ASOIF a much bigger story than LotR? Is that judging by number of books?
LOTR is 1000 pages. ASOIF now tops 3000, and it is only half done. GRRM writes a lot of sub-plots and POVs that simply do not exist in LOTR, thus the story is in a physical sense larger. Because of the intricacy of all of these sub-plots and POVs, the story of ASOIF, in my humble opinion, would be too cumbersome to convert into a screen play unless you did a huge miniseries (akin to the size of Upstairs Downstairs), with perhaps five 2-hour episodes per book. Hugely expensive, and very risky to pull off, in my opinion.
In contrast, LOTR was converted to screen in three, albeit very long, films.
The themes explored in LOTR are much bigger and more grand, so in that sense, LOTR (and its accompanying books) is much a "bigger" story. ASOIF is much more base and human, and in many more ways than one. However, if I hear or read the phrase "gritty realism" one more time, I think I'll scream.
Anyway, I would not want the job of producing or directing that series. Could be a career-ender. If it is pulled off, then it would be an amazing feat, and would catapult anyone involved with it, but I think that would be highly unlikely.
In my crazed opinion - trying to put Martin's fantasy into screenplay for either TV or film would pose the perfect nightmare....who in HECK would you root for????? To stay true to the story would make it a wrencher to watch - and a dastardly difficulty to adapt, since viewers would not be prepared - the'd look for somebody in the storyline to sympathize with, and if the story followed the author's intent - a viewer expecting a moral high ground would encounter some pretty vicious betrayals.
Without seeing the finish in place - it's a difficult point to consider. We don't know where the author is going to take this, or if he has a point to make that would unify the entire picture under some sort of theme...he's systematically fragmented all sense of loyalty and theme - until no one knows where to stand, NO PLACE is "safe" ground, no character is reliable...what the author will bring out of this leveling battle of chaos, or if his point is to be that chaos reigns, for it's own sake - that is still veiled.
I'd think that a script writer would have to know the whole story to begin to determine what to show and what to cut, to make a visual interpretation viable.
I should state I really enjoyed the first book of this series and the charater Jon (?) from the North. There was a sense of foreboding and excitment in the series. By the end of book 2 or 3, there were so many characters that I just plain didn't care about and so many sub-plots that, for me, the series went from intricate and integrated, to sprawling, disjointed and rudderless. I lost the point of why I should read this series and just stopped. Kate Elliott kept the threads together in A Crown of Stars across six doorstop sized books, my personal opinion was that GRRM lost me and I'm not sure I'll go back.
In a way, the LotR films expand on Janny's point. The LotR films were Peter Jackson's interpretation of the books made into film for modern sensibilities and the necessary accommodation of trying to make a film for both fans and those who hadn't read the books. Inserted sub-plots such as Arwen's greater role so there was a love story, as modernly viewed, whereas a film made in the 1960s would probably simply have kept her as a subnote. The fighting XenArwen originally planned by Jackson was justifiably ommitted.
A film or TV series of GRRM's series would be made by someone other than GRRM, so would have their version of trying to fit such a story into the visual format, along with other standard plot devices deemed (rightly or wrongly) necessary to attract non-GRRM fan audiences - a holier than thou good guy, a despicably evil bad guy, probably a love interest or two, probably a moralistic or modern American "values" insertion and all with a happy ending. So unless GRRM made it with his own money, it would be someone else's story who would make it to suit their objectives, morals and intended message. Ergo, not a "true" representation. Is that what you really want?
Excellent point about viewers not having anyone to root for: Viewers are fickle and with all of the lead/main characters that die could be hard to maintain a viewer loyalty. Also, not knowing the full story could create a nightmare for the series if they make some bad assumptions...
Having said that: I'd watch the series. But if they really twisted it out of proportion like making the characters "absolute" good/bad - which GRRM doesn't allow :-) or saving characters that were meant to die - I'd probably abandon it as easily as GRRM kills off characters... ;-)
Well, I actually kind of like Legend of the Seeker. I didn't really care for the two main characters (Richard and Kahlan) that much, but I loved Zedd. His actor was very charming in the role and I would love to see him play more of these quirky wizard characters (if David Eddings had allowed people to make films of his books, this man would have been an excellent Belgarath).
I also love A Game of Thrones. It's nearly exactly like the books and since they're already making the 3rd season, it means that viewers love this show enough to want it to continue. A few of the actors seemed a bit iffy (like the guy playing Theon), but they grew on me. And now they've finally cast Brynden Tully in the 3rd season - he's one of my favorite characters and I was afraid they'd completely remove him from the show. I can't wait for them to finally cast Oberyn Martell.