Sometime in the wee hours of the North Ireland morning, production began on HBO’s Game of Thrones. It doesn’t sound like the first day’s shooting will be taking place at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast, given this tweet from production secretary Paul McAnearney where he realizes that he’ll be standing in the rain come today.
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.
In a follow-up to our recent item about the legendary fight choreography William Hobbs being involved in training Miltos Yerolemou for his role as Syrio Forel in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Miltos has commented over at Winter is Coming that while Hobbs is not officially associated with the production, he’s taken a hand in helping Miltos develop the Braavosi waterdancing style. Miltos also confirms that Buster Reeves—who was Christian Bale’s stunt double in the Batman films, and helped develop the superhero’s unique fighting style—is still involved as fight choreographer in Game of Thrones after having arranged the fights in the pilot.
As with many of the actors, Miltos has been in Belfast for read throughs and rehearsal, and apparently has run through some of his fight choreography with Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark.
One other thing mentioned is the fact that Hobbs discussed the Rob Roy fight with Miltos “at length”, which may give a sense of the approach they’ll be taking with Syrio’s superlative waterdancing skills. For your edification (and because we really think it’s the best bit of fencing choreography we’ve ever seen), the climactic fight scene from the film, choreographed by Hobbs:
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.
As we recently learned, Castle Black was set to be built at Magheramorne Quarry. Now, a fellow fan by the handle of silverjaime has shared the first photos of the site, taken about a mile away from the building site (the nearest the public can get to it). The first picture is here, while a zoomed and cropped version can be found here. It looks like the quarry wall will serve as the Wall, either colored to look more like ice in CG, or perhaps used as a base on which to lay greenscreen.
Silverjaime also visited the Paint Hall area, and fell into discussion with the dialect coach for the production, Brendan Gunn. Gunn informed her that while the production would us “UK accents”, he did not provide details of whether there’d be regional variations other than to confirm that Aidan Gillen (cast as Littlefinger) would not use his native, Dubin accent. Gunn has previously worked on a very large number of films, including Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, Meet Joe Black, and Snatch (where he helped Brad Pitt develop his Tinker accent). He also happens to have served as the dialogue coach for A Shine of Rainbows, a film which featured Jack Gleeson, cast as Joffrey Baratheon.
A video of Gunn discussing the dialects of A Shine of Rainbows is embedded below:
Over at “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin responds to a query regarding a potential composer for the HBO adaption of Game of Thrones. What GRRM indicates is that the production team has already narrowed down the list of candidates for the job and have interviewed the leading contenders, and that no new names are going to be looked at. Which suggests to us that the decision is probably quite imminent, presumably with an eye towards having the composer start his or her work as soon as possible.
George says he has his own favorite among the leading candidates, but we shall see what develops.
Following up on our previous report, we’re happy to see George confirm that actress Natalia Tena has won the role of Osha. As George writes: “When I saw that she was reading for Osha, my first thought was, “She’s great, but no way, she’s too young and too hot.” Then I saw her reading, and none of the other Oshas had a chance. Her charisma grabbed me by the throat and I could not take my eyes off her. David and Dan felt the same way. We’re all thrilled to have her.”
It sounds like an auspicious start to her time in the series!
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:
GRRM’s latest clue seems to have gone up within moments of the deal being signed on the dotted line. He writes that this “wildling wench” is known both to Arthur and Morgana, that she’s not met Theon’s sister in the books (“yet”) but that she has in real life, and that both the actress and the character have “made a splash”.
The Rabbit01 seems to have cracked it, noting that Natalia Tena—best known for her role as Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter films—has worked in productions with both Jamie Campbell Bower (King Arthur in Starz’s new series, Camelot, which led to Bower’s part in Game of Thrones recast) and Eva Green (Morgana in the same Starz production). Furthermore, Tena was at boarding school with singer-songwriter Lily Allen, the famous sister to Alfie Owen Allen, the actor cast as Theon (and recently confirmed to still hold the part in the fact sheet).
