Game of Thrones' final season has been a long time coming, but according to David Nutter, it's worth the wait.
The director has helmed some of the series' most emotional episodes, including the Red Wedding in season three's "The Rains of Castamere" and Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) first ride on Drogon in season five's "The Dance of Dragons." He won an Emmy in 2015 for directing the season five finale, "Mother's Mercy," which saw Cersei's (Lena Headey) naked walk of shame through King's Landing, and he's back to direct the season eight premiere.
"It was the first time that I was able to actually direct the premiere episode of the season, so I'm just nervous. Hopefully, the audience will like it, starting season eight, but I'm very confident that they will," Nutter tells ET, admitting that while many characters have died on his watch, he just can't reveal if the trend continues.
"I know that I can say this: If you're a fan of the show, you will be completely satisfied by where the series goes to. They've really done a tremendous job in servicing the drama and the characters and so forth, and there are many ups and downs and twists and turns all across the Game of Thrones society and the world they are," he says.
While Nutter is set to direct the season eight premiere -- as well as a rumored two other episodes in the six-episode season -- he knows exactly how the acclaimed HBO series ends. According to the director, he was present alongside the cast and the creative team as they did a giant table read of the entire season.
"It's a magical thing you watch," he says. "And it's funny because one of the actors hadn't really read what was happening next. He read the sequences as they were happening, and it was quite an emotional time for all of us to see where this whole story goes to."
ET: Was there a lot of pressure coming into season eight? What was your approach to directing these last episodes?
David Nutter: After season five, I personally went on a little bit of a physical journey of my own and the situation was heavy, with knee surgery and back surgery, all these various things. I was saying to myself, “I'm never going to be able to do this again.” [So] I was so excited to come back. I was so excited I was given another chance to do this wonderful show. And it's such a wonderful family, it's such a big family, and it's a situation in which everyone's so amazingly good at what they do.
To me, it was the culmination of many years of hard work and it was... the pressure was always there, but we really delved into it and enjoyed doing it because we all knew how positive it could be, and I think that that's something I'll take with me for the rest of my life.
You had done these pilots and individual projects in the meantime, but Game of Thrones is this massive show with a huge, involved story and an incredible fan base. How did you get back into the swing of things?
Having directed six episodes before, I knew everybody quite well. I felt I knew many of the actors from the get-go from season two. Just the maturity of Maisie [Williams] and Sophie [Turner] and Sansa and Arya and Jon Snow and Kit [Harington] and everybody, they're kind of going into these characters and so forth, and what was so fascinating was the fact that ... how wonderfully cast they were at the beginning of the process, and how they have come to play them at such a rich level.
They've been with these characters for so long.
When I came back this season, I talked to the actors and I said, “I have to tell you guys something. The audience just wants to see you breathe.” There's such a connection with these characters and so forth and I think that an audience emotionally involved in something, it gets them to really care about what they're watching. It's such an important gift and an important task in anything you do.
I think that the reason the Red Wedding was such a popular episode was, of course, because for three years, they watched these characters grow and go through all kinds of stuff, various incarnations and battles and various occasions. And then to see these characters they loved so dearly, and deeply, taken away from you so much at this period of time just moves you beyond measure.
Are we in for more death? What can you reveal about the final season?
It's such a complete and satisfying finale and where the show goes to, and the journey that it takes, that it lives up to the hype and lives up to why the audience loves the show so much. It's going to be something quite, very special.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO in April 2019.
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