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Malta Filming Update

There is an interesting note for followers of progress on HBO’s Game of Thrones series in his post announcing his cancelling an appearance at New York Comic Con.

Besides noting he plans to visit Belfast (main location for shooting of the series) after attending Octocon in Dublin, he notes the possibility that he’ll also visit Malta (site of location shoots for many of the scenes set in Pentos and regions east). As Octocon takes place in mid-October, it seems like the Malta location shooting will cover the bulk of that month and a good part of September as well. As we’ve previously reported, the Malta shoot has been stated to take six weeks. Mid-September through the end of October seems likely now.

Game of Thrones Set for Spring 2011

It’s been the date bandied about since the pilot shoot, but the reshoots have made it seem possible—and HBO has certainly indicated—that the premiere would slip to late Spring or even early Summer. Now, HBO has vanquished that possibility at the TCA Summer Press Tour, stating that the show is definitely set for Spring 2011. Via Matt Roush of TV Guide.com,  one of the executives stated that early March was a possibility (March 3rd is stated elsehere), but the official line is that all they’ll commit to right now is Spring 2011. Roush and James Hibbard of the Live Feed provide more details, noting that there’s enormous pressure on the writers to match the expectations of the fans in the “blogosphere”.

In other news, it sounds like no new footage was shown from Game of Thrones at the press panel, although “a wisp” was shown. This was probably the teaser that we’ve all seen before (confirmed by HitFix).

Conan Stevens Blogs From Belfast

There’s a terrific blog post from Conan Stevens (cast as Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides) from Belfast, in which he recounts details such as his diet, his training regimen, and his run-ins with Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) and Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane, the Hound) at the training center, as well as bumping into executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. He mentions that he’s started work on a short, brutal fight sequence he’ll be taking part in, the choreography being handled by stunt coordinator Buster Reeves and his team. 

Finally, after a question from us, he discusses seeing and trying on Gregor’s armor for the first time, and was very impressed by the work that was done. As he notes, having professionals making armor for you is a fair sight better than making it yourself (as he did when he was part of the SCA).

On Monday, he’ll be taking part in “intensive horse riding lessons” from a famous horse riding stunt team, and feels that with all this intense training and this film footage, he’ll be able to apply to be an accredited stuntman in his native Australia.

Location Shoots

We’re most of the way through the second week of filming on Game of Thrones, and excellent weather this week has allowed the production to finally start location shooting around Belfast. Word from Northern Ireland (via comments at Winter is Coming) is that the location shoot was in Ballymoney. This region is noted for its lovely, rural farmsteads and the picturesque river Bann. It’s easy to speculate that the rural area might be used to represent the royal progress as it approaches King’s Landing, or perhaps that the river will be used for a scene involving Arya, Sansa, Joffrey, and Mycah the butcher’s boy.

In other news, the Times of Malta has a report on film and television production on the island. Though primarily touting their landing a new Sinbad adventure program for Sky1, HBO’s Game of Thrones is mentioned in passing as a major television production, one of the largest to ever be carried out in Europe. Of particular note? The Malta shoot is said to be about six weeks long. We know the shoot is set to start sometime in September, which is also when Winterfell exterior scenes may be shot. This makes it seem even likelier that there will be some production overlap, and at a guess a single director will be responsible for all scenes shot in Malta.

Charles Dance Cast as Tywin Lannister

The last really major casting announcement has been made, thanks to Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune: British actor Charles Dance has been cast as Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and patriarch of the Lannister family. Though his character appears late in the series, his presence is felt throughout the series. He is a Machiavellian figure, commanding, ambitious, and powerful.

Charles Dance was a fan favorite from early on, thanks to his performance in the BBC’s Bleak House and other productions. But Westeros.org can exclusively reveal that a source close to the production told us months ago that he was already a favorite of the executive producers, who had had an opportunity to meet with him (or so we’re told) as he was filming Your Highness in the Paint Hall in Belfast just before Game of Thrones began production there. We’re not sure why it took quite so long for negotiations to sort out, but suffice it to say, now it’s signed, sealed, and delivered.

Below, is an interview with Dance about his role in Sky’s Going Postal, an adaption from Terry Prachett’s Discworld oeuvre.

And here is Dance in his famous role of the unfeeling, grasping lawyer Tulkinghorn in Bleak House:

Dance recently appeared in actor James Franco’s short film, The Clerk’s Tale, which was promoted online with some high res stills that feature the actor in his role as a suit salesman.

