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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”.

The Pointy End

The first draft of episode 8’s script is now in to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, according to GRRM, who says it’s “too long and too expensive” but that’s the case with all the first drafts of screenplays and teleplays he’s ever written. He notes that it is tentatively titled “The Pointy End”—a familiar phrase to A Song of Ice and Fire fans—but that it’s not been decided whether they’ll even use titles.

He finishes with a quote from King Kong, in reference to A Dance with Dragons: “He was a king in his world, but we’ll teach him fear…”

Sean Bean in Black Death

Sean Bean‘s starring in Black Death, a medieval action/horror film which opens late next month. The trailer’s just been released, and one notices that Bean probably looks pretty close to how he’ll look as Eddard Stark, beard and all:

Thanks, once again, to raijap for retweeting this one.

Moroccan Budgeting

I’m not quite sure how she does it, but PDF-hunting wunderkind raijap has tracked down an interesting tidbit: an official document from the Center for Cinematography in Morocco, listing the productions spends of all significant projects filmed in Morocco in 2009. Of interest, of course, is the listing for Game of Thrones, which gives the spend as 2.7 million dirham (approxmately $320,000 USD). Of course, one supposes this figure relates purely to the hire of crew, extras, lots, and so on incurred in Morocco specifically, and may not cover the budget for foreign actors such as Jason Momoa, Tamzin Merchant, Iain Glen, or Ian McNeice.

This figure is—to my admittedly-amateur knowledge of such things—surprisingly lower than one would have expected, but may help to explain part of the reason filming will once more take place in Morocco (the other being, doubtless, the need to reshoot many of the Daenerys scenes following recasting of the role.)

Another noticeable piece, the naming of Dune Films as the local production company contracted to facilitate shooting. Dune Films has extensive credits, including having participated in the production of Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia, and the soon to be released Inception.

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!

Camera Test Images

A very brief shot of a camera test for HBO’s Game of Thrones can be found in this PDF document from Mediazoo, a Belfast-based green screen facility. In the pictures, you can see what looks to be an ARRICAM Lite, one of the camera systems we’ve previously reported on. From the images, you can see that color swatches and lighting are a part of the tests, presumably as part of an evaluation as to whether the system would be suitable for the production’s needs or perhaps to see what adjustments would be needed to get the look director Thomas MacCarthy wanted.

The most notable of them, of course, is the torch-lit scene in front of a wall. In all probability, this is our first glimpse at the sort of look and lighting we can expect for the scene in Winterfell’s crypt, when Eddard takes King Robert down to pay his respects to Lyanna.

Thanks to raijap for digging this one 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!

Minor Tidbits

Since the Dothraki news, new items on HBO’s Game of Thrones has been fairly thin on the ground, but here’s a small handful of tidbits for those interested: raijap on Twitter has pointed out that Birds & Animals UK, an animal handling and training service for film and television, lists the series in its credits. They may well be the source of the direwolf pups used in the shoot.

The_Rabbit kept up his busy searches and came across items listing Coral Messam and Kemi Durosinmi among dancers who apparently performed in Game of Thrones. They would have been among the wedding dancers in the Morocco shooting, and seem to be visible in the photos GRRM has shared which we linked previously when we rabbit pointed out a third dancer earlier in the month. A fourth, Kharis George, can be found here, via Winter Is Coming, who notes the Casting Call Pro site lists a number of extras who list their credits as evocatively as “Free Rider” and “Buxom Serving Wench”.

Another extra, David Blair, can be found here as being listed as a “Squire” in Game of Thrones; thanks to Phoenix Torn and Ninepenny at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum for pointing him out. And raijap finds yet another, pointing out a young actress by the name of Laura C. Knowles who’s first professional acting job was on the pilot. Whether she was an extra, or a named extra (Jeyne Poole seems likely, in that case), is a question; so too whether she’ll continue on in the series.

So, dancers and extras and animals is all we have right now. We’re still digging as to whether there’s more to be discovered yet, such as progress on casting.

Scientific American on Dothraki

A guest blogger at Scientific American has published an open letter to HBO, George R.R. Martin, and David J. Peterson in response to the news that HBO’s Game of Thrones would feature a Dothraki language created by Peterson. It’s a fascinating letter, as it asks the production to consider helping science by including certain features that are non-existent or extremely rare in human languages. The blogger, Joshua Hartshome, mentions Klingon as one artificial language whose construction has provided some excellent opportunities for the linguistic sciences, because of it’s unusual word order.

In the comments, Peterson (under his handle Dedavls) offers up a curious feature of Hawaiian—subjects acting as objects and vice versa—which he suggests also exists in Dothraki in some classes.

Interview on Dothraki

David J. Peterson and Sai Emrys of the Language Creation Society, through whose auspices the Dothraki language was created for HBO’s Game of Thrones,  are the subject of an interview at Tor.com. Quite a lot of interesting details about Peterson’s linguistic training, his approach to creating the Dothraki language, and an exclusive new piece of Dothraki (for the phrase “blood of the dragon”) with an accompanying MP3 file.

David and Sai can both be found at the Dothraki forum at Westeros.org, if you have any additional questions for them.

Morocco Filming Confirmation?

There’s a production listing for HBO’s Game of Thrones, posted March 16th and last revised April 14th, which gives the filming locations of the production as Northern Ireland and Morocco, with a “late June” start. From what I can gather, this website accepts submissions from productions to list relevant information concerning their productions for those who may what to inquire about employment, hiring of equipment, and so on. The sample listings suggest that among the things they list behind their subscription wall are production office addresses and phone numbers.

The main point of interest here is the mention of Morocco. On March 5th, GRRM indicated that a return to Morocco (and Scotland) were possibilities that were yet to be decided on. While we can’t say for certain that this listing is 100% official, if it is official, it seems that the production has decided to go ahead with filming in Morocco after all. Further, again if it’s taken to be 100% official, it seems the production has decided to skip further filming in Scotland, perhaps due to expense or due to the difficulty of keeping shooting locations closed to the public, an issue which we were told bothered the production.

Going back to Morocco, to what degree was the decision to go back motivated by the ongoing casting for Daenerys? While we continue to caution against assuming that Tamzin Merchant, who played the role in the pilot, is definitely out, with each passing day it seems likelier and likelier—they’ll need to be certain of Daenerys by late May at the latest, we think, to give an actress and production time to start readying for her part. If Merchant is replaced, reshooting will have to be extensive since she’s present in every single scene in Pentos according to reports, and hence ... Morocco.

Or maybe not. Maybe they’ve decided Morocco offers too many useful locations for Daenerys’s part of the story, and we’ll be seeing Tamzin Merchant riding the silver across the arid Moroccan landscape, such as in episode 8, written by George R.R. Martin, where he’s confirmed that there’ll be at least one scene featuring the character.

We’ll report further when we have more information. Hat tip to The Rabbit01 for the pointer to My Entertainment World’s listing.

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.