Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon has said that the day of filming a rape scene for the show was 'horrible' and that 'nobody wanted to be there'.
Rheon played the unhinged Ramsay Bolton in the HBO series, who rapes his new bride Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner, on their wedding night, in front of Alfie Allen’s character Theon Greyjoy.
The scene, from the episode Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken in the show's fifth season, was rounded on by both critics and fans at the time of its broadcast in 2015.
Rheon told Metro: “That was horrible. Nobody wanted to be there. Nobody wants to do that, but if it’s telling a story then you have to tell it truthfully.
“They didn’t sensationalise it or anything. It was very, very hard watching. It’s a horrible thing that happens, unfortunately, and it shouldn’t be. It was the worst day of my career.”
It's thought that some viewers voted with their feet after the episode was broadcast, with the show losing nearly one million viewers by the show's next episode.
In an article for The Atlantic, critic Christopher Orr wrote: “I continue to be astonished that showrunners Benioff and Weiss still apparently believe that their tendency to ramp up the sex, violence, and – especially - sexual violence of George R.R. Martin’s source material is a strength rather than the defining weakness of their adaptation.”
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US Senator Claire McCaskill also said that she would stop watching the show.
Other critics praised the show, however, Sarah Hughes in The Guardian noting: “I have repeatedly made clear that I’m not a fan of rape as a plot device – but the story of Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding was more than that... The writers are walking a very fine line here. They handled it well tonight, telling a gothic tale of innocence sacrificed.”
But following the broadcast, and the consequent uproar, the show's producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff curbed the show's scenes of sexual violence.
Jeremy Podeswa, who directed the episode, told reporters at the time: “We were aware ahead of time that it was going to be disturbing but we did not expect there would be people in Congress talking about it.
“It was a difficult and brutal scene and we knew it was going to be challenging for the audience, but it was very important to us in the execution that it would not be exploited in any way.
“To be fair, the criticism was the notion of it, not the execution. It was handled as sensitively as it could possibly be; you hardly see anything.”
Rheon had previously referred to the shocking nature of the scene in context with the rest of the show.
In an interview with The Independent in 2016, he said: “I understand why the reaction’s there because people have watched this girl grow up and they love her.
“But at the same time there was such an intense backlash about it, and it isn't the worst thing that's happened on Game of Thrones. You know, burning a child... nobody seems to go mad about that.”
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