11:58am PT by Josh Wigler, Lesley Goldberg
'Game of Thrones': Naomi Watts-Led Prequel Dead at HBO
The untitled Game of Thrones prequel from Jane Goldman is not moving forward at HBO.
Said to focus on the "Age of Heroes" and the first-ever battle between man and White Walker, Goldman's project — which had filmed a pilot over the summer — will not be advancing to series, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. According to sources, Goldman e-mailed the cast to share the news.
The news comes shortly after word of HBO nearing a deal to produce a second pilot based in the world of Game of Thrones, from the minds of author George R.R. Martin and Ryan J. Condal. The series is said to focus on the reign of Targaryen kings in the lead-up to the events of Game of Thrones, aligning the vision of the project much more closely to the days of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) than the now-scrapped Naomi Watts-starring prequel — though still quite a bit earlier than the events of the Emmy-winning HBO series, which wrapped its final season in May.
Following the series finale, THR spoke with HBO's Casey Bloys for an update on timing for the next iteration in the Thrones franchise. His response at the time: "We're shooting the pilot in June, you can do the math and figure out when it would be on the air. What I'm not doing is working backwards by saying, 'This has to be on the air by this date.' We want to do the best show possible. This is a pilot, so we're doing it the old-fashioned way, which is shooting a pilot. My expectation is it will be great and we'll move forward and it'll move along on a regular TV timetable. I don't want to speculate any dates."
Featuring a sprawling cast including Watts, Miranda Richardson, Joshua Whitehouse, Marquis Rodrigez and more, Goldman's untitled Thrones prequel was said to take place during the Age of Heroes, thousands of years before the events of Thrones. In this period of Westeros history, the Seven Kingdoms weren't even a twinkle in the eye, as the continent was separated into dozens of their own kingdoms. It was an age dominated by heroic figures like Bran the Builder, credited with creating the Wall, and Lann the Clever, credited with founding House Lannister.
HBO's logline added: "Only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros' history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend — it's not the story we think we know." Now, it is a story that will not be told.
That HBO would pass on this Thrones prequel comes as a shocker, but is not totally out of the blue. The original pilot for what would become the premium cable network's biggest hit ever was originally reshot, recast and redeveloped. Sources say HBO wasn't thrilled with the final cut of the Watts-led pilot and asked for changes in edits before scrapping the entire thing. Still, expanding the world of Thrones remains a top priority for the pay cabler, which is under new parent company WarnerMedia (formerly AT&T). This is the first time HBO has ever revisited one of its scripted originals — announced before its Deadwood movie (which provided a proper ending for the series) and the upcoming Sopranos feature. Game of Thrones is a global mega-hit and huge revenue driver for the Casey Bloys-led network. The franchise is worth billions, with foreign sales and merchandising factored in.
HBO, for its part, has been on an aggressive buying spree as it looks to compete with billion-dollar streaming competitors from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and forthcoming Apple TV+, among others. The Thrones library will be a key asset for WarnerMedia's own arrival into the streaming wars, with HBO Max expected to launch in April.
The pilot pass arrives a day after Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss walked away from a planned trilogy of Star Wars feature films. The duo, who aren't involved in any other follow-up shows, departed their overall deal with the premium outlet for a five-year, $250 million film and TV pact with Netflix.
Updated, Nov. 1 at 1:10 p.m.: This story has been updated with HBO's comment.