So spake Martin, and he spake the truth. Over 7,000 GoT fans were yearning for a spot in ballroom 20—a room with a maximum capacity of 5,000 people. That made for more than a few unhappy GoT fans, most of whom were forced to wander off to drown their sorrows in overpriced soda and badly-salted pretzels.
A sad few still remained, and could only stand forlornly outside the ballroom doors and listen to the howls within. Were it not for the aid of a few friendly folks, I could have been one of them.
The days-long adventure leading up to your friendly neighborhood FaBio actually getting a down-and-dirty front row seat at the coveted Game of Thrones panel is a long one, and I won’t regale it here. (I will relate it in another post, in a verbose and tangent-filed manner, in another day or so. If you thought I was going to skip the opportunity to tell a tale, you know nothing, Jon Snow.)
This one’s just going to be about the panel itself—the very reason I was allowed into the Great State of San Diego in the first place.
The panel began with George R. R. Martin himself talking the stage to thunderous applause and then acting as moderator. He gave a brief introduction and showed a nice montage of the show that ended of course with the final scene. Dragons! George then brought out Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (my “photographer” remarked how Sawyer-ish he was starting to look, just before she swooned and fainted dead away), Kit Harington (casual, lean, cool), Lena Headey (someone screamed “I love you, Lena!” and no one can prove it was me), Peter Dinklage (temporarily staggered by the roar), Jason Momoa (a long, loping strider wearing shades), Emilia Clarke (perfectly freaking gorgeous), David Benioff (temporarily forgetting how to talk near a mic), and D. B. Weiss (also perfectly freaking gorgeous).
Second only to George, Peter got the biggest ovation. Three dudes screamed, “Tyrionnnn!” and Pete repaid them by throwing the devil horns.
And it just got better from there, as you all no doubt saw from our Full panel video post. I now give you the choicest bits of meat. Let’s chew them together, shall we?
David Benioff: It’s like crack on paper. You can’t stop.
Feelin’ you, man. And now you’re hooked in deep like the rest of us, except you now have the added task of trying to figure out how to make A Storm of Swords into two coherent, viable seasons of television. Because I guarantee a season three, and with that probably a season four, since they’re already talking about the possibility of splitting the book.
I mean… look, I’ve written scripts (bad ones), and I have no clue. Where the bleep do you end the first half? And the second half gives you what, ten separate episodes that leave fans screaming themselves hoarse at the end of each one? Because there are probably ten scream-y moments in the second half of ASoS. Some people call A Clash of Kings the setup to A Storm of Swords. What would the first half of that freaking book be?
Or maybe I’m just spouting off at the mouth because it’s never been done before. Sounds like a challenge. Speaking of crack…
David: Various studios were calling, saying, “I’ve cracked it! I’ve figured out how to make this into a 2-and-a-half hour PG-13 movie!”
Which would have been awesome, duh. I could sell that. “Adorable kids! Wolf pups! Ros the hairdresser! A misunderstood, goofy barbarian played by Jack Black and his Disney princess bride whose precious dragon eggs keep getting stolen by that greedy Pliocene squirrel from Ice Age! And at the end we get three singing dragons, ripe for a sequel.”
Emilia Clarke: Oh my goodness. Um, do exactly the same thing.
George asked, “Have we changed your life? Are you being recognized?”
Emilia: No! You see, it’s the hair. No. Although one person [recognized me]. She gave me free frozen yogurt.
If you’re in California, I recommend Pinkberry. Their new watermelon flavor is the bomb.
George asked Lena about the difference between playing a hero in The Sarah Connor Chronicles (a rather large cheer went up for that, with apparently more than a few TSCC fans in attendance) and now playing a character people hate.
Lena Headey: It’s kind of fun playing a character who isn’t trying to be… morally good. So it’s kind of fun, and I don’t play to please anybody, though I have to say when people come up to you and say, “I hate you!” it’s kind of horrible.
I would personally love that, being someone that everyone hated. Until maybe three people did it. Then I would go running to Winter and beg that he ban the offending tongues forever!
Luckily, everyone loves me here. Speaking of love:
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I want to say [to the fans] thank you for coming. It’s been a ridiculous experience. I can’t thank you enough. And I can’t feel my feet. But it’s good!
I thought Nikolaj was excellent in the panel, and clearly thrilled with the things he gets to see and do in the upcoming season. Someone screamed “Ow!” at him and he yelped “Ow!” right back, rather playfully. His rapport with the fans was exceptional, and I like him more every time I see him on my scree—damn, I think my photographer fainted again.
Nikolaj: “Years ago, in Iceland, I shot a movie. And at the wrap party, the gaffer guy who controls the lighting came up to me, really drunk, and said, “I have to tell ya, when I first saw that nose I thought, ‘Shit, I’m in trouble.’ But I’m sitting here now.”
