: Yeah. The first time, in reality, was very funny.
Anderson Cooper: Oh, yeah?
Emilia Clarke: Yeah, 'cause it was like, "I'm getting on the dragon!" Like we've thought about it for ages. And when I first read it, I was, like, genuinely getting tingles reading it, being like, "I'm gonna get on my baby. I'm gonna do it." So excited. And in reality, it was– the evolution of that is huge.
Anderson Cooper: In what–
Emilia Clarke: The evolution of– (CLAP)
Anderson Cooper: Of the dragons?
Emilia Clarke: Yeah, so it felt– the first time, it was– this hard, green shell type thing. But it was man– manually (LAUGH) operated. And then, there's was, like, a pole either end. And it was essentially, like– like the dudes on the railway who (MAKES SQUEAKING NOISE). Those things. So there was a pole comin' out the win– one end. And in this hot Osuna sun, there's this one dude who's like (MAKES SQUEAKING NOISE). And I'm there, kinda trying to, like, yes, badass. And everyone's like, "Don't look badass. You look like Harry Potter. You look like you're on a broomstick." And there was kind of, like, a little, like, wind blower, (LAUGH) someone tryin' to, like, get the wind in my face.
Anderson Cooper: Okay, sounds like a hairdryer. (LAUGH)
Emilia Clarke: Literally, yeah, yeah, yeah, it's exactly it. So– so that was the first dragon riding experience, in truth–
Anderson Cooper: Sort of– yeah.
Emilia Clarke: And trying so hard to feel it, and be like, "This is this magical moment for this character. I'm at one with my animals, and– I could take over the world. I'm gonna fly away. Everything's gonna be amazing." But in truth, you're like (MAKES SQUEAKING NOISE). (LAUGH) Like, and people are just kinda looking around, being like, "It looks kinda weird," like– (LAUGH)
Anderson Cooper: Yeah, and then it– but– and– so what did it evolve into?
Emilia Clarke: So then it evolved into this genuinely scary theme park ride. (LAUGH)
Anderson Cooper: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Emilia Clarke: It's a massive hard green shell. But now, it's– it's sort of split into four parts. So they all independently move with one another. So then I jump on it. And I'm holdin' on to the things. And I have a harness that attaches me to it, because it can get quite violent. So it's all pre-programmed. You've got– the incredible– people who are in charge of– of– of– of makin' it move. And she's sorta down there with, like, a joystick. So visual effects will map out the journey of what they– of what the dragon is doing. And then on top of that, they'll– they'll– they'll figure out what physically the dragon would be doing. And each and every moment of that journey, which– what's moving, how he breathes.
Anderson Cooper: Right, wow.
Emilia Clarke: My favorite note: Emilia, remember to allocate for– for dragon breathing. And I'm like, "Okay, Annie." Oh, he's breathing. Oh, he's gotta cough. And then if you're in– sort of– a more violent– skyward journey– it can be really, really freaky. So in the beginning, it was, like, okay, throw yourself into it, like you're really– like, if I didn't try at all, it would just– I would look like a rag doll. And then, it was like, "No, we need you to kinda look like you know what you're doing." And then I had to learn how to preempt the move, because it's technically it's me that is making the dragon move–
Anderson Cooper: Controlling it, right.
Emilia Clarke: And so then you're like, "Wait, you want me to– like, there's 26 moves in there. You want me to preempt all of it and speak Dothraki? Okay."
Anderson Cooper: That must have been fun.
Emilia Clarke: It was fun. It was really fun.
The video above was edited by Will Croxton.