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Emilia Clarke was asked to rewrite an entire 'Game of Thrones' scene in Valyrian, and she pulled it off in 10 minutes

INSIDER logoINSIDER 11/26/2020 insider@insider.com (Kim Renfro)
a woman smiling for the camera: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in "Game of Thrones." HBO © Provided by INSIDER Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in "Game of Thrones." HBO
  • Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd wrote a new oral history of "Game of Thrones," titled "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon."
  • In a new "outtake" interview, one of the show's directors revealed how star Emilia Clarke was able to rewrite a Daenerys speech at his last-minute request.
  • "I went over to Emilia and I was like, 'I know this is a really big ask, but do you think you could figure out a way to do this in Valyrian?'" Jeremy Podeswa said.
  • Clarke was able to pull together a version of her monologue in High Valyrian within 10 minutes.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Throughout "Game of Thrones," star Emilia Clarke frequently spoke in the fictional language of High Valyrian while embodying the iconic character Daenerys Targaryen. By the fifth season of the show, her mastery of this invented language was so thorough that she was able to rewrite her own dialogue.

Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd wrote a new oral history of "Game of Thrones," titled "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon," and recently published an "outtake" interview with director Jeremy Podeswa. In the interview, Podeswa recounts a time when the showrunners (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) asked if Clarke could change her dialogue from English to Valyrian for a scene.

"I went over to Emilia and I was like, 'I know this is a really big ask, but do you think you could figure out a way to do this in Valyrian?'" Podeswa said. "She went off and cobbled together things that [Daenerys] had said in the past that made sense. She came back in 10 minutes and had this whole monologue down."

a person standing in front of a building: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones" season five. Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO © Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones" season five. Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

The scene Clarke was rewriting took place in season five, in Daenerys' then-residence of Meereen. The Mother of Dragons was confronting a group of nobles after Ser Barristan was killed by a violent rebelling faction. She needed to intimidate them, hoping to draw out a betrayer, and the showrunners clearly thought her speaking Valyrian would make for a greater show of power.

In the books, Martin mentions when characters are speaking in non-English languages, but hadn't written out the phrases in alternate prose. The Valyrian language heard in "Game of Thrones" was created from scratch by linguist David J. Peterson, author of "The Art of Language Invention." Normally he would prepare scenes in Valyrian or Dothraki well in advance, to give the actors time to practice. 

Clarke was one of the few "Game of Thrones" actors who spoke Valyrian in the show regularly, given Daenerys Targaryen's familial connection to Valyrian culture.

When Clarke underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm, she said she would run lines from "Game of Thrones" in her head to help her focus more, including snippets of the fictional languages.

"I just had to hand it to Emilia for taking on the challenge and making it completely credible," Podeswa told EW. "Every single take, every intonation, and the way she phrased everything, you completely understood what she was meant to be saying."

"Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon," the official oral history of "Game of Thrones," is available in stores now.

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