SXSW: HBO considering spin-off to fantasy smash; musician Ed Sheeran to make appearance in Season 7.

Game Of Thrones

Days after the announcement that Season 7 of Games Of Thrones will premiere on July 16, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss joined cast members Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner in an entertaining Q&A exchange on Sunday at SXSW.

Programmer Austin Nauert introduced the panel, expressing concern the highly anticipated event “might just break us.”

Despite the chaos within the crowded halls of Austin’s Convention Centre, where former US vice-president Joe Biden was simultaneously speaking, the event went without any glitches, with key announcements including confirmation that Season 8 would comprise six episodes and that HBO was considering a spin-off show.

Game Of Thrones SXSW panel

“We’ve talked about this, that we should all go on and do different things,” co-creator Benioff said. “I think HBO may well do a spin-off, but I think they should get new blood in.”

Co-creator Weiss added: “All I can think about right now is sitting in a cool dark room for several months.”

Benioff recalled the overall running time when initially pitching Game Of Thrones to HBO was estimated to be 70 hours, and that he was close, with the final time running at 73 hours. 

Season 8’s writing process was also broken down, with Weiss explaining a total of four writers (including himself and Benioff) divided the 140-page outline, with each of the writers tackling different episodes.

Casting Westeros: who was easy, who was hard

The showrunners said Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon) was the easiest to cast while Williams and Turner – who play on-screen sisters Arya Stark and Sansa Stark – were the most challenging.

“We couldn’t find the right Arya,” Benioff said. “We saw over 300 actresses in England.”

Weiss added: “But when we saw a thumbnail image of [Williams], we clicked on her audition tape and she was awesome. When she came in to audition, she was awesome again.”

Williams added that she actually auditioned with three other actresses for the potential role of Sansa, which eventually went to Turner.

“When Sophie came in to audition, we were laughing and high-fiving. Luckily that came across on screen.”

The two actresses revealed their mutual arm tattoos with the date August 7, marking the day they were both cast.

Codpieces, ‘melting faces’ and other jokes

With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Benioff admitted that bringing Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) back for several episodes was a possible mistake after “a slap game” in Belfast resulted in Momoa squashing Benioff’s hand and sending him back home to Los Angeles.

The showrunners recalled tricking Kit Harington (Jon Snow) into believing his face and hair would be melted off as HBO said his character was “too Disney”, along with “a funny costume” for John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) that involved a codpiece as big as a loaf of bread.

Musicians were also in the mix, with Sigur Ros’s lead singer Jonsi struggling with boredom as he filmed a wedding scene in Season 4 that involved several days of shooting. After his first scene, Weiss remembers the singer asking if he could go.

“I remember having to explain to him he still had several days left, it was not easy for him,” Weiss said.

While Turner is still hoping for a cameo role from Justin Beiber, Williams was thrilled her favourite musician Ed Sheeran will be appearing in Season 7 in an unspecified role. 

On-set challenges

The vast production apparatus on Game Of Thrones times included four production units, along with three VFX units. Benioff remembers braving a hurricane in Malta, a rock slide at Castle Black, and green screens blowing over in Spain.

Some positives resulted from the challenges, with Weiss’s vivid memory of stepping out on to an Icelandic glacier with crampons being “incredibly freezing, but also beautiful”.

Turner remembered a challenging scene where she is raped by character Ramsay Bolton (played by Iwan Rheon) that has since inspired her to become an activist for women and the taboo of rape.