Game of Thrones: News

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Game of Thrones Focus Group Reports

If you’ll recall, a couple of weeks ago, put out the word that a focus group was in the offing related to the A Song of Ice and Fire series, having been selected by Schlessinger Associates—a leading market research company—as the best way to get the word out. What we couldn’t state publicly then, but we can now that it’s done, is that this was specifically commissioned by none other than HBO as part of their marketing research for Game of Thrones.

We’re still getting some reports in, but having now seen a very thorough post at “The Princess and the Warlock” blog, we thought we’d add some more details we’ve had. Among the questions asked of the men’s group was what would make a strong tag phrase for the series. “Winter is Coming” was agreed to be very strong, but a number of other iconic lines were mentioned, such as “The things I do for love,” “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” and the Targaryen motto, “Fire and Blood” (other mottos, such as “Hear Me Roar”, were not felt to be particularly useful from a marketing perspective).

The topic of magic also came up in the discussion. Although the reporter did not recall the details of whether it was brought up by the focus group leader or by the group themselves, it was discussed as being an important facet of the setting. It was also noted to be markedly different from magic in other adapted works, such as Harry Potter—more low-key, leaving the setting “more realistic”.

Among the things focus group participants were asked to provide were examples of any paraphenalia they had related to the series, including things like copies of fan fiction. It was noted to us, however, that more than one participant noted that there’s relatively little fan fiction out of respect for George R.R. Martin’s wishes on the matter.

The Princess and the Warlock note a number of interesting details, the most notable of which were that more topics were covered by the women’s group, which led to some questions the men did not get asked. The question as to who the heroes and villains were were noteworthy, but the question about the most romantic character might well leave HBO scratching their head. What are they to make of the fact that the most romantic male character is the dead Prince of Dragonstone, Rhaegar Targaryen? Perhaps this will improve the odds of fans getting a glimpse of Rhaegar, Lyanna, and other noteworthies from Robert’s Rebellion… Certainly, the topic of flashbacks came up.

Many thanks to all the great fans who answered our call and also provided these reports (particularly Brude, whose collage made us learn just what the Defenestration of Prague was), and for naming Westeros and our friends over at Winter is Coming as favorite sites to get all the news there is to have regarding the series and show. Also a hat tip to the Westeros Sorting community on LiveJournal for helping to spread the word and show that LJ had a vibrant fan community as well.

Joe Auditions for Game of Thrones

Who’s Joe, you may ask? An American residing in Northern Ireland, Joseph Campo is an independent actor, writer, and director who has set his sights on landing a role in HBO’s Game of Thrones. To drum up support, he’s taken to Youtube, where he’s created a channel where he’s posted several videos making his case with a substantial helping of humor. But humor aside, Campo is quite serious, and has already done some legwork, such as verifying that he should be eligible to join British Equity due to his current acting associations.

His latest video seems to hint that he’ll be preparing an audition video for the role of Mance Rayder, or perhaps some other wildling, but we’ll share his first video which brought him to the attention of Game of Thrones fanatics:

HBO Exec on Game of Thrones

In an interview with Vanity Fair, HBO‘s president of programming Michael Lombardo discusses HBO’s past and present Emmy success, far and away the most nominated and award-winning cable network for the last number of years. In the course of the discussion, Lombardo brings up Game of Thrones, where he has the following to say:

“The fact that it was genre, i.e. a little bit of magic, in a world that is not in fact real was irrelevant to the storytelling. The human drama that I read in the page, the characters as scripted by David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss]—I was hooked on the pilot after reading it, and I’ve done this enough now to know that doesn’t happen all the time and when it happens you need to pay attention to it. Because to have a great show, I got to tell you, what you have to start with is a great script. It was a great script.”

Thanks to Nymeria_WiC for bringing the interview to our attention.

More from the Mountain

Conan Stevens has a terrific update on what he’s been doing, besides putting on more muscle (by his estimation, he’s gained 7kg—about 15 lbs.—since he arrived in Belfast). He identifies the riding trainers, The Devil’s Horsemen (who have an extremely long list of prior credits), and comments that his extra bulk has led to some alterations to his costume. He’s coy about the details of the costume, but his remark that, “Ser Gregor Clegane will be the centurion tank of Westeros,” and, ” the weight is spread over my entire body rather than having all that weight just hanging off my shoulders,” certainly suggests that he’s in a suit of plate armor, just as the character is described in the novels.

Other details of note? Just as was reported from the pilot film set, it seems a documentary crew is on hand preparing extras for DVD/Blu-Ray and (Stevens speculates) pre-airing promotion. The crew caught Stevens and Rory McCann, cast as Sandor Clegane, rehearsing their big fight scene. Conan wraps up by noting that since joining in the production, his career has been making great advances, with a number of productions showing interest in his involvement once he gets back to Thailand.

Below, you can find a video of The Devil’s Horsemen company performing at a medieval faire:

Game of Thrones Production Notes

Just a quick mid-week recap of the news that we’ve had from the production so far, as there have been a few relevant tweets, articles, and blog posts of note.

  • First off, catching up on a story from two weeks ago, it seems the Ballymoney Times has now reported on the shooting in Ballymoney. It seems one part of the shooting was in this field of willows (thanks to Jackie for the link). At a guess, the scene shot here would have been part of Joffrey’s and Sansa’s excursion to the ruby ford.
  • Actor Luke McEwan, cast as the Night’s Watch recruit Rast, has provided a couple of interesting tweets. On the 16th he tweted that he was looking forward to filming with Peter Dinklage the next day, which fits with prior news that there would be filming at Magheramorne Quarry, site of the Castle Black exterior set. The evening of the 17th, his tweet seemed to suggest that things went very well.
  • McEwan’s other tweet of note came today, when he reported that he was watching the Mountain that Rides (Conan Stevens) and the Hound (Rory McCann) fighting, and that he had never seen such big men before. This could mean that McEwan was visiting the filming of the Hand’s tourney ... but much likelier, he was dropping by the stunt team’s offices where the two actors were going over their fight scene, perhaps to rehearse his own fight sequence(s). From what Stevens has blogged, it seems likely his filming will be done by the end of the month, though it seems likely he’ll be back from Thailand to film further scenes.
  • From series extra Rimshot, it sounds like the Hand’s tourney proper will in fact begin filming later this week (or perhaps even next week). Before that, though, it looks like he’ll be doing something quite different at another location he had not expected to be involved in, according to these tweets. We’ve previously reported that the tourney itself seems set to be filmed in the area of Shane’s Castle.
  • We’ll soon have some things to report regarding Welsh actor Owen Teale, who was recently revealed to be joining in the production. A little bird has whispered to us that he is in fact taking over a role from a previously-announced cast member…
  • Via SweetSigma, we learn that actor Jamie Sives, cast as Winterfell’s captain of guards Jory Cassel, is due to be involved in filming through the end of October.
Vote for Game of Thrones!

Television Without Pity’s Tubey Awards are being voted on, and Game of Thrones is among the nominees for “Most Anticipated Show of 2010-211”. If you can take just a moment, just head over there and vote! The category is on the final voting page, being category #12.

More On BSkyB-HBO Broadcast Deal

We noticed that Time Warner (corporate parent of HBO) has a regular corporate newsletter. Digging into the latest edition, we see that Game of Thrones is mentioned as definitely airing on one of Sky’s channels, along with Boardwalk Empire (which will be the show that launches the new deal), Luck, and other current series such as Entourage once their current broadcast right agreements run out.

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,  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 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.