(Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)
From bus signage to a Westeros-themed escape room, Game of Thrones had a massive presence at this year’s South by Southwest interactive film and music festival. But the big story was a panel discussion about the show featuring showrunners David Benioff and Weiss, and stars Sophie Turner (Sansa) and Maisie Williams (Arya). WiC was there to cover it, and now we bring you even more details about the goings on behind the scenes. Because we know you want more.
First up, Benioff and Weiss both expressed their delight at keeping the core cast together throughout the series, which can be difficult for any show that runs as long as Game of Thrones.
From the very first moment we pitched the show to HBO, we wanted to tell one 70-hour movie, that’s going to turn out to be 73 hours. It stayed relatively the same from the beginning to middle, and now we’re coming to the end. It would have been really tough if we had lost any of our core cast members along the way, so I’m happy we got to finish the way we want to.
There have been some minor re-castings along the way (e.g. Daario Naharis and the Three-Eyed Raven), but the main cast — your Kit Haringtons, your Emilia Clarkes, etc — has stayed intact.
Weiss also talked about being drawn to the female characters from the Song of Ice and Fire series when thinking of adapting it for TV. “We realized it’s an awful world where this story takes place, but there were compelling, female characters who had agency. They weren’t secondary to anybody – they had their own storylines.”
Benioff focused on a couple of those female characters, and contrasted the Stark daughters.
Arya’s a rebel, and I think people are drawn to people who rebel against whatever the societal structures are. For me though, Sansa goes on one of the most interesting journeys; She doesn’t start out as someone who is really sharp, shrewd and tough, but she becomes that person. Arya is kind of always there, which is what’s great about her, but Sansa had to get there by painful experience.
I think Sansa’s had to face harder choices. With Arya there’s always a pretty clear path of: What’s the cool, badass thing to do? Sansa’s choices, in a way, feel more real, and resonate more with not black and white, but gray experiences.
The producers did name Maisie Williams as their favorite of the two actresses, though (jokingly).
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The sheer beauty of the exotic Game of Thrones filming locations has made a unique impression upon the showrunners. Discussing filming during season 2 (where Jon and the Night’s Watch goes beyond the Wall) Weiss remarked that “a bunch of very improbable circumstances had fallen into place to put you in this very unlikely, beautiful place. It’s not pride, so much as gratefulness.”
Filming on a glacier in Iceland will leave that impression.
Regarding spoilers, Benioff admitted that it’s “virtually impossible” to stop them. And yet the show goes on.
I’m the kind of viewer or reader where I just don’t want to know about stuff… I want to be surprised by things… So I just kind of work under the assumption that a lot of people are like me and people who are desperate to find out everything beforehand will probably find a way to do it. And that just is what it is.
Finally, have a closer look at the Escape Room exhibit HBO set up elsewhere at the festival, courtesy of AdWeek. (We didn’t embed it here because it’s one of those videos that plays automatically and that’s annoying, but you can follow the link.) You can get a look at the Game of Thrones-themed room, which is modeled off Castle Black, at 1:09.