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Game of Thrones (TV series)

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Eddard promo

A HBO promotional image of Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark.

Season2CastEW

An Entertainment Weekly promotional photo of some of the Season 2 cast. From left to right Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage.

Game of Thrones is an American fantasy television series produced by the HBO cable network. It is based on the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R. Martin who serves as a producer, creative consultant and scriptwriter on the television series. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss created the television series and serve as executive producers, showrunners and the main writers.

To date, the series consists of four transmitted seasons comprising fourty episodes in total. Two further seasons have been commissioned,[1] taking the show up to a sixth year/season.

Production of the series is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, mainly at the Paint Hall Studios. It is the largest and most expensive television production ever mounted in Northern Ireland. Filming for the series has also been conducted in Malta, Iceland, Croatia, Morocco and the USA.

Production history

See the production timeline for a more detailed history of the show's development and production.

David Benioff was sent a collection of the first four novels in the series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) by George R.R. Martin's agent. Initially sceptical of the fantasy genre, Benioff became a big fan of the books and invited his friend D.B. Weiss to develop the project with him for a screen adaptation. They initially considered a movie adaption, but realized this would mean losing most of the plot and characters from the books. Instead, they began working on an adaptation for television. They met with George R.R. Martin and spent several hours discussing the project. Martin was impressed with their enthusiasm and that they had already worked out the resolutions to several key mysteries in the books. He agreed with them that the series was a good fit for the cable company HBO, which Martin was already a big fan of.

HBO agreed to option the project in 2007 and active development of a pilot script began. However, this was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. In October 2008 HBO exercised its option to buy the rights to the series and ordered a pilot episode a few weeks later. Casting announcements were made throughout 2009, with Peter Dinklage the first actor formally announced for the series. The pilot episode was filmed in Northern Ireland and Morocco in October and November 2009.

HBO officially greenlit the series on 2 March 2010. Filming of Season 1 began on 23 July, with Malta replacing Morocco for overseas filming. Several actors from the pilot were recast, requiring the re-filming of most of the first episode. The season wrapped filming on 15 December. HBO later confirmed that the first season had a budget of $60 million. The first season aired on HBO on 17 April-19 June 2011, garnering critical acclaim and steadily rising ratings. HBO confirmed after the transmission of the first episode that a second season had been commissioned.

Production of Season 2 began on 25 July 2011 and wrapped on 12 December. Malta was dropped as a filming location, replaced by Croatia, while additional filming took place in Iceland. The budget for Season 2 was 15% higher than Season 1, necessitated by the addition more ambitious effects sequences and the use of CGI creatures such as direwolves and dragons. The second season aired from 1 April to 3 June 2012, garnering additional critical acclaim and increased ratings. By the end of the second season, the show had become the third-most-successful series in HBO's history, behind only The Sopranos and True Blood. In addition, the DVD and Blu-ray set of Season 1 was released just prior to transmission of Season 2 and immediately became HBO's fastest-selling media release in its history.

Production of Season 3 began on 10 July 2012 and wrapped on 24 November. Morocco was added to the filming roster alongside Croatia, Iceland and Northern Ireland, with the complexities of filming requiring the addition of a third filming unit to the existing two. An additional scene was shot in Los Angeles for safety reasons, meaning that Season 3 was filmed in five separate countries on three continents. The season aired from 31 March to 2 June 2013. The penultimate episode The Rains of Castamere won widespread critical acclaim for its shock twist ending. By the end of the season the show had supplanted True Blood as the second-most successful HBO show in the United States and The Sopranos as its most successful series worldwide.

Production of Season 4 began on 8 July 2013 and concluded on 21 November. Production was more focused this season, with only two units used and filming restricted to Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia. This was to allow more of the budget to be concentrated on several major action and effects sequences late in the season.

Two further seasons have been commissioned,[2] taking the show up to a sixth year.

Future seasons, and catching up with the books

The initial plan

It is generally projected that the TV series will last seven or eight seasons, but no one is entirely sure.

As of 2014, five books have been published in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and author George R.R. Martin has predicted that there will be two more (though he is struggling not to let the final book run long, in which case it would have to be split, for a total of eight books).

