According to Australian news outlet Crikey, Patrick Delany – the CEO of Australian television company Foxtel – made the comments while delivering a speech at the Sydney premiere of the highly anticipated House of the Dragon, which takes place nearly 200 years before the events of the original HBO series.
Before a screening of the first episode of the House of the Dragon at the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney, Delany recalled why he was late to start watching Game of Thrones when it originally premiered. “I was like, ‘What’s this show with the short, dumpy girl walking into the fire?’” he said.
Delany’s attempt at a joke reportedly fell flat among the audience, and the response to his comment was “cold”. One attendee told Crikey, “It felt like he was expecting us to laugh along but people in the room were obviously shocked by it.” Another said, “There was a bit of a gasp.”
A spokesperson for Foxtel Group later said that Delany’s remark was meant to be self-deprecating and light-hearted. “The aim was to convey that for him, Games of Thrones was something very different for television in 2011 and that Emilia Clarke went from relatively unknown to one of the most recognised and most-loved actors in television and film,” they said.
“On behalf of Mr Delany, the Foxtel Group apologies if his remarks were misunderstood and caused any offense.”
In Australia, the television company is home to Game of Thrones and the newly released prequel. Meanwhile, Clarke – who played queen Daenerys Targaryen in the popular HBO show – is not involved in House of the Dragon. Although, it does center on House Targaryen, the ancestors of the dragon-taming queen Daenerys.
Emilia Clarke has not responded to Patrick Delany’s comments.
House of the Dragon is available to watch on HBO and HBO Max on 21 August in the US, and on Sky Atlantic and streaming service Now in the UK.
The Independent has contacted Foxtel Group for comment.