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Assignment: GAME OF THRONES/A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SERIES
Special Request: WHY HAVEN'T THEY MADE A MOVIE?
You're curious as to why Game of Thrones hasn't been made into a movie, yet. Especially given what the last decade presented us with: The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter Octology.
The problem with making the A Song of Ice and Fire series into a film franchise is two-fold.
"I am thrilled to be in business with HBO as well. For years now, the very best drama on television has been found on Sunday nights, in HBO's original series. TV does not get much better than The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Big Love, Carnivale, The Wire, Deadwood... and my current favorite addiction, Rome. (If you're not watching the second season right now, you're missing the best show on television). Writing, directing, acting, set design, production values... everything on an HBO show is quality, and that's what I have dreamed of for A Song of Ice and Fire.
It was only a month or two after A Game of Thrones was first published in 1996 that I received the first query about film and television rights. Nothing ever came of it. Over the years, as the series grew more popular with every subsequent book, I received a steady stream of such queries from producers, directors, screenwriters, studios, and others in the industry. Nothing ever came of them either. Meanwhile, my readers kept asking if A Song of Ice and Fire would ever be filmed. My answer was always the same. While I was always willing to listen to offers, I did not see how the books could be made into a feature film, or even a trilogy of such films, like Lord of the Rings. The novels were simply too big and too complex, and to make the sort of deep cuts that would be necessary to get them down to feature length would have required losing nine-tenths of the characters and three-quarters of the plot. The only way to dramatize a story that size, I felt, was as a television miniseries (like Roots or Shogun) or, better still, a series of series, with each novel providing a full season's worth of episodes.
That is precisely what HBO intends to do, starting with A Game of Thrones. With twelve hours to devote to each of the novels, rather than the two to three that a feature film would allow, we should be able to present a faithful dramatization of the story that will please both my own readers, and HBO subscribers who have never read a fantasy novel in their lives."
COMPLICATION #1: THE NOVELS
And this is true. We can boil Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter down to a main group of characters and follow that plot. The same isn't true for A Song of Ice and Fire. There is no central quest, no titular character. The book is about the world of Westeros.
Let's compare (using Paperback pages, not Mass Market PB pages) .
LOTR had: 544 pages in the first book, 448 in the second, and 544 in the third
HP had: 320 in book one, 352 in two, 448 in three, 752 in four, 870 in five, 652 in six, and 784 in book seven
ASOIAF: 720 in book one, 784 in the second, 1008 in three, 784 in four, and 1040 in HARDCOVER (which is impressive)
LOTR = 1,536
ASOIAF still has two book left. The series will easily break 5,000 pages and approach 6,000.
What do pages have to do with movies? Fellowship was 178 minutes. Chamber of Secrets 161. What would Game of Thrones be? The fifth HP book, Order of the Phoenix, was the longest book but the shortest movie (139 minutes), and, by my judgement, is a bad movie (not to mention the worst in the series). I think it was too short. Too streamlined. Had zero depth, zero development outside of moving the characters into conflict with one another. Instead of trying to do the same thing with HP book seven, Warner Brothers made TWO separate movies (and I don't think either of them are really as good as they could have been). That's a 784 page book made into two, 2.5 hour movies. Even if they could make A Game of Thrones, what do you do with A Storm of Swords?
I'm not saying it can't be done. But what do you lose? What do you decide to sacrifice? To change? Martin didn't want to change or make major cuts. So he opted for the medium that would allow him to keep his story nearly intact. HBO.
COMPLICATION #2: HOLLYWOOD
And really, this is the alternate tale of A Song of Ice and Fire, if Martin had opted to make a movie instead of a TV show. (Even though I think it's rude to call HBO programs "TV shows")
The plan, which was developed by Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer, looks like this.
Movie #1. Television series. Movie #2. Television series. Movie #3.
Universal announced the release date for the first film as May 17th, 2013.
Then it canceled the date and dropped out of the project.
Yeah. You heard me.
But. The problem is the content. Battleship is a blockbuster. It's fun for everyone!!!!!!! Same with Cowboys & Aliens. Parents can take kids. Teenagers can see it. The premise appeals to younger generations. Harrison Ford to everyone who can legally drink. Daniel Craig to women. Olivia Wilde to men. Victory.
The Dark Tower series, like A Song of Ice and Fire, has death, has fighting, has grotesque imagery and epic moments. There are no dragons, but there's plenty else. And who will go see it? Kids can't. If it's rated-R, as it should be, teenagers can't. Then the Studio executives get to talking. "Older people wouldn't want to go. Would women????" The studio executives feared not enough people will want to see the movie, so they dropped out. I think it's safe to assume that the same costs and risk would have plagued any planned production of ASOIAF. (It's ironic then that Game of Thrones has been a huge critical and commercial success BECAUSE OF its killing, fighting, nudity and fantastic moments--the very things the studios worry about.)
No studio has agreed to house The Dark Tower yet. But guess what? HBO has signed on to produce the television portion. (Thanks to, I'm imagining, the success of Game of Thrones).
I think George RR Martin is right. If you want to do ASOIAF without a television portion, you would need a ton of movies. There's the argument that the fourth and fifth books have a lot of...nothing...going on. You could conflate them. But what about books six and seven? I can't imagine a studio deciding to even attempt a movie until Martin has concluded the book portion of the series (especially after it took him so long to release the fifth book). On top of that, there's the whole The Dark Tower drama. If the first film is made and does fail, I can't imagine a studio having the balls to attempt something similar with ASOIAF, even with the success of Game of Thrones as a television series.
We could see something radical, like...The final book is made into a 3 hour movie.
If we were just going to brainstorm. I think another way to do it (but a way with little plausibility/feasibility) would be to give each main character his or her own movie. Ned gets a movie. Sansa gets a movie. Jon. Stannis. Daenerys. etc. etc. Some would have trilogies or tetralogies. Some just a single movie (you know who you are). And you just create a vast, vast collection of movies that, when added together, complete the entire story.
Or you would do 3-5 movies, but you'd limit the scope of the story, and really make it about three characters. So you'd follow Jon. Daenerys. And One Random Character in each movie. So the first would be Jon, Daenerys, and Ned. The second would be Jon, Daenerys, and Catelyn. etc. This could be interesting, thrilling even, but you'd still have to sacrifice characters and moments, and plot points outside the scope of these characters would have to appear as exposition (which is fine, since this occurs in the novels anyway (Jon must be told what happens to Rob, he just doesn't magically know)).
For right now, sit back and enjoy the HBO series, because HBO does some damn fine work, and I doubt we'll see a movie version any time soon.
But, maybe, one day, someone will pull a Fincher*.
(*a reference to Fincher's making The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo following a successful and acclaimed Swedish version. Implying someone will, after the success of the HBO series, remake it as a film.)