The third novel, A Storm of Swords, was so long that it pushed the limits of how large a published book could physically be without pages falling out. Because the third novel was so long, the production team realized it would be impossible to condense it all into a single season, so the decision was made to adapt its contents across two seasons. While Season 3 ends with the Red Wedding, this actually happened in the middle of the third novel (similar to how Renly Baratheon suddenly died in the middle of Season 2). Jon Snow returned to Castle Black by the middle of the third novel. Daenerys Targaryen had not yet reached Meereen by the middle of the third novel. A few characters did advance further than this in Season 3, i.e. Bran Stark actually passed north of the Wall at the end of the third novel (he had so few chapters in the entire book that the TV producers didn't want to space it out for two full seasons).

As a result, while there are projected to be seven novels, splitting the third novel into two seasons should mean that the TV series will end with Season 8. Even so the producers have never been sure about this, and often simply gave the figure of "seven or eight" seasons.

Seasons 5: Intercutting the fourth and fifth novels

What was originally planned as the fourth novel was even longer than the third novel, so Martin split it into two novels: A Feast for Crows (the fourth book) and A Dance with Dragons (the fifth book). The fourth and fifth books occur during a simultaneous timeframe: all of the chapters set in the Seven Kingdoms were moved to the fourth book, while all chapters set outside of the Seven Kingdoms (at the Wall or across the Narrow Sea in Essos) were moved to the fifth book. Though of course, despite splitting them because as one book they would have been longer than the third novel, Martin kept making additions to the fourth and fifth novels during the writing process, so both are nearly as long as the third novel.

It would be odd to spend an entire season with one set of characters while the rest do not appear, then reverse this in the subsequent season. So the TV series's plan is that Seasons 5 will chronologically present events in the order that they happened. This is comparable to how J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers actually consisted of two halves: the first half entirely follows Aragorn since the end of the first novel, then the second half backs up in time to follow only Frodo's perspective, but during the same timeframe since the end of the first novel. Peter Jackson's movie adaptation, however, chose to simply intercut between the two storylines to show events in the chronological order in which they occurred. Thus "Season 5" will consist of the majority of the material from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

Future of the show: How many seasons?

Given that there are currently five novels (with the third split into two seasons), but given the fact that the majority of the last two novels will be adapted in season 5, there is currently only enough print material to adapt through the end of Season 5 (for most storylines). Even so, Martin has told producers Benioff & Weiss the general outline of how the final two books are going to progress (so if a bolt of lightning strikes Martin, they'd still be able to finish according to Martin's general plan). 

Soon before Season 4 began, in early March 2014 executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss made several comments that they actually felt Season 4 was the "midway point" of the TV series, which would probably last seven seasons. On March 11, 2014, they said in Entertainment Weekly:

"It feels like this is the midpoint for us...If we’re going to go seven seasons, which is the plan, Season 4 is right down the middle, the pivot point...I would say it's the goal we've had from the beginning...It was our unstated goal, because to start on a show and say your goal is seven seasons is the height of lunacy. Once we got to the point where we felt like we're going to be able to tell this tale to its conclusion, that became [an even clearer] goal. Seven gods, seven kingdoms, seven seasons. It feels right to us.”[3]

Benioff & Weiss, as well as George R.R. Martin himself, then provided comments for the April 2014 issue of </span>Vanity Fair (which was released about two weeks after Benioff and Weiss said in Entertainment Weekly that there might be only seven seasons). Contradicting his statements made at the same time in EW that "we're going for seven seasons, it's been our goal since the beginning", Benioff instead repeated that the production team wasn't sure if the TVseries would last "seven or eight" seasons.

"If we're a series and we're four seasons, five seasons in, and it's indefinite as to how long it's gonna go, then I don't think there’s as much pressure as far as, the end is coming, the end is nigh. So, for us, whether it ends up being seven or eight, it's right around there. I think we've always felt — we just completed the fourth season — this is the midpoint. And we're coming around the bend right now."[4]

Catching up with the books

George R.R. Martin himself, in the same issue of Vanity Fair, addressed the major and related question which is frequently asked: what will happen if the TV series outpaces the remaining books? What if Martin cannot finish the next novel (the sixth, The Winds of Winter) before Season 6 has to enter production?

