HBO won’t be moving forward on any other of its “Game of Thrones” spinoff scripts in development, at least for now. Programming president Casey Bloys told reporters on Wednesday that a pilot for the “Thrones” prequel from Jane Goldman is expected to shoot at the start of the year, “but there are no plans to make any others at this point.”
Bloys and HBO had put five different “Thrones” spinoff scripts into development, but he stopped short of saying that the other four were completely dead. But for now at least, there is no movement on those projects. “The reason we did multiple scripts, in the development process, [we knew] out of five we’d be lucky to get one we’re excited about,” he said.
HBO is now looking for a director and also for a cast on the Goldman prequel. Per HBO’s earlier announcement, the project takes place “thousands of years before the events of ‘Game of Thrones,'” and “chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s 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.”
The “Thrones” prequel comes from a story by Goldman & George R.R. Martin, and the teleplay is by Goldman. Goldman, Martin, Vince Gerardis, and Daniel Zelman will executive produce.
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The other four projects in the works come from Bryan Cogman, Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland, and Carly Wray. As originally reported, George R.R. Martin co-wrote the projects from Goldman and Wray.
“There are others that are good, there are others that are not going forward,” Bloys said. “But I don’t want to get into that individually, other than to say that we’re excited about the pilot we’re shooting and we’re just looking for a director now, we’re just casting. I don’t imagine there will be any more activity on the prequels until we see how this goes. I’m not holding one back and we’re going to make an announcement any time soon.”
“Thrones” executive producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff, as has been widely reported, won’t be involved with the successor shows. As for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” Bloys said there’s no premiere date yet, but that the first half of 2019 is likely.
As for Weiss’ and Benioff’s “Confederate,” that project also continues to be on hold, with no change. “They’ve got to finish ‘Game of Thrones,'” Bloys said. But beyond that, Weiss and Benioff are now working on new “Star Wars” movies, while co-writers co-writers Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman also have other commitments.
Bloys also addressed the elephant in the room: WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey’s recent town hall comments, suggesting that HBO needed to ramp up its volume, and fast. Stankey clarified those comments on Monday night during an AT&T earnings call, emphasizing that his focus is on providing HBO more programming dollars. Bloys said he focused on that development.
“There are no plans to dilute the HBO brand in favor of volume of programming,” he said. “No one has asked us to not do what we do which is curate excellence. [HBO CEO] Richard [Plepler] has been very vocal about the need for more investment.”
Bloys emphasized that this didn’t mean HBO would dilute its offerings: “No one is taking ‘Love Boat’ reboot pitches,” he joked. “Some static is always going to come with a major event like this. Any time is a good time to invest in programming… we’ve been doing this for a long time, we will be OK.”
With “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” ending their runs, HBO is at a similar crossroads as it was when “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” went away. But Bloys noted he’s been at HBO for 14 years and seen the channel evolve several times: “There’s no next ‘Sopranos,’ no next ‘Game of Thrones,’ there’s just the potential next great show.”
He added: “I believe we can do more quality programming. The question is how much more without losing that touch. What’s the right level with this increased funding.”
Among other shows, Bloys addressed some of the backlash to Season 2 of “Westworld,” noting that far from being universal, “people who love it really love it, and even people who dislike it” can’t stop talking about it. As for the next “True Detective,” it will likely return at the start of 2019 — “the cast is phenomenal,” he said. Bloys also raved about the arrival of Meryl Streep on the next “Big Little Lies” season.
In purchasing “The Tale,” which was originally targeted for theatrical, Bloys said, “I like the experience. It allowed us to buy a really great movie, first of all. I liked that we were able to see it before we bought it. It was a good experience and I could see us doing it all. Besides a financial negotiation, they were willing to forgo a theatrical release… I imagine we’ll do it more.”
And then there’s Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen,” which Bloys said he hopes to see “as soon as possible. I have very high hopes. Nicky Cassel did an amazing job shooting the show.”
As for Netflix’s recent Emmy nominations haul — surpassing HBO as the new network leader — Bloys said it was “not a surprise to us at all, given the volume of programming out there.” Bloys said there is no war with Netflix, and congratulated the streaming service on its haul. “It’s a great honor and they earned it. It’s exciting for them. When I look at our nominations, I was very proud of the depth of nominations on our shows. Getting four less noms (than last year) is not going to change the type of programming we develop and produce at all.”