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August 31, 2015

Comic-Con 2011: Extensive Highlights of the 'Game of Thrones' Panel

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jul 22nd 2011 2:00AM
Snagging a seat at 'Game of Thrones' first panel at Comic-Con. Is there anything that could make a nerd's heart gladder? Not really.

A few extremely random impressions from the packed 'Game of Thrones' panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday: 'GoT' fans love Kit Harington, Jason Momoa and Peter Dinklage; George R. R. Martin, who wrote the books on which the HBO series is based, did a brisk job of keeping things moving (I'm thinking he'll be asked back next year); and there's no word yet on when the show's season 1 DVDs will come out.

One tasty set of extras that will be on that DVD set: The actors' audition videos. The "haka" war dance that Jason Momoa did to win the role of Khal Drogo is something to see, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told the crowd of 4,200 'GoT' fans.

What follows is a summary of the hourlong panel, which kicked off with a clip reel of the main events of the show's first season. [Be aware that what follows contains plot information about season 1. It does not contain spoilers for season 2.]

• The clip reel moments that got the biggest responses: Khal Drogo about to rip out a guy's throat and Daenerys with her dragons. Martin introduced the cast, and as they came on the stage, all the actors got a lot of applause, but Peter Dinklage got a crazy response and Jason Momoa's arrival on stage got an even more intense response.

• Prompted by a question from Martin, David and D.B. (a.k.a. Dan) talked about the origin of the television project. David recalled being sent the books by his agent and wondering how he would "get into these" large novels that had arrived on his doorstep. When Bran was pushed out the window, "from that moment I was completely hooked." Both David and Dan couldn't quite believe that some producers wanted to make a two and a half hour PG-13 movie from the first book. David recalled the duo telling George the only way they could envision making the show was as an HBO series; he said he thought, "George won't go for it." But he did.

• Asked by George if drama school had prepared her for the last couple of years, Emilia Clarke (Dany) said, "No, no, no, no. There were no dragons at drama school." What advice would she give herself if she could go back a few years? "Do exactly the same things," take a deep breath and read Martin's books, she said. Her life has not changed due to the success of the TV show -- no one recognizes her given that her usual hair color is dark brown. She did get recognized once and got a free frozen yogurt out of it. "I was so happy!" she said.

• Martin asked Lena Headey (Cersei) what it was like playing a character that a lot of people don't like. "It's kind of fun to be able to play a character who isn't trying to be morally good," Headey said. "You're not playing to please anybody, but people coming up to me saying, 'I hate you,' it's kind of horrible." (She said this with a laugh, so I don't think she's too traumatized.) Does she like Cersei? Martin asked. "I love her. I think she's misunderstood."

• Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said that being in the room with Comic-Con fans was "a ridiculous experience" (he clearly meant this in a good way) and said, "I can't feel my feet!" Martin asked if anything in his life or career prepared him for the intense internet discussions of his nose. He replied that on a previous movie shot in Iceland, at the wrap party a gaffer came up to him and said, "When I saw that nose, I thought, '[expletive], I'm in trouble.'" But as Coster-Waldau pointed out, it all worked out OK: "I'm sitting here now."

• Momoa, who was sporting Drogo-esque eyeliner and long hair, was asked by Martin who would win in a battle between Conan and Drogo. "Between you and me, Drogo would kick Conan's ass." He added that if Drogo were in the room, he'd be shouting in Dothraki, which Momoa imitated for the appreciative crowd.

• The scene in which Drogo ripped out Mago's throat (which isn't in the books) came about in part because Momoa had a dream in which he wanted to rip someone's throat out. He went to David and Dan and said that because he'd just come off doing 'Conan,' where he "chopped off a hundred guys' heads," he wanted to give Drogo an intense moment in which he killed a guy without any weapons, looking like "the baddest man in the world." "I'm sorry about that and I hope you like [the new scene] and don't hate me," Momoa said. "I love that scene," Martin replied.

