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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.

More Casting and Swarthy Horsemen

GRRM has been confirming a number of the casting reports which we’ve already made, such as Jamie Sives as Jory and Ian McElhinney as Barristan the Bold. He has just mentioned, however, that we’re sure to have more casting announcements soon. This falls in line with everything we’ve heard, and of course, with shooting set to begin in a week and a half, it makes sense.

In other news, North Ireland Screen has sent out an urgent request for swarthy, experienced horsemen for the Game of Thrones production. These are obviously extras for the Dothraki, and it seems like they’re not quite finding as many suitable riders as they’d like in Northern Ireland. If you or anyone you know fits the bill, this is a ripe opportunity for getting involved in the production.

On Comic Con and Reshoots

Easily lost in the big casting news headlining the article, James Hibberd’s post at the Live Feed addressed two other points. First, although initially reporting that HBO was making an effort to put together an extended teaser or trailer for San Diego Comic Con, Hibberd now says that isn’t happening.

More notably, Hibberd addresses the extensive re-shooting that various re-castings (Michelle Fairley as Catelyn, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys, and now Will—a minor character who is featured heavily in the prologue—currently in recasting) will necessitate. According to Hibberd’s sources, the re-shooting shows HBO’s commitment to getting it right. Hibberd provides what may be an amusing example of the level of obsession HBO and the production team have over this: “When you’re creating a whole fantasy universe from a hit book series, you can end up with 20 opinions about what a chair looks like.”

GRRM on Casting

George is back from teaching at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, and is preparing a post about all the recent casting news, including a hint about the Aiden Gillen casting that came out just moments before his own post. Keep an eye on his “Not a Blog” to see what he has to say about the various casting items which we’ve been reporting on. The first entry is on the casting of Samwell Tarly and Rast, in which GRRM promises four more members of the Night’s Watch set will soon be announced.

Lena Headey on Game of Thrones

A new interview with Lena Headey—cast as Cersei Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones—finds her talking about the series and her character. After having been away from work for a number of months due to her pregnancy and then birth of her first child, she describes herself as excited and “very ready and not ready one bit” to get back to work. Though she hasn’t read the novels, she seems to have a good grasp on what makes Cersei tick, as well: “smart , insecure, ferociously maternal, cutthroat, paranoid.”

Conan Stevens On His Casting

As previously reported, actor Conan Stevens has been cast in the role of Gregor Clegane. Now, he writes about how he chased and won the role. It’s been a long journey, three years in the making, but his perseverance wins the day. He confirms that he auditioned for the role of Khal Drogo, which was much speculated, with an eye towards getting in front of the casting director if the series was greenlit. It definitely worked out. Stevens has a lot of kind things to say about the fans, including Westeros.org, for having helped him in his quest.