I can’t even respond to that. I think my photog is dead.
George put it down for Jason: Khal Drogo vs. Conan?
Jason Momoa: Well, George, between you and me, Drogo would kick Conan’s ass.
Which of course got huge cheers. And here’s where Jason—in an almost David Caruso sort of way—removed his sunglasses and revealed he was fully decked out in thick black Khal Drogo eye makeup. The place went batshit. And then Jason roared a long and guttural string of what could only be Dothraki profanity. It almost became the Jason Momoa show. It was … inspiring.
George had to needle him a little about the throat-ripping scene, “…a scene which was not actually in my book.”
Jason: I wanted to do something that was like… he was the baddest man in the world. And uh… well, sorry about that. If you don’t like it, don’t hate me.
George: I love that scene.
Jason: Oh. Alright. Thank you, sir.
Jason can clearly only be cowed to politeness in the face of a grandfatherly figure.
George asked Peter whether or not Tyrion’s popularity changed his approach as an actor.
Peter Dinklage: Uhhhm. Well. I don’t know if I even have an approach as an actor.
He’s probably the closest to “method” in this cast. Him or Lena. Having spoken to him before, it really feels as though he does it for the art, the chance to play someone else. And to some people I’m sure it can come across as offputting, or even self-righteous, but when you meet him in person, he’s simply a quiet, introspective guy with a wry sense of humor. Self-depricating, really. I completely get his sense of humor.
George congratulated Peter on his Emmy nomination. I love how, when faced with adoring cheers, and Peter sort of has this apologetic look… his best friend Lena is cheering as loudly as anyone. I can’t tell whether she does it because he secretly likes it, or whether she’s having a go at him, helping to ramp up the crowd and make him even more uncomfortable. Like I think she’s about the only person who can get away with “taking the piss” out of Peter Dinklage.
George: Kit. You realize that your poster is going up on the bedroom walls on hundreds of thousands of girls.
Kit Harington: That scares the crap out of me.
I think it should! “Teen idol” is often the straightest path to a short acting career. Plus it’s obvious—hearing about him from the very first Belfast moot and in any interview where more than a few people are on hand—he’s pretty damned shy. Certain actors are just like that. And I’m sure this crazy, sudden success can seem like an unstable rope bridge.
Luckily, Jon Snow’s going to Iceland, not the NI rope bridges. Though the cold may kill the lad.
Kit: The thing about puppet horses is they do what they’re told. Big bonus. But no, I love my dog. I love Cooper. Or “Ghost.” We got along well, he just didn’t do what he was told. All he wanted was the bit of meat in my hand. So he’d bark and he’d wag his tail and have his tongue out. Not looking threatening, or silent at all.
Ha! A comment on the “Ghost barked” stuff? I think so!
Dave and D. B. were asked about what we might expect on the DVD’s! No deleted scenes (which makes me wonder if that ‘Brandon being strangled by the Mad King’ flashback disappeared into the ether), sadly, but on the plus side (aside from “Droning on… and on… and on…”) there will be cast auditions shown. Which is basically awesome, and always weirdly fascinating. Deleted scenes, bloopers, audition tapes: they’re DVD gold.
Speaking of bloopers, I would kill for a shot of one of the dogs mangling one of the set pieces. Or running off with it. With all the cursing that accompanies it. Big Head, Little Head, make it happen!
David mentioned the fact that, during the auditioning process, they had been unable to find a Khal Drogo. But they’d gone online and had looked through some casting threads…
At this point, my stalwart friend Blackfyre—he of the famed Brotherhood Without Banners and also in the front row, always supporting my bottom—shouted up, “Westeros!” David pointed at him and said, “It was all Westeros.”
David: “And no offense, but I hadn’t heard of you before that. I hadn’t kept up on my Baywatch.”
“Baywatch” is basically the crack that kills. Jason is laughing and not-so-subtly flashing him the bird around this point.
George asks about the challenge of learning Dothraki.
Jason: It’s like German / Arabic, and once you listen to it it sounds like… Jabba the Hut and Fozzy Bear. “Wocka wocka, Chewbacca!” But I was like, “I really want this job! I’ll do anything!”
“Wocka wocka, Chewbacca” is now my catchphrase.
David gave props to David J. Peterson for creating the Dothraki language.
Jason: Amazing language. So beautiful. It’s an honor… to be able to communicate like that with someone else and to know what they’re saying…
This was oddly adorable; Jason glanced at Emilia and seemed to get slightly tongue-tied. And Emilia just smiled and said, in Dothraki:
Emilia: My Sun and Stars.
A great deal of swooning happened in the audience when she said that. I swear the crowd was largely female. The question-askers certainly were.
