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‘Game of Thrones’ prequels will have bigger budgets than original series

Macall B. Polay/HBO
Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) Stark Helen Sloan/HBO

With HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones concluding its epic run in 2019, fans are understandably eager to find out what else the network has planned for the fantasy world adapted from George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed novels. Fortunately, we have some ideas about what we can expect to see — which could involve five potential Game of Thrones prequel series with budgets to rival that of the original series.

During the INTV conference in Israel, the network confirmed that the prequels are budgeted at or above the level of Game of Thrones, and likely higher than the first few seasons of the series.

“$50 million [per season] would never fly for what we are trying to do,” said Francesca Orsi, HBO’s senior vice-president of drama, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “We are going big.”

Orsi added that the network is planning for “three, four, five spinoffs.”

The number of projects is somewhat excessive, even to HBO. The premium network’s CEO, Richard Plepler, offered high praise to their many ideas and the talent working on the projects while speaking at the Variety Vanguard Awards in mid-October.

“I think we will find with this embarrassment of riches an exciting property for us to move forward with,” Plepler said.

The riches he spoke of are indeed bountiful. Previously, Martin confirmed the development of four series in May 2017 and hinted that a fifth could also be in the works; the latter project was confirmed by Variety. Martin will be involved with each of the prequel series, with the first four projects being developed by writers Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Golden Circle), Brian Helgeland (Legend), and Carly Wray (Mad Men). The fifth series will be developed by veteran Game of Thrones writer and producer Bryan Cogman, who penned the Season 7 episode Stormborn and the Season 6 episode The Broken Man.

“It’s a fantastic group of writers and talent, most of whom have lived inside the Thrones eco-system so are very, very familiar with its intricacies,” Plepler said of the teams at the Vanguard Awards.

They’re tasked with continuing the Game of Thrones universe in a new way. In a long post on Martin’s personal Live Journal site, the author clarified some of the plans for the multiple spinoff projects in the works — specifically, what the shows will not be.

“None of these new shows will be ‘spinning off’ from [Game of Thrones] in the traditional sense,” wrote Martin. “We are not talking Joey or AfterMASH or even Frazier or Lou Grant, where characters from one show continue on to another. So all of you who were hoping for the further adventures of Hot Pie are doomed to disappointment. Every one of the concepts under discussion is a prequel, rather than a sequel. Some may not even be set on Westeros.”

While fans will certainly be excited about the prospect of not one but five prequel series, Martin admitted that he does not expect all five projects to be picked up by the network.

“Decades of experience in television and film have taught me that nothing is ever really certain, but I do think it’s very unlikely that we’ll be getting four (or five) series. At least not immediately,” he wrote. “What we do have here is an order for four — now five — pilot scripts. How many pilots will be filmed, and how many series might come out of that, remains to be seen.”

Plepler evidently agrees, as he indicated that he expected to find at least “an exciting property.”

As for the details of the projects’ plots, neither Plepler nor Martin revealed specific details. However, Martin did indicate that fans who expect to see familiar characters or events from Westeros’ past might be disappointed with the focus of the shows. According to Martin, the shows won’t simply be adaptations of his Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas set 90 years before the events of the Song of Ice and Fire saga, nor will they chronicle the events of Robert’s Rebellion (the civil war that set the stage for the novels and put Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne).

“We’re not doing Dunk and Egg,” wrote Martin. “Eventually, sure, I’d love that, and so would many of you. But I’ve only written and published three novellas to date, and there are at least seven or eight or ten more I want to write. We all know how slow I am, and how fast a television show can move. I don’t want to repeat what happened with Game of Thrones itself, where the show gets ahead of the books. When the day comes that I’ve finished telling all my tales of Dunk and Egg, then we’ll do a TV show about them … but that day is still a long ways off.”

As for Robert’s Rebellion, Martin said the remaining books in A Song of Ice and Fire would make a television series based on that particular war seem redundant.

“We’re not doing Robert’s Rebellion either,” he explained. “I know thousands of you want that, I know there’s a petition … but by the time I finish writing A Song of Ice and Fire, you will know every important thing that happened in Robert’s Rebellion. There would be no surprises or revelations left in such a show, just the acting out of conflicts whose resolutions you already know. That’s not a story I want to tell just now; it would feel too much like a twice-told tale.”

Update: We added an update from HBO on the budgets for the prequel series.

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Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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