• Dinklage (Tyrion) was asked if it altered his approach to play a character who happens to be many people's favorite (he's Martin's favorite character as well). "I don't even know if I have an approach as an actor," he said, and noted that many other people in the cast played fan favorites as well and had "big shoes to fill." He paused and added, "Yeah, it was terrifying."

• Kit Harington (Jon Snow) was told by Martin that his poster is going to be on thousand of 15 year old girls' walls. "That scares the crap out of me," the actor replied. Martin asked what it was like to work with a puppet horse in the play 'War Horse' as opposed to the real dog who played his direwolf, Ghost. "I liked working with puppet horses, they do what they're told, that's a big bonus," he said, adding that he got on very well with Cooper, who played Ghost. "He just didn't do what he was told." [It's worth noting that other actors have talked in interviews about how it could be challenging to work with the dogs playing the Stark children's direwolves.]

• Harington said he hasn't been recognized much -- he was recognized in a coffee shop, and he frequently gets people staring at him as if they know him from somewhere. He also gets asked if he's ever read or watched the HBO show -- by people who clearly haven't watched the show. Then he has to break it to them that he's on the show: "Well, actually, as it happens..."

• David and Dan talk a bit about the DVD set. No date was announced for its release, but fans can expect those audition reels and lots of commentary tracks with the writer/producers "droning on" about the show. There won't be many deleted scenes in the DVD set -- given the complexities of the production, they tended to use everything they shot. "There was not a lot left on the cutting room floor," Dan said. There will be art from storyboard artist Will Simpson.

• The producers thanked fans on Westeros.org for suggesting Momoa's name when they were casting the role. They weren't familiar with him ("I hadn't kept up on my 'Baywatch,'" David cracked).

• Momoa brilliantly summed up the Dothraki language, which was created by a linguist, as "Jabba the Hutt meets Fozzie Bear." Both Momoa and Clarke said they loved acting in the Dothraki scenes and it was an "honor" to speak the language. Clarke called Momoa her "sun and stars" in the language.

• The cast was asked what their favorite scenes were. Coster-Waldau: Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran) was "really annoying," he joked, so he said he liked the scene where he pushed Bran out the window (he added that he was kidding and that Isaac was great). He said he also liked his scene with Catelyn late in the season.

• Harington liked his scene with Arya and also the scene where he got "hot and sweaty" with Richard Madden (Robb) and Alfie Allen (Theon). "That was quite sexy," he said, and added that the fight scenes throughout the season were a lot of fun.

• Headey loved her episode 5 scene with Mark Addy because it was "more revealing" about Cersei.

• Dinklage liked the scene in the Eyrie where he was on trial. "That was fun. It was a long day. There were a lot of extras in that scene. I felt like I was the master of ceremonies for a bunch of bored extras."

• Martin was going to skip over Momoa given that he'd already talked about his favorite scene but the actor piped up and said he liked the love scenes with Dany.

• Not surprisingly, Clarke's favorite was the scene of Dany and her dragons (or her "babies"). "That was just amazing, then to get to see it properly on screen. The sound of the dragons -- shivers."

• David said he loved all those scenes, plus Arya with Syrio.

• Martin mentioned the cast members who could not be in San Diego, and added that he thought Sean Bean got robbed when Emmy nominations came out. With that, he turned to audience questions.

• Actors were asked how familiar they were with the source material. Clarke said she got the book after her first audition and "devoured it. As she noted in this interview from early in the season, she said she only read the first book before season 1 production began, but she celebrated wrapping the season by starting book 2.

• Momoa said he read the book (at some point in the process, I wasn't quite sure where) but was "panicking" when it emerged that Drogo would die. Martin notes that "he may have a twin brother somewhere."

• Why does Martin kill off characters? "Well, it keeps you on your toes," the author said. "I want people emotionally involved in my story. When they're in a dangerous situation, just as you'd be in life if you were in a dangerous situation, I want the readers to be almost afraid to turn the page, not knowing who's going to live and who's going to die. We all know books and movies where" we know the hero will get out of whatever trouble he's in. "Those shows are fun but they don't really involve your emotions and that's what I'm looking for."

