It was the epic Game of Thrones showdown that none of us even knew we wanted: Brienne of Tarth vs the Hound.
Series four finale The Children saw the two warriors cross swords in one of the most brutal fight sequences the fantasy show has ever seen (apart from the Mountain and the Viper, of course.) After a chance meeting, the pair clash over Arya Stark whom Brienne has been sent to rescue and whom the Hound has, it seems, taken under his protection. The battle, which does not actually feature in George RR Martin's original A Song of Ice and Fire book series, ends with the Hound falling to his (almost certain) death.
Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne, has described it as "one of the f**king hardest things I've ever done in my life."
"My hands were like tramps feet — like swollen," she says. "They looked after me, they always do, but inevitably things happen. We were fighting up hills, down hills, rolling, fighting on rock face with a sheer down drop. [The Hound actor] Rory McCann is an amazing actor and a very strong man, and that was a challenge — not just as actors, but as characters. It’s a f**ing really intense challenge.”
Christie, who was recently announced as being cast in Star Wars: Episode VII, filmed the fight over three days in Iceland, having trained for it for six weeks beforehand. According to Christie herself, however, the battle was just as emotional off screen as it was on.
"I’m so into the scene that it becomes real," she tells Entertainment Weekly. "Rory and I might not be killing each other, but you’re both making contact with those swords. We are two people that really go for it in that situation. Rory and I were quite serious about it. We want their to be contact — rolling around in the dirt on a rock face with your hand bleeding. You’re in pain, just emotional and screaming through it, and blood is pouring out of your mouth and you’re falling over when you’re meant to and falling when you’re not meant to."
"It’s frightening," she continues. "That is one of the few times I’ve not had to do any acting. I was screaming, 'F**k you! Come on! Blood everywhere, going insane. It is f**king mental. You were there on top of a mountain with this surreal landscape around you and the sun is shining and your adrenaline is pumping and you’ve got what looks like blood everywhere and you’re in pain and you’ve got swords and you’re on the floor hitting the living daylights out of each other. I actually lost it at points and would just go in screaming..."
Speaking about the decision to end the series with a big Brienne and the Hound clash, co-showrunner David Benioff also told the magazine:
"It felt right to us, these two pairings: The Hound and Arya; Brienne and Pod. Both are on quests. The Hound is trying to get Arya to the Eyrie; Brienne is trying to find the Stark girls. It felt right to us that those quests would collide at end of season."