6 Scintillating Details Behind The Witcher's Creation
Whether you are an ardent fan of The Witcher or not, you certainly want to know the most impressive behind-the-scenes secrets about the new Netflix series. Why does Henry Cavill avoid using stunt doubles? How does one choreograph a fight between a witcher and a monster? Where is the witcher's silver sword? And what does Joey Batey, aka Jaskier, actually think about one particularly catchy song? Let’s get to know the coolest on-set details of The Witcher!
The perfect witcher
And the first thing you should know is that Henry Cavill was considered the perfect fit for the role of Geralt of Rivia – from the earliest stages of the project. According to the new Netflix podcast about The Witcher series, there were several people who were auditioning for the role of the mutated monster-hunter. But, actually, there was no real competition!
Henry Cavill – a huge fan of the video games and the world of The Witcher – came up to the showrunners before they even had any material for him to read! And, what is more important, he was super-ready for the role, having read all of the books and having in mind how to portray the series' titular character. And when Henry Cavill finally had the chance to show it – it was “absolutely the right fit”, because he had managed to find that “very subtle element of dark humor” that was a vital part of such a complex character as Geralt of Rivia.
Sophie Holland, the casting director of the new Netflix series, revealed in a recent interview with ‘Metro.co.uk’s Audition Room’: “To be honest from the moment he opened his mouth, we just knew. We just knew.”
By the way, Henry was so serious about thinking his character through, that he even invented a unique accent for Geralt. First, he took the idea of adding roughness to the witcher’s voice from the video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which was Cavill’s primary inspiration. Then, he developed Geralt’s own accent in order to show how much he is different from the others – apart from his white hair and spooky eyes.
“For me, it was about bringing a voice to Geralt which was expressing the essence of who he is in the books and bringing that to the space in the format that was allowed within the show.” – the actor explained.
So that’s how Geralt got to show his Rivian background (although he’s not actually from Rivia, you know). And that wasn’t the only extraordinary thing Henry Cavill did for the role.
No stunt doubles, please!
We don’t know how exactly and at what moment Cavill made it clear that he’s gonna do all the fight scenes by himself – but that’s what happened! As he later explained on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’, the character exists within an action. And doing acting scenes separately from action scenes is not good for the performance:
"It's really important that the story and the character travel through all of those things," he said.
Also, Geralt’s job – killing monsters – is a very important part of who he is, so in order to fully embody him, Henry Cavill felt he should embody that aspect, too. The Witcher's showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich confirmed that Cavill did his own stuntwork, saying:
“Every time Geralt is on screen – Henry is on screen, even if it’s just his hand. No one else acts as Geralt.”
Which is, actually, a very unusual thing in cinematography! So next time you re-watch that scene with kikimore, and see the witcher losing his sword while he’s underwater – remember that it’s Henry Cavill who is underwater. Which is pretty cool even if the kikimore isn’t real! And, as we’ve already mentioned it…
How to fight an (almost real) kikimore?
The Witcher impresses us with various kinds of fight scenes. And it starts from the very first episode when a giant spider-like creature emerges from under the water. Vladimir Furdik (whom you probably know as the Night King from The Game of Thrones) was responsible for designing and choreographing all of the fights in the first season of The Witcher.
But have you ever thought of how fights with non-existing monsters are created? Just imagine – Vlad has spent almost a month working on that 2-minute clash with the kikimore! Being an excellent fighter, the first thing Furdik does is think about the way in which Geralt wields his swords. As a magically enhanced professional monster hunter with massive experience, the witcher is able to predict the next steps of the dreadful creatures he fights (otherwise, he wouldn’t survive!). So, according to Furdik, Geralt’s fighting style should look “kind of like ballet” sometimes.
But again, what about taking down the monster? Vlad started to think about the fight between Geralt and the kikimore just as he always does it – in the gym. The kikimore in the show was three meters tall and had eight legs. You cannot fully imagine that – you need some kind of prosthetics! So Vlad went shopping and bought long plastic pipes. And, with the help of six people, standing on the table, he created his own kikimora dummy. And laying on the floor, under these improvised giant spider legs, he started mapping out the fight, with as many details as possible; like how a spider would move, and how Geralt would try to take it down, and every turn where things might go wrong.