George asked the actors which scene was their favorite to film…
Nikolaj: Well, Isaac was real annoying, so pushing him…
Nikolaj is a man after my own heart. Isaac deserves nothing short of a brutal window-pushing. No kid should have hair that good so young. It took me years to be that pretty!
Nikolaj then mentioned his actual favorite was the final scene between Jaime and Catelyn, which I love, since it is probably in my personal top 5 list of GoT scenes. Really, really good. Nikolaj and Michelle are on their game, hitting every nuance with perfection.
Kit: I liked getting hot and sweaty with Richard and Alfie. That was quite sexy.
I still have no idea what Theon and Robb were saying in that haircutting scene. English translator please?
Peter: When I’m on trial. That was fun. It was a long day, and there were a lot of extras in that scene. And I sort of felt like Master of Ceremonies for a bunch of bored extras, so… it was entertaining offscreen.
I’ve always wondered if extras could just get so bored they turn against you. Just like this mass riot of people in costume. What a way to die.
Also, if anyone has a quality finish to “I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel…” they’ll get huge points with me.
Emilia: Getting to see [the birth of dragons] it onscreen was… ahh, I mean… just the sound of those dragons. Shivers. Amazing.
I think that’s pretty much how everyone felt. That sound, especially fading to black, was immense. It was art!
George goes on to congratulate and thank others, both behind the scenes and other actors, and seems to be forgetting someone…
CROWD: SEAN BEAN!
George seemed amused that he’d forgotten that name. He then said Sean was “robbed” by not getting an Emmy nomination, and I agree. Sure, it’s a pretty damned good “Best Actor” list (Jon Hamm should win), but Sean really should have been nominated.
George: “Who knows, he may have a twin brother somewhere.”
I’m going to say no. But if this series goes 7 or 8 seasons, a short Momoa cameo as someone else would be pretty awesome. George’s answer to “Why do you keep killing off peoples’ favorite characters?” (“Well it keeps you on your toes”) is classic George. I’ve heard it probably ten times from him. And it’s also true.
The “Jon Snow you know nothing” redhead asked how each actor would like the show to end. Which is a great question, listening to some of the answers…
Kit: I want Jon Snow to be on the throne.
That’s an ending I could actually see. Some people have suggested “Jon / Dany co-rule with Tyrion as Hand,” but that may asking for way too much happiness, not quite in line with George’s “bittersweet” ideal.
Nikolaj’s “Jaime and Cersei Happily Ever After” scenario got a few slightly horrified laughs. I think more than a few Brienne fans turned a little green. It might have even been the first time my photographer was not entirely thrilled with whatever was coming out of Nikolaj’s mouth.
Lena: Bring Khal Drogo back for sure and have him and Tyrion co-rule.
If they did a “twenty years later” scene for that, I would hope they’d get Schwarzenegger and DeVito to cameo.
Peter: Dance number.
I have no words. Other than yet another Schwarzenegger / DeVito cameo.
(Though Pete better beware what he asks for. I can imagine D&D might make one up just to mess with the actors.)
(And a dance-off could be a viable replacement for future problematic pig jousting scenes.)
I want the Khal Drogo-looking-sort-of-like-a-Lenin-poster shirt. Seriously. I would kill my brother for that shirt (and he’s pretty nice, as far as brothers go). It was awesome that every time someone mentioned that Drogo should come back from the dead, Momoa glanced over at George, as if to say, “See?”
George asked David and D. B. what could be expected from season two, and I found David’s answer (besides “Everyone dies”) very intriguing:
David: “For the readers, they know much of what to expect. If we’re lucky enough, if we start to get a season three, that’s when it won’t start corresponding so neatly to the books. A Storm of Swords is just to big to do as one season, so we don’t know yet whether it’d be one-and-a-half seasons, whether it’d be three seasons for A Storm of Swords / A Clash of Kings, we don’t know that exactly.”
That seems to suggest they haven’t completely finished scripting season two—or at least have left parts open-ended—trying to secure a season three and four so they can possibly merge parts of all of them. “The readers know what to expect” out of season two also says that they won’t be diverging a whole hell of a lot from the second book, which pretty much means we can still expect Roose Bolton, Ygritte, Jaqen, and many of the others who’ve yet to be cast.
Speaking of which… the 25th is two days away. We could sure use some more casting announcements before the first day of shooting!
David: If we can keep this alive somehow, we can get to… there’s a certain scene in A Storm of Swords. I’m not even going to say the name of the scene, because the name itself is a spoiler. But you all know, if you read the books, what scene I’m talking about. Let’s call it “RW.” And if we can get to RW, we’ve accomplished something. Now we seem like we’re set up pretty well. I think we’re going to get to RW, and if that happens, then I can retire to my asylum.
