Among other reasons, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was notable because it includes the longest battle sequence ever filmed. The third episode, “The Long Night,” features an epic showdown between the forces of the living and the dead at the Stark ancestral home of Winterfell.
Behind the scenes, shooting the sequence was a battle in itself. The Battle of Winterfell required 55 days of night shoots over the course of 11 consecutive weeks to finish. “If that hadn’t been the last season, there would have been a mutiny halfway through the night shoots,” Nikolai Coster-Waldau told James Hibberd in his book Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon. Production designer Deborah Riley called it a “logistical nightmare” to put together.
Now, reports that stunt performer Casey Michaels is suing Fire & Blood Productions (a subsidiary of HBO) over an injury sustained during the making of that episode. As Variety explains, according to the court documents, Michaels is asking for $5 million in damages. The case is expected to be heard before a judge sometime this summer unless a settlement is reached out of court.
Michaels played a wight during the climactic battle. She was injured while filming a scene where a mob of the undead zombies spilled over the castle battlements and walked off a roof to continue swarming the living below. The roof was around 12 feet high, with a rig below it comprised of cardboard boxes and mats to break the stunt performers’ fall. “By their nature, however, the cardboard boxes are not durable and become damaged as each stunt performer lands on the box rig and also as each stunt performer climbs off of the box rig after landing,” Michaels asserts in the claim.
There were 28 stunt performers in the group of wights that went over the roof; Michaels was the last to step off. She landed feet-first on the box rig, resulting in a “serious fracture dislocation to her left ankle,” despite the fact that she was wearing shin, knee, elbow, hip and back pads.
The court documents state that the injury resulted in multiple surgeries to Michaels’s foot, including the placement of a metal plate and screws. As a result, she’s had to undergo “lengthy, intensive” physiotherapy, as well as treatment for depression and trauma. The claims state that according to Michaels’s doctors, her range of motion has been severely reduced by the injury, which has restricted her from doing everything from skiing or running to basic activities like shopping or gardening. She has not been able to work since sustaining the injury.
Michaels comes from a family of seasoned stunt performers. Her father Wayne Michaels was a stand-in for Pierce Brosnan in the 1995 James Bond film Goldeneye while her mother Tracey Eddon was a stunt double for Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983).
For its part, Fire & Blood Productions claims Michaels did not follow the stunt coordinator’s directions on how to properly drop off the roof, but instead landed “‘like a pencil,’ in a rigid or vertical manner,” and that the box rig that caught her was “durable and was not compressed when a stunt performer stepped off onto the mattress and rolled away.” The company believes the injury was “caused either by the Claimant’s failure to execute the pleaded stunt properly and/or with the skill and care of a reasonably competent stunt performer or by pure accident.”