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Taylor Sheridan Compared 1883 And 1923 To Game Of Thrones And Lawrence Of Arabia

Taylor Sheridan has never really been known for his modesty. Even when he was struggling to get the scripts of "Yellowstone" seen by studio execs, he simply refused to cut corners. Sheridan's attitude toward executives at Paramount Network was that they were going to be essentially writing him checks in the tens of millions and that they will have no right to interfere in his vision. It was a set of demands which most studio execs would have been absolutely insane to agree to, and yet, as we can all see several years later, it paid off. "Yellowstone" and its prequels "1883" and "1923" are some of the most praised shows on television, so much so that Paramount has at least three further spin-offs in the works: "6666," "Bass Reeves," and "1944." 

So yes, it's proven expensive, but also successful. It's perhaps understandable that Sheridan might view his creations in the same light as some of the biggest successes in film and television history. Speaking to Deadline, Sheridan was asked about the expense of shooting "1923," especially in light of its predecessor, "1883."

"I would argue that '1883' was the most expensive first season of a TV show ever made," he suggested. "This was much more expensive," he said, speaking of "1923." He added, "Much more expensive. I don't know what the 'Game of Thrones' budgets were, but I don't know how they could have been more than this." That figure may add up, in fact. The estimated budget for the final season of "Game of Thrones" — its shortest but most expansive — was around $90 million in total. The estimated budget for each episode of "1923," meanwhile, was estimated at $22 million. Multiply that by eight episodes and you get a budget of around $176 million.

More expensive than Lawrence of Arabia

Needless to say, that was an expensive season of a television show. Still, in today's Hollywood landscape, it's not all that out of the ordinary. "Avatar: The Way of Water" reportedly had a production budget of around $460 million, which is only one number behind why it needed to break $2 billion worldwide. In the interview, Deadline asked Taylor Sheridan if he would consider "1923" to be equivalent to "Avatar" in terms of limited television series. But Sheridan didn't think it was an apt metaphor. "It's the opposite of that," he replied. "It's the 'Lawrence of Arabia.'" Sheridan went on to say that, between procuring real sheep, cows, and other livestock, and shooting for as long as they had to on location in Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania, the budget was bound to skyrocket. 

Again, much of this came down to how much of a perfectionist Sheridan can be, but it can't be denied that opting for the real thing over a greenscreen helped the actors really immerse themselves. "You know how hard it is to move a crew around in Africa in 2022 with Covid, and all the rules and all the politics?" Sheridan asked. Executive producer David Glasser also added that they shot scenes in Malta, and in Kabul, Afghanistan. Not exactly easy. Or cheap. 

Considered one of the greatest epic films ever, "Lawrence of Arabia" was a similar globetrotting production, filmed in England, Jordan, and Syria. Whether its expense is in line with that of "1923," however, is another matter. "Lawrence of Arabia" cost $15 million to make in 1962, which is roughly $149 million in today's dollars. Which still puts it roughly $35 million under the budget of "1923."