×

‘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!”

POPULAR ON VARIETY:

More TV

  • Emmy Queen Bey? Beyonce's 'Homecoming' Lands

    Emmy Queen Bey? Beyoncé's 'Homecoming' Lands Six Nominations

    It’s going to be a busy awards season for Beyonce. She could be up for Grammys or Oscars in the next six months, but she’s already made a splash with the fresh crop of Emmy nominations. Her documentary/concert movie “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” has been nominated for six Emmys, and a win in most [...]

  • Astronomy Club

    Astronomy Club Sets Netflix Sketch Comedy Series With Kenya Barris Producing (EXCLUSIVE)

    The sketch and improv group Astronomy Club has landed a self-titled variety sketch series at Netflix, Variety has learned exclusively. The streamer has given the half-hour series a six episode order. Kenya Barris will executive produce under his Khalabo Ink Society banner at Netflix, with the show falling under the “Black-ish” creator’s overall deal. Daniel [...]

  • NBC News - Quibi

    MSNBC Plans Launch of 'American Swamp' Docuseries with Katy Tur, Jacob Soboroff

    Katy Tur and Jacob Soboroff have been talking to each other since they were teenagers growing up around Los Angeles. Now MSNBC audiences will get to see them discuss what are likely to be much more serious subjects. The two NBC News journalists will lead the new four-part MSNBC documentary series “American Swamp,” which launches [...]

  • Game of Thrones finale

    Emmys 2019: Nominations Scorecard by Program and TV Platform

    “Game of Thrones” dominated nominations for the 71st annual Emmy Awards, earning a record 32 nominations and putting HBO on top again. The series, which recently aired its final season, was the most-nominated program, followed by Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (20), HBO’s “Chernobyl” (19), NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (18), HBO’s “Barry” (17), FX’s “Fosse/Verdon” [...]

  • BLACK-ISH - "The Purge" - After

    Emmys 2019: No Lead Comedy Actresses of Color Nominated

    As inclusion continues to be a hot button topic in Hollywood, the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ensured the importance of the conversation by seeing no women of color nominated in the lead comedy actress category. This is a noticeable decline in representation, even just looking year over year, with people like perennial favorite Tracee [...]

  • Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones

    Emmys 2019 Nominations: HBO Back at the Top, As 'Game of Thrones' Makes History

    HBO’s back — and the Television Academy has finally got its Schitt together. The Emmy nominations failed to disappoint on Tuesday morning, recognizing critically acclaimed series such as “Schitt’s Creek” and “Fleabag,” and giving TV juggernaut “Game of Thrones” a rousing farewell. “Thrones” broke the record books this year, scoring an astounding 32 nominations — [...]

  • Game of Thrones finale

    'Game of Thrones' Breaks Emmys Record for Most Nominations in a Single Season

    “Game of Thrones” is going out with a bang. For its final run, the HBO fantasy epic scored 32 nominations for the Emmy Awards Tuesday morning, the most for any program in a single season. That record was previously held by “NYPD Blue,” which scored 26 nominations in 1994. Over its full eight seasons, “Game [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content