'Heartsbane Sword inspired by biblical renaissance paintings,' says 'Game of Thrones' Armorer Natalie Lee
Meet Natalie Lee, the creator of the 'Heartsbane Sword' from Game of Thrones and her incredible journey as a weaponist so far!
Meet Natalie Lee, the creator of the popular 'Heartsbane Sword' which belongs to the House Tarly and is the ancestral Valyrian steel sword in the 'Game of Thrones' universe. Natalie is a weapon and armory specialist and is known for creating customized weapons.
Meaww catches up with Natalie to uncover the back story of the famous 'Heartsbane Sword' and her journey as a weaponist:
What is the story behind the ‘Heartsbane Sword’ on 'Game of Thrones'?
Heartsbane... nice sword... if I don’t say so myself. So 'Game of Thrones' fans out there will know it’s the House of Tarly ancestral sword that Samwell Tarly stole from his family home. A lot of effort went into designing this sword... I really wanted the sword to tell a story and incorporated elements pertaining to the script. In this case, I wanted to include the House of Tarly sigil … the hunting archers. I incorporated mirrored archers centrally in the crossguard maiming other house sigil animals. I cczz and classic hunting rifle engravings.
If you look closely there’s Lannister Lions wounded with the archer’s arrows along with Targaryen Dragons, Baratheon Stags etc. There’s a large arrow running down the full length of the handle with the pommel flaring out for the feather fletching. This was 3D printed from my sketches to create a mould to then cast in bronze. The crossguard utilized traditional sculpting methods. The handle and scabbard was made with burr elm wood showcasing rare grain patterns and unique cracks for an ancestral antique look. The sword took months to complete and was a collaborative effort with some very talented folk.
What was your experience working as a stunt woman on 'GOT'?
I was still working as the supervising armourer on set so weapons master Tommy Dunne had to take over while I jumped into costume. The costume was quite revealing...it had a sculptured torso with some questionable detailing like the Bat suit...apparently, there was a little bit of a scandal about it later on. (Tommy and I then argued over who has had the most sneaky cameos...he has had a few appearances I will give him that...one in a questionable leather attire as a Butcher, Blacksmith or Barber I forget which)!!! I was doubling one of the Sand Snake chicks, Nym from the Martell bunch.
I designed a bullwhip with a bronze cast snake, coiled around the handle encrusted with a big Swarovski jewel in its tail. The actress was amazing and did all of her own stunts on the day which is ideally what you want. As for me, I got to jump back into my civies (civilian clothes), and cop a little traditional commentary from my crew. It was pretty cool to be a stuntman for a little while, but it can be a tough gig, endless training sessions, extreme weather conditions, crazy costumes, really painful weapons?? I work with a lot of incredible stunt teams, and these guys and gals are super dedicated to their craft. It’s a full-time job especially making sure you’re looking after your body when you’re taking all those beatings... (usually from my weapons LOL)... so I have a lot of respect for them.
Tell us about the process of creating custom weapons and props.
With Film Armoury most things begin with a script. You then seek references and research that may come from a variety of sources… books, manuals, seeking out specific experts or going through museum artifacts. You may need to put together teams, and specific workshops. You may need to design the weapon first, atmother times, it’s about modifying existing ones. With film, you’re almost definitely going to have stunts and action…that dictates the safety variants you will have to make. There may be a variety of individuals and departments to liaise with…Directors, Producers, Visual Effects, Special Effects, Stunts and Actors to name a few. It’s a complex process.
Was the weapons and arms industry open to a female pursuing such a career path? What were some of the obstacles that you faced?
Ummm...yes and no. Most men are keen to support women in roles like mine, but usually, there isn’t a support structure in place to facilitate it. I’ve recently seen a massive shift in attitudes which is the biggest obstacle. Men tell me their daughters are interested in what I do and want to pursue similar career paths. This is huge...and very different from when I first started.
The arms industry have started to see women as another potential market for a revenue stream so like Hollywood that means they will cater more to consumer’s needs. Women’s frustrations over inequality have reached a collective critical mass, so women are claiming their rights and fiercely defending them. At the same time, gender stereotypes are being challenged, and all of this is creating a perfect storm for real and sustained change...honestly, I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime.
Most male-dominated environments I enter follow a similar cycle...they want women to participate. Men want to help empower women through a certain skill set, but they are not used to working with them so they can scare them off or make it awkward. This is where women at experienced positions like me have a responsibility to help. Hollywood plays an important role. Popular culture influences mindsets, so it’s imperative we are exposed to as many visual examples of females in unorthodox roles as possible.
All parents need to think that it’s normal for a young girl to have interests that are perceived as masculine. Imagine a young girl excited by the prospect of being a soldier, pilot or a boxer but her mother keeps telling her that’s not for a woman... girl’s don’t do that. These are huge barriers and they usually start in the home. As women, we have all experienced our parents trying to protect us, but it actually disables us and even worse – makes us dependent. Now look at laws, legislation, and recruitment in all sorts of industries...are they encouraging this attitude or creating initiatives for a change...we are now forcing responsibility and accountability. We are moving forward, but we want to be the generation that makes the biggest leap.
What got you interested in weapons and armor, how did that passion develop?
I was brought up with brothers watching action movies and being put into wrestling choke holds (so I don’t think I had a chance to do anything else). We were sporting shooters growing up, and I was always into martial arts. Straight out of school I started to work security jobs. Friends were doing stunts or different martial arts, so really my world was that way inclined. I worked as a civilian in a Police Armoury looking after Law Enforcement weapon and ammunition needs and then assisted Armourers on film jobs until I got the opportunity to do it full time. I never really thought of it as a passion until recently.
Any words of encouragement for other women who are trying to climb the ranks in a male-dominated industry?
Stay the course and know that your hard work will eventually pay off. You have to believe your gender is an advantage and not a disadvantage. It can be isolating at times but remember your end goal. Most men want to see you succeed, and a small minority are just destructively competitive (douchebags - an obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man – it’s in the dictionary). Build a support network that can help keep things in perspective, so it doesn’t affect your confidence and seep into other areas of your life. These are all things I learned the hard way.
My best role models were actually men...I looked up to fair and strong leaders to learn how to tackle situations. I took what I needed to build a stronger more tactile persona for my job. There’s no other way of putting it, but you have to be a certain type of tough to deal with tough situations. There were times in my career where certain men would go out of their way to remind me I wasn’t welcome. There’s going to be the old guard that really may never stop believing that a women’s place is in the home. Believe me, they are a dying breed, and the only thing they may hold over you is knowledge... so find another way to get it. I would be a millionaire if I got a dollar every time a man gave me his enlightened opinion why a woman is incapable of doing something. Don’t waste your brain power... smile and just do it!!!