Game of Thrones fans are at the edge of their seats with the last season of the series just around the corner. Based on the fantasy book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones has climbed to the top of people’s viewership ladder. Now with just a few weeks left for the show’s final return, we bring you a few lesser-known facts about Game of Thrones to keep busy until then.
1. Producers D. B. Weiss and David Benioff pitched the series idea to HBO after a five-hour meeting with Martin in a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. According to Benioff, Martin agreed to their request when they correctly answered the question, “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?”
David Benioff first contacted George R. R. Martin’s literary agent in 2006. He told the agent that he is interested in the book A Song of Ice and Fire. He mentioned that he had been a fantasy fiction fan since a young age but never got around to read Martin’s books, so the agent sent him the first four books of the series.
Benioff was so blown away by just the first hundred pages of A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series, that he called up D. B. Weiss. He suggested that they adapt Martin’s novels into a TV series. Then Weiss got to reading the books and finished the first book in 36 hours.
Both of them then had a grueling five-hour meeting with Martin. They believe they won Martin over with the correct answer to “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?” Martin had received offers earlier from other producers who wanted to turn his novels into a feature film, but Martin always felt that his books are longer than just one feature film. So he liked the idea of an HBO series. (source)
2. The production of the show is a huge commitment. The shoot takes place throughout the year and each season is pictured like a ten-hour movie. Season 5 alone had to be shot in five countries for 240 days, on 151 sets, with 166 cast members, more than 1,000 crew members, and 5,000+ extras.
Although a majority of the filming for the series takes place in a Belfast studio, the crew and cast have been to numerous locations around the world for the remaining scenes. Northern Ireland, Malta, Spain, Croatia, Scotland, and Morocco are some of the locations.
The city of Mdina in Malta was used to shoot King’s Landing. The Dothraki wedding took place on the island of Gozo. While the filming of the second season took place in Croatia, for the third season, they returned to Dubrovnik and Morocco.
A scene with a live bear was shot in LA. For the third season, there were three production units who were filming in parallel with six directing teams, 257 cast members, and 703 crews.
The Season 5 shoot was the longest and filming lasted for 240 days! Season 4 was done in 136 days. (source)
3. The original pilot got negative feedback and was never aired. Extensive reshoots along with director replacement and cast changes were incorporated. Emilia Clarke replaced Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen. Also, George R.R. Martin had a cameo in the pilot!
A never-aired pilot episode was shot in 2009. Named “Winter Is Coming,” the pilot received negative feedback in a private viewing. HBO demanded that they make a new pilot with extensive re-shoots. Almost 90% of the first pilot episode was changed for the next pilot.
Craig Mazin, a highly reputed Hollywood screenwriter, was present at the private viewing. Producer Benioff who was taking notes during the session revealed in an interview that he remembered writing “massive problem” on his yellow legal pad. Mazin, instead of offering ideas, asked the producers to “change everything.”
Immediately a new director, Timothy Van Patten, was brought in for the show. Cast changes took place with Emilia Clarke replacing Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen. The failed pilot has not yet been made public. (source)
4. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage did not have to audition for their roles on the show. The show creators had them in mind as Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister respectively. Also, Sam Claflin auditioned for Viserys Targaryen and Jon Snow, while Sam Heughan auditioned for a number of roles including Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon.
There were two actors who did not audition for their roles. The script was specifically written keeping them in mind. They were Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. The scriptwriters already had these actors on mind while writing the script.
Sam Heughan, the actor who plays Jamie Fraser in the Outlander, auditioned for various roles such as Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell, and members of the Night’s Watch. Sam Claflin, who portrays Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games film series and Will Traynor in Me Before You, auditioned for the roles of Jon Snow and Viserys Targaryen. (1, 2, 3)
5. Jack Gleeson, who played Joffrey, received a letter from author George R.R. Martin after the first episode aired that said: “Congratulations on your marvelous performance. Everyone hates you!”
Joffrey Baratheon must have been one of the most hated characters in the series, at least when he was alive. All credits go to Jack Gleeson for portraying this character so well. So, it is not a surprise that he received that letter from George R. R. Martin!
6. Rory McCann, who plays the Hound, was incredibly anti-social until he learned that the fellow actors of the “Brotherhood Without Banners” group were musicians. They then got together to form a band called the “Brotherhood Without Banjos.” Also, Kirstian Nairn, who plays Hodor, is a popular DJ and his gigs are called “Rave Of Thrones!”
Game of Thrones‘s characters Ser Jorah Mormont, Tormund, Beric Dondarrion, and The Hound have started a band of their own! There might even be an unexpected Game of Thrones spinoff album from this band. They named their band “Brotherhood Without Banjos,” after the “Brotherhood Without Banners” group from the series.
In 2017, Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund, shared numerous video clips of the four stars singing. He also shared an original composition called “Anthem over Season Seven End.” Rory McCann (the Hound), Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion), and Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont) are the other band members. They named their first album “What Will Fate Bring Us?”
On another note, even though Kirstian Nairn has just one word as dialogue in the series, he is quite musical in real life. Nairn, who plays Hodor, is a DJ in real life. He calls his gigs “Rave Of Thrones!” (source)
7. In the TV adaption, Daenerys Targaryen is famous for her long, gorgeous, silver hair. For much of the books, she’s bald as her hair was burnt off when she walked into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre. Also, she was supposed to have violet eyes. But during shooting, the idea was dropped as it obstructed the actors from portraying emotions.
Daenerys Targaryen is the daughter of King Aerys II Targaryen who had dragon blood. Because of that, she has dragon blood too which means she cannot burn in fire – at least according to the show. The most striking feature of Daenerys is her long, silvery locks. But in the books, her amazing hair gets burnt when she enters her husband’s funeral pyre.
In the book, Daenerys emerges from the pyre covered with ash. Her hair and her clothes are scorched away too. She then spends most of her journey as bald and slowly re-growing her hair. Although there is no explanation on why the series producers decided to keep her hair, fans believe that it was to make Emilia Clarke look more attractive and powerful. (source: HBO)