BSkyB to Broadcast Game of Thrones in UK

Via the Guardian, we learn that Rupert Murdoch’s BskyB has bought exclusive U.K. broadcasting rights to HBO’s programming, including their archives and all forthcoming programming. According to the report, this is a 5 year agreement worth £150 million.

We can note that HBO has confirmed to us some weeks ago that the early word that the BBC was likely to co-fund Game of Thrones never came to fruition. This seems to settle the matter fully, as there were many question marks on the state of the BBC’s involvement given no mention of them in official press material.

Thanks to paddyolaughlin for the head’s up.

New Clues & Pycelle Recast

The bad news: for medical reasons, Roy Dotrice has had to leave the production of Game of Thrones, which is very unfortunate. The good news is that he just needs 3-4 months of treatment and he’ll be fine. Our best wishes to Mr. Dotrice, and our hope that—as GRRM says—they’ll find a place for him in the production!

In his place, thespian Julian Glover—an old friend of Dotrice’s from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and an actor with a long, long list of credits stretching back 50 years—has been cast in the role.

And we’ve a new set of clues, a confusing set, but they seem to regard the actresses cast as Doreah and either Irri or Jhiqui (“big brother’s gift”, with GRRM clarifying in comments that his clue is for three roles only) and Shae (“sellsword’s gift”).

 

GRRM on the Adaption

Over at “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin has added a couple of comments in reply to fan queries about HBO’s adaption of his work.

First, in response to a question about the change of Robert Arryn’s name to Robin Arryn, he writes about how he deliberately broke traditional convention by having characters with similar or even the same names, and cites the historical fact that in Europe many of the noble families would simply reuse the same few names (he specifically notes all the Edwards and Henrys in England, and how heirs named Arthur or Eustace never managed to survive).

Then in another response to a remark about how much involvement he has in the production compared to other authors who sell the adaption rights to their works, George cites that his previous Hollywood experience certainly proves helpful in his being involved in a meaningful basis. On top of that, he notes that many SF/F authors don’t make much money from their books, so are just happy to have someone interested in the rights and willing to cut a check. His personal preference, however, is to meet the would-be producers and see what they have to say, rather than just accepting an offer without deliberation.

Economic Boon for Northern Ireland

The latest economic article in the Belfast Telegraph on the film and television industry in Northern Ireland reveals that HBO’s Game of Thrones is a definite boon to the economy, along with the other productions Northern Ireland Screen has brought to the region. Previously, NI Screen estimated that a single season of Game of Thrones would bring £20 million into the local economy.

Compare this figure to the total of the gain to the economy in the 2009-2010 year, in which the highlights were the pilot for Game of Thrones and the film Your Highness. Northern Ireland Screen’s £3.9 million investment in bringing productions to Northern Ireland is said to have returned approximately £22 million pounds, a 5.5:1 ratio. If the £20 million estimate holds out, Game of Thrones alone will nearly equal the economic impact of all 2009-2010 productions together.

One other figure from the article? It’s said that HBO’s network (including their foreign channels) will bring Game of Thrones to 35 million viewers worldwide. With broadcast rights still being sold to third party channels, that figure is doubtless going to be rather higher.

Interpretative Fashion

Back in March, the Well Educated Pony blog wrote a terrific post interpreting what sort of modern fashions that various characters in HBO’s Game of Thrones might wear, if they were placed in modern dress. Well, now she’s back with a follow-up, covering a number of characters she didn’t deal with the first time around. This includes Littlefinger, Sansa, and the rather curious case of Lysa Arryn (whom has been cast as rather less zaftig than the character as described in the books).

A great, fun read. But… when are we going to see what sort of fashions Lord Renly Baratheon or Ser Loras Tyrell would wear… ?

Cable Drama Budgets

The Wall Street Journal has published an article about the cable studios and their costly productions. HBO’s Game of Thrones is mentioned only in passing, as one example of the high-end epics that are coming, but it’s interesting to look at the figures that have been batted around for other productions in light of what we know of Game of Thrones‘s budget. The one that surprised me most was that was the claim (unsourced, mind you) that Starz’s Camelot was in the region of $7 million an episode. That’s half again the projected per episode budget of Game of Thrones, from a much smaller cable provider.