Funny, Steven DeKnight (showrunner for Spartacus and a pretty big Game of Thrones fan) said all he wants is a yacht. David wants an asylum! Like all to himself? That’s kind of extreme.
Seriously though, I love the fact that they’re relatively confident they’ll get to RW. Of course the after part worries me as well, but… hey. One step at a time. Perhaps once things find a groove, David won’t feel as though he’s going completely out of his mind.
George responded to a fan asking about filming the Battle of Blackwater:
George: We’re going to pass my hat around to get some contributions to help. If any of you have an extra nickel or something like that… who knows? Actually, when I was signing, the guys from WETA (the FX wizards behind the Lord of the Rings movies) came up to me and said they were huge fans of the series. I asked them if they would like to donate so many dollars of free special effects, but for some reason they declined.
That’s too bad, but it’s also good. HBO knows the world is watching. They don’t want to look cheesy. And thus far the FX for Game of Thrones have been pretty damned good (when used), and that was with a small team. I am confident they will hire the right people to get the wolves and the battles right.
(Well, semi-confident. I have yet to see a realistic CGI wolf. We’ll see!)
Jason was asked about the difference between working for HBO and working for SyFy, and he said the quality gap is huge … which, if you’ve ever seen a SyFy show, you already know. (I’m looking at you, Sharktopus.) (I realize that not everything can be Triassic Attack in terms of SyFy quality.) Jason also said:
Jason: There’s so many things you can do, like rip someone’s tongue out of their throat and get away with it. And rape beautiful women. And then get them to fall in love with you. You know what I mean?
I know exactly what you mean. That’s awesome. What.
Bottom supporter Laurie Andress and her crazy scarf was able to get in the question line early (I sadly was not) and, after totally faking out Lena, asked Kit what he looked forward to most in the upcoming season.
Kit: The first season he spends a lot of his time concerned with his own family, down in the south. And the end of season one he forsakes them, so he can actually get on with his own agenda.
It’s interesting that he does think of it as forsaking Jon’s family rather than sticking to his oath. I know a number of readers really hoped he would just tear away from the wall and keep going south to join Robb, but that would have been a messy end (though interesting—would Robb have beheaded his deserter brother?). But knowing now all that we know, and knowing than Jon knows nothing, I think most agree his path northward was a much better storytelling opportunity. And look what happened!
Kit got a lot of questions toward the end, including the classic “Do you know who Jon Snow’s mother is?” The fact that he kept glancing back at Lena is probably funny to us, but if you’re simply following the show and not the books… it’s certainly not impossible to suggest Cersei could have been his mother. The “black haired baby” she said had died. And we have to say, for the record… it’s still one of many, many options. (I’ve heard crazier theories. Someone suggested to me that Catelyn was actually his mother through Petyr Baelish, and that she had conveniently blocked out the memory of it. And hey, Mad Men almost did that.)
George was asked about whether or not he mourns the characters he kills.
George: I just tell myself it’s not me killing them, it’s the other characters. I try to distance myself.
He talked about the fact that when he wrote A Storm of Swords, he wrote the RW scene last—he’d put off writing it up until the very end, and it was the hardest scene he’d ever written for that book.
George: When they film it and show it I’m going to try to arrange to be out of the country. Maybe be someplace that doesn’t actually have television yet.
The panel finally ended to lively cheers, the actors, showrunners, and author went to the back part of the stage to pose for pictures. Everyone wanting pictures rushed to the front of the stage, and myself and another cameraman gestured wildly for HBO rep Mara (she’s awesome) to talk them into coming to the front of the stage.
They did so, and from that I got three awesome things:
1. Fistbump number two from Peter Dinklage. I’m two for two, as far as Peter Dinklage encounters go. It’s going to be our “thing.” He is now my best friend and we will perhaps be married sometime next autumn.
2. A grin, a pointed finger and a recognizing (recognitionary?) (recognizitory?) nod from D. B. Weiss, who mouthed “Winter is coming!” Or perhaps he actually said it, I’m not sure, it was bloody loud… but nice that he recognized me and who I worked for! He looked oddly very happy that we were in attendance. Feelin’ FaB!
3. A quick shouted question answered over the din by Emilia Clarke:
Me: Emilia! I need to ask you something!
Me: Your phone number! For Winter Is Coming! It’s for Johan! He really wants this!
Emilia: [laughing] I don’t know…!
Me: Can we move the “Maybe” to a “Probably?”
Emilia: Yes! It’s definitely a probably!
So there you have it. Johan, we’re making progress. Slow, steady progress, but progress nonetheless. Supporting your bottom!
That was it for the panel. I had further adventures that night…
… but that’s a tale for another time.