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Bloodmoon: 12 Facts About HBO's Scrapped Game Of Thrones Prequel

The huge success of "Game of Thrones" meant that it was always likely that HBO would try to produce spin-offs. There was simply too big an audience and too much money on the table for the network to ignore. However, developing a show that would not only have the same quality as the series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss but also address the problems with the final season would be no easy task.

HBO eventually settled on moving forward with an untitled series that has become known by its production name, "Bloodmoon." Yet after a costly pilot had been filmed and edited, the network unceremoniously canned that series and instead opted to order a full season of "House of the Dragon" in its place.

The sudden way in which "Bloodmoon" was canceled and the lack of information about the show means that there are many unanswered questions. Fortunately, there are some interesting facts about this particular "Game of Thrones" spin-off that have been made public over the last few years.

The series was set to be written by Jane Goldman

While "Game of Thrones" was helmed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, a new team was recruited to lead the spin-off. While the pair were set to have some input as producers, two other people would be in overall charge of the story of "Bloodmoon," including "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R.R. Martin and screenwriter Jane Goldman (via Tor). Martin's inclusion wasn't particularly surprising, given that it is his original novels that were adapted for "Game of Thrones" and any spin-offs would likely also be based on his stories.

Goldman was more of a surprise, when HBO confirmed a pilot based on her pitch had been greenlit (via The Verge) and she was first announced as the showrunner. The wife of British broadcaster Jonathan Ross, she is perhaps most famous for her collaborations with director Matthew Vaughn. The two co-wrote "Stardust" in 2007 and have since worked together on a variety of successful films, such as "Kick-Ass," "X-Men: First Class," and "Kingsman: The Secret Service." She is also the writer behind the 2023 live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid" and was a screenwriter for "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."

According to Inverse, the series would also have involved producer and writer Vince Gerardis, who worked on "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon." Daniel Zelman — best known for his work on "Bloodline" and "Damages" — was also set to be part of the production team.

It was one of five spin-offs that were pitched to HBO

"Bloodmoon" was not the only "Game of Thrones" spin-off that was in development. At the same time that Goldman was pitching this series with the help of George R.R. Martin, a collection of other writers were also suggesting their own adaptations that would tell very different stories. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter suggested in 2019 that there were four other spin-offs under consideration.

Very little is known about these spin-offs other than the creative minds behind them. Writers included Max Borenstein, Brian Helgeland, Carly Wray, and Bryan Cogman (via Deadline). Rumors reported by Inverse indicated that Borenstein's spin-off would have focused on the Doom Valyria, a traumatic event that is still shrouded in mystery within the world of "Game of Thrones." Helgeland's show would have been titled "10,000 Ships," and would have focused on the story of Nymeria as she set sail from Essos.

Wray's spin-off is perhaps the one that is most secretive, and it is still not clear exactly what story she pitched, while Cogman had worked on the idea of depicting the civil war between the Targaryens. This project was declined by HBO but later reworked into "House of the Dragon" by Martin and Ryan J. Condal.

Bloodmoon may originally have been called The Long Night

Despite the fact that a pilot was ordered, Goldman's spin-off never had an official title. When discussing the project after it was first greenlit, HBO simply referred to it as a new "Game of Thrones" prequel, while it later went by the production title of "Bloodmoon" (via The Evening Standard).

However, author George R.R. Martin did make it clear several times that he preferred to call it "The Long Night." Speaking on his website, he explained that this would be his ideal choice as a title for the show, although he conceded that HBO would likely want to add "Game of Thrones" into the name to make it clear that it was related to the fantasy series. In a later post, he revealed that the show was still officially without a title and that he wasn't sure what it would eventually be called. He said: "HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled 'The Long Night.' That is certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially untitled."

