Believe it or not, House of the Dragon wasn’t the first Game of Thrones prequel to be born out of the aftermath of the original show’s conclusion in 2019. Even before the hit HBO show came to a bitter end, a White Walker-led prequel was floating around a year earlier called The Long Night, but HBO cancelled the project before it took off. Now, new information has come to light that the pilot episode for the prequel cost $30 million to make.
According to ScreenRant, The Long Night, which was helmed by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin and director Jane Goldman, was expected to take place 10,000 years before the events of the original series. Had the show come to fruition, it would’ve told the story of the first Long Night, a period of time in which the White Walkers invaded Westeros. Josh Whitehouse, Jamie Campbell Bower, George Henley, and Naomi Ackie were hired to star in the show, and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts was signed on as the series’ lead, but HBO decided to pull the plug on the project in 2019 following the Season 8 finale of the original show, only to announce it greenlit the full 10-episode season of House of the Dragon on the same day.
This new information was revealed by James Andrew Miller’s new book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, courtesy of Insider. Bob Greenblatt, former chairman of WarnerMedia, told Miller in an interview for the book that the pilot episode for The Long Night was already in the works by the time he joined the company, and when he saw a cut of the show, he told HBO’s chief content officer Casey Bloys that he didn’t think it was the best idea. “They had spent over $30 million on a ‘Game of Thrones‘ prequel pilot that was in production when I got there,” Greenblatt said. “And when I saw cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to Casey, ‘This just doesn’t work, and I don’t think it delivers on the promise of the original series.’ And he didn’t disagree, which was actually a relief.”
Greenblatt also added that there was a lot riding on perfecting The Long Night, but he didn’t think it could’ve worked. It was a sign that the production values for the prequel were too low to justify the gargantuan budget. Before HBO killed the prequel, Naomi Watts was hesitant to reveal details about her experience with working on its pilot, but that she was excited about stepping into the medieval fantasy world of Game of Thrones. She said that fans wouldn’t be let down by the prequel, though of course it never materialized.
The Long Night is not the only prequel that got shelved, however. Five months ago, HBO announced it had cancelled another spin-off show called Flea Bottom. It would’ve been a catchy title for an animated show, but not for a live-action show that was set to take place in the slums of King’s Landing. Speaking of animated shows, HBO is developing a couple of Game of Thrones animated projects — one of them is set in the Golden Empire of Yi Ti, a part of the eastern side of the continent of Essos, and the other is unknown. House of the Dragon is set to stream on HBO Max in 2022.