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No Game of Thrones at Comic-Con

According to James Hibberd at The Live Feed, HBO’s Game of Thrones is “not expected” to have a presence at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, which falls in line with what we’ve heard over here at Westeros.org. This seems to be supported by the lack of reference to the series among the announced panels from HBO (who are certainly featuring True Blood). It also makes some sense, due to the fact that it’s almost a year before the show premieres, and the filming starts very close to the time of the convention—not an ideal time to drag cast and crew from Northern Ireland and North Africa for a whirlwind press junket.

That said, the possibility that teasers or promotional posters might first see the light of day at San Diego Comic-Con certainly exists. If you’re attending the convention next month, we’d certainly suggest visits to HBO’s booth (they’re almost certainly exhibiting), asking some questions, and expressing your enthusiasm for the show.

UPDATE: Maureen Ryan also confirms that HBO’s not holding a panel for the series, given the logistics of having production starting in Northern Ireland at the same time.

First Outside Word on the Pilot

Jace Lacob of Televisionary is the first person we’ve seen outside of the production who’s seen the whole of the pilot, and probably one of the last who shall do so in that form as a number of scenes will be reshot to accomadate the new actresses in leading roles, Michaelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark and Emilie Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

What’d he think? “I was blown away,” he writes, and has been effusive in his praise for the pilot as being one the strongest pilots he’s seen in the current pilot cycle. Over at Twitter, I decided to ask if he had read the series before, as a number of supportive critics have done. He replied that he had not read the books, wanting to go in fresh, though he had read the pilot script earlier and also loved it. He’s looking forward to seeing how the reshot pilot will look.

The fact that he went in fairly “cold” to the series is a great sign—Lacob probably fairly well represents where your average HBO viewer will be when confronted with this new HBO series. If it works for him, as well as for the producers and executives, then it seems to stand fair odds of working for the general subscriber base.

Hodor Hodor

Update: Video now removed. Given the way these videos come and go, we can’t promise it will be around permanently. But while it’s up, here’s what looks to be like a genuine casting tape for the role of Hodor, intended for Nina Gold who is the casting agent in the U.K. for HBO’s Game of Thrones production:

The hopeful Hodor is Kristian Nairn, a professional DJ according to his MySpace page.

Multi-ethnic Dothraki?

It seems likely that the production for HBO’s Game of Thrones has decided to present the Dothraki culture as a multi-ethnic one, a realization that dawned on us today when an Irish actor of African origin, Yare Jegbefume, revealed on Twitter that he had auditioned for the parts of two Dothraki warriors, Jhogo (one of Daenerys’s guards) and Qotho (one of Drogo’s bloodriders). In retrospect, the fact that many of the wedding dancers that have been noted (such as Kelechi Nwanokwu) were also black should have suggested not that they were supposed to represent slaves from far-flung regions (as we had initially assumed) but that the production was taking this particular course.

Although this does not fit the Dothraki as represented in the books—their appearance being a much more homogenous look, a mix of Native American in regards to their coppery skin and Asian due to their eyes and flatter faces—it sounds like an excellent way to widen the field to find the best possible actors. We can’t wait to see how the Dothraki appear on screen next year!

Parts both Big and Small

George R.R. Martin mentions that he’s come back from a convention to some hundred new auditions tapes. He notes some of the roles actors are seeking in the tapes: Rast (one of the recruits on the Wall), Mord (brutish jailer at the Eyrie), Jhogo (one of the Dothraki warriors assigned as personal guard to Daenerys) are among the smaller parts, while Lord Tywin Lannister, Ser Barristan Selmy, and Lysa Arryn are among the larger parts.

We expect that the first casting announcements are likely to come by the end of the month, or early next month, with production set to begin in earnest right around the end of June or start of July.

