Game of Thrones creators Dan ‘DB’ Weiss and David Benioff recognize that filming the often brutal show involved making hard choices. The duo, who earlier this week stepped away from a new Star Wars trilogy to focus on their Netflix deal, recently spoke about using a real baby in a terrifying scene in order to ensure authenticity.
In a crucial scene with the Night King, a baby was expected to be exposed on a block of ice prior to sacrifice. Rather than using a fake baby — something that has been widely criticized in films like American Sniper where the baby was obviously a doll — Weiss and Benioff decided to go for the real deal.
Speaking at the Austin film festival, the co-directors laughed as they recalled the terrifying experience of working with a real baby in sub-zero temperatures. “The first scene that the Night King appears in was directed by the great Michelle MacLaren and was the most frightened I’ve ever been on set,” Benioff said. “Not because of the Night King, but because we had a baby, a real baby, there was like an altar made of ice, and I think it was real ice?”
The director then confirmed that it was real ice since fake ice “just never looks real.” Finally, they placed the baby on top of the block of ice and the Night King walked up and put his clawed finger on the child’s face. Unsurprisingly, the baby began screaming. "I’m like ‘we’re f***ing traumatizing this poor kid,'" Benioff said. Weiss agreed, adding, "It was not our proudest moment."
The scene, which was meant to show how baby boys were sacrificed to the White Walkers to protect baby girls, also called for showing the baby boys privates, something that the mother objected to. “It was very important for the story, because the boy children got given [to the White Walkers] and that the girls stayed,” Weiss said. Eventually, the baby’s mother had the final and the baby appeared wrapped.
Although the directors needed to do some reshoots of the scene, the baby’s mother decided that her child had endured enough ‘trauma’ and chose to decline the invitation.
There are numerous restrictions for babies working on films and television. In California, for example, a baby must be at least 15 days old to appear onscreen. However, they are only allowed to be on set for a total of two hours in a single day and their total workday cannot exceed 20 minutes if they are under 6 months of age.
In addition, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and a nurse must be present. As for pay, babies usually get the same pay rate as an extra or background actor, which is $126 per day, yet a baby's agent or guardian can negotiate better terms, and an infant can be paid like a principal performer, which starts at $737 per day.