My thoughts on GAME OF THRONES

Author George R. R. Martin tried desperately to talk HBO out of making a TV show out of his epic “Game of Thrones” books — for fear that a flop would kill his popular series, according to a new book.

In the preface to a new book, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones, Martin recalls telling the shows future producers, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff that ‘[i]t’s too big. It’s too complicated. It’s too expensive,’ and that ‘Hollywood Boulevard is lined with the skulls and bleached bones.’

Hollywood Boulevard is lined with the skulls and bleached bones.

According to the New York Post ‘[h]is biggest fear about a TV version of his first book was that a failure would cause fans to question their dedication to the series — and kill the community of readers that had grown around A Song of Ice and Fire,’ Having spent many years in Hollywood as a writer for Beauty and the Beast and The Twilight Zone, Martin has long been connected to the Hollywood scene and has seen the dismal fate that most adaptations meet. At the time, A Song of Ice and Fire had built a strong following among Fantasy fans, but a mainstream audience was still just a twinkle in Martin’s eye. Despite this, momentum was on Martin’s side and the risk of alienating his current audience was a real consideration. One producer even went so far as to pitch Martin on a film adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, suggesting that the entire seven volume series, including the unwritten books (presumably three or four, at that time) be condensed into a single film. This from the same industry that is stretching The Hobbit, which is the 1/3 the length of a single volume in A Song of Ice and Fire, into three films. Worrying.

Despite these reservations, Martin obviously acquieseced to the arguments (or cheque writing capabilities) of Benioff and Weiss, or we wouldn’t now be enjoying the show on HBO. The list of writers who would actively work against their literature being adapted to film is small, and mostly littered with the ultra successful, for Hollywood cheques aren’t insubstantial, but it’s interesting to see Martin working so hard to protect his product. His reasoning is valid, in a sense, especially when you look at similar adaptations, like Terry Goodkind’s Legend of the Seeker, which Goodkind has publicly admitted was a mistake and failure, though I’d be curious to see how Legend of the Seeker affected Goodkind’s overall brand, if at all. Lucky for us, Weiss, Benioff and HBO were able to convince Martin that they were able to do justice to his series and, even more lucky, they’ve actually managed to live up to those promises.

  • Paul (@princejvstin) October 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

    I understand he wrote epic fantasy explicitly to have an “unlimited budget” he couldn’t get from movie and TV scripts. Surprise, surprise…

  • Andrew Mayer October 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

    That seems a little self-serving to me. Television is such a massively more powerful media than print I can’t really imagine a scenario under which it doesn’t improve the overall sales and success of what it’s adapting. I doubt very much that the Dresden Files was anything helped by it’s TV adaptation, and the same could surely be said for Legend.

    I’m guessing that Martin, badly burned by his experiences in Hollywood (after being driven their by a series of bad turns in print) was simply was looking for an excuse to not get involved with TV again.

    Seems like it all turned out well in the end.

  • Dave Thompson October 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I’d be very interested to know how long it took Weiss and Benioff to convince Martin otherwise. A meeting or two? (I should probably hunt down the introduction and read it myself…)

    That story about the movie producer is hilariously terrifying, though.

  • WordTipping October 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    If it had been anyone other than HBO/Showtime I would have shared G.R.R.M.’s concerns. But, HBO/Showtime have established such a good name for adult original programming, I have a hard time imaging HBO/Showtime risking THEIR brand on a bad adaptation of a niche product.

  • alabrava October 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I wish one or 2 of Guy Kay’s projects would get out of development hell, I’d love to see a film version of any of his books.

  • AM Lyvers October 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

    That’s food for thought. What books would be amazing adaptions to TV? And which channel would it best be aired on?

  • Kevin Klein (@kkwrites) October 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Sticking with GGK, I could imagine Showtime doing an incredible adaption of the Sailing to Sarantium/Lord of Emperors duology.

  • Adam Whitehead October 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

    The article in question hugely misquotes GRRM’s introduction to the book. In the actual introduction GRRM talks about his fears of a Hollywood movie adaptation of ASoIaF, and his comments are about that. He makes it clear the only place he wanted them to even try to adapt the books was HBO, and was grateful and pleased when they did. Where the ‘he tried to talk them out of it’ thing comes from is totally unknown, unless they misinterpreted his comment that he told the producers they were ‘mad’ for taking the project on. In context, it is very clear that this was a joke.