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‘Game of Thrones’: 10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets We Learned From the SXSW Panel

AUSTIN, TEXAS — “Game of Thrones” doesn’t return to HBO until this summer, but to hold fans over, the showrunners and cast sat down for a wide-ranging panel at the SXSW festival, revealing a few fun tidbits.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were panelists with stars Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner playing the role of moderators during the Sunday afternoon session at the annual fest in Austin, Texas.

The foursome dropped some news — Ed Sheeran will guest star on Season 7 of “Game of Thrones” — but otherwise, the panel was a high-energy chat about behind-the-scenes moments.

Here’s what we learned from the “Game of Thrones” SXSW panel:

The final season — as first reported by Variety — will indeed consist of just six episodes:

After Season 7, which premieres on July 16, the eighth-and-final season will consist of just six episodes, as originally reported by Variety nearly one year ago.

Benioff and Weiss said that the outline for the six episodes in Season 8 is a total of 140 pages — and that’s just the outline! As for their writing process, Benioff explained that the co-showrunners split up the script, along with two other writers. “We fight over who gets to write which half,” joking, “We fight over who gets to kill Sansa.” Weiss said they’ve been arguing over who writes what more this season than ever before. “We realized it was the last time we’d be doing that for the show,” he said.

The most expensive death scene to film was for Meryn Trant:

Out of all the deaths on “Game of Thrones,” Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), who had his throat slit and was stabbed in the eyes by Arya (Williams), may have had the most expensive scene to shoot. Why? “She couldn’t really poke out his eyes,” Benioff said with a laugh.

Noah Taylor, who played Locke, was supposed to be killed off the show earlier than Season 4:

The showrunners revealed that guest star Noah Taylor’s character, Locke, who debuted at the beginning of Season 3, was actually supposed to be killed off that same season, but they ended up keeping him around for part of Season 4.

“He had a death scene in Season 3,” the showrunners revealed of the original script. “Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] was going to throw Noah Taylor’s character into the river and we were going to have him mauled by a bear, and we decided after working with Noah, he should stay on and he was too much fun.”

Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo was one of the toughest characters to kill off:

Jason Momoa, whose character Khal Drogo was a prominent character in the first season, was one of the toughest characters for the creators to kill off.

“We never totally recovered from getting rid of him,” Weiss admitted, adding that they brought him back for the Season 2 finale and have mentioned him throughout the series partly because they missed him.

If the showrunners could bring back a dead character it would be…

“Michelle Fairley was one of the great actresses and also so much fun,” Benioff said. Weiss added, “Also Jack Gleeson. I miss Jack. He’s the anti-Joffrey in real life.”

Sansa is one of David Benioff’s favorite characters:

When asked by Turner and Williams why “Game of Thrones” characters resonate with viewers, Benioff ended up revealing one of his favorite characters: Turner’s Sansa Stark.

“For me, to be honest, even in the books, book readers would always hate Sansa and I always loved her because she seemed like a real person. Yeah, she’s really annoying sometimes and she’s a stuck up teenager somethings,” Benioff said, “But she goes through one of the most interesting journeys…She’s always been one of my favorite characters.

The showrunners have played tricks on Kit Harington:

“We had a whole story about how HBO felt he was too Disney; he was too Harry Potter,” Weiss shared with the SXSW audience, recalling a time when they scared Harington.

And then Kit Harington got back at the showrunners, by fake-cutting his hair off:

“The actors are supposed to look the same more-or-less between seasons,” Benioff explained, adding that at one point, Harington expressed his desire to cut his hair, which are an integral part of Jon Snow’s appearance. “Kit said he was getting annoyed because he wanted to cut his hair. He sent us a picture and he looked like a skinhead, and we were like, ‘Ugh, we’re going to have to get a Prince Charming wig.'”

HBO’s lawyers ended up getting involved, reaching out to Harington’s agents.

Turns out, the photo sent was actually and old picture from five years before, proving that Harington is the master of pranks.

Sophie Turner has some words about Justin Bieber:

Benioff and Weiss said that they wrote a scene where Sansa sings in Season 2 and Turner thought it was a joke, at the time. Now, since she’s comfortable singing, Benioff and Weiss joked that she should sing a Justin Bieber song for the entire room at SXSW. Spoiler alert: she didn’t.

But, when the co-showrunners revealed that Ed Sheeran will be guest-starring on Season 7, Turner chimed in, “I’m still waiting on Bieber.”

Could there be a “Game of Thrones” comedy spinoff? 

When speaking about dead characters that are missed the most, the showrunners mentioned Hodor (Kristian Nairn), who after appearing in more than 20 episodes since the beginning of the series, was killed off in the middle of Season 6.

“Hodor is going to get his own prequel spinoff series,” Benioff said, completely joking. Weiss quipped, “It’s a multi-cam sitcom!”

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