The most shocking moment in the Game of Thrones season five finale? Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) assassination. Duh. But the most brutal and disturbing moment came long before the credits rolled: Cersei Lannister's (Lena Headey) horrifying walk of shame.
The Queen Mother was forced by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his religious cult to "atone" for her sins of incest and adultery by walking naked through all of King's Landing, including the worst parts of the city, while an angry mob shouted profanities and threw food, sewage and other offensive liquids on her. By the time she arrived home to the Red Keep, she was covered in so much filth, bleeding from her feet and head, and in tears...something we'd never thought we'd see from Cersei.
But it turns out that Headey isn't the only actress who gave a raw and brave performance while filming those tense scenes. She had a body double for the entire process!
Meet actress Rebecca Van Cleave, who worked closely with Headey during the three days it took to shoot the now-infamous naked walk of shame. According to EW, who spoke with Van Cleave on set, she performed the scene completely naked while Headey wore a beige shift during filming in Dubrovnik last October. CGI was used later to combine the two shots, putting Headey's face on Van Cleave's body.
"It was one of the scariest, most wonderful, most gratifying experiences I could have imagined," Van Cleave tells the magazine. "I never in a million years would have thought I would be in Dubrovnik surrounded by hundreds of extras and crew members throwing food at me, but it was amazing."
As for why Headey used a body double for the scene, there are "several reasons," according to the actress. First, she was pregnant at the time. Second, she wanted to focus on the emotions in the scene, rather than her nudity. "If somebody is brave enough to do this, I applaud it," Headey tells the magazine.
While filming the six-minute long scene, Headey walked Van Cleave through each shot, talking her through all the emotions Cersei was feeling.
"Lena was so good about walking beside me and guiding me into what Cersei was thinking and the movements," Van Cleave says. "We were playing tag team—‘You're it!'—and trying to make light of the fact we're all covered in everything and going through this together...The first time I took off the robe there was all this anticipation building up to it. But it's such an emotional experience for Cersei, you almost check out of the fact that you're nude. You're so in touch with the scene and what you're going for."
According to Van Cleave, there were some difficult parts as well to shooting for three days naked, while people yell horrible things and throw things at you.
"Particularly moments when I got all kinds of stuff thrown at me, with the chamber pots [being dumped out]," Van Cleave says. "Then on the last day, there was a well of emotion when she's finally getting to the end and I was getting to the end too—not in a bad way, it's almost like being one with the character."
And what was it like watching the final product when the finale aired on Sunday night, with her body attached to Headey's head?
"It was very surreal and emotional, to be honest," Van Cleave says. "I had a good little cry afterward...It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever done, but also the best experience of my life. And I hope the next thing I do will have my head in it!"
In the days after the episode aired, many fans were critical of the fact that Headey used a body double, and it wasn't until today that Van Cleave's name was revealed as the double. Her role on the show was so confidential that even her friends and family didn't know about it...but that's all changing now!
What do you think about Headey's decision to use a double for the harrowing scene? Could you tell the scene used CGI when you watched the finale the first time around? Hit the comments below to weigh in now!