• How did Headey play all the different sides of Cersei, and how heavy were the wigs? "That's what I love about her," Headey said. "I know been criticized for give her some humanity, but I believe everyone deserves a chance. She's a confused woman who thought life was going to be something very different. She just tries to cope with what is and hold on. The wigs? Part of the game."

• How would the actors end the 'Song of Ice and Fire' book series or TV show if it were up to them? Harington: With Jon Snow on the Iron Throne. Coster-Waldau: With a final big battle, then cut to Jamie and Cersei sitting next to a each other in a cottage, saying, "Finally!" Headey: End with Drogo and Tyrion as co-rulers. "I think things would get interesting!" Dinklage: "Dance number." (Martin points out that the new book is called 'A Dance with Dragons.')

• Was Momoa's wig heavy? He said it was no big deal, especially after having worn a 6 lb wig on 'Stargate Atlantis.'

• What hooked each of them about the story? Coster-Waldau: When Jamie pushed Bran. "It's horrible but dramatically, it's just perfect. Suddenly you're in this in dark, dark, dark place and you know that all best are off and that's brilliant." Harington: The first scene near the Wall. Dinklage: "The white walkers, all that stuff.... That supernatural element that is sort of on the periphery -- I like that stuff."

• Martin asked Dan and David to tell fans what to expect in the second season. David: "Everyone dies. Sorry." Dan: "It was all a dream."

• More seriously, Benioff said this: "For the readers, they know much of what to expect. If we're lucky enough, if we have a season 3, that's when it won't start corresponding so neatly [i.e., one season per book]. 'Storm of Swords' is just too big. We don't know yet whether it will be one and a half seasons, maybe it's three seasons for 'Storm of Swords.' We don't know yet exactly. For the second season, we've got a bunch of great new characters coming in. We've already got such an incredible cast, but it's time to meet the red priestess and it's time to see those dragons and wolves start to grow up. There's bad stuff lurking north of the wall. It's a season of exploration. Our hope is -- from the very beginning, I remember talking about this with you, George -- if we can keep this alive somehow, if we can get to [an event in 'Storm of Swords' he calls R.W.], we've accomplished something. ... If that happens, I can retire to my asylum."

• A fan asks if they will be able to film the battle of the Blackwater the way it was written. George joked that they're going to pass the hat to collect contributions from fans, and noted that he met some of the artists from Weta [Peter Jackson's FX house in New Zealand] that day and, surprisingly enough, they declined to donate millions of dollars in special effects.

• Is George still concerned about the ending of the book series and (these are the fan's words, quoting Martin's remark about the ABC show) "pulling a 'Lost'"? He said Damon Lindelof might be in the room so he had to be careful what he said. "Yes, I am concerned about the ending. I've still got two more books to go. I'm juggling a lot of balls and of course there is the deep fear that one of them might fall on my head and knock me unconscious. But all I can do is keep juggling as fast as I can [and try to] bring everything together in a magnificent way. I see everything in my head stretching before me, but it's easier to dream these things than do them. But I certainly hope that everything will tie together, in terms of making [some] people happy. I've always been a fan of bittersweet endings. ... I love 'Lord of the Rings' -- I love the scouring of the Shire. The fact that it was not hobbits dancing happily in the woods ... there was a cost to the war, there was a human cost. There's triumph, but there's tragedy mixed in. I think Tolkien did it brilliantly. I hope I can do something half as good."

• What was it like going from a sci-fi show to a fantasy show (this fan may have been referring to the Syfy network in her question, it wasn't clear). Was it vastly different? Yes, Momoa said. "Basically it's a 10-hour movie. This was absolutely one of the greatest accomplishments -- I've never been a part of anything remotely close to this. I never worked with so many great actors. ... It was like going to acting school. But as far as sci-fi and fantasy, the genre, there's so many things you can do [with it] -- rip someone's tongue out of their throat and get away with it, rape a beautiful woman." After a roar/groan from the audience, he quickly noted that Khal fell in love with Dany.