Characters Making the Cut

Some recent reports and finds on the web have helped clarify something of which of the more minor tertiary roles will be cut, reduced, or kept in place in the course of HBO’s adaption of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Lord Ned’s Head reports that at this weekend’s LepreCon convention, GRRM discussed the HBO series as part of a Q&A. He indicated that Syrio Forel remains (he’s written “scenes” for him in episode 8), but that the guardsman Desmond is gone. Other roles, such as Jon Snow’s fellow recruits, may be reduced to just a few line (e.g. Grenn and Pyp) or be cut entirely or be reduced to background characters with no lines (e.g. Toad, Rast, and so on). 

raijap tweeted about this webpage for actress Caroline Grace-Cassidy, which states that she auditioned this month (possibly in the recent Dublin auditions?) for the role of the wildling woman, Osha, which certainly suggests that character is planned to be in the series.

Praise for Tamzin Merchant

It’s interesting to read GRRM’s high praise (there are spoilers) for Tamzin Merchant—formerly cast as Daenerys in the pilot for HBO’s Game of Thrones—and her performance in the fifth episode of the Tudors. It’s very clear that he’s saddened that she will not be continuing on with the series. Obviously, the reasons for Merchant’s departure from Game of Thrones are unknown, and may never be revealed, but it does not seem very likely that it had to do with GRRM (and perhaps other producers?) having any issues with her performance.

No decision has yet been made in casting for Daenerys Targaryen, from what GRRM has recently indicated, but we expect it will be nailed down by the end of the month or, at the latest, the beginning of next month.

More Casting Quotes

GRRM has more remarks to share concerning the ongoing casting process for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Most notably, no one has yet been cast, but they are getting close on some roles, he thinks. He adds that he’s uncertain that he’ll be able to provide hints, as he did for the pilot, but if so he promises to use the Froggy the Gremlin image on those posts to indicateit.

A short snippet from his post follows, naming some of the characters whose audition tapes he’s been reviewing:

“I’ve been looking at many audition tapes. Varys. Littlefinger. Pyp. Grenn. Sam. Ser Gregor. Renly. Bronn. Septa Mordane. Jory. The Old Bear. Even Marillion. And probably some other characters that I’ve forgotten about, writing this off the top of my head.

“Some very hard choices await us. For some parts, a wealth of great possibilities, and no way to go wrong. For others, two or three strong contenders, then it tails off sharply. For a few, we have yet to see anyone who excites us, so the search goes on.”

GRRM on Casting

At his “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin shares some odds and ends. Among them are some interesting remarks on the casting process, in which he notes that casting is roughly in order of a character’s appearance, so some roles (such as Tywin Lannister and Shae) will be cast later. They are “mostly concerned with filling parts for the pilot reshoots and episode two.” Obviously, Daenerys is one of those parts, but we’ve previously been told that many of the characters with no lines in the pilot—Tommen has been mentioned—were given to extras, essentially, and would now be recast with their permanent actors. Via Twitter, I know that the young actress for the part of Myrcella in the pilot has or will be auditioning to retain the role.

He also adds, regarding actors who’ve auditioned: “Some actors are household names who would be recognized by any film or television fan, some are veteran character actors, some are brilliant young newcomers. A wealth of choices. There are a lot of fine actors out there.”

Daenerys Audition Tape

Charlotte Salt—who I recognize from the previous season of The Tudors, in which she played Lady Ursula Misseldon—has apparently posted her audition tape for the role of Daenerys (which HBO recently confirmed was recasting), or possibly a practice run for it, on YouTube. It’s an interesting look to how these audition tapes might look from other actresses.

Thanks to Abyss at Winter is Coming and Jonias Snow at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum for bringing it to our attention.

The Difficulty of Adaption

The comment thread to GRRM’s post announcing the completion of the first draft has proved fruitful. He’s confirmed that so far as he knows, the character of Ros, “the Red-Headed Whore”—played by Esmé Bianco—is the only one added to the series so far who is not original to the novels, and reveals that she may appear in later episodes; having liked Ms. Bianco when he met her, he even floats the idea of including her character in the novels. Martin also makes this priceless remark, in regards to the script which he called “too long and too expensive”: “Too many characters, too many settings, too many SFX shots. What meathead wrote this novel, anyway?”

Later, however, Martin speaks seriously on the difficulty of adapting the series. He emphasizes that the first season is very faithful to the novel, but he anticipates increasing difficulty as the story spreads over a wider geographic area, with more and more characters introduced, some who may become prominent in later novels but who could well be cut when their role appears small. He can’t guarantee that the future seasons will be as faithful, but “the intent is there”.

