Posted by admin on March 25th, 2019

Iain on the fiery finale & saying goodbye to Emilia Clarke

Game of Thrones is coming. And as the world’s most popular TV show gears up for its fiery finale, Iain Glen – aka Ser Jorah Mormont – explains what life in Westeros is really like. ‘Tits and dragons’ and all…

 


Iain Glen has played a lot of memorable roles in the past three and a half decades. Those with short memories may think of him as the charming bigamist Alec Wilson in last year’s Mrs Wilson on BBC One; others will know him as the ruthless publisher Sir Richard Carlisle in Downtown Abbey, while those with perfect recall might remind him of his award-nominated Henry V for the RSC in the 1990s. But chances are, when he’s approached in the street these days, it’s by someone who wants a selfie with Ser Jorah Mormont from Game of Thrones.

The HBO series, which airs on Sky Atlantic in the UK, is the world’s most popular TV show, with upwards of 30 million viewers and fans worldwide, including in the Far East, India and South America. Excitement about the imminent final season has been building ever since the season seven finale in August 2017, and is now reaching boiling point.
One abiding memory of Glen will be from the last season, when Jorah, infected with the slow-creeping but deadly greyscale, bites down on a leather strap as the thick, scaly layer that covers his torso is cut away piece by piece with a scalpel. It may not have been his most nuanced performance but the agony on his face made it impossible to look away.
‘I was pretty spaced out,’ he tells me. The prosthetic took eight hours to apply – it had underlayers that would ooze pus and blood as it was sawn off – so Glen had to be on the filming base at 11pm, have make-up applied all night and then shoot a 12-hour day. ‘After what it required, the acting became quite easy,’ he says.

‘If “tits and dragons” is a negative, it doesn’t seem to stop the show being a massive hit, does it?

We’re in a photographic studio near the Thames. Glen biked here from his home in south London. ‘I’m addicted to cycling,’ he says. He will even cycle to red-carpet events and park his bike around the corner. ‘I find it a very sterile atmosphere being in the back of a limo… and [cycling] is quicker. I duck and dive, and I’m not somebody who will wait endlessly at a red traffic light. I go up one-way streets the wrong way, too.’

He looks fit and lightly tanned. He was at home in Dulwich, where he lives with his partner, actor Charlotte Emmerson, and their two children, Mary, 11, and Juliet, six, when the scripts for the final season of Game of Thrones landed in September 2017.
‘Security around the series has got more and more fierce,’ he says, ‘to the point where nothing was allowed on printed paper throughout the whole season.’ It could only be accessed online, with extensive security protocols – it wasn’t even allowed on the cast’s own devices.

‘There was a bit of resistance from actors to that,’ he adds, ‘particularly of an older generation.’ He performs a convincing harrumph – ‘“I need to look at my lines, how can I possibly…?”’

When he read the scripts, ‘I felt, “they’ve done it, they’ve pulled it off”,’ he says, ‘that balance of satiating people’s desire for things to be complete, but leaving enough questions in the air for people to try to project forward what world will follow, individually for all the characters and universally for the world that Thrones has occupied.’

Sadness at the end of ‘the best ride in the world’, after almost 10 years of the show, was tangible at the read-through of the series with all ofthe main cast in Belfast 10 days later.
‘There’s a real sense of loss, it’s like a family… there were lots of tears because it was coming to an end, but real excitement and joy that we were going to shoot it.’ As characters died within the story as they read, it felt to Glen and others as if they were really being lost. ‘We’ve all grown very close to each other.’

The filming would prove to be punishing. An enormous battle scene involving many of the key characters, pitched against the Night King’s invading Army of the Dead, was shot at the set of the fictional castle of Winterfell, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It took 11 weeks of night shoots in sub-freezing temperatures, enduring rain, mud, high winds and ‘sheep s—’. Glen has described it as ‘a real test, really miserable’.

The series has been shot in locations around the world, from the snowy wilderness of Iceland’s interior, to the desert shores of Morocco, castles in Spain and the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. It used to be a running joke on set that whenever Glen flew in, it was to one of the sunshine destinations that everyone loved; but last season, he had to film an arduous trek through icefields to attempt to capture one of the undead.
Young actors like Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) ‘are made’ by being in the show, Glen says. His storyline has been joined to Clarke’s almost from the start. What was their parting like in real life? ‘We’re friends and we’ll always be friends,’ he says.

‘Emilia went through an extraordinary story arc for herself as a person, and her character. I saw her as a nervous young actress, who had just got this big gig and everyone, [from] directors [down], was saying, “Is this the right actor? Is this how she should look? Does the wig look right?” It’s an incredible amount of pressure and I saw this young girl cope with it incredibly well.

‘She did ask for guidance and invariably I was saying, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Emilia’s very gifted, she really has no idea how good she is – she remains very vulnerable but it’s not a destructive vulnerability, it keeps her very focused… She’s [also] a very altruistic, warm person, who was the great generator of social life during Thrones. I’ll always keep an eye on what she’s doing and take pride in it.’

In the series, Ser Jorah is in love with Daenerys. Although Clarke’s character was aged up from the books for TV (in George RR Martin’s novels, she is in her early teens) fans have worked out that Daenerys can still only be 16 or 17 at the start of the show (Clarke was 22 at the time of the first season). ‘There was a point when it was definitely unrequited sexual love,’ Glen says, ‘but I think there’s always been a reciprocated love without the physicality.’

