Perhaps the most shocking moment from the Game of Thrones season six premiere (other than Jon Snow staying dead!) was Melisandre taking off her magic necklace to reveal her true form: that of an ancient old woman. So how did the show’s special effects team add between 100 to 400 years of age onto actress Carice van Houten?
According to director Jeremy Podeswa, the scene involved a complicated combination of Carice wearing prosthetics, a body double, and some “Walk Of Shame”-style SFX merging of the two. As for how old Melisandre really is, Podeswa said the effects were chosen to keep that a mystery.
“I think the performance of both actresses helps making her look ageless,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “There was a question of whether we should add more effects to make [the body double] look older, but I think anything we could have done would have made them look less real. When doing a fantasy show – or a show with fantasy elements – the more you can anchor an effect to reality the stronger the illusion is.”
Liam Cunningham, who plays Ser Davos Seaworth on the show, shared his thoughts on the scene as well with the Hollywood Reporter.
“The remarkable shot where she’s looking at you … that’s Carice, from the neck up,” he said. “She spent a lot of time in a head cast. There was a huge amount of work put into getting the prosthetics done. … She showed me the photograph of her in the gear, and when I saw it on the phone, I thought it was remarkable to see. That stuff she wears … it must have taken six hours, or something like that to get it on. She only had to do it for a day.”
The end result certainly was remarkable, and any time a scene manages to become the standout moment for a Game of Thrones episode, you know something’s been done right. We’re thinking the questions this raises about Melisandre’s past and future will linger on long after our heebie jeebies subside.