That HBO is working on a “Game of Thrones” spin-off is no surprise. That they’re working on four separate spin-offs in order to find the right fit to follow up the Emmy-winning original, well, that’s a little surprising. But there’s no surprise when it comes to choosing the best option.
On paper, the choice is clear. The premium cable giant is waiting to read all the scripts before making a decision on which to pursue, but let’s see if you can figure it out based solely on who’s writing the four contenders. Your multiple choice quiz begins…now!
A) Max Borenstein
Most recent project: “Kong: Skull Island,” which Borenstein penned alongside Dan Gilroy and Derek Connolly.
TV Experience: “Minority Report,” the short-lived Fox adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s film, on which Borenstein served as creator and showrunner.
Biggest Success: Borenstein wrote Gareth Edwards’ 2014 “Godzilla” film, with Dave Callaham credited for the story and Frank Darabount and David S. Goyer brought on for “additional writing.”
The Case For: Borenstein is penning Warner Bros.’ slate of monster movies, including “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (and a characters credit for “Godzilla vs. Kong”), so he knows how to write big scale cinematic experiences. How well they turn out, well, that’s up for debate — but he can write the scripts.
B) Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin
Most recent project: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” which she wrote.
TV Experience: None as a writer, limited as a producer. She’s credited as EP on a British show, “The Big Fat Quiz of [many different years],” and her IMDB resume cites writing “additional material” for the 2001 TV series, “Baddiel’s Syndrome.”
Biggest Success: Either “Kick-Ass,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (and its upcoming sequel), or one of two “X-Men” films (“Days of Future Past” and “First Class”).
The Case For: Having Martin on board certainly strengthens the argument, and Goldman’s penchant for film franchises should be appealing to HBO.
C) Brian Helgeland
Most recent project: “Legend,” the 2015 film where Tom Hardy played twins.
TV Experience: He wrote an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” in 1996 and two episodes of “Friday’s Curse” in 1989 and 1990.
Biggest Success: His resume sports critically acclaimed films like “Mystic River” and “L.A. Confidential” (for which he won an Oscar), but his latest work skews the other way with movies like “The Taking of Pelham 123,” “Green Zone,” “Robin Hood,” and “42.”
The Case For: No matter how long ago it was won (and forgetting “L.A. Confidential” was co-written by Curtis Hanson), Helgeland’s still got an Oscar.
D) Carly Wray and George R.R. Martin
Most recent project: “The Leftovers” — specifically, she wrote Season 3, Episode 6, “Certified” (which, spoiler alert, is freaking great).
TV Experience: Wray wrote one episode of “Constantine” in 2014… after spending three years in the “Mad Men” writers’ room. She penned three episodes herself — “The Milk and Honey Route,” “Waterloo,” and “In Care Of” — and has now moved on to the best television show currently on the air. She’s also a co-producer on the HBO series.
Biggest Success: Tough call: “Mad Men” is a pretty big deal, but so is “The Leftovers.”
The Case For: Wray has written for two of the best TV shows of the last decade (if not the two best shows), and she’s got the creator of “Game of Thrones” by her side.
OK, pencils down. Time is up. Everyone ready? The correct answer is…
For those who guessed incorrectly, let me lay out the case more clearly: With “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss out of contention — the duo will likely stay on board whatever project moves forward as executive producers, but have said they’re not interested in running the show — it’s important to have Martin involved in some capacity. He created the world, knows it better than anyone, and will keep new projects in line with the core story’s established history.
But just as important as keeping Martin is remembering that this is a TV show. Despite what the showrunners have said about “Game of Thrones” being one long movie, the spin-off will need an experienced TV writer to construct stories worthy of extending the already lengthy journey.
And no one is telling better stories right now than “The Leftovers.” Wray has the experience, talent, and vision to guide a spin-off to success. She’s learned from the best and written episodes worthy of standing next to Matthew Weiner’s and Damon Lindelof’s work. Let’s see what she can do in this expansive universe.
Additionally, it should go without saying that it would be outstanding for a woman to get involved in the franchise. Wray can nudge the franchise in a new direction, since “Game of Thrones” has been a boys’ club for most of its journey thus far. Bringing in a female perspective is a great idea, especially with so many female characters to explore in a spin-off — and especially with a candidate like Wray readying a script.
But what do you think, dear readers? Are we way off base? Are you sold on Wray’s project already, or do you want to wait and hear about silly little things like story and characters? Let us know in the comments, and keep checking IndieWire for updates.