Redanian Archives XIII: Behind the scenes of The Witcher’s climactic battle sequence

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In the last Redanian Archives, we discussed Netflix’s preparations for the filming of the Battle of Sodden, a key moment in The Witcher‘s season finale. This time, we’ll dive right into it, including behind the scenes pictures of the crew, a couple of new cast members, and the show’s first big wrap party.

Week 25: Something Ends, Sodden Begins

Week 25 was an end, but also a beginning. By Thursday, April 27, the cast and crew behind The Witcher had already assembled to celebrate the early wrap of many cast and crew members, including director Charlotte Brändström. That being said, the seasonal wrap was still a whole month away, and the crew still had to get through pilot reshoots, climactic sequences, and the season’s biggest battle: an adaption of the books’ Battle of Sodden.

Filming of the battle began earlier that week, with the show’s mage actors returning to Budapest to pick up the sequence where they’d left it following the quick Poland shoot. Mainstays Anya Chaltora (Yennefer), Therica Wilson-Read (Sabrina), Anna Shaffer (Triss), Mahesh Jadu (Vilgefortz), Mimi Ndiweni (Fringilla) and MyAnna Buring (Tissaia) were joined by Jack Bandeira (Young Alderman), Jim Caesar (role unknown), Judit Fekete (Vanielle of Brugge), Rhianna McGreevy (Coral, aka Lytta Neid) and possibly other unrevealed cast members. Readers of the books will remember the last two sorceresses, who had a particular role to play during the battle of Sodden Hill.

Director of Photography Jean Pierre Gossart’s chair at Egri var masolata

The battle was filmed in the ruins of Egri var masolata, a replica castle. The week before, members of the crew arrived on location, adding a gate, shrubbery and even building a tower on location to supplement the scenes. Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich, writer of the season finale and the “Battle of Sodden” was also on location. It’s important to note that we still don’t know per se that this battle will be set on Sodden Hill, as it was in the books, but it is clearly the show’s version of the sequence. First of all, let’s take a look at the location itself.

Egri var, before its Witcher makeover
The result
The gatehouse at the renovated Egri var
Behind the gatehouse
The tower at Egri var (this was taken after shooting on location was finished)
The tower and its surrounding area, in another image taken after The Witcher wrapped on the sequence
Inside the tower

Which scenes were filmed at Egri var masolata? Well, we’ve already mentioned this is the season finale’s climactic battle sequence. On one side, we have the armies of the Northern Realms, including-but-not-necessarily-limited-to the Temerians. The Temerian army is led by Shaun Dooley‘s incestuous King Foltest, who viewers will know by that time as the man who sent Geralt on a particularly violent monster contract in Episode 3. Joining the army (or armies) are the mages of the North, led by Mahesh Jadu’s Vilgefortz of Roggeveen. On the opposing side is the Nilfgaardian Empire, shepherded by a general (possibly Mate Haumann‘s “Field Marshal”), Ndiweni’s sorceress Fringilla Vigo and the notoriously creepy, winged-helmet wearing Vicovarian knight Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach. Now, let’s take a look at some of our best pictures from Egri.

A hooded mage enters the tower at Egri (the same tower as the previous picture)
A mage in costume behind the scenes
A Nilfgaardian knight engulfed in smoke outside Egri var
Lighting the walls of Egri var
Buckets of fake blood on location
The crew gathered around Egri’s gatehouse, while the smoke machines work their magic
Filming at Egri with a crane
The silhouette of Egri

And now, as promised, we have new insight on the scenes filmed at Egri var. As previously mentioned, the battle will see the armies of the North and Nilfgaard, as well as mages from both sides clash. But that is not all. This sequence, set in the ruins of the castle, will also involve war refugees (perhaps led by Bandeira’s “Young Alderman”). A couple of new castings of minor roles (confirmed on social media) show that these refugees include nobles as well. One of them is Angelika Lombos‘ character which she describes as a “Patrician girl beside the Queen” (presumably referring to the then dead Queen Calanthe of Cintra). Joining her is Kamilla Alvarez-Hanuszek, who describes her character as a “refugee girl”. We have pictures of both in costume, as shared on their Instagram accounts.