 

Given that Ser Jorah is in his mid-40s in the show and Glen is now 57, is his love for Daenerys age-appropriate? ‘You have to say that there’s a lot in Thrones that’s not “appropriate”,’ he returns, ‘but it feels plausible for a very different period.’
At the end of season one, Daenerys emerged from her husband’s funeral pyre unburnt and naked, with three newly hatched dragons. I wonder how Glen feels about former cast member Ian McShane’s contention that the show is ‘just tits and dragons’?
‘If tits and dragons is a negative, it doesn’t seem to stop it being a massive hit, does it?’ he says. He accepts that ‘there might have been a degree of HBO trying to arrest people’s attention, and you could accuse The Sopranos of doing that as well – there were tits and violence but there was a psychology that was underlying the whole thing.’
He thinks it might have been overstated in the first season of Thrones, in ‘putting everything on the line’ to establish the world, but says he has never felt concern about the many controversial scenes in the show, from sadistic sexual fantasies to rape. ‘At the end of the day, you can choose to watch or not to watch. When I look at history, at things that have taken place in real life that are just awful, I think there is room for dramas that try to depict that, so I’m not into censoring. I never felt things were gratuituous… Violence wise, it’s never bothered me.’

After filming their final scene, each of the main cast members was presented with a drawn storyboard from the making of the show. Glen’s depicted the bloody gladiatorial battle Jorah fought to win back Daenerys’s favour in season five. It was shot in the bullring of Osuna, in Andalusia, southern Spain, and had special memories for him.
His family were with him, and the director took his daughter Mary, then seven, into the make-up tent to get blood all over her face ‘so she looked like Daddy’, then had her shout ‘action’ and ‘cut’ for the scene. After the presentation speech by writers David Benioff and DB Weiss, Glen says he was in floods of tears.

Glen, who also has a son, Finlay, 22, from his first marriage to actor Susannah Harker, says he adores being a father. ‘I keep producing children… it imbues your life with a great amount of fun and magic and exhaustion. I have to be away working sometimes, and if I could I would have them with me all the time, because being woken up by a child, or having to wake up a child and deal with the minutiae and a lot of the boring crap, just having those eyes looking at you full of discovery… I love it.

‘I always think it’s a woman’s prerogative,’ he adds, ‘I think my lady is now done on the kids and that’s fine, but I would always have more.’ He breaks off to take a call from her.

As a boy himself, growing up in Edinburgh (he has two older brothers, Hamish and Graham) he was equal parts shy and extrovert, he says, and had no sense of danger. He would happily crawl out of a very high window and climb along gutters. His escapades saw him hospitalised a few times.

He was adept at pretending to fall over and hurt himself – ‘I could even do it for you now.’ He still has an earring in his left ear, which he pierced himself with a pin, aged 12. ‘Dad refused to take me to the golf club unless I took it out. I thought, “F— it, I’m not going then. No.”’

His investment banker father paid for him to attend the independent Edinburgh Academy, but he had to stay on to try to improve his grades, then got the same ones again. He managed to get into Aberdeen University to study Russian, where he discovered the joy of drama and dropped out to go to Rada. He studied alongside Ralph Fiennes, Jane Horrocks, Imogen Stubbs and Jason Watkins, but still walked away with the top acting prize for his year, the Bancroft Gold Medal, previously won by the likes of Mark Rylance, Fiona Shaw and Kenneth Branagh.

Glen built an acclaimed stage career alongside early TV roles, but has always managed to mix blockbuster paydays – for films such as Tomb Raider (2001) and the Resident Evil franchise – with more personal work. As Thrones’ popularity has grown, salaries have risen exponentially, with the top-end cast paid a reported $500,000 per episode (around £380,000). He notes that it’s a flat fee for a season, however many episodes you’re in. Have the rewards felt life-changing? ‘No, not really,’ he says. ‘I’ve always been lucky and busy as an actor.’

Glen experienced the negative side of press attention when his first marriage broke up in the early 2000s. Some of it was ‘intrusive’, he says – questions that related to the fact that he ‘sailed close to another relationship, which was [that of] Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I did a two-handed play with Nicole, which was about a sexual relationship.’

The play was David Hare’s adaption of La Ronde, The Blue Room, which famously featured Kidman’s nude bottom and Glen performing naked cartwheels. It led, perhaps inevitably, to tabloid rumours of an affair between Glen and Kidman, whose marriage ended around the same time. Glen has always denied it, but it ensured that his separation from Harker was played out in public.

‘Compared to what some people have to deal with, it was fine,’ he says. ‘But you have a lot of eyes on you and pressure on you, when you just want to deal with your own private life.’

There’s generally no other downside to fame, he notes (‘My wife says it’s like getting your bottom patted every day’), although he will politely refuse to pose for selfies if he is with his family. Game of Thrones’ vast, global appeal means that he was once even surrounded by fans while visiting a township in South Africa.

It may take a while for the fervour around his current employment to die down, but Glen has other projects in the pipeline. He will be appearing alongside another of Thrones’ stars, Lena Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, in an upcoming UK immigration drama The Flood, and has also filmed a sci-fi epic Haven: Above Sky, about a global catastrophe.
Whether he makes it to the final episode of Game of Thrones alive remains to be seen.

Source: Telegraph


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