GRRM Interview and Tamzin Merchant

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune has posted her interview with George R.R. Martin concerning HBO’s Game of Thrones. A lot of interesting things ... and a bit of expected news: Tamzin Merchant has left the production, so the role is definitely being recast. This item is from HBO directly, rather than from GRRM it seems.

The transcript covers a number of topics, not just the HBO production, such as the comic book adaption of Fevre Dream by Avatar Press which came to fruition after they contacted George regarding rights to adapting A Song of Ice and Fire, something he may eventually do (and has been approached by a number of different publishers about) but hasn’t yet decided because he’s not sure it’s really feasible. He also mentions a novel idea he’s had for a long time, inspired by Chicago’s landmark Uptown Theatre, and of course he covers the current situation with A Dance with Dragons. It makes for good reading, especially as it touches upon GRRM’s early career both as a writer and in Hollywood.

Many thanks to Mo Ryan for the head’s up!

Audition Tape Update

In the course of an update on various fronts, GRRM notes a little cryptically that he’s spending his spare time with,  “Varys, Littlefinger, the Old Bear, Jory Cassel, Septa Mordane, Bronn, and some other old friends.” This baffled us for a moment—at first we thought he meant the script he was writing, but at least one of the characters in that list wouldn’t appear in said episode. Then we thought perhaps he was rereading A Game of Thrones to help him get into the flow of the script.

And then, a moment after, it dawned on us: GRRM has been viewing audition tapes for those various roles. Exciting!

More from C2E2

We have a fresh report on George R. R. Martin’s remarks while at C2E2 in Chicago, courtesy of Trebla, at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum. There’s some spoilerish material for A Dance with Dragons and “The Mystery Knight”, so beware.

For those who just want the news relating to HBO’s Game of Thrones, see the extended section. Mild spoilers for the TV show follow.

Starz All-In on Historical Dramas

This may be of interest to expectant fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Chris Albrecht, head of HBO when the channel optioned George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series and now head of Starz, has revealed that his cable network is going to focus its development on historical/fantasy-flavored productions for the time being, according to this Variety report from the MIP TV exhibition at Cannes (familiar to GoT followers as the location where international broadcasting rights for Game of Thrones would first be negotiated).

Starz has already had a great deal of success with Spartacus: Blood and Sand, so much so that the delay in production in season 2 (due to lead Andy Whitfield’s ongoing treatment for a recently discovered non-Hodgkins lymphoma) has them considering a spin-off miniseries to fill time. They also recently acquired broadcast rights to Pillars of the Earth, a big-budget miniseries set in 12th century England based on Ken Follett’s international bestselling novel, and are bringing Arthurian romance-adventure Camelot into production.

This trend appears to be continuing, with Albrecht revealing that Starz is now also developing a mini-series titled William the Conqueror, based on the life of the Norman duke (known in his earlier days as William the Bastard) who would become King of England. There’s a choice quote from Albrecht as well: “The business model is going to be: If it’s got a sword, we want it,” Albrecht joked. “But (picking up) a good contemporary or futuristic piece right now might not be bad.” As to his former home, he calls HBO “kind of a colossus” as far as original programming goes, but he hopes Starz will carve out a niche as “entertaining”, suggesting this strategy is aimed at pleasing the crowds more than at pleasing critics.

What’s interesting about it is that Albrecht’s instincts seem to have been pretty solid, and his instincts have been indicating that there’s a definite place for historical/historical-fantasy original drama on cable. Others seem to agree, given Showtime’s bringing The Tudors to a close only to be readying Borgias to replace it as a sumptuous historical drama, and many more are making that very same bet with shows such as “The Medici” and “Pharoh” being produced internationally. Game of Thrones is the most clearly fantastical of the lot (it remains to be seen whether Camelot will take a more historical or fanciful approach), and certainly one of the highest-budgetted, so it may be argued that HBO’s taking the largest risk into unknown territory. Up to now, fantasy epics on television have been more along the lines of Xena than The Lord of the Rings.

It looks like fans of pre-Modern costume dramas are going to have a feast to choose from later this year and through next. Will all the bets on these costume dramas pan out? 2011 will let us know.