The eyes of the world’s media were trained on Belfast this morning as HBO’s only official Game of Thrones touring exhibition was launched at Titanic Exhibition Centre.
Reporters and bloggers from around the globe were given a sneak preview of the exhibition of incredibly detailed costumes and props used in the hit show which concludes with six blockbuster episodes over the coming two months.
The exhibition, designed by GES Events in collaboration with HBO Licensing and Retail, includes two never seen before sets – the Winterfell Crypt of the Stark ancestors and Dragon Skull Pit – which have been exclusively added for Northern Ireland visitors.
Interactive parts of the exhibition allow visitors to become part of the hit HBO show, for example by taking a selfie which is uploaded to the Hall of Faces or posing for a snap with the sword of the late Ned Stark.
At today’s press conference, Belfast actor Ian Beattie, who plays Ser Meryn Trant, said: “The luckiest day this Province ever had was the day when HBO decided to film Game of Thrones here. The contribution to our economy is incalculable, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
He revealed that he had auditioned for season one of GOT but didn’t get the part: “I was thinking, they’re going to fly some actor over from England and put him up in a hotel and I live five minutes away from the studio.
“They called my back and auditioned me for the role of Ser Meryn Trant. I was lucky enough to get it. The role I originally auditioned for was Jory Cassel, who died in season one, episode five, whereas five years later I’m still going.”
Like Ian, Dublin actor Liam Cunningham joined the show in its second season, as Davos Seaworth. He said like most of the Game of Thrones actors he was also a huge fan of the show.
Of the exhibition he said: “I’m in the show and I’ve never been that close to those (dragon skulls). It puts the hair up on the back of my neck.”
Of the global appeal of Game of Thrones he said: “I was doing a publicity thing at the Dark Hedges, there was a bus pulled up and it was like the United Nations coming out of the bus. Two people from Sweden ran over to me, they couldn’t believe I was there. It was just coincidence. I don’t live there!
“I’ve bumped into two Americans who were honeymooning in Belfast because they’re romance had developed while they’d been watching Game of Thrones. Who would have said five or 10 years ago that Belfast was a honeymoon destination. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Isaac Hempstead Wright has been in the show since the beginning as Bran Stark. He said: “This has been all I’ve ever known. It’s actually quite difficult to remember my life before Game of Thrones because I was so young.
“I’ve got nothing but fabulous things to say about it, the people I’ve met on it, the time I’ve spent in Belfast, in this beautiful country, the friends I’ve genuinely made for life, the experiences it’s afforded me have been second to none.”
He added: “I’m just thinking of all the fabulous locations. If you didn’t tell anyone that was Northern Ireland you’d think it must be New Zealand or some other exotic place. How can one small country have so many extraordinary different locations which are only about 20 minutes out from a city centre.”
While there is plenty to interact with in the exhibition, the items that visitors cannot touch are arguably the most impressive. The handiwork of award-winning costume designer Michele Clapton bring the show to life on screen, but are even more impressive close up.
Asked what her favourite costume was from the show, she said: “It’s actually a group of costumes. I really liked the Unsullied. Sometimes an individual costume is interesting but when you actually have to design something and then make hundreds of them you have to be pretty sure about it. I remember reading in the book about these helmets with spikes on them and they could have gone so wrong. It was really interesting to create those costumes in all different shapes.”
As well as the exclusive Winterfell Crypt and Dragon Skull Pit, visitors can explore the settings and view authentic artefacts from:
• The wintry landscapes of the North
• The tree-lined pathway of the Kingsroad
• The regal settings of King’s Landing
• The conquered city of Meereen with its garrisons of Unsullied warriors and the loyalists of House Targaryen
• Iconic settings like the House of Black and White
• The home of the Night’s Watch – Castle Black
• The frozen lands Beyond the Wall
• The show stopping centrepiece of the exhibition, the Iron Throne Room
Game of Thrones: The Touring Exhibition opens tomorrow and runs until September 1.
During April and May the exhibition in TEC Belfast will be open from 10am to 7pm, Monday to Sunday. During June, July and August, it will be open from 9am to 8pm.
Tickets cost £15, for adults (13+) with carers going free. At peak times – weekends and summer months – tickets are £17.50.
There is also a Game of Thrones shop on site selling merchandise from the HBO show.