The scene was changed 6 or 7 times before it was shown to the director. Afterward, it was changed several times again while preparing it for shooting with Henry Cavill. And that is just a glimpse into the amazing job the crew of The Witcher series does while creating this epic tale. So here’s another detail all the fans of the show would love to know - …
The iconic witcher swords
While researching and designing the weapons we see on screen, the show’s supervising armorer, Nick Jeffries, took into account not only the time period (which is the equivalent of the Medieval times) but the type of person brandishing the weapon. Like, you know, ordinary townsfolk aren’t likely to fight with luxurious scimitars, as it's practically impossible. It’s like “an English knight in 1400 would have a Chinese weapon,” Jeffries says.
It also means that for the sake of authenticity, sometimes you have to drop the iconic looks, even if it follows the logic of a fantasy novel. For example, fans were a bit disappointed not to see Geralt’s silver sword – the one that is lethal against monsters. On the show, the prized silver blade more often stays in Roach’s saddlebag, not in the witcher’s hands. And there are at least two reasons for it.
First, silver is quite a soft metal, so it should be used on rare occasions, like when another witcher’s sword, forged out of pure meteorite, is not enough, and there’s a need for hard-core magical stuff (like in the fight with the kikimore). Secondly, silver is expensive, so showing it around all the time would not be a very smart move, right?
By the way, while most of The Witcher’s cast use fake rubber swords, the one used by Henry Cavill is real. In the process of creating it, Nick Jeffries did a lot of research in museums - in London and in Hungary, because the design department wanted to have a Slavic touch to everything. Moreover, according to the armorer, Cavill was heavily involved in the sword design process, and so it’s size, the cut, and how it would move in his hands were taken into account.
As you can see, every detail, whether big or small, is important.
Where was The Witcher filmed?
And hardly anything can be more important for an exciting fantasy adventure saga than incredible shooting locations. The events in the series take place on multiple sets. But where exactly was The Witcher filmed? Well, we have an answer for that, too! As the story is rooted deeply in Slavic folklore, it's no wonder that many scenes were filmed in Eastern Europe. And although a good deal of CGI has been used, most of the landscapes and castles on The Witcher are very much real. One of the primary shooting locations was, of course, the homeland of Andrzej Sapkowski - Poland.
Some of the wintery scenes were shot there, but what is more important for us fans is that the Battle of Sodden was shot near Krakow, on the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle. The other real-life castle in The Witcher series is Kreuzenstein Castle in Austria. It served as the exterior of Vizima (well, you remember, the place where Geralt fought with the striga!). Yet another notable shooting location was Tata Castle in Hungary, used as the location of Yennefer’s house in episode 5, and Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest, which served as the inner courtyard of the wizard Stregobor’s house. Although, all of the interiors were filmed in a studio in Budapest.
What might surprise you is that most of the scenes were in fact shot on the Canary Islands in Spain! For example, the setting for the magical academy of Aretuza was shot in Roque de Santo Domingo in Garafia. And the islet itself is located off the coast of La Palma. Unfortunately, the dark rocky fortress doesn't exist in real life, so this is where technology was used to create a breathtaking view. However, even the most dazzling locations aren't enough for creating a proper Medieval atmosphere.
The music as an indispensable element of the series
And if you ever doubted that music is an indispensable element of the TV show, now you’ve got solid proof. Whether you are a fan of The Witcher or not, you certainly know one thing about the series – for sure because it’s just inevitable – Jaskier’s catchy song has an army of followers of its own! And it’s so annoying that even its performer, Joey Batey, admitted that he had it in his head for eight months!
Written by the show's composers, Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli, it’s not exactly in the style of Medieval minstrel songs – but, hey, who cares! "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" was perfect for the plot – and became the perfect hit, that deserves to be on Spotify! By the way, Joey Batey is a vocalist in his own band, ‘The Amazing Devil’, so when he got the role of Jaskier, he was sure he’s gonna do it just fine.
“I was really excited because I just thought 'Oh, no, I don't need to have a perfect voice," he said in an interview with Men’s Health.
Joey described his character as “the normal guy who sings in the bars and taverns and tells the stories of this wonderful world of the Continent." Batey also revealed that he took part in putting together the final version of the song with the show's composers. And when he had to re-record the vocals about six months after the shooting of the first season was wrapped up, for Joey it was a “wonderful experience” that helped him deal with “massive withdrawal symptoms”.
Don’t worry, Joey, you are not the only one who got them – we all can’t wait to see Season 2 of The Witcher. And to hear some new tales from the most famous bard of the Continent, especially those about a certain witcher.