The Insane Amount Of Money HBO Spent On That Game Of Thrones Prequel That Never Made It To Series

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(Image credit: HBO)

Even if you weren’t the most devoted fan of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, it was likely very easy for you to recognize that a pretty penny was spent to make sure that as few aspects of the show as possible took viewers out of the largely fantasy-based action. There were massively impressive sets, tons of costumes, far-flung locations, and quite a bit of CGI to be seen on GOT, and the same was probably true with the pilot for the first proposed spinoff the cabler attempted. Now, we know the insane amount of money that was spent on that pilot, for an idea that never even made it to series.

In the run up to the Game of Thrones finale in May of 2019, there was already a lot of buzz surrounding that first potential spinoff. Stars like Naomi Watts and Miranda Richardson signed on, everyone filmed a pilot, and no one can say that they didn’t at least put their financial all into it. Journalist James Andrew Miller interviewed former WarnerMedia chairman of entertainment Bob Greenblatt for his new book, Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers (via Insider), where Greenblatt noted of the pilot: 

They had spent over $30 million on a Game of Thrones prequel pilot that was in production when I got there. And when I saw a cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to Casey [Bloys, HBO's chief content officer], 'This just doesn't work and I don't think it delivers on the promise of the original series.' And he didn't disagree, which actually was a relief. So we unfortunately decided to pull the plug on it. There was enormous pressure to get it right and I don't think that would have worked.

You read that right, folks. Apparently, HBO had such a desire to tell what would have been a story of the Age of Heroes, the Long Night, and how the White Walkers actually came to be (among other tales), that those in charge managed to spend over $30 million, just on one episode. Keep in mind that, since this was just a pilot designed to show proof of concept, the episode will likely never see the light of day, and as we’ve all known for some time, neither will the series, at least not as originally conceived.

By January of 2019, fans who were already nervous about having to leave the shady schemers and double-dealers of Westeros (and other lands) behind had great hope for what the possible spinoff would be. Along with the basics of the plot and the casting of Watts and Richardson, we also knew who many of the other cast members were going to be. Work on the prequel appeared to be moving along nicely, and many fans probably thought it was going to be a done deal.

Unfortunately, the show simply wasn’t to be, and as Greenblatt noted, it didn’t deliver “on the promise” of Game of Thrones, so HBO had to pull the plug on what must have seen like a sure thing at first, which eventually became a very expensive gamble that didn’t pan out. At the time, there were also reports of budget overruns, creative differences, and personnel issues which plagued the pilot, and it sounds like those troubles showed up in the finished product, which couldn’t have been good for anyone.

Luckily for fans, though, this didn’t deter the network, and those at the top decided to move ahead with a very different prequel idea, House of the Dragon, which will be on our screens sometime in 2022. HBO is also still working on a wide variety of other spinoffs for Game of Thrones, and if all that $30 million did was help really crystallize what these shows need to be, then the bigwigs at HBO might see it as money well spent.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.