Martin stated that while he is trying to focus on writing the remaining novels, he is opposed to rushing them to finish to match the TV series, given that he wants his novels to stand the test of time for decades, like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Thus while Martin is hurrying, he has accepted that it a real possibility that he cannot finish the next two novels in time.

Casting

With 250 speaking roles, almost 90 of them named, the cast was the largest ever assembled for the debut season of a HBO project. The cast grew even larger in the second and third seasons.

The cast includes Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Mark Addy as King Robert Baratheon, Kit Harington as Jon Snow, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Harry Lloyd as Viserys TargaryenRichard Madden as Robb StarkCharles Dance as Tywin LannisterAidan Gillen as Petyr BaelishAlfie Allen as Theon GreyjoyConleth Hill as VarysRory McCann as Sandor CleganeJerome Flynn as BronnJohn Bradley-West as Samwell TarlyIain Glen as Jorah MormontJames Cosmo as Jeor Mormont, Joe Dempsie as GendrySibel Kekilli as Shae and Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo. The cast is also notable for including a number of teenage and child actors in prominent roles: Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark, Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark and Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon.

Jennifer Ehle was initially cast as Catelyn Stark, but after filming the pilot HBO decided to recast the role with Michelle Fairley. No further details have been given for the reason behind this decision, except that it was amicable. In a similar manner, Tamzin Merchant was initially cast as Daenerys Targaryen, but after filming the pilot she was replaced by newcomer Emilia Clarke.

For the second season, a number of new cast members were introduced, including Stephen Dillane as Lord Stannis Baratheon, Carice van Houten as Melisandre, Liam Cunningham as Davos SeaworthNatalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, Michael McElhatton as Roose Bolton, Rose Leslie as Ygritte and Hannah Murray as Gilly.

For the third season, the cast was further swelled with additions, including Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Snow, Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder, Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane and Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei.

For the fourth season, only a few new cast members were added, including Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell, Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand, Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis and Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Mace Tyrell.

The fifth season marked the introduction of many new cast members, including Alexander Siddig as Doran Martell, Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow and Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers as the Sand Snakes: Obara, Nymeria and Tyene Sand.

Premise

The series is set on a world where the seasons can last for years at a time. The main setting is the continent of Westeros, which was home to seven feuding kingdoms until they were united by the Targaryen family using dragons some three centuries ago. The dragons died out and the Targaryen Mad King was unseated in a civil war led by Lords Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark, seventeen years before the series opens. Robert has ruled as King ever since, but when the series opens his rule is increasingly undermined by other factions. At the same time, two surviving Targaryen children, having grown to adulthood in exile on the eastern continent of Essos, are now planning to return and retake the Iron Throne, and to this end are seeking a military alliance with other factions.

As both civil war and an external invasion threaten Westeros, another danger arises in the lands to the far north, beyond the vast Wall that forms the realm's northern border, where a supernatural threat believed to be mythical seems to be stirring after millennia of sleep. The only defense lies with the Night's Watch, an under-manned, under-funded order of soldiers once held in honor but now used as a dumping ground for criminals and exiles.

The Great Houses

Westeros is ruled by nine noble houses, who in turn command hundreds of lesser vassal houses. Each of the Great Houses rules a large region and commands significant armies and power in their own right. A list of the Great Houses and some of their more significant vassals follows:

Cast

This list of characters describes their location and status as of the first episode of the series.