But the splash? Well, Osha did splash about in Winterfell’s hotsprings ... and as it happened, Tena made her own splash according to the Daily Mail, when she went skinnydipping in the middle of a crowded music festival. The same article mentions her connection to Lily Allen, which suggests to us that this article served as the source for two of the clues GRRM provided.
That seems to be much too perfect, so we’re going to endorse The Rabbit’s guess. We’ll update when/if GRRM confirms.
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
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:
James Cosmo has been cast in the role of Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, according to GRRM’s latest post after someone finally got his devious clue (after he helpfully provided a hint). Cosmo is well-known to fans of genre film due to his memorable role in Braveheart as Campbell, the irascible, tough-as-nails father of Brendan Gleeson’s character. George says that Cosmo blew away the competition in his reading.
Keep an eye here, we’ll soon be covering all the new actors released in some more detail! To tide you over, here’s a show reel of Mr. Cosmo:
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.
As per our previous post, our endorsement of the guess of Derek Halligan for Ser Alliser Thorne is correct; good job, Mormegil99! You can learn more about Halligan at Ulster Actors. The other clue, the lord who never had lines in the books, will be played by Sir John Standing, who played one of the leads in the adaption of GRRM’s novella, Nightflyers, more than 20 years ago.
GRRM promises many more roles to be announced shortly—we expect some news today—and hints that “maybe even a big one that you have all been eager for” will also be revealed in time.
Below is a video of Sir John conducting a public reading:
George R.R. Martin has provided fresh clues to three as-yet-unannounced roles, saying two are lords and the third is a knight. He writes:
“The first flew by night to find the truth. The second is a merry man from the god of war. The third was a supervillain, and once ambled amongst oak trees and hollies, where he might have come across a golden rose.”
In comments, the difficulty of these clues lead to some remarks, with GRRM responding that he wanted to make them tougher since the fans have been so quick to solve them in the past. However, we’re tenatively endorsing one guess: Derek Halligan as Ser Alliser Thorne (known for his derisive nicknames for Night’s Watch recruits, including Pimple, Monkey, and Ser Loon), via Mormegil99. Halligan has been in the long-running British drama/soap Hollyoaks, alongside actor Finn Jones (playing Ser Loras Tyrell, who bears a golden rose on his shield) and played the part of a supervillain, Dr. Nightshade, in a film titled Tonight We Fly.
The other two clues are unclear as yet, but the lord who gave up a lordship and received another strikes us as Lord Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (others are guessing Janos Slynt), while the silent lord… At first we read this as Ser Ilyn Payne, but obviously he’s not a lord. It seems possible that a scene from a draft of the pilot which was never actually shot—the death of Jon Arryn—may be reinstated in the course of the extensive reshooting.
GRRM also adds that Renly Baratheon will soon be announced, to complete the small council. Stannis Baratheon, however, will not be making any appearances in the first season.
Thanks to Maureen Ryan, we have some new information on casting for HBO’s Game of Thrones. First up, the role of Varys—the eunuch spymaster called the Spider—will be played by Conleth Hill, who received the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2001 for best actor in “Stones in His Pockets”. Hill has a personal website here.
The other news is that the role of Ser Waymar Royce, a young ranger of the Night’s Watch, has been recast. Originally the role was played by Jamie Campbell Bower, who has a notable fan-following thanks to his appearances in the Harry Potter series, but reshoots of the scenes (which we were aware of following news that the role of Will was being urgently recast—Bronson Webb being away filming Pirates of the Caribbean 4) meant that the actor (who has been cast as King Arthur in Starz’s new Arthurian series, Camelot) was unavailable. Instead, the role will be played by Rob Ostlere, a RADA graduate who has recently started his career on television in the U.K.
Below is a clip from the comedy Whatever Works, starring Larry David which features Conleth Hill in a role rather different from what Varys will be like, to say the least: