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New Details Revealed About the Failed Original Pilot

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We’ve reported previously that James Hibberd will be publishing an in-depth oral history of Game of Thrones—filled with new interviews and never-before-heard anecdotes from behind the scenes—titled Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon. Over at EW, a lengthy excerpt has been posted sharing a wide-array of comments from producers (Benioff and Weiss first and foremost, as well as Bryan Cogman), actors (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Jason Momoa, Mark Addy, Iain Glen), and executives (most notable Michael Lombardo and Richard Plepler) concerning the original pilot which was heavily reshot by Tim van Patten, including recasting of several key roles. There’s some decidedly new details just in this short excerpt, which bodes well for the rest of the book’s insights. Below are a couple of quotes from GRRM himself that are interesting.



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....One of the big points I've been trying to stress is that Benioff & Weiss were not only unqualified, but utter narcissists who think they're already perfect, so they *don't want to learn*.  When you actually look at other interviews Benioff has done where he admits he doesn't know how screenwriting works, and never finished a single screenwriting manual, because they make him feel stupid, before then blaming the instruction manuals and saying he knows better than them.  So many people, for years, kept saying, "they're learning"....five years into it, this shouldn't have been "the world's most expensive film school", and things they got wrong in the pilot continued to be problems through the eighth and final season.  Basic mistakes.  They don't WANT to learn so they never will! 

So...give those handsome devils a $1 Billion contract to adapt the Hugo-award-winning Three Body Problem!

Among the things revealed in this excerpt:

  • David Benioff: "At first it seemed to us like it was going well, but that was because we didn't know any better"
  • They didn't realize that everyone should kneel to King Robert when he arrives at Winterfell
  • GRRM stresses that the original Daenerys/Drogo sex scene with Tamzin Merchant was "like the books", a seduction, but that the Emilia Clarke version was changed to "rape" - but no one explains WHY this was changed (the most Martin has ever said in other interviews is "ask David and Dan" - I wonder if they ever even gave him a verbal explanation, or there was just an awkward silence where they stared back at him and said "we know what we're doing)
  • They filmed the original Dany/Drogo sex scene in the middle of a field at night, with natural lighting....Ian Glenn:  "Because the wedding was shot at night, quite a bit of money was spent on seeing F*ck all" ---- This is basic film school stuff:  LIGHTING.  In Season 5's Dorne fight, they set it during the day - making no sense for an infiltration - because "you can't see anything at night".  And just...have they never heard of "Day for Night" filming techniques?  Seen a single film using that?  It's 100 years old.  And if D&D haven't heard of that, their directors sure as hell did - were they overruled or something?  I've gone through all the Season 8 Blu-ray commentary tracks, and YES, the VFX commentary for episode 8.3 admits that they were fighting with D&D that the screen is so dark you can't see anything.  This wasn't some surprise when the episode aired, the production staff was arguing with them about it throughout work on it.  But this is a new low....the Dorne fight was an issue of "maybe they assume we can't see things at night" so they set it in the day.  This...was the EXACT same problem: "we filmed it at night under natural lighting and we wasted millions of dollars on a dark screen where you can't see anything"....and they just did it AGAIN in the hyped big battle of Season 8.  This isn't in isolation, it isn't just these two guys in a room - they're surrounded by a dozen production staff begging them "this won't work, just like it didn't work in a previous failure we can point to" - and they just ignore them.  This isn't normal.
  • Someone who knows about horsework (like Linda) please give more background:  they wanted a horse to jump over an active campfire?  Aren't horses naturally afraid of fire?  So they were....surprised, and lost filming time, when the stunt horse indeed refused to jump over it?  At BEST, this is ignorant (do stunt horses ever jump over fire?) and at worst...is that a risk to the horse's health?  I mean, I know there are safety laws against even having two stunt horses TOUCH each other, are there rules against them jumping an active campfire?  Not that I'm some raging PETA type, I'm more reacting to their stupidity:  you didn't know that stunt horses can't do that, but no one at HBO bothered to ask if you did know.  Two former novelists who no experience in TV production much less "metalwork for armored costumes" or "CGI" or 'the difficulty of working with live horses"
  • HBO's Michael Lombardo openly admits that the pilot didn't have enough wideshots, to the point it felt like all the millions of dollars they spent on fully realized sets WENT TO WASTE, because so little of them was shown on camera that it might as well have been filmed on a studio backlot.  This is one of the big points of my research on all of their interviews and commentaries over the years:  they're just trying to show off "These Performances, These Faces" (a catch phrase that more than one person has quoted, apparently originating with Benioff, but I've heard everyone from Bryan Cogman to Alan Taylor repeating it).  They're trying to show off the celebrity actor faces emoting, with no dialogue, as a crutch to carry their weak writing.  And I realize Elio stopped watching the show after Season 5; it was prominent even before that, got bad in Season 5, but even WORSE with every subsequent season, to a point that even the CASUAL viewers were complaining by season 8 that "it's just 5 minute long scenes of closeups on Peter Dinklage's face, with no dialogue".....do you realize, that back in Season 2, director Neil Marshall came on and said "you have a fully realized Castle Black set...why aren't you using wideshots of it?  Why not have a 360 camera swerve during the battle to show it off?"...just how...alien, that was, to their typical style of "closeups on the faces".   And here we have HBO's Lombard admitting that this was a CRIPPLING problem even in the failed pilot episode! They learned nothing!
  • According to Bryan Cogman himself, they were so worried about turning off people with all the "Fantasy" elements that they went back to their script before filming it and took out all the "heavy exposition" type dialogue explaining the Fantasy stuff....to the point that things like "What is a White Walker? Why are we worried about them?" seem to have been cut.  When they say the final version was "unintelligible" this is a big part of it.  Even the leaked scripts we have copies of, including the one that GRRM sent to Cushing library archive....those might not be the final filming script.  Imagine if at the last minute, D&D took the ones we saw, and took out all the "exposition" about "magic" elements.
  • As noted by GRRM in the quote posted on the WesterosOrg article, one of the first big things D&D pushed for was they wanted to omit Rickon Stark and not include him in the show.  GRRM insisted Rickon does important things in future unpublished books, so Rickon was put in the show over their direct objections.  But this does much to explain why they barely developed Rickon Stark in the early seasons - before GRRM gave them the outline of the future books.  Then why they dropped him like a stone in Season 6, in which he DOESN'T HAVE A SINGLE SPEAKING LINE.  Even the shownly fansites and TV apologists complain about how they did a disservice to the Rickon actor.

