Why George RR Martin said no to a Game of Thrones movie

The writer explains his motives for saying "the sexiest word in Hollywood – No”

Ever wondered why epic fantasy series Game of Thrones headed to the small screen rather than the cinema? Well, wonder no more because writer George RR Martin (who wrote the book series the TV show is based on) has told the tale of why he turned down Hollywood.


“It took Peter Jackson three movies to make Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and he still had to cut things,” Martin tells the South Bank Show in an episode airing on Sky Arts tonight.

“It would take three movies for [third novel] A Storm of Swords alone! And if you figure like two movies for [first novel] A Game of Thrones, and two for [second novel] A Clash of Kings, you’re already up to seven movies and you’re halfway through the series. Nobody’s going to commit to that – and, of course, they didn’t commit to that.”


Rather, Martin goes on to explain, movie producers were keen to either hedge their bets or streamline his books.

“The people I met with from movies said one of two things – they either said ‘oh, we’ll just make the first movie! And after that’s a hit, we’ll make more.’

“Well, of course, if you go down that route then you have Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Great fantasy, they made the first movie – didn’t do as well as they expected, you’ll never see a second movie.”

Not a great state of affairs – but option two was even worse, as Martin goes on to explain.

“Alternatively they said, ‘Well, we have to find – yes it’s true it’s too complex, it’s too big the way it is – but we have to find the central arc. And we’ve decided the central arc should be…Jon Snow.’ So the whole movie would be about Jon Snow. Or the central arc is Daenerys, the whole movie would be about this exiled princess, and she gives birth to dragons.

“That might be a good movie, it might be interesting, but it wouldn’t be my story. My story is a combination of stuff,” Martin affirms. “I didn’t need the money so I had the power to say the sexiest word in Hollywood – No.”

Of course, Martin would eventually say “yes” to TV in the form of Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss – though after this week’s traumatic episode, some viewers might be wishing he’d stuck to his firm denials after all…


The South Bank Show is on Sky Arts tonight (Tuesday 9th June) at 10.00pm