Striving to get the sixth and likely final Game of Thrones book finished, George R.R. Martin is rather juiced about HBO’s recent announcement of a straight-to-series order for prequel The House of the Dragon and sanguine about the fiery death of another prequel to the Emmy-winning blockbuster.
“It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series,” the A Song of Ice and Fire scribe and GoT executive producer said on his blog yesterday, the day after Deadline revealed that the big-budget pilot penned by Jane Goldman and co-created by Martin was deemed unsalvageable by the premium cabler. “Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her,” Martin adds of the Kingsman franchise writer and producer.
Given the greenlight in June 2018 as David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were still bringing GoT to its epic but controversial conclusion, the pilot for The Long Night (Martin’s working title) had a problematic production last spring and summer over in Northern Ireland, I hear. Conflicts over story, credits and interpersonal conduct plagued the Goldman-run effort to the point where HBO were considering killing it, before deciding on hoping things could be saved in post-production – as had been the case with the original GoT pilot, to great expense to the now-AT&T-owned outlet.
Sadly, a successful Hail Mary was not in this particular playbook and Goldman started alerting cast members like Naomi Watts and Miranda Richardson and key crew this week that the project was DOA at HBO.
In his blog, Martin kept his cards to his chest on what had truly gone down.
“I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON,” the man sometimes called “the American Tolkien” wrote. “This was never an either/or situation.”
“If television has room enough for multiple CSIs and CHICAGO shows… well, Westeros and Essos are a lot bigger, with thousands of years of history and enough tales and legends and characters for a dozen shows,” Martin somewhat scolded over the Watts-led pilot that details the dark end of the Golden Age of Heroes thousands of years before the dragons and wars depicted in the eight seasons of GoT.
Then the small-screen industry vet, who always has several projects on the go it seems including more than a couple GoT “successor” shows, shifted into Zen mode – with a clear signal he’s not looking back.
“Heartbreaking as it is to work for years on a pilot, to pour your blood and sweat and tears into it, and have it come to nought, it’s not at all uncommon,” the Nightflyers and Beauty and the Beast producer asserts. “I’ve been there myself, more than once. I know Jane and her team are feeling the disappointment just now, and they have all my sympathy… with my thanks for all their hard work, and my good wishes for whatever they do next.”
What we do know is next for Martin is that he is determined to finish the much-delayed and multi-volumed The Winds of Winter, which will bring very different conclusions to some of the characters from GoT than the somewhat lambasted final season (which I thought was great, BTW). To that end and against that deadline, the author promises he won’t be penning any of the scripts for the first season of the Ryan Condal- and Miguel Sapochnik co-showrun House of the Dragon – at least that’s what Martin says now.
Announced this week at the HBO Max investors day by HBO programming boss Casey Bloys just hours after news of The Long Night pilot’s demise, the 10-episode House of the Dragon is scripted by longtime pal and Colony co-creator Condal and based on Martin’s Fire & Blood book and his Rogues and Dangerous Women anthologies. Set 300 years before the intrigues of GoT, the new HBO series spotlights the reign of House Targaryen – whose decendant Daenerys was known in GoT circles as the “Mother of Dragons.” GoT vet and Emmy winner Sapochnik will direct the pilot and additional episodes.
“HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been in development for several years (though the title has changed a couple of times during that process),” Martin divulges. “It was actually the first concept I pitched to HBO when we started talking about a successor show, way back in the summer of 2016.”
While Martin says he’s probably not writing any of House of the Dragon’s first season, the author makes clear that Condal “has already done a considerable amount of writing on HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, but a lot of work remains ahead of us.” With his TV cap on, Martin outlines how “there’s a writer’s room to be assembled, episodes to be broken down and scripted, a cast and crew to be assembled, budgets and production details to be worked out.”
“I expect to be involved in all of this to some extent,” the multiple Hugo Award winner adds in a nod to his apparently more hands-off approach to the Goldman pilot, “and, who knows, if things work out, I may even be able to script a few episodes, as I did for the first four seasons of GAME OF THRONES.”
Already it sounds like The Winds of Winter may be a bit longer in coming after all. And if you completely doubt that, let me point out that at the end of his latest blog post, Martin self-described his current mood as “excited.”
Clearly, a Martin pays his debts.