TCA Press Tour 2011: ‘Game of Thrones’ will bring winter to April
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The TCA press tour panel for “Game of Thrones” was one of the most eagerly anticipated on a day full of interesting sessions. HBO finally announced a launch date for the series -- April 17 -– which is based on the “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy saga written by George R.R. Martin. And they brought three of the vast ensemble cast (Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage), the author and the showrunners on stage to discuss the show.
Martin cut a quirky figure onstage with his puffy white beard, cap and suspenders as he pondered why there’s been such fervent excitement about the series. Noting diplomatically that “fantasy and science fiction fans are very intense,” Martin also blamed TV.
“There’s relatively little out there” for science fiction fans, he said. Television is full of legal shows and comedies, not to mention all those real housewives, Martin said. “Fantasy has been largely restricted to books for a long time,” and many readers are eager to see the genre on the small screen, he said.
David Benioff, who adapted the series from the books and executive produces along with longtime pal D.B. Weiss, clearly felt Martin was being too modest about his work. He argued that “Thrones” “is not just an epic battle of good and evil” but features “characters of enormous complexity” in its tale of power struggles and family drama set in a icy, violent kingdom. “To come across something that treats [the genre] with as much sensitivity and intelligence as George does” incites passion in fans, Benioff said.
Sean Bean, who plays the lordly Eddard Stark, seemed slightly nervous about the pressure on him to live up to readers’ fantasies -– though you’d think he’d be used to it after starring in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bean drew comparisons between the two sagas, saying that despite its TV-sized budget, the production values on ‘Game of Thrones’ were “unlike anything I’ve seen, even on ‘Lord of the Rings’ … I was impressed by the detail, the sheer size of it, the craftsmanship … everything was so detailed, so fast. It was like working on a big feature film every week.”
Martin –- who spent many years working in TV -– said he started these books after leaving television because he was fed up with having to cut down his scripts and limit his vision. He wrote books with thousands of pages and thousands of characters, assuming they could never be translated onto the screen. “Now Dave and Dan have to solve all those problems I created,” he said gleefully. Martin only wrote one script of the 10 in the series’ first season, mostly because he said he needed to focus on finishing the fifth book in the saga. “The books are 1,500 pages long and I have a mob outside my house with pitchforks…” waiting for the next novel to emerge. [Updated 10 a.m. Jan. 8: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Martin’s book-in-progress as the 6th book in the series.]
So far “Game of Thrones” just has a one-season commitment, but everyone on stage seemed hopeful there would be more. Except maybe Martin, who has his own reason to be ambivalent: “The scary thing is if these guys catch up with me!”
-- Joy Press