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Why Was the Game of Thrones Prequel Starring Naomi Watts Cancelled by HBO?

HBO loves to toy with our emotions. First, they stop airing Game of Thrones, and now they’re taking our one solace — the promise of a prequel coming soon — away from us. That’s right: The Thrones prequel starring Naomi Watts was canceled by HBO after a screening of the pilot left execs concerned. If that seems a little vague to you, we agree — what went wrong?!

Deadline reports that, as of Tuesday, the prequel’s writer and showrunner Jane Goldman had been emailing the cast and crew about the project’s cancellation. The project was a co-creation of Goldman and George R.R. Martin, and HBO first ordered the pilot back in June 2018.

This prequel was set to show the GoT world about 5,000 years before we knew it, offering this logline: “The series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know.”

HBO had commissioned several GoT prequel scripts, but this was the first to be approved and start shooting. After the production wrapped this summer in Northern Ireland (during which there were reportedly complications), the pilot underwent a lengthy post-production process — one made even longer after HBO first watched the pilot.

According to TVLine, HBO execs requested a second round of edits after first seeing the pilot. But Goldman and Martin still weren’t able to meet their expectations, and HBO then decided to pass altogether.

Since ordering this first pilot, HBO gave the green light to a second prequel: a look back at the early days of House Targaryen, co-created by Colony‘s Ryan J. Condal and, once again, George R.R. Martin. This series will closely mirror Martin’s Fire & Blood, and takes place only 300 years before the events of GoT began.

We may never know what exactly went wrong with this pilot — maybe Martin heard she’d never seen GoT and purposely tanked the whole thing? (We kid.) According to Deadline, the original GoT pilot faced similar hurdles, costing HBO $10 million and re-shooting most scenes from the original cut. So, at least this project is in good company.

Whether it’s the Targaryen prequel or something else, all we can say is this: We better be seeing more of the Seven Kingdoms before 2021.

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