This leads us to wonder ... Camelot was announced after Game of Thrones went into production and likely had its budget projections made. Is it possible that some of the reshoots—reshoots which GRRM calls, in some cases, an attempt to do things even better—are motivated by HBO opening up the purse strings and increasing the show’s budget to be more in line with the latest crop of costume dramas? Assuming, that is, that Camelot‘s alleged budget isn’t a lot of hype over substance. The figure bandied about in the article is certainly a substantial leap up in production budget for the show compared to Starz’s previous original costume piece, such as Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Blackfish Delayed

Over at “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin runs through several of the actors cast in roles related to the Vale of Arryn—Lysa Arryn, Robin Arryn, and Ser Vardis Egen. More notably, he touches on the fate of Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish. George explains it best, so we’ll quote him:

“... alas, his appearance has been postponed. Even with such a huge project as ours, there are budgetary constraints that require some characters to be cut, combined… or deferred to later seasons. That’s what is happening with the Blackfish. The plan, I am told, is to delay the introduction of the Tullys (Lord Hoster and Ser Edmure as well as Ser Brynden) until the second season. Brynden’s part in the events of A GAME OF THRONES will be filled in part by Ser Vardis Egen, and in part by Ser Rodrik Cassel.”

So, if the show gets a second season, we’ll be seeing the rest of the Tully clan.

Legendary Sword Master

Wow. Double wow, actually. We’ve been amazed and delighted with the casting, production, and writing team ... but this is the first time we’ve had our jaws drop.

From a tweet by Miltos Yerolemou, we discover that the legendary fight choreographer (this is not an exaggeration), William Hobbs, has been training Miltos ahead of his role as the Braavosi waterdancer Syrio Forel, formerly First Sword for the Sealord of Braavos. Hobbs has been responsible for just about every memorable fencing duel on stage and screen for 30 years. Memorable examples? Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, The Duellists,  and especially Rob Roy, as well as the award-winning stage production of Hamlet from 1995 which won notice from the New York Times and led to a profile of the fight choreographer.

What’s most noticeable is that Hobbs has no professional TV/Film credits these last 5 years, so his involvement in the background of Game of Thrones is a remarkable coup.

Below, we leave you with a video featuring what I consider to be the very finest duel ever put to film, from the finale of Rob Roy:

Highlights from the Fact Sheet

The fact sheet has quite a lot to absorb, so here’s the highlights in terms of new actors and crew that we’ve not heard of before today.

Lets start with new crew. First up, two new directors of photography have been named. Marco Pontecorvo and Alik Sakharov are both veterans of past HBO productions, particularly Rome. Pontecorvo recently made a mark as a director for the film Pa-ra-da, which garnered him several awards as well, while the Russian-born Sakharov received an Emmy for his cinemtaography on during the Rome episode titled “Passover”.

Joining them on the production side are a few new directors. For us, the most notable is Alan Taylor, an HBO go-to guy with many HBO productions under his belt, as well episodes of shows as diverse as Lost, Mad Men, and Nurse Jackie; he won an Emmy for his direction of a Sopranos episode, and has several other noms from the Director’s Guild Awards. The other new director named is Daniel Minahan, another go-to guy who’s directed episodes of Deadwood, Big Love, and a notable five episodes on True Blood.

Production designer Gemma Jackson and costume designer Michele Clapton remain on board with the production, which is very good to see. Though we’ve known this for a good while, I’ll note that the fact sheet confirms that the writing breakdown remains the same: executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will write seven of the episodes, while Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson (of Buffy and BSG fame), and George R.R. Martin will write one episode each.

Of note for the production? Morocco is out—something George hinted may be a possibility a long while ago—and instead it looks like the second location for shooting will be Malta. Malta, rich in scenery—especially medieval castles, walls, ports, and so on—and a spare beauty will doubtless serve for shots of Pentos and the like, and will be an excellent locale if the series goes forward to a second or third season
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And following the production teams and notes? The actors. Oh, boy, the actors. There’s so many of them!

The most significant additions to the list must be James Cosmo as the Old Bear, Jeor Mormont, a casting George revealed which is not yet on the fact sheet (see here for two other roles GRRM has confirmed). After that, it sure looks like Jerome Flynn as Bronn (Official Site) is the most noteworthy casting choice.

After that are the guest cast, which makes up the bulk of new additions to the casting rolls. I’m just going to paste them all below:

HBO Releases Fact Sheet, Many Casting Notes

HBO has released a massive fact sheet, full of casting information for lesser parts. The content of the sheet follows below. Keep an eye on this page later on the day, as we link up all the actors we can to IMDB pages, official sites, and/or videos.