Meet Game Of Thrones' weapons man

Tommy Dunne
Tommy Dunne

In Game Of Thrones, one man's sword is another man's nightmare. The weapons are custom-made to suit the height and size of the main actors, says the show's "weapons master" Tommy Dunne, who oversees the design and creation of the hundreds of weapons seen in the series.

"Occasionally, you get a new character come in and the other actors will be like, 'Wow, that's nice, why can't we have that weapon?'

"And then they try to lift it and it's super heavy, and they'll be like, 'Okay, never mind, you can have it'," he tells Life! in a recent telephone interview.

As one would expect, a weapon made for the massive The Mountain, who is played by the 2.06m-tall Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, 26, would be very different in weight and length as compared to a weapon made for the petite Arya Stark, who is played by the 1.55m-tall Maisie Williams, 18.

"Arya's sword Needle was made such a long time ago. When Maisie first joined the show, she was much younger - only 11 or 12. But we knew she would grow up with it and it still has to look like the same sword.

"So we had to anticipate that, but also make sure that it does not look too cumbersome in her small hands at the time. We really try as much as we can to hone the weapons, not just to the character - with the consistent look and theme of their House - but also to the actors."

The custom designs are indicative of the amount of detail that goes into every prop in the show, which helps to make the fantasy world of Game Of Thrones feel that much more real.

Even the weapons used by the thousands of extras in the show are painstakingly fashioned to look just as intricate as the ones carried by the central cast.

Dunne says: "I don't look at whether the actor is a lead or an extra. If the weapon is going to be on camera, it cannot look like it's easily bent or that it is rubbish and made of plastic.

"We can't have people looking at the screen and see a droopy sword. That would be terrible."

There are multiple versions of the same weapon made with different materials, in order to ensure safety and also realism.

When there is a need for close ups, actors typically carry swords made of stainless steel, which are "very presentable camera-wise". But those would be "way too dangerous", so the fights are often carried out with swords made of aluminium, while training is done with rubber or bamboo versions.

Dunne, a former welder who had previously made weapons for war miniseries Band Of Brothers (2001) and movies Gladiator (2000), Troy (2004) and Braveheart (1995), has worked as a weapons master on Game Of Thrones from Season 1 to the current fifth season.

He even got the chance to play a small part in the show as a blacksmith in the opening sequence of Season 4.

"The blacksmith wasn't worded the best way in the script. It says something like 'big, ugly, hairy guy with a bulky arm' and it doesn't give you a name, but you're like, 'Wait a second'. Then you suddenly realise that you're stuck in there with an apron. It's all good fun, but I just have to look brutish and dumb, and that's life."

Yip Wai Yee