Game of Thrones’ deadly secrets
SHE'S the world's top female armourer, and Australian Natalia Lee masterminded one of the best parts of Game of Thrones - the fight scenes.
Previously, the weapons designer worked for NSW Police, supplying real guns and ammunition for detectives and tactical ops teams, before she entered the showbiz world.
And on Game of Thrones, Natalia was the brains behind the magnificent Heartsbane sword, the concealed dagger Sand Snake bracelet, Euron Greyjoy's axe, as well as catapults and cannons.
She had to work out the perfect chemical composition for the White Walkers' spectacular ice blades so they would be strong, clear and shatter-proof.
The 35-year-old marvelled at how the actors put up with the extreme cold of a glacier or scaled fortresses wielding heavy weapons, but says one actor stood out for his swordplay ability.
"Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau], Jaime Lannister, stands out," she told news.com.au. "He's very competent. He has a big action film background, he wants to do all his own stunts - he'll just be a perfectionist."
She was also impressed with Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), who joined the cast as a 12-year-old trainee killer. "It was a massive apprenticeship," Natalia said. "She sometimes fights with a different hand. Same with Jaime, he lost a hand. Maisie's so young and she'll be doing wire work, knife fights."
She said "The Mountain and the Viper" episode required incredible preparation, with the actors practising martial arts in their spare time.
Kit Harington (Jon Snow) was just as lovely and tough as his character, she said. "Kit was one of top guys there, he's so nice," she said. "We'd be in Iceland, balaclavaed up and the actors had to have their faces exposed. I don't know how they even said the words. He would still thank you every time.
"There's so much pressure on these guys, and he's really talented and committed to what he does."
Her favourite design was Heartsbane, the legendary sword of the House of Tarly, which took months to make. Natalia tries to incorporate references for fans, so the sword has mirrored archers in the cross-guard, the fletching of an arrow feather at the top, references to Biblical paintings and animals being maimed by other houses. It is made with bronze casting, traditional sculpting, rare burr elm wood to create a grain effect and a filigree scabbard.
The designer collaborates with talented craftsmen and sources materials such as marble and Swarovski crystal from across the world.
The weapons can do real damage, so safety is stringent, according to Natalia. The team typically created soft versions so a hammer can bounce off someone's head.
Even so, there have been regular onset scrapes, knuckle bruises and injured arms from archery.
As for Natalia, who is trained in self-defence, she occasionally had to step in for a cameo. "Sometimes it's a case of you're the only one that knows how to use a weapon," she said. "They threw me into this risque body armour with nipples, and I had to get the whip out. It had a heavy, bronze, carved handle and I have a stronger hand.
"They made me play a character the first year, it was freezing, This flat-chested Amazonian warrior that cuts ears off ... with black teeth. My mum was like, really, that's what you're going to be known for?"
The Aussie has created Viking, prehistoric and medieval weapons over eight years with the show and says she's now ready to go back to the modern world, but hopes her weapons will leave a legacy behind.
"I'd love to see one, one day in Sotheby's," she said. "They'll probably do massive auctions one day for charity.
"You can imagine with the labour cost of wages, sourcing materials ... some items can get very pricey if you're working for months and months on a custom piece.
"You meet people who know so much about a sword's history. They're very famous.
"They're becoming a priceless part of TV history."