Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Game of Thrones fantasy epic to be filmed in Belfast

Game of Thrones still
Game of Thrones is expected to be broadcast next year

US broadcaster HBO is to begin filming its epic fantasy adventure series Game of Thrones in Belfast in June.

The series pilot was filmed at locations around the city.

Nine more programmes based on the first book of George R.R. Martin's multi-volume A Song of Fire and Ice series have now been commissioned.

Rather than focusing on special effects, the series is said to feature realistic battles and is pitched as "The Sopranos in Middle Earth".

Location filming has also taken place in Scotland and Morocco, amid fevered internet anticipation among fantasy fans.

It will star Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Alfie Allen, the brother of pop star Lily Allen.

The makers' long-term ambition is for each novel in the series to fuel a season's worth of episodes.

HBO has been behind a string of popular programmes including The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

'Major coup'

The government estimates the series will generate £20m for the local economy.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said: "Securing a project of this size and scale by a worldwide brand such as HBO is a major coup for Northern Ireland.

"The growth of the film industry is an example of a new innovative attitude to business in Northern Ireland.

"The transformation of the Paint Hall from the last remnant of our once great ship building tradition to the largest stage in Europe is an example of our flexibility and our commitment to innovation.

Sean Bean
Sean Bean plays Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones

"This announcement is also a major endorsement of our local talent and of the calibre of people that we can provide to potential investors."

Filming for the nine-part series is expected to last until the end of the year, with the show going to air next spring.

Hundreds of Northern Ireland-based cast and crew are set to work on the production alongside local producer Mark Huffam.

Rich Hill, chairman of Northern Ireland Screen, said it was good news for the local film industry.

"(It) further cements our reputation as a leading centre for film and television production, as we continue driving global growth in one of the most powerful and vibrant industries in the world," he said.



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