HBO greenlights ‘Game of Thrones’

Production on fantasy thriller to begin in June

After drawing a broad audience and critical acclaim with vampires, HBO is now pushing the fantasy envelope even further.

Cabler has greenlit a thriller series based on the “Game of Thrones” books penned by George R.R. Martin. The highly anticipated smallscreen version of “Game of Thrones” will depict an epic struggle for power set in a vast and violent kingdom.

Production for the skein is set to begin in Belfast in June.

Published in 1996, “Game of Thrones” won several literary awards, has been translated to many languages and is the first of seven planned novels as part of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Set against a backdrop of the fictional medieval European continent of Westeros, storyline involves civil wars, family backstabbing and bloody uprisings.

Tom McCarthy will direct the pilot. He appeared in the final season of HBO’s “The Wire,” and he directed Richard Jenkins to an Oscar-nominated performance in “The Visitor.”

Pilot was written by David Benioff (“The Kite Runner,” “Brothers”) and D.B. Weiss.

Series will have an extensive cast that includes Mark Addy, Peter Dinklage, Sean Bean and Lena Headey. Benioff and Weiss are exec producing.

“Thrones” will be one of the costliest series in HBO’s history, and net is looking to lure both the fanboys who have been salivating about the thought of a TV adaptation and a broader audience of the sort that helped transform the “Lord of the Rings” franchise into a worldwide phenomenon.

HBO has been spending plenty of coin lately on its originals. Ten-part miniseries “The Pacific,” set to launch March 14 and shot in Australia, reportedly cost in the neighborhood of $150 million.

Net also recently launched new series “The Ricky Gervais Show” and “How to Make It in America” while polygamist drama “Big Love” will end its nine-episode fourth season Sunday. The second season of HBO’s vampire skein “True Blood” was the most watched season for any HBO series after “The Sopranos.”