HBO Speculation

Directing the pilot

With the revelation that Martin Scorsese will be directing the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire and seeing that Alexander Payne directed the pilot for the HBO series Hung, it is looking more and more like getting a big name director for Game of Thrones may be crucial. But who could they choose?

Over at the Westeros forum someone suggested Peter Jackson. I’m not sure about that choice. Just because the man has done fantasy before doesn’t mean he should be picked to direct the pilot. Besides I am sure he is busy with work on The Hobbit right now.

Another suggestion that has been thrown out as a possibility is Wolfgang Petersen. He has connections to Benioff, having directed Troy, and is somewhat of a big-name. Looking at his IMDb profile though, and his track record shows it has pretty much been downhill since Das Boot.

Exploring other directors with connections to Benioff and we come up with an interesting name, Spike Lee. Lee directed the Benioff novel-turned-film, 25th Hour. He would have almost certainly worked closely with Benioff to get the novel translated to the big screen. It would be bold choice and would help create buzz for the show. Would he even have any interest in doing a series like Thrones though?

I’m not saying any of these directors are perfect fits for the show. I don’t know who would be. They may just go with an experienced director of television series, possibly someone that has worked with HBO or the BBC before. I would be perfectly fine with that as well, but acquiring a big-name to direct the pilot may give them a little extra something when it comes time for HBO to make a decision on the series.


  • Wolfgang Petersen is the right kind of A-list director one might expect to be asked to work on something like this series, though his only other foray into Fantasy is of a very different bent (“Never Ending Story”). Oh, and he’s more than “somewhat of a big-name,” he’s long been considered one of the major A-list directors in Hollywood. He’s almost as big as they come in the biz – if anything maybe too big for TV (though that kind of perception is far less common now).

    Spike Lee is not nearly so likely, though he always says that he has always wanted to do more Hollywood fare – that he love, for instance, to do a big musical or just a straight actioner. “Inside Man” is more along those lines (and was great). Who knows if the guy has any interest in fantasy though.

    I would suspect series directors would come from the next tier down of that list – directors who have maybe had a couple of big movies here and there, but haven’t had the kind of long term success (either financial or critical) as have Petersen or Lee. Think more along the lines of Kathryn Bigelow or John Glen level of directors as for who we might see for this.

  • How about Len Wiseman? He’s directed the Underworld movies and Live Free or Die Hard. I’m sure everyone has opinions on those movies, but one thing I would never question him on, based on Underworld alone, is his work with the imagery and the action. Not to mention he’s married to Kate Beckinsale. I’m not really sure what role would be big enough for her outside of Caetlyn or maybe Melisandre, but the point is I think that both are available right now. Wiseman finished up Underworld Rise of the Lycans, and it looks like Beckinsale’s latest is in post production.

  • Am I the only one who thinks this project screams Tarantino? He’s not above TV work (csi, Battlestar) and he should be done with Inglorious Bastards soon…

    Failing that, I think Steve Buscemi is an unbelievable director, and he’s worked with HBO before (notably, he was behind the best episodes of Sopranos).

  • If you want dirty “realism”, well, after watching, eating, breathing deadwood while it was on…AND knowing his series didn’t get a pickup, I’d say David Milch would be quite a pick.
    Just sayin’. :)

  • Joss Whedon? (Firefly, Buffy the vampire slayer). I see a lot of parallels in tone between Firefly and ASOIAF.

  • I think we need to keep a sense of realism here. Petersen isn’t outside the boundaries of possibility, but most of the others are. Jackson and del Toro are in pre-production on THE HOBBIT and Whedon is too busy with DOLLHOUSE. Tarantino? Again, borderline possible but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

    To be honest, I’m not sure THRONES needs a huge big-name director. HBO has a roster of pretty good directors who aren’t big names, including the people behind many of the episodes of ROME, BAND OF BROTHERS, THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD etc, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them – Michael Apted, John Maybury etc – got the gig.

  • Whedon would be great, but like PJ, he is WAY to busy with numerous other works. I would not want Petersen to direct, if Troy is any indication of his style. And Spike Lee… well I fear he would turn the Dorne into blacks, rather than a Turkic people.

  • Here’s a thought: Michael Rhymer. He’s the guy who’s directed all of the ‘big’ episodes of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, including the season finales and most of the openers. They usually call him in when they do a huge set-piece sequence or scenes of real emotional intensity. His work is pretty smart.

  • Mel Gibson. This guy needs a “real break” after his anti-semitic rant. His tone is right on for the series, and if given carte blanche, he would make something great. Plus, he has directed TV before . . . the Savages, or something!?

