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One Game Of Thrones Scene Was Too Gross For The Cast

"Game of Thrones" has a lot of really disgusting scenes scattered throughout its eight seasons, but one from the pilot was so gross in real life that it made both the actors and the crew sick.

According to James Hibberd's oral history "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon," which interviews essentially everyone who was ever involved with "Game of Thrones," the scene where Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and his sons find a stag carcass in the woods near Winterfell was so gross that people vomited ... because the show used a real dead stag rather than a prop. As Daniel Minahan, who directed a few episodes of Season 1 (though not the pilot), recalls, "There was a scene where they opened up the stomach of a stag [when the Starks find the direwolves in the reshot version of the first episode]. They did it for real, and it releases this horrible smell. All the actors—the boys—threw up."

Tim Van Patten, who did direct the series premiere, confirmed Minahan's report: "That is a fact. Instead of using a taxidermy stag and then cutting to show some organ meats, we had an actual dead stag. It was bloated and filled with gas. We did everything in the scene up to opening up the stag's belly. Then we got to that moment when we drive the knife into it. Nobody was expecting this: The entrails fell out, and the odor sent the crew scrambling and vomiting."

This disgusting scene is crucial to Game of Thrones' larger narrative

According to Brian Cogman, who wrote several episodes of "Game of Thrones," it was one of the worst things he'd ever experienced on a sensory level ... and he wasn't even directly on the set. "I've still never smelled anything so terrible, and I wasn't even anywhere near it," Cogman told James Hibberd in the book. "I was across the meadow in a producer's tent. Just thinking about it, I can smell it right now."

"I was sick and gagging and crying laughing," Tim Van Patten recalled, remembering the sheer ridiculousness of the shoot. So why was there even a dead stag involved in one of the scenes from the pilot of "Game of Thrones?" Early in the series premiere, Ned and some of his children — including his "bastard" son Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who's revealed to actually be his legitimate nephew much later in the series — come across the carcass of a stag and dead body of a direwolf in the woods. Then, they discover the direwolf's pups, and there are exactly enough for each Stark child to adopt one as their own. Though Ned is hesitant, Jon argues that since the direwolf is the sigil of House Stark, it's fate — and each pup finds a good home.

Though some of the direwolves meet disastrous ends — this is "Game of Thrones," after all — some, like Jon's white wolf Ghost, stay with their masters up until the end of the series. While it certainly would have been better for the actors to use a stag prop instead of a real carcass, there's no denying that the scene was completely necessary to the show.

All of "Game of Thrones" is available to stream on Max now.