Watch Henry Cavill sweat it out behind the scenes of The Witcher Shaerrawedd one-shot

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The Witcher team is no stranger to one-shots. Such a sequence kicked off the entire show back in season 1: that time when Henry Cavill’s Geralt showed us all how he earned one of his iconic nicknames, the Butcher of Blaviken.

For season 3’s sequence set in Shaerrawedd, another prominent location from author Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels, stunt coordinator and second unit director Wolfgang Stegemann revisited the technique. When Geralt and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) use Ciri (Freya Allan) as bait to lure out her pursuers, the crew incorporated a single uninterrupted take within the larger skirmish.

“We didn’t want to repeat the Blaviken fight, and it had to be a different style, a different dynamic, a different tone,” Stegemann tells EW in an interview conducted over Zoom. “It takes probably a good three weeks to start choreographing. Henry is with us all the time, choreographing the scene and running it with the stunt team.”

Henry Cavill Training for The Witcher, Netflix, screenshot
Henry Cavill trains for ‘The Witcher’ season 3’s big Shaerrawedd fight sequence. NETFLIX

EW can exclusively reveal a behind-the-scenes look at Cavill rehearsing the one-shot with the stuntmen and women, as shown in the video above. By the time the actor arrived on set to shoot the sequence, he had already executed it front to back in rehearsals upwards of 90 times, Stegemann estimates. “It’s probably a good three weeks, four weeks in total. And then we adapt the whole scene to the actual set on location,” he says.

The stunt team doesn’t create all the moves before rehearsals. They stage the one-take in separate sections, and then test those sections out to see how they look before stitching it all together. Stegemann gives credit to fight choreographer Tolga Degirmen. (“He’s basically my sword Bible.”) With Degirmen, it was less about “slashing and blocking,” Stegemann explains, and more “using physics and leveraging the weight of the sword” to direct each movement.

“Then Henry, because he’s so skilled, knows exactly when he is going in that direction and has this guy approaching, he already starts thinking, ‘What am I doing when this other guy comes from that side?’ This is how we start building the choreography,” he continues.

The end result is like a tornado, with Cavill in the middle and the camera circling him as he staves off the onslaught of assailants. Stegemann says they shot the sequence about three times on set, so they had multiple options for the final cut. (See the finished Shaerrawedd sequence, including the one-shot, in the video below.) “The camera is living in the fight,” as Stegemann puts it, “so that the audience feels like they are not viewers from outside. The audience feels involved [in the scene].” That, too, makes the scene tricky, because there’s now the camera operator to consider. They can’t get so close as to interrupt the flow of the battle, but they still need to create the sensation of being in the thick of it.

“This is where I see the camera operator as part of the fight. He’s a fighter. He needs to watch himself, and the stunt guys and Henry have to watch him, as well,” Stegemann elaborates. “If one is out of sync, then it doesn’t look right.”

The Witcher season 3 will release its last three episodes, dubbed Vol. 2, on Netflix this July 27, effectively marking the last time Cavill will play Geralt of Rivia before Liam Hemsworth takes over the part starting in season 4. At this point, Stegemann considers Cavill his “second fight choreographer,” because he’s so hands on.

“Henry is super precise and his passion is just outstanding,” he says. “I love it so much because he wants to have it perfect. When I was like, ‘That was great.’ He said, ‘Eh, let’s do one more.'” Stegemann recalls how the actor would often help the stunt team carry equipment, including mats, around set. “Even for another stunt guy who has to do the stunt,” he says. In terms of the Shaerrawedd sequence, he adds, “I am so proud of Henry that he runs this fight in many high-intensity takes. He’s putting his all in, and completely dedicated his whole life.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

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