In the Game of Thrones series finale, Cersei was forced to walk naked through the streets of Kings Landing as the screaming, hostile crowd threw food and the contents of their chamber pots at her.
It was a powerful performance from Lena Headey, who plays the vengeful queen, but some eagle-eyed viewers noted that a body double might have been used.
It turns out those fans were right. It was 27-year-old British-American actress Rebecca Van Cleave (pictured below) who played the naked body in the brutal scene, and was one of more than 1,000 actresses who applied for the role.
Seven finalists were then flown to Belfast to meet with producers, including Van Cleave, who has had minor theatre and TV roles but never performed a nude scene before.
How did they film the scene?
It took three days to film the walk in Dubrovnik last October. Van Cleave was nude while Headey did the same walk while wearing a simple beige shift. The show’s visual effects team then combined the performances, merging Headey’s facial expressions with Van Cleave’s physical movement to make it look like Headey was entirely naked.
Van Cleave told Entertainment Weekly that Headey gave her a great deal of support and help to get into Cersei’s mindset. “Lena was so good about walking beside me and guiding me into what Cersei was thinking and the movements,” she said.
Why didn’t Lena Headey do the nude scene herself?
She says she chose not to be nude for the six-minute sequence for various reasons, including that she wanted to focus on the emotions in her performance rather than worrying about her body. Headey is expecting her second child, and some have speculated that she didn’t want to do the gruelling scene while pregnant. The actress also wanted no say in casting her body double. “If somebody is brave enough to do this, I applaud it,” she said.
What was it like for the body double?
Van Cleave said, “The first time I took off the robe there was all this anticipation building up to it. But it’s such an emotional experience for Cersei, you almost check out of the fact that you’re nude. You’re so in touch with the scene and what you’re going for.”
She added that the really tough moments were when she had the food and bodily waste hurled at her. “On the last day, there was a well of emotion when she’s finally getting to the end and I was getting to the end too — not in a bad way, it’s almost like being one with the character.”
How did Van Cleave feel watching it back?
Van Cleave only saw the final scene eight months later, when the finale aired on Sunday.
The actress said it was an “emotional” and “surreal” watch. “I had a good little cry afterward. Lena and I put so much into that scene and to see it all come together was really special.”
Kasia is a TV, film and arts journalist who writes news, feautures and comment. She spends a lot of time feeling nostalgic about 90s American films and working her way back through the Desert Island Discs archive.