  • I suggested Mel Gibson. The more I think of it, I think he would make a great Ned. I know he is alot older, but since age is being askewed for the series anyhow . . . this could really work.

  • “And Spike Lee… well I fear he would turn the Dorne into blacks, rather than a Turkic people.”

    I don’t recall any Dornish people being in the part of the book that would become the pilot. And even then, why turn them into Black people when that is already what the Summer Islanders are?

  • I’d like to see Doug Liman. Swingers and Go show he understands characterization and narrative structure, and Bourne Identity was a good action movie.

  • Mel Gibson? Why would anyone add a name that could turn people away? Better to have a name that isn’t so recognizable than to risk having people be turned away by it. I think the directors that HBO has used in recent years have been excellent.

  • Gibson has gotten ALOT of flack for his anti-semitic remarks. Whatever happened to the notion of forgiveness? No one is perfect. Besides, isn’t it about time.

    That said, any other time in his career, you would not be able to get a director of Gibson’s caliber for such a product. Now would be the perfect time. He loves to direct big epic films. This is right up his ally.

  • Spike Lee would be a horrid choice, and being a maker of small time movies of which, to me none have been of any interest, and none have been a box office success would mean an instant swirrle in the porceline idol of forth rate never watched movies. My cat would do a better job than Spike Lee, and at least would be watch be other cats…

  • My feeling is that — for the pilot especially — the set pieces will take care of themselves. This series needs to really distinguish itself above and beyond the norms of the fantasy genre. As long as the set pieces and action scenes live up to the standards of the genre — and I’m sure that they will — then those elements will be fine. Where the directing really needs to excel is in the ability to coax superb performances from the actors, in a particularly complex, subtle, emotional, multi-layered, conflicted fashion. As much as I like much of their work, that rules out directors like Ridley Scott or Quentin Tarantino.

    My dream directors, then? Either Clint Eastwood or Darren Aronofsky.

  • Michael Rhymer and Doug Liman, both good choices others made above. “Bourne Identity” is still my favorite in that series, I have various specific problems with Paul Greengrass’ two installments. Michael Rhymer of course has shown he’s a proven pro with his Galactica work, and I think all of the Season 4.5 episodes are long-since in the can.

  • I’d have to agree on Buscemi. Even if it’s not the pilot, I really hope he’s involved in this series somehow. (I just (re)watched the Sopranos episode with the Russian. It’s amazing.)
    And Tarantino also seems like a good fit.

    on a different note, i’m really pissed about the shows hbo has picked up. I want GoT, I want Treme, I want the next Sopranos/Wire/Rome/ even Oz.

  • I think Martin Scorcese would be excellent as the direcor of A Game of Thrones. ASOIAF has plenty of grittines much like the style of Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull etc. Some of his previous actors he has worked with could be good fits such like Ray Liotta as Robert Baratheon, or Robert Deniro as Stannis. Is there still a chance Scorcese could be the director? Would he be interested in a series like this?

  • Everyone posted the “ideal”, I just had a fancy about the worse case match up. Imagine James Cameron getting the greenlight, the cost of the show would be tripled as he is a perfectionist freak. The pilot would stand the test of time but the show would be cancelled by spending its entire budget on the pilot :D

    Kidding aside, I’m sure they will hire any number of decent directors (non A-listers). The issue is and has always been about production cost getting out of hand. Considering the backlash they got from canning Rome and Deadwood you can understand why they are not jumping on the bandwagon just yet.

  • Both Scorsese and Buscemi are attached to Boardwalk Empire, to direct and star in, respectively. I don’t think they are going to jump ship for a competing pilot.

  • My opinion is Spike Lee would be a horrible choice. To me he appears to be pretty rascist and generally likes to portray American caucasians poorly.
    In addition he appears to not have much interest in movies where a large proportion of the main characters are not black.

  • Who was the main directing force behind HBO’s Rome? I know they had several different directors, but who is generally credited for the pace, feel and direction of the series? Answer me that question please then go get that guy. I could not watch an episode of that series without thinking how great it would be if the people behind Rome took over the Game of Thrones helm. Seriously, the guy that handled that franchise knew how to direct a sweeping historical epic (which GoT is despite the dragons), while creating memorable, fully- devoloped, imperfect characters I cared about that had a huge range of emotions, while juggling masterful cinematography, and superb editing for fight scenes, dialogue scenes, panoramic establishing shots, ect, while crafting the often envelope pushing adult script and visuals without making it seem silly or going over the top soley for shock value, while making the overall experience one hell of a hugely enjoyable rollercoaster ride. So yeah, my vote is for that guy. Now can someone please tell me who he would be? ;P

  • I do think Spike Lee will be good, I don’t think he is a racist like the previous poster said but he sure lacks tact when he expresses an opinion like the lack of portrayal of minority soldiers in movies. He is talented, but I don’t think he is drawn to the fantasy genre.

