HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” touched down in Sydney this week for its official Australian premiere, but the event quickly turned controversial after Patrick Delany, the CEO of Australian television company Foxtel, referred to Emilia Clarke as a “short, dumpy girl.” Foxtel, an Australian pay television company, is the country’s home for “Game of Thrones.”

As reported by Australian publication Crikey (via Vanity Fair), Delaney was giving a speech ahead of the “House of the Dragon” premiere screening and tried to make a joke about the first time he watched “Game of Thrones.” The CEO said, “I was like, ‘What’s this show with the short, dumpy girl walking into the fire?’”

Delaney was referencing Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, who famously walks through fire during the series. An attendee at the Sydney premiere told Crikey that “there was a bit of a gasp” after Delany made the comment.

A Foxtel spokesperson told Crikey after the event that Delany’s remark was “meant to be self-deprecating.” The company issued a statement that reads: “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 recognized and most-loved actors in television and film.

“On behalf of Mr Delany, the Foxtel Group apologies if his remarks were misunderstood and caused any offense,” the statement concluded.

Since “House of the Dragon” takes placed hundreds of years before “Game of Thrones,” Clarke is not involved in any capacity with the new HBO prequel series. Foxtel announced in 2019 that the controversial “Game of Thrones” series finale led to the biggest influx of overnight subcribers in the company’s history.

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