The show was set thousands of years before Game of Thrones

As you may have guessed from George R.R. Martin's preferred title for the spin-off, "Bloodmoon" would have focused on the story of the Long Night. This was a generation-long winter that shrouded the land in darkness and saw the Others descend upon the world. According to the author, it would have been the earliest story told in the world of "Game of Thrones" and have been set long before any other potential prequel. Martin wrote on his blog, "This one really puts the 'pre' in prequel, since it is set not 90 years before 'Game of Thrones' or a few hundred years, but rather 10,000 years."

The brief description provided by HBO (via Tor) explained that the events of the spin-off would take place thousands of years prior to the original show and chronicle "the world's descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour," while revealing the true stories of the "origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East, [and] the Starks of legend."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin went further and gave a bit more detail about how the show would have been very different from "Game of Thrones." He admitted that Westeros would look very different from what fans were familiar with and contain previously unknown families, characters, and histories before even the Doom of Valyria or the forging of the Iron Throne.

George R. R. Martin has revealed key info about the series

While information about "Bloodmoon" was pretty scarce, George R.R. Martin did provide some details about what viewers could have expected from the series. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly while the pilot was being filmed in Northern Ireland, the author explained how the story would be devoid of dragons and Targaryens, largely because the famous Valyrian Freehold had not yet even been established.

However, one legendary creature would appear: direwolves. The sigil of House Stark, these large wolves were part of the history of the North and strongly associated with the Age of Heroes. Joining the fan-favorite animals would have been House Stark, not much of a surprise given the setting and time period, with the Starks being descended from the First Men.

Martin was also careful to point out that many families from "Game of Thrones" wouldn't be present either. For example, the Lannisters were not founded until much later and their ancestral home of Casterly Rock was actually owned by the Casterly family. Like "Game of Thrones," this series would also have focused on an ensemble cast rather than any one main character. One notable difference would have been that Westeros was to have been split into hundreds of smaller kingdoms, rather than the Seven Kingdoms that fans know.

A pilot was greenlit in 2018

Jane Goldman's pilot was officially greenlit in 2018, with HBO announcing the news in June (via ComingSoon). It was the only one of the five in development to proceed with a full pilot, with the network later turning down or reworking the other ideas proposed by writers such as Brian Helgeland and Bryan Cogman. HBO programming president Casey Bloys also confirmed (per The Hollywood Reporter) that any spin-off was unlikely to air until after the eighth and final season of "Game of Thrones." British director S.J. Clarkson was also due to helm the pilot and had previously worked on "Jessica Jones," "Dexter," and "Orange is the New Black" (via Entertainment Weekly).

HBO was seemingly prepared for none of the proposed spin-offs to make it to air, with Bloys telling The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 that the network did not want to oversaturate fans with more content because the original show was so special. He explained, "My sense right now is, we would be very lucky if one of the four rises to the level that we have set. Now, theoretically, what if they're all great? That's a high-class problem that I'll solve when it comes to that."

Naomi Watts was set to star in the prequel series

While "Bloodmoon" never made it past the pilot stage, HBO did cast a number of high-profile actors for the series. According to Variety, Naomi Watts was to play one of the lead roles in the show. Although little about her character, as well as the rest of the cast, was disclosed, the network did reveal that she would play "a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret." Watts is probably best known for her role in "The Ring" as well as appearances in "King Kong" and "Birdman."

A short time later, Deadline announced that Josh Whitehouse had also been selected to play a lead role, with "The Knight Before Christmas" actor starring opposite Watts. "Harry Potter" star Miranda Richardson was also tapped for a regular part (via Variety), while Marquis Rodriquez, Naomi Ackie, John Simm, Denise Gough, Richard McCabe, John Heffernan, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Dixie Egerickx were all set to be series regulars. Other names that were confirmed to appear in "Bloodmoon" were Jamie Campbell Bower, Sheila Atim, Ivanno Jeremiah, Georgie Henley, Alex Sharp, and Toby Regbo.

The pilot was allegedly not well received and had to be reshot

It is not unusual for a show's pilot episode to be very different from the final product. In fact, many pilots will run into difficulties or face challenges that make them more costly and time-consuming to produce than had otherwise been planned. The original "Game of Thrones" pilot is a great example of this, with Entertainment Weekly chronicling just how disastrous it was. Lacking scope and the gritty realism of the original novels, HBO was undecided about whether to move forward with the project until the very last moment.