  • Jackson and Whedon are busy now (Hobbit & Dollhouse) and have commitments later (possibly Naomi Novik's Tremaire series & Wonder Woman). They just don't have the time, and Whedon seems mainly to work on things he wrote.

    I can't name a picture Spike Lee did that didn't have a largely African American cast, and they all seem to have been reltively modern urban settings. I don't see him taking on a fantasy where 90% of the characters are Caucasion and the other 10% are probably best expressed as Mongolian.

    Petersen did Troy. Why would that make him a good candidate? Have you seen Troy? I wrote up a review of it and many of its problems (bad set decorating, bad writing, bad acting) when it first came out. I wouldn't want him near A Game of Thrones. The bad acting and poor shot choices like cutting the frame in such a way that Brad Pitt appears to be a eunuch can be potentially attributed to the director.

    The best director I can think of who could handle drama and epic battles is French: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He is best known for Amelie or Alien: Resurrection, but the work that makes me think of him for this project is A Very Long Engagement. It's a WWI epic in which a girl searches for her lost fiance in the aftermath of peace. A number of battles are shown. And the men in the trenches from this film are what my mental pictures of the men at the wall are based on. I have no idea if he would ever do TV.

    Since I'm not likely to get that wish, I'd be happy with someone from Rome. That might, in fact, be a selling point with HBO execs.

  • Michael Rymer would be an excellent choice. He’s done great work with “Battlestar Galactica” (whose tone is as dark as that of ASoIaF) as the main director, and he was one of chief architects behind the pilot miniseries. BSG will wrap up next year with the second half of its last season, but afterwards, he’s set to direct and co-produce “Witchblade” a film adaptation of some comic. It all depends when GoT will premiere, but Rymer may not have time on his hands (hope he does though, if he’s seriously considered).

    Jean-Pierre Jeunet on GoT would be a choice I’d be fine with, but I highly doubt he’ll be in the running.

    “Rome” had a series of directors; each one directed two episodes a piece. So it’s hard to judge who was in the forefront of the series in terms of directing.

    I don’t know too much about Gareth Edward’s directing abilities, but he seems to have good ideas that GoT could use in order to save budget.

  • I think this whole discussion is moot. This show is going to cost quite enough as it is, so there’s no point in bringing in a big name to direct and episode or two and throwing heaps of money away just for that. I mean, who can you get that could compete with Martin Scorcese anyway? The ghost of Stanley Kubrick? (although that would be awesome) The series is stand or fall or the merits of its acting and writing, not directing.

    And for the record, I’d sooner have David Lynch directing the pilot than Gibson. In any case, I doubt he’d be interested, what with David and Dan’s suspicious last names. He’d keep halting production to ask them which specific wars they are responsible for…

  • phil alden robinson, who directed the pilot of band of brothers, along with sneakers, field of dreams, and sum of all fears, is a LIKELY choice.

    michael apted, director of rome, is too obvious, and i think GoT should stake its own claim and not resort to another director of a similar series. the fact that hbo did rome in the first place is probably why this one took so long to get a green light to begin with.

    directors like aronofsky and tarantino and even milch (someone suggested) are best when they can bring their own brand of vision to their projects. is that REALLY what we want for GoT? i think you’d have a lot of people upset if tarantino got a writing credit and made the the dialog fast, clippy and quippish. and we’d be bummed if aronofsky mixed in molasses and slowed everything to a brooding crawl. and milch might be right for remixing the genre, and incest would be up his alley, but do you want to hear arya and sansa talking in the abstract, talking like greek philosophers on crack or something?

    just my two cents.


  • I’d second the vote for Alfonso Cuarón who has shown to be incredibly adept with both smaller-scale human elements as well as being proficient with fantasy and special effects.

    Ferdinand Meirelles would also be a good choice.

  • My fantasy pick would be Francis Ford Coppola as I see so many parallels between this saga and the Godfather

  • What about Terry Gilliam, he’s a strong name and has done various fantasy-ish flicks before. From IMDB he is not too busy.

