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George RR Martin on how Game of Thrones was originally pitched


George RR Martin has revealed that when Game of Thrones, the hit HBO show based on his epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, was first being pitched to television networks it was sold as: “The Sopranos in Middle Earth”.

Speaking on the second day of the Santa Fe Literary Festival, in conversation with friend and bestselling author Douglas Preston, Martin discussed his history in Hollywood and noted that networks are often looking for pitches which “compare things to previous things that have been successful”.

He continued: “Game of Thrones was first sold by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, while I was still writing books, as I seem to be doing for the rest of my life! I was out of television for a couple of years. David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the showrunners, were the guys who took it to HBO to see if they’d buy or option them. Their pitch was: ‘The Sopranos in Middle Earth’. You have to be able to say it in a sentence!”

Later in his talk, Martin took time to promote the new HBO series based on Martin’s 2018 novel Fire & Blood. It will tell the story of the Targaryen civil war which takes place around 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. He also offered a brief update on forthcoming novel The Winds of Winter.

“On August 21, House of the Dragon, the sequel to Game of Thrones, will hit the airwaves on HBO,” said Martin. “Meanwhile, I’m still working on the bloody novels!”

Speaking to The Independent ahead of his talk, Martin commented on the supposed rivalry between House of the Dragon and forthcoming JRR Tolkien-inspired show The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, saying: “I know a lot of articles, the minute the dates were announced, it’s: ‘Oh, the battle for fantasy supremacy. It’s Rings of Power versus House of Dragon, who will win?’ I don’t know why they always have to do that.”

He added: “I hope both shows succeed. I’m competitive enough. I hope we succeed more. If they win six Emmys, and I hope they do, I hope we win seven. But nonetheless, it’s good for fantasy. I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I want more shows on television.”

The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, is providing coverage across each day of the festival with exclusive interviews with some of the headline authors. For more on the festival visit our Santa Fe Literary Festival section or visit the festival’s website.

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