Imagine the combined effect of all this, even just at the Dany/Drogo wedding scene in the Morocco set:  they bothered building an expensive wedding set, but there were so many closeups you couldn't tell, and it was filmed at night under natural lighting so you could barely see anything even at the rare points when it wasn't a tight closeup, and the dialogue left out "Fantasy" stuff - probably things like *explaining what the hell dragon eggs are* and where these ones came from.

Edited by The Dragon Demands

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I want to draw attention to the horse issues so this can make a shorter quote for a reaction post :)

@Linda Someone who knows about horsework please give more background: 

They wanted a horse to jump over an active campfire?  Aren't horses naturally afraid of fire? 

So they were....surprised, and lost filming time, when the stunt horse indeed refused to jump over it?  At BEST, this is ignorant (do stunt horses ever jump over fire?) and at worst...is that a risk to the horse's health?  I mean, I know there are safety laws against even having two stunt horses TOUCH each other, are there rules against them jumping an active campfire?  Not that I'm some raging PETA type, I'm more reacting to their stupidity:  you didn't know that stunt horses can't do that, but no one at HBO bothered to ask if you did know.  Two former novelists who no experience in TV production much less "metalwork for armored costumes" or "CGI" or 'the difficulty of working with live horses"

Second point from the article that I didn't mention in original post:  it turns out that during the original Drogo/Daenerys sex scene, with Tamzin Merchant, they used a male horse to stand in for her silver......then the horse got "visibly aroused" by seeing two humans having sex.  The footage was unusable with this horse in the background.

Leading to the question....isn't it standard practice for TV shows to have female horses to stand in for male ones?  Because of....this issue?

Or tape a bunch of cats together or something?
 

 

Edited by The Dragon Demands

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