Making a follow-up to one of the biggest fantasy shows ever has been a journey worthy of Westeros’ mightiest heroes. When Game of Thrones ended back in 2019, HBO already knew it wanted the world to continue. Several ideas were batted around with one eventually rising to the top. A script was written, the show was cast, and an episode was filmed before the show was scrapped. And now, we know just how much that all cost.
Insider reports that in a new book called Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers by James Andrew Miller, it’s revealed that the cancelled pilot cost over $US30 (A$42) million. You read that right. We didn’t add an extra zero. Thirty million-plus for the episode, and it was trashed. “They had spent over $US30 (A$42) million on a Game of Thrones prequel pilot that was in production when I got there,” former chairman of WarnerMedia entertainment Bob Greenblatt says in the book. “And when I saw a cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to Casey [Bloys, chief content officer] ‘This just doesn’t work and I don’t think it delivers on the promise of the original series.’ And he didn’t disagree, which actually was a relief.”
The show was written by Kick-Arse and Kingsman scribe Jane Goldman and starred The Ring’s Naomi Watts, Harry Potter’s Miranda Richardson, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s Naomi Ackie, and Georgie Henley from The Chronicles of Narnia. It was set thousands and thousands of years before the events of the TV show and was supposed to show Westeros transitioning from the prosperous “Age of Heroes” into “The Long Night,” which was frequently mentioned on the show.
“So we, unfortunately, decided to pull the plug on it,” Greenblatt added. “There was enormous pressure to get it right and I don’t think that would have worked.” A few months after that plug was pulled, Bloys did an interview with Deadline and added even more context. “In development, in pilots, sometimes things come together, sometimes they don’t,” he said in early 2020. “One of the things I think Jane took on beautifully, which was a challenge, there was a lot more role creation because she set hers 8,000 years before the [original] show, so it required a lot more. That is a big swing. One of the things about House of Dragons, there is a text, there is a book so that made it a little bit more of a road map for a series order.”
Yes. That brings us to House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones prequel show that is definitely happening and premieres in 2022. “I’m the one who encouraged Casey to greenlight it to series,” Greenblatt is quoted as saying in Tinderbox. “I said, ‘Let’s not risk $US30 (A$42) million on a pilot.’ You can’t spend $US30 (A$42) million on a pilot and then not pick it up. So I said, ‘Let’s not make a pilot. Let’s get a great series that we feel good about, and just make it. Or not.’”
Apparently, this time, they feel good about it.