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Why the Mountain’s Fight Against the Faith Militant on Game of Thrones Took So Long to Shoot, and What’s Next in Cersei vs. the High Sparrow

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

Lancel Lannister is a walking, talking reminder of Cersei’s crimes against, if not humanity, than at least against Westeros. This is the man with whom she conspired to kill King Robert, via the fortified wine he gave him during the boar hunt. (And she thanked her cousin for doing so by sleeping with him during her lover/brother’s absence.) Cersei confessed to the latter, which bought her a walk of shame, a bad haircut, and house arrest at the Red Keep while she awaits trial on the charges of fornication, incest, treason, and murder. But perhaps because she tipped her hand about how brutal her zombie champion can be, she’s been backed into another corner — no more trial by combat! Following that revelation, the actor who plays Lancel, Eugene Simon, chatted with Vulture about confronting the Mountain, the High Sparrow’s hypocrisy, and loving Lannisters.

Happy birthday!
Thank you! I had a lovely weekend. I went with a few friends to a place where they had a mechanical bull, though I didn’t go on it. Maybe next time! [Laughs.] I have a little neck injury from filming a while ago, so I didn’t want to set it off.

Maybe you can use that as excuse any time you don’t want to do a stunt. “Um, neck injury!”
Oh, no! It’d be the opposite — I’d say, “Oh, please, let me do it!” And they would tell me, “No, you have a neck injury,” and I would insist, “No, I’m fine, I’m fine!” There was a stunt I wanted to do a long time ago, when I was filming Ben-Hur in Morocco, and we were riding these chariots, and one of the chariots tips over and falls down. They needed someone who looked like me for a high-speed race, and I was like, “Pick me! Pick me! I’ll do it!”
Let’s talk about the scene where your fellow Faith Militant had a much more serious neck injury — he lost his head. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, ever since we saw Cersei say her unforgettable line “I choose violence” in the trailers.
Yes! There was such a sense of suspense around which way this would go once the Mountain steps in. We figured a lot of people would think Lancel was going to die — he’s going to confront the Mountain, here we go!

And the Mountain is wearing about 58 pounds of armor, so a lot of what we needed to do was figure out the technicalities of getting the cudgel in and out of the armor. That was the toughest bit of shooting, getting that right. The scene took about two-and-a-half days for us to film. By the end of the shoot, when Hafþór Björnsson [who plays the Mountain] — who is an enormous, six-foot-nine giant of a man — rips the head off my now-decapitated colleague, it was actually from a life-size dummy that had congealed pus and blood at the base of the neck. It splattered blood all over the Faith Militant, but I don’t think the cameras were on us at the time, so you didn’t see that.
I like how you calmly refer to him as “my now-decapitated colleague.”
[Laughs.] He’s a great stuntman. He’s named Mowgli, like in The Jungle Book. He was really fun to work with, and he took his job very seriously. He had to be lifted cleanly off his feet, and in order to do that, we had to do about five takes where he was having the life strangled out of him. He was exhausted by the end of it, just knackered.
The High Sparrow seems to be a little hypocritical when it comes to who has to atone, who has to stand trial, and for what crimes. Lancel committed adultery, incest, treason, and murder right along with Cersei, and yet he seems to be exempt from any charges. Why no walk of shame or trial for him?
I think Lancel did penance for the wrongdoings in his past, and essentially accounted for his crimes with a lifetime of servitude to the Faith. In other words, penance is his walk of shame. He’ll be doing that walk of shame for the rest of his life. It’s never been understood whether or not Lancel confessed to his sins and underwent a sort of degree of punishment the same way that Cersei or Margaery would, but that’s where things get interesting. That’s where we start to see that there is something politically motivated about the Faith Militant. It’s not as idealistic as it likes to think it is. It’s a sort of communist uprising, because it’s very much about demeaning the figures of authority, and trying to create a sense of equality when that’s not really fully possible. So because Lancel had helped them, because he had shown them just how bad Cersei really is, he has in a sense paid his dues.
But justice is being applied in very different ways for different characters. That’s what’s so worrisome about the Faith — they say it’s the gods’ decision, but they are ultimately the ones who decide. And Lancel is only too happy to absolved here, because he’s indoctrinated. He doesn’t know any better. But Lancel is harmless to the Faith, because he adheres to their ideological order, whereas Cersei and Margaery still are a threat because they are figures of power. So it still is very much a political fight for power, and in that sense, the Faith is not as righteous as it makes itself out to be.
The deal that the High Sparrow offered to Loras is to follow Lancel’s example — renounce his name and title, and live his life as a penitent. Which basically undermines both the Lannisters and the Tyrells.
Absolutely. Undermining the status of the current order is at the heart of the Faith. Their unspoken goal.
So what do you think about Tommen’s decree abolishing trial by combat?
I personally find it rather interesting, because there were a number of people, myself included, who thought that Lancel might face off against the Mountain in a trial by combat. [Laughs.] I certainly think Lancel’s odds probably wouldn’t be too high there.
Some fans were hoping for a fight between the Hound and the Mountain, Cleganebowl, and this ruling seems to be shutting that down.
It does. Cersei has been possibly checkmated, because before the odds were hugely stacked in her favor, and now she has no other choice except a formal trial. To me, it comes down to the question of which one is more cunning than the other — Cersei or the High Sparrow?
Well, the High Sparrow certainly outwitted her by using Tommen and Lancel, her own son and cousin, against her.
It’s one of the reasons people love the Lannisters so much, because while they are on one level a family, they’re also an assembled mass of individuals with various degrees of loathing for their duties. Before he joined the Faith, Lancel was trying to do everything to be a strong Lannister figure, the way Tywin and the Lannister legacy demands that you be. They’re all trying desperately hard to be that. And yet, to be that, they have to destroy one another. They totally cannibalize each other and themselves just to try to remain in control. It’s completely counterintuitive. Whereas a family like the Tyrells, they’re a real, proper mafia-like family. They are people who really stick together, and protect one another. The Lannisters, though, each of them has a various degree of a broken life, and for that reason, they’re all the more human.
Not that it’s going to happen, but I would love to see what a Lannister family dinner would even look like at this point, if Cersei, Jaime, Lancel, Kevan, and Tommen could sit down and try to have a conversation. So many problems could be resolved if these people would just talk to one another.
I would love that, too. A big family reunion! I’d like Kevan to look his boy in the eye, tell him that he loves him, and how he doesn’t need to go to this extreme just to avoid or pretend or deny or make justifications for who he used to be. And I would also love for Lancel to confront Jaime.
I’m not sure whether Jaime is aware of the crime Cersei confessed to, the affair with Lancel. It doesn’t seem like they had that conversation.
I don’t think he is aware. And it’s interesting that you say that, because the first time we see Lancel this season is outside the Sept of Baelor, when the Tyrell army came to intervene, and Lancel was right in front of Jaime. What must have been going through Lancel’s mind! A very mixed bag of emotions, which he suppressed, and Jaime is seemingly none the wiser. There’s not much reality-checking going on in the Lannister household!

This interview has been condensed and edited.

GOT’s Eugene Simon on High Sparrow vs. Cersei