Angelika’s harstyle during the shoot
Kamilla as the refugee girl
A new image from Egri. Notice the costumed extra on the right
A closer look at the extra, wearing heavy furs. Could he be a soldier from one of the Northern Kingdoms, like Kaedwen?
Crew at Egri var, via IGN’s BTS video (linked below)
Soldiers and a refugee/sorceress being shot down in the Egri var gatehouse (via IGN)

With The Witcher‘s “main trailer” released, we got a few quick shots from the “Battle of Sodden”. The first is of Chalotra’s Yennefer wearing a dress fitted with ropes (and pulling it off). The second features Buring’s Tissaia, probably in the Polish castle Ogrodzieniec (which Egri has likely been combined with in post-production). Lastly, we see cowering people which we can now assume are refugees hiding behind the castle walls as an explosion destroys the gate. It appears that the refugees are being besieged by Nilfgaard.

Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer at Egri var (or Ogrodzieniec), the location of a battle sequence
A leaked picture of Anya Chalotra in the same costume, caught in Poland. The scenes filmed there will be part of the same sequence
Mahesh Jadu’s Vilgefortz in costume
A location glimpsed in the trailer
The gate of Egri var is destroyed in an explosion

Excited for the season finale’s big battle scene? So are we, and we’ll briefly revisit it in the next Archives post. But we’re not quite finished for today. Week 25 was one of the busiest in The Witcher‘s season one production, and the crew’s second unit was filming day and night shoots in parallel with the Sodden sequence, with scenes related to Ciri’s and Geralt’s storylines.

IGN was able to visit one of these locations, a military camp, as well as the Egri var battle sequence. They’ve shared a sneak peek in the video below and are expected to provide a full month of Witcher-related coverage and BTS material throughout December (both before and after the show premieres).

IGN promises a month-long coverage of The Witcher in December

The clapperboard in the video notes they were filming an early scene from the show’s fifth episode under direction of Charlotte Brandström (who would wrap on the show the following day). With Geralt’s chair in the video in a very similar forest, it’s possible that Henry Cavill was on location. Why? To fight a group of decaying monsters, perhaps? Below we’ve included some gifs from the IGN video, provided by the Tumbler account Witcher News (thanks for making these, Witcher News!).

The clapperboard proves this is an early scene from episode 5, directed by Charlotte Brändström, filmed in April 26
IGN interviews Roach
Extras march to the location
A soldier in red leather at the Gyarpatpuszta camp

The above military camp should be familiar to fans of Redanian Intelligence. In May, our excellent spy @GoTlikeLocations was able to visit the very same military camp set and take a series of exclusive photographs. For an inside look at the camp and another of The Witcher‘s shooting locations, check out the article below.

RELATED ARTICLE: Redanian Intelligence Exclusive: An Inside Look at Two Sets Used in The Witcher’s First Season

The military encampment, as photographed by @GoTlikeLocations
A tent spattered with blood
Another sample from @GoTlikeLocations’ visit to The Witcher’s set (read the article for the full story, and many more pictures)

Was the clapperboard scene the same one as the scene in the camp? It’s hard to tell. The forest does look somewhat similar, but it’s possible the clapperboard sequence is something else entirely. Regarding that was a very busy filming location (which we will return to in a future Archives entry). It’s safe to say the camp has appeared more than once in the show’s recent trailer (in fact, appearing in two entirely different scenes from the one featuring the soldiers in IGN’s video).

Ciri arrives to the camp after the fall of Cintra, where she seems to find Cintran soldiers and refugees. Though this is a scene from episode 2, it was only filmed in May (and we’ll be talking more about it in a future Archives post)
Ciri and Dara escaping the camp, as it’s attacked by Nilfgaardians
Geralt slaying ghouls in the camp, where he finds the corpses left behind the Nilfgaardian attack

Next, we have a few more pictures from the locations of Week 25, including a lake and a tunnel built in the studio.

A tunnel built in The Witcher’s HQ at Origo studios, where scenes were filmed the same week

At the end of the week, the crew took to Budapest’s Hotsy Totsy bar to celebrate an important milestone. With director Charlotte Brändström wrapped, only the final two episodes of the season (and pilot reshoots) remained incomplete. The last leg of production would last the key cast and crew another month, but many would wrap their filming in the days and weeks that followed this party.

Adam Levy, feeder number 1, wraps filming for The Witcher

On the next Redanian Archives, we’ll talk reshoots and cover another of @GoTlikeLocations‘ famous leaks, this time featuring a Nilfgaardian camp and a troublesome trebuchet.

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