House Stark

Main article: House Stark

Retainers at Winterfell

Vassals and allies of House Stark

House Bolton and retainers

House Lannister

Main article: House Lannister

Vassals and allies of House Lannister

House Baratheon

Main article: House Baratheon

Vassals and allies of House Baratheon

House Arryn and retainers

Main article: House Arryn

House Tyrell and retainers

Main article: House Tyrell

House Greyjoy and retainers

Main article: House Greyjoy

House Tully and retainers

Main article: House Tully

House Frey and retainers

House Martell and retainers

Main article: House Martell

In the Riverlands

Main article: Riverlands

In King's Landing

In the Night's Watch

Main article: Night's Watch

Beyond the Wall

In the Free Cities and Vaes Dothrak

In Qarth

In Slaver's Bay

Credits

  • David Benioff - writer/executive producer.
  • D.B. Weiss - writer/executive producer.
  • George R.R. Martin - writer/executive producer.
  • Guymon Cassidy - executive producer.
  • Carolyn Strauss - executive producer.
  • Ralph Vincinaza - executive producer.
  • Vincent Gerardis - executive producer.
  • Frank Doelger - producer.
  • Mark Huffam - producer
  • Thomas McCarthy - director (pilot).
  • Sean Bobbitt - director of photography.
  • Sean Guest - 1st assistant director.
  • Tatiana S. Riegel - editor.
  • Gemma Jackson - production designer.
  • Michele Clapton - costume designer.
  • Marisa Clayton - digital post-production.
  • Julia Frey - production supervisor/location scout (pilot).
  • Robert Stromberg - VFX supervisor (pilot).
  • Ramin Djawadi - music (series).
  • Buster Reeves - stunt work (pilot).
  • Corvus Corax - music (Winterfell feast scene).
  • Nina Gold - London casting director.
  • Amy Berman & Carrie Frazier - Los Angeles casting directors.
  • Michelle Taylor Spellman - Los Angeles casting associate.
  • Kerry Barden & Paul Schnee - New York casting directors.
  • Allison Estrin - New York casting associate.

Writers

Directors

Filming locations

Northern Ireland

  • The Paint Hall Studios in Belfast is being used for all primary interior sets.
  • Location filming for the prologue and the discovery of the direwolf cubs took place at Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle in County Down.
  • Location filming for some exteriors near Winterfell, including the execution in Season 1 Episode 1 of Will, who fled the Night's Watch, took place at Cairncastle in County Antrim.
  • Location filming for some courtyard scenes at Winterfell, including Tommen and Bran's practice bout, took place at Castle Ward in County Down.

Scotland

  • The Clanranald Trust's 'Combat International' team have confirmed they will be taking part in the production for some scenes that will be filmed at a castle in Scotland. Doune Castle, used for some scenes in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is being used for some scenes involving guardsmen displaying the livery of House Lannister, suggesting that it will be used to depict the courtyard of Winterfell. Filming of the pilot began at Doune Castle on 24 October.

Morocco (pilot only)

  • Morocco was used for the filming of the scenes involving Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen in Pentos. Some of the castle sets constructed for the movie Kingdom of Heaven were also reused for the project.
  • Atlas Studios and some other locations at Ouarzazate are the primary locations where filming took place in Morocco.

Filming dates

  • The pilot was originally expected to be filmed between 12 October and 6 November 2009, but there was a two-week delay in pre-production. A read-through of the script was held on 12 October 2009. Production and on-location rehearsals began on 24 October. Filming commenced on 26 October and concluded on 19 November.
  • Scenes at Doune Castle were filmed on 26–27 October 2009 and are believed to include the Winterfell feast to celebrate King Robert's visit. Some filming was also done in the courtyard.
  • The prologue was filmed on 29 October 2009 at Tollymore Forest Park.
  • Filming at Cairncastle took place on 2 November 2009, including the scene of Gared's execution and finding the dead direwolf in the snow.
  • Filming of the scene between Ros, Tyrion and Jaime in King's Landing was filmed on or prior to 3 November 2009, possibly at the Paint Hall studios.
  • Filming at Castle Ward took place on 5 November 2009, including the scenes of Tommen and Bran sparring and Sandor and Joffrey insulting Rodrik and Robb.
  • The UK filming bloc was expected to last for 18 days, suggesting that it would finish around 12 November 2009. George R.R. Martin confirmed on his blog that after this date production would move to Morocco for the remainder of the shoot.
  • Daenerys and Khal Drogo's wedding was filmed on 16 November 2009.
  • Production of the rest of Season 1, including reshoots on the pilot, commenced on 23 July 2010 and ran through 18 December 2010. Filming took place in Northern Ireland and Malta.
  • Production of Season 2 ran from 25 July 2011 to 12 December 2011. Filming took place in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia (replacing Malta).
  • Production of Season 3 ran from 10 July to 24 November 2012, with Morocco added to the filming roster. An additional scene was also shot in Los Angeles, meaning that filming for Season 3 took place in five countries and on three continents.
  • Production of Season 4 ran from 8 July to 21 November 2013. Filming took place in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia, with Morocco dropped. Filming in Iceland was expanded to encompass locations in the south of Westeros as well as beyond the Wall, and took place earlier in the schedule to allow for more filming time.

External links

References

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