Have you ever wondered about the process of bringing an epic story of fantasy and enigmatic characters found in a series of books hovering around 1,000 pages each from the page to the screen? With a large cast and kingdoms created in the mind of George R.R. Martin, the task might seem impossible.
Instead, producers and writers Dan Weiss and David Benioff have spent years envisioning how they could pull it off and all of their hard work pays off this Sunday, April 17, when Game of Thrones premieres on HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
I had the pleasure of joining a conference call with both Dan and David, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to learn a little about them and their process of bringing this daring interpretation of Martin's Game of Thrones to HBO.
The very first decision they made together was to read the books, and from there they realized the books would not work as feature films. The massive, sprawling tapestries created deserved far more than what justice could be done in a feature.
They also realized that television, especially networks such as HBO, allow you liberties you don't have in features.The books were written for adults, a sophisticated readership. They wanted to keep the sexuality, the profanity, and the bloody violence in tact. To get to know Tyrion without him visiting brothels and spouting vulgarities would be to know him not at all.
Introducing the books to friends and family, watching them become incredibly engrossed in the vividly drawn characters and tied to their fates sealed their desire to bring the project to life. George Martin is brutal on his characters, and nobody is safe. They realized this would make the show very tense and will hopefully keep people tuning in week after week.
The wonder of the series is they believe it will work for both the fans of the books and those who have no idea what's going to happen. David cannot wait to watch with friends who have not read the books, just to gauge their surprise level at all of the various calamities and unexpected events that will happen. They are introducing a show with a living fan base, and with every intention of creating a new one.
We talked about the casting, and the long drawn out process of choosing the right people for the job. Both David and Dan worked via video auditions with George to ensure they were getting the best out of the incredible talent casting director Nina Gold dug up. She literally found the children out of nowhere.
They are little marvels to watch and David and Dan knew the children in George's books would be asked to follow their own storylines. Much of the future of the series would fall on the shoulders of these kids. Three of the Stark children, Sansa (Sophie Turner), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Arya (Maisie Williams) will carry the burden with horrible things happening to themselves and family members, and the kids delivered beyond their imagination.
From their first read of the books, they had chosen Sean Bean to play Eddard (Ned) Stark and Peter Dinklage to play Tyrion Lannister. There was no need to look further, as long as the actors obliged. They did and their presence is the backbone to the first season.
David noted that what makes Game of Thrones so different from Lord of the Rings, for example, is Game of Thrones is really about human interactions, men and women in conflict with one another. However, this is not our world, it's one where winters can last for 20 years and there are dark forces lurking beyond the wall. Dragons existed at one time, and might exist again. It was so important that they create a world that seems completely real to the people within it.
Dan and David and their significant others sat behind George and Paris Martin during the premiere screening of the first two episodes. They enjoyed watching them get into it and seeing Paris cheer as the character Tyrion slapped his nephew Joffrey. She was yelling "Hit him again, hit him again!" After the screening, she turned to both men and said, "Guys, you didn't fuck it up."
It was the high point of their evening.