HBO Spent $30 million on axed ‘Game of Thrones’ spin-off pilot
We know that in 2022, we’ll be returning to Westeros in the Game of Thrones prequel series titled House of The Dragon. However, that was not always the plan. Back in the summer of 2019, HBO had thought of another Westeros-related spin-off series with a completely different approach. However, HBO eventually scrapped that Game of Thrones spin-off series, albeit after spending $30 million on shooting the pilot!
The newly released book, titled Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers by James Andrew Miller, made this startling revelation. The scrapped Game of Thrones spin-off series never really got a title. However, HBO had hired a lot of heavyweights from Hollywood to work on the series. This included S.J. Clarkson as director, Jane Goldman as showrunner, and Naomi Watts in a lead role. Unlike House of the Dragon, this spin-off was set thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, during the Long Night. This was a time before the Wall in the North existed and the Targaryens even came to Westeros. We would have seen the Starks, Lannisters, and other Houses joining forces to fight the bigger threat – the Others, or popularly called the White Walkers.
Why did HBO axe a Game of Thrones spin-off they spent $30 million on?
George RR Martin had even suggested naming the series ‘The Long Night,’ but instead, that name was given to the epic battle in Winterfell from Game of Thrones season 8. However, that spin-off could not see the light of day either. And instead, HBO went ahead with the Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon. Unlike the spin-off featuring Watts, House of the Dragon has actual source material in George RR Martin’s book series Fire & Blood. But, this decision came after the studio had already spent $30 million on the pilot! WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt also revealed another reason that HBO axed this Game of Thrones spin-off series in the book, saying:
They had spent over $30 million on a Game of Thrones prequel pilot when I got there. And when I saw a cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to [HBO chief content officer] Casey [Bloys], ‘this just doesn’t work and I don’t think it delivers on the premise of the original series.’ And he didn’t disagree, which actually was a relief. So we unfortunately decided to pull the plug on it. There was enormous pressure to get it right and I don’t think it would have worked.
That said, HBO has a lot of interesting lineups fro the Game of Thrones universe
Moreover, the book also reveals the reason behind House of the Dragon getting green-lit and going into production so quickly. And it was large because of the monumental failure that the $30 million Game of Thrones spin-off pilot was. Greenblatt said:
I’m the one who encouraged Casey to green-light it to series. I said, ‘let’s not risk $30 million on a pilot.’ You can’t spend $30 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.’ They made the first pilot because they were protecting their own downside and protecting that brand, which I understand, but it was critical that we somehow continue that franchise and move quickly, which meant getting the series into production asap. That’s always a nail-biter, but I think the new show that is coming will be incredible.
That said, Game of Thrones fans should not be worried at all. Apart from House of the Dragon, HBO now has a lineup of Game of Thrones spin-offs under the works. There are at least two more shows that HBO has planned, which are “9 Voyages” and “10,000 Ships”. 9 Voyages will focus on the life of Corlys Velaryon, also known as the “Sea Snake” and head of House Velaryon, husband to Rhaenys Targaryen. And 10,000 Ships is a story of Nymeria and the Rhoynar, who migrated from Eassos to Westeros and established their new base in Dorne with the Martells. HBO had also planned a Flea Bottom series planned, which was going to be about the poorest region in all of King’s Landing, where Ser Davos and Gendry both hailed from. But, they ended up canceling it.