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HBO Greenlights Northern Ireland Epic ‘Game of Thrones’

04 Mar 2010 |

Game of Thrones
HBO has given the green light to a pilot and nine episodes of George R.R. Martin’s epic ‘Game of Thrones’. The shoot of what is expected to be the biggest television series ever filmed in Europe will commence in June in Northern Ireland and will see the return of stars Sean Bean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Mark Addy, Kit Harrington, Jennifer Ehle, Jack Gleeson, Peter Dinklage and Harry Lloyd.

Hundreds of local cast and crew will be employed by ‘Game of Thrones’ which tells the larger-than-life tale of the constant struggle for power over a vast and violent fantasy kingdom. The series, directed by Tom Mccarthy (The Visitor), will star Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) as Eddard Stark, Jennifer Ehle (Possession) as Catelyn Stark, Lena Headey (300) as Cersei Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Black Hawk Down) as Jamie Lannister, Mark Addy (A Knight’s Tale) as Robert Baratheon, Jack Gleeson (A Shine of Rainbows) as Joffrey Baratheon, Kit Harrington (Greys Inbetween) as Jon Snow, Peter Dinklage (Elf) as Tyrion Lannister, Harry Lloyd (Robin Hood) as Viserys Targaryen, Alfie Allen (Atonement) as Theon Greyjoy, Iain Glen (The Guards) as Ser Jorah Mormont.

It is expected that production of the series will last from June until December and will broadcast in spring 2011. Belfast’s Paint Hall has been booked by the series for the rest of the year and a mammoth set is to be built in keeping with the magnitude of the show in which each episode will be an hour long.

‘Game of Thrones’ other cast members include Richard Madden (Complicity) as Rob Stark, Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz) as Sandor Clegane, Tamzin Merchant (Georgiana Darcy) as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner (Dr. Who) as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark, Ron Donachie (The Daisy Chain) as Ser Rodrik Cassel, Jason Momoa (The Game) as Khal Drogo, Donald Sumpter (Eastern Promises) as Maester Luwin.

Northern Ireland’s Mark Huffam (Killing Bono) will produce the series, with funding provided by Northern Ireland Screen supported by Invest NI and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is extremely positive news for Northern Ireland and a development which will deliver major economic benefits, not only by utilising our growing film and television expertise but also in profiling our unique and attractive landscape to potential visitors around the world. At this stage, it is estimated that £20million will be delivered into the local economy through the production of the nine-part series.

“Local producer Mark Huffam is one of the best and most respected in the industry and HBO have clearly shown their confidence in him by deciding to locate the series here in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Screen, supported by Invest NI has worked hard to secure this project which will send a strong message to international production companies that this region is increasingly the filming location of choice.”

The pilot for the ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Morocco last year. Northern Ireland Screen’s Head of Marketing, Moyra C. Lock tells IFTN that the news of the series’ green-light was met with enormous joy. “It’s very exciting,” she says, “this series could easily do for Northern Ireland what ‘The Lord of the Rings’ did for New Zealand.”

The series will make use of many local historical buildings and rural areas such as Tollymore Forest Park (pictured) in Co. Down, Shane’s Castle in Co. Antrim and Co. Down’s Castle Ward. As previously mentioned a lot of filming will take place on set in Belfast’s Paint Hall also. Lock explains that Northern Ireland’s identifiable landscape will play as much of a role in the series as any of the actors. “Our landscape here really lends itself to a medieval epic series like this one. What we have in abundance here are wide open spaces which are exactly what the production needs,” she says.

Northern Ireland Arts Minister, Nelson McCausland also voiced his delight at HBO’s decision, stating: "I am confident that HBO's decision to film ‘Game of Thrones’ here will encourage other major production companies from around the world to consider Northern Ireland as a destination for making such programmes. This will ensure that the local talent base has the opportunity to continue to develop its talents and bring the added benefits of large scale investment to Northern Ireland.”

‘Game of Thrones’ sees David Benioff (writer, Troy) and D.B. Weiss (associate producer, Tripping Forward) take on the roles of executive producers with the author George R.R. Martin (upon whose series of books, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ the series is set) on board as one of the co-executive producers. Producers for the series include the aforementioned Mark Huffam, Joanna Burn and Frank Doelger (Rome).

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss adapted the pilot script.

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