It's no secret that Game of Thrones came a long way since its initial first season. One of the biggest plot twists, which George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series were well aware of, was the grisly fate of his first book's main protagonist in Eddard "Ned" Stark. The book title, which shares the same name as the HBO series, saw the patriarch, King of the North, and the hand of King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) executed by order of his successor, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Joffrey took the throne following a freak boar hunting accident that left Robert mortally wounded. While promoting his latest AppleTV+ animated film, Wolfwalkers, Sean Bean, who played the Stark patriarch in season one, opened up about his experience to Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd about the shocking death.
"It was horror and disbelief — that Joffrey changed his mind [about exiling Ned] — and then resignation and [realizing that he was] seeing his daughter for the last time, Arya," Bean recalled when filming the 2011 episode "Baelor." "I was trying to think of all four [things]. It wasn't just, 'Oh God, I'm getting my head chopped off.' Those mix of feelings is what made it what it was, I suppose." Throughout his career, the actor's renowned for having his characters getting killed, but Game of Thrones still remains one of the most talked about.
"It took like a whole day or so to film it, and you, so you have to just keep focused on the fact that you're about to meet your death without messing around," Bean added. "I was very hot at the time, so that probably helped. And everybody else's reactions were fantastic — Cersei and the kids. It was very moving with a lot of pathos in that scene. Then I put my head in the block, and I was finished for the day." Director Alan Taylor, who directed "Baelor," talked about what might be going through Ned's mind before the executioner swiped his sword. "[Bean] asked somebody what an appropriate prayer would be for somebody of his belief. People have tried to guess what he said, but it's something private Sean created based on that." Hibberd compiled an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the long-running HBO series called "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon," which includes details from pranks, creative changes, and the disastrous original pilot.
"I thought [the original pilot] was all right, but I was only focused on the scenes I was in," Bean said. "We filmed in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, and then the producers [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] made some major changes. I felt the body of it was there, that the spirit of the piece was there, but I think they felt the development of the characters and the story could be improved. So we ended up doing quite a lot of reshoots. It was a testing time for us all trying to get to know what we were doing in the whole scheme of things, and it was for the best." You can stream all eight seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO Max. "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon" is available in bookstores everywhere.