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How The 'Game Of Thrones' Weapons Master Goes About Arming The Show's Characters

How The 'Game Of Thrones' Weapons Master Goes About Arming The Show's Characters

He designs and manufactures the hundreds of weapons used in the show.

James Dawson

James Dawson

Since its first season aired in 2011, Game of Thrones has become more than just a TV show.

Watched by millions every week and coinciding with the rise of social media, it has amassed an online fanbase dedicated to dissecting each and every scene, deconstructing them in a way never seen before - and which may never be seen again surrounding a television programme.

The rise of streaming sites, such as Netflix and YouTube, may threaten to put an end to the weekly ritual of traditional televisual drama, aired weekly and subject to water cooler, lunch canteen and group chat discussion in the future but those working on GoT find themselves subject to the largest ever MMORPG film club.

This means that the imagery in every scene has to be perfect, with costumes and props providing an insight into each character and foreshadowing future betrayal and deceptions.

Jon Snow's sword, Longclaw. Credit: HBO

One man aware of this intense scrutiny is Tommy Dunne, the official 'weapons master' for Game of Thrones. Working alongside a small team in a Belfast-based workshop, he is responsible for designing and manufacturing the hundreds of weapons used in the show - using modern production processes of casting and moulding.

He has also served as an extra in the show, fittingly appearing as the blacksmith responsible for reworking Ned Stark's signature ice sword into the Widows Wail and Oathkeeper following his execution.

Having started his career working on the weaponry for Braveheart after he unknowingly wandered into a workshop looking for work, Tommy's 25-year career has taken him around the world, working on the production of films such as Gladiator, V For Vendetta and Saving Private Ryan, as well as HBO World War II miniseries The Pacific and Band of Brothers .

With the finale of the show having aired and now available on digital download, LADbible caught up with Tommy and asked him what it's like to work on the world's biggest TV show.

LADbible: Hi Tommy, so what's your process when it comes to the 'hero weapons' and their creation?

Tommy: Hi. With each weapon, we have they have metal versions, as well as safety and rubber versions. I like to make them in bronze to give them some weight that means if the weapon does need to break something on the show then it can do.

Although I have read the books, I didn't take any images from them as, in my opinion, we're not doing George RR Martin's story, we're doing HBO's interpretation and their condensed world.

With weapons like Needle, Longclaw and Oathkeeper becoming so iconic to their respective characters, how important do you think it is to distil a character's personality in to their weapons?

Really important. You try to integrate their personality as much as possible because if, for example, a character is vicious and evil then you want it to be similar to them. Or if they're big like the Mountain then you need a larger weapon.

You put more time into the hero weapons because they're more featured, and you have to think of people and how the character is so it's the weapon that they've always wanted and have fought with.

Is that something you get much guidance with in terms of the script?

The script will describe the weapons but in terms like 'a family heritage swords' - which we had with Samwell Tarly, for example, then you have to think where you want to go with that and how it's going to be used - whether that's for fighting or purely ceremonial.

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones

Gendry's warhammer and Jon Snow's Longclaw on display. Credit: HBO

Once you know that then you have to figure out what that particular family is about and integrate crests. I'm very lucky that I get a free reign with what I do. I'm employed for my expertise so that's what I give and that can mean giving it quite loud if I need to.

Was there any particular weapon that was difficult to get down?

The only real time was with Roose Bolton. In that instance, it was actually [GOT co-creator] David Benioff who said to me that it would be really good to have an inverted man on the handle and I immediately wished I'd thought of that because it was great idea.

With my work, it's very hard to just draw something and think 'there it is, that's it' because I might find something better. Sometimes it'll happen that I'll open a box and find a material - filigree [which is an ornamental wire] I've not seen in year, or some bronze or brass - and then I'll incorporate it into what I do.

Does it bother you that scenes get dissected frame by frame? One example was when the show got some flak for Kit Harington's sword 'wobbling' as he pulled it out and that it was not realistic.

No, with stuff like that I think you have to look at the fact he was on a horse, so there are one or two tons of animal beneath him. If I'm talking to the horsemaster and tell them I want a steel sword up there, they're going to talk about insuring the horse and the actor.

You have to make sure everything is safe - that's the world we're in and I make no excuses for that.

With the more generic background weapons, do they get much reuse between different Houses and battles?

The way I see it, you use the weapons to tell a story. So I wouldn't give a Lannister or a Tarly a sword that wasn't of their House because they're very recognisable to the audience in terms of lines and colour tones. But sometimes - say with the Dothraki - you might see characters take items and weapons and souvenirs, as that plays into the story that's going on.

Ned Stark with Ice. Credit: HBO

With sell swords, you might have a more generic weapon or Night's Watch can be a mix because they come in with their own weapon, but most Houses have something that differentiates them.

How does your process compare to how it would have been for medieval blacksmiths?

Personally, I haven't ever tried traditional smithing from full scratch as it's not my job. Of course it's all possible, but it would take a lot longer and I'd be wasting my time now you can mould and get bronze and stainless steel casts.

But the basics are still the same, a lot of the shapes [of the weapons I make] are doable and were doable years ago. Even though it's now done on the milling machine, it could be done by hand. There is a crossover but now in the modern world we're faster now.

And finally, I know you probably can't say much, but can we look forward to more weapons coming up in the next season?

I can't say anything about what's coming up, but there's never been a year where we haven't made something. The show has been great for the longevity and the creativity. Every year a new character comes in and their weapon will be iconic to them. So take that as you will.

Cheers, Tommy.

GAME OF THRONES: SEASON SEVEN is available on Digital Download now.

Featured Image Credit: HBO / Game Of Thrones

Topics: Game of Thrones