The same seemed to be true of the "Bloodmoon" pilot, with Deadline reporting that there were several problems with the production. Along with rumors about particular issues that came up during filming in Northern Ireland, the pilot also went through an extensive re-editing process after the first cut was not well received by executives at HBO. When it came time to decide whether to push forward with a series order, it seems like the network was not prepared to double down and keep pumping money into "Bloodmoon."

The pilot cost $30 million to film

That decision to not reshoot the pilot completely and make changes to see if it could work as a series may be down to the fact that it was such an expensive production in the first place. Via Entertainment Weekly, the pilot cost HBO a reported $30 million to produce, a budget that could well rival many blockbuster movies. Former WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt explained his reasons for canceling the pilot, noting that the cut he was shown simply wasn't good enough. According to the book "Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers," Greenblatt told HBO's Casey Bloys, "This just doesn't work and I don't think it delivers on the premise of the original series."

The cost of the pilot is pretty staggering considering that the final six episodes of "Game of Thrones" were each made with half as much money. Each episode of the final season had a budget of around $15 million and that included paying the critically acclaimed cast and having extensive battle scenes. Meanwhile, "House of the Dragon" had a budget of $20 million an episode, making it a cheaper series to produce despite the still-enormous cost (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Even George R.R. Martin has not seen the pilot

It appears that fans will never get to judge the pilot for "Bloodmoon" themselves. While it remains unclear exactly why HBO decided not to move forward with a full series, one thing that is certain is that hardly anyone will ever get to view it again. This was also the case with the original "Game of Thrones" pilot, which has seemingly been locked away by HBO so that it can never be leaked, because of how terrible it is compared to what actually aired (via Vulture).

The Hollywood Reporter even revealed that "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R.R. Martin has not seen the final cut of the pilot. The secrecy surrounding the "Bloodmoon" pilot may puzzle some fans, because in the same article, Robert Greenblatt said, "It wasn't unwatchable or horrible or anything. It was very well-produced and looked extraordinary. But it didn't take me to the same place as the original series."

There was little material for the show to adapt

Part of the problem with "Bloodmoon" was that it was a very different show than "Game of Thrones." Set thousands of years before the events of that series, it would tell a completely different story and involve unrecognizable locations and characters. The other major issue is that it was not based on a series of novels like its predecessor.

"Game of Thrones" had several books and thousands of pages of material to take from. On the other hand, author George R.R. Martin had written very little about the Long Night or the Age of Heroes. These time periods are mentioned only in passing in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and even that is portrayed as myth or legend which may be unreliable. That meant that much of the story would have to be worked out by Goldman, rather than simply adapting the work of Martin.

This was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by HBO executive Francesca Orsi, who revealed that "Bloodmoon" was distinctive, sophisticated, and adult in tone, adding, 'There was a thematic conversation at the center of it about disenfranchisement in the face of colonialism and religious extremism."

Martin and HBO executives felt the show was high-risk

George R.R. Martin explained to The Hollywood Reporter how "Bloodmoon" was always going to be a difficult show to make. The lack of real source material meant that it would have to tell a new story that fans were not familiar with. While there wasn't necessarily anything wrong with the pilot in terms of its story, Casey Bloys revealed that it was much more of a gamble for HBO, saying, "It required a lot more invention; it was higher risk, higher reward."

On the other hand, the idea of producing a story based on the Targaryen civil war seemed more enticing and a safer bet. It would involve more of the locations and families that viewers had grown accustomed to in "Game of Thrones" and was set relatively closer to the action of the original series. More importantly, though, "House of the Dragon" had a more solid foundation to take from and was thus seen as less of a risk. After all, Martin had already written the novel "Fire and Blood," giving a detailed account of the events of that era for the writers of the show to use, rather than having to come up with everything themselves.