  • YES! I was scrolling down through these comments after being rather horrified with the initial three picks (Jackson, Lee, and Petersen). Weak choices, all. I hoped to see someone who knew how to do real grit, had experience in making book adaptations work on screen, could get stellar performances out of the actors and had a real knack for conveying the wonder of an imagined world. I am so pleased that I am not alone in thinking Alfonso Cuarón to be the man for the job.

    This guy needs to be seriously considered. His direction of “Children of Men” turned P.D. James’ middle-level book into an powerful journey through the human condition circa 2027. Consider: in CoM Cuarón took a bleak near-future of global infertility and carefully embedded the ennui of a dying world into every facet of the film. The color scheme, the dialogue and characterizations, even the choice of props (including the abundant use of animals denoting a lack of children). Imagine what he could do with the atmosphere of political intrigue in ASOIAF. Would we feel the impending winter in every moment of the movie? I think we would. Let’s not forget the cinematic innovations Cuarón employed in CoM. The “documentary-esque” long shots prove this guy can hold his own when it comes to finding interesting ways of showing the action, which will be essential in the tapestry of scenes we find in “A Game of Thrones”.

    What is the one thing fans of a novel dread when it is being adapted? Changes. (Please God don’t let Snyder ruin “Watchmen”) In selecting a director, look again to CoM. There were many changes in the transportation of that story from page to screen but Cuarón did so with a delicacy and care for the material that, in the end, made a worthy and compelling adaptation.

    Bravo Nathan K and Krazy Eyes! I think you’re really on to something suggestion Cuarón for this project, and I had few doubts that he could wondrous things with GRRM’s work. There are others who are interesting possibilities (Gilliam’s “Brazil” and “12 Monkeys” makes me think he could realize any fantasy with ease, and Clint Eastwood sure produces some startlingly human tales) but I cannot shake the notion that Alfonso Cuarón is our best bet for a epic adaptation. Hope he ends up in the running!

  • I don’t want Jackson in on this (even if I am a New Zealander) because he often uses a lot of the same stuff from past films (the cursed men in LOTR were the same as the ghosts in Frightners). You mentioned that he will be busy with The Hobbit and also he has the rights to the book Temeraire so he probably has his hands full.

  • If I were an executive producer probably I´ll pick Peter Webber. His works: Men Only (Channel 4 drama); The Stretford Wives (BBC drama); Girl with a pearl earring (period drama); Hannibal rising (horror) and one Six feet under episode (HBO drama).
    I´m not his agent.

  • What about Michael Apted, he is a wonderful director and has a long standing involvement with HBO and the BBC. His work on “ROME” was great. Alfonso Cuaron would be a great choice, Alex Proyas (“Dark City”, “The Crow”), David Fincher or Peter Weir would be interesting… Of course I would love Ridley Scott to direct this project if possible. Guillermo Del Toro can be great but he is involved with “the Hobbit”. As for Peter Jackson, no problem if he wants to be attached with ASOIF. I want a director that will not shy away from the mature themes that are part of the content of “A Song Of Ice And Fire”. Let’s see what happens, this should be interesting, and a crucial part of the overall chances this will have to get picked up as a full time series

  • I know that I have already suggested Michael Apted as a choice for not only directing the pilot but also being involved with the series proper, should the pilot get picked-up by HBO. I really liked his work on “ROME”. Besides him, what about Tom Hooper, who has more than proven himself with “Elizabeth I” and “John Adams”. He has won a lot of prestige and awards for HBO (as well as a crapload of money). I was also thinking of Phillip Noyce and Peter Weir, they would be well suited to be involved with “A Song Of Ice And Fire”. Perhaps ideally it would be a combination of these three directors, Tom Hooper, Michael Apted, Peter Weir and Phillip Noyce.

    I checked on and while they have other on-going projects they are not soo busy that they could not be involved with ASOIF. Maybe each could take over an entire season, and alternate amongst themselves.

    Another important fact in all of this is the music/soundtrack for ASOIF. I think that HBO should stick within their own house with musicians that have already proven themselves (of course I would not object to Howard Shore or Harry Gregson-Williams, LOTR and “Kingdom Of Heaven” respectively, and that says it all). But I would go with Jeff Beal, whose outstanding work created the wonderful soundtrack for “ROME”, or if not, then the team of Rob Lane and Joseph Vitarelli who created the great soundtrack for “John Adams”. I have both soundtracks and they are bar none some of the best cinematic music pieces I have heard and are way, way better than most movie soundtracks. That is my measly input…

  • Sorry…in the previous comment I meant…ideally it would be a combination of all four directors, Tom Hooper, Michael Apted, Peter Weir and Phillip Noyce.