• Does Harington know who Jon Snow's mother is? No.

• A fan asked Clarke about playing all the different sides of Dany and yet making her relateable. "I understood everything she was going through... it was her instinct to be able to survive that was the fun thing I got and hopefully portrayed."

• Does Martin mourn all the characters he kills off? Yes, it's "very hard" and he has to remind himself, "it's not me killing them, it's the other characters." The R.W. scene in book 3 is the hardest thing he's ever written, he noted. And when that scene is broadcast (if the show gets a third season), he plans to be out of the country in "a place that doesn't have television yet."

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

Check out video coverage of the 'Game of Thrones' panel:

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Thank you so much for a sharp, well-written summary of the much anticipated panel. From the very first episode when I saw Arya together with her direwolf Nymeria, I knew I was hooked and that nothing could tear me away from this show. I'm reading "A Storm of Swords" now and I will be in serious deep mourning if Arya dies before she gets to see Jon Snow again.

I hope we get to spend as much time with Arya in the second season as we do in the book!

July 25 2011 at 4:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jostl's comment

I don't know what will happen to Arya in "A Storm of Swords" or in the two remaining books. I suspect that "R.W." is about someone's death and I pray to God that it won't be Arya. I urge everyone who knows what "R.W." stands for to keep quiet about it. It's one of the rare cases when a secret kept from me is greatly appreciated.

July 25 2011 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to post this wonderful recap...The actors seem genuinely excited to be part of this production. LOL that Khal Drogo "might have a twin brother."

I just finished "A Dance With Dragons" yesterday and I'm afraid I'll be in ASoIaF withdrawal very soon. I only learned about the series when I heard HBO was making "Game of Thrones" and now I'm hooked. It's going to be a long wait for Season Two and Book Six!

July 24 2011 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For a response to the "pulling a LOST" question Martin could have added that one thing Lost did well was piling on the bittersweet, and GOT and Lost will have that in common at least. If Lindelof was in the room, that might have been the diplomatic thing to say.

July 22 2011 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mo, thank you very much for being so thorough. I was one of the unlucky Comic-Con fans who didn't make it into Ballroom 20 (I was literally stopped about 30 feet from the door, and I'm still not over the disappointment!). They could've filled Hall H with all us frustrated fans.

I want to see the *R.W.* and I don't want to see it. If we get that far, it'll be one of the most heartbreaking, hugest events in TV history.

July 22 2011 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you for this. I will never make it to Comic Con so reading such a thorough recap of the panel is all I will get. I appreciate the time you took in giving us the little details.
Love hearing how the crowd responded to Jason Momoa. I loved him on Stargate Atlantis and I suspect he is going to be a huge star. I've had the pleasure of meeting him twice at smaller conventions and he really seems like a great guy who is appreciative of his fans. I'm looking forward to Conan.

July 22 2011 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to aboleyn's comment

You can actually watch several videotaped versions of the panel on YouTube. Even better than a thorough recap! Just google "SDCC Game of Thrones."

July 22 2011 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree about the "bittersweet" ending. How could we possibly have any other type of ending for this story? One of the things you see in the book is the high cost in human terms of the various conflicts. The *R.W*" scene will be one of the most amazing things you have ever seen on TV. Period.

July 22 2011 at 6:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan O'Connor

I *DREAM* of them getting to "R.W." If they get that far, there'll surely be no stopping them. My favourite scene of the whole saga so far.

July 22 2011 at 5:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig Ranapia

Oh, I've just fallen in love with Headey a little more. Cersei is a bloody awful person -- but look at it this way, if you had a cold-blooded reptile like Tywin Lannister for a father would you have been any better?

July 22 2011 at 2:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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