It wasn't immediately apparent in 2011 if Game of Thrones would be a hit. For longtime book readers, the show was a dream come true, but it wasn't until somewhere after the halfway point of the season where it became clear non-science fiction and fantasy book fans were picking up on the show and watching. When Ned was beheaded in episode 9, the outcry from new fans was so loud and so startling, it was clear HBO had a hit. But how to deal with the ending? Turns out Game Of Thrones Season 8 was pitched as a movie at one point because of the sheer scale it would require.
These rumors have been floating around since Season 3 after the Red Wedding reaction made it clear the show would continue all the way to the end of the story. At the time, the idea was attributed to author George R.R. Martin and seen as a bit of a pie-in-the-sky fantasy.
But this week, Entertainment Weekly revealed this was a real proposal. It didn't come from Martin. It came from the showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss. They pitched it to HBO after Season 2 ended in 2012, once they realized the show would not be canceled unless there was an Act of God, and therefore their bluff, as it were, had been called.
Entertainment Weekly revealed for the first time during their Season 3 set visit in 2012 that Benioff and Weiss had admitted they'd fibbed to HBO about the scale of the show's ending. They didn't know what to do, because it was impossible to pull off on a TV budget.
The lie we told is the show is contained and it’s about the characters. The worlds get so big, the battles get so massive. We have a very generous budget from HBO, but we know what’s coming down the line and, ultimately, it’s not generous enough.
The only way out, as the two of them saw it, was to make the final episodes into movies.
The final season could be six hours long and released as three movies in theaters — just like Martin’s best-known influence, The Lord of the Rings. It’s not that the duo wanted to make movies per se, but it seemed like the only way to get the time and money needed to pull off their finale.
But HBO wasn't interested. It had commissioned the show for the network. Remember, this is before Netflix released House of Cards or Amazon Studios even existed. Nowadays, premium TV networks producing for the big screen and Oscar gold is the going thing. But back then, no one from HBO was willing to consider it.
Instead, HBO told the production to start growing the series year by year, budget jump by budget jump. By following this advice, Game of Thrones grew organically into the kind of production with a budget that could handle the finale. When the time came, HBO had the money in hand the show needed.
Will it be worth it? Fans will find out when Game of Thrones Season 8 arrives in 2019.