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In 2006, when David Benioff and Dan Weiss, cocreators of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, sat down with author George R.R. Martin to talk about adapting his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin’s Hollywood bullshit detector was on high alert. “He gave us a pop quiz,” Weiss told one interviewer, but they passed the test because their passion for Martin’s books “was real and natural and completely unforced.”
Their geek-boy résumés probably didn’t hurt: Benioff, a D&D dungeon master in his youth, did the screenplay for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Weiss had a video-game-themed novel under his belt. Nor did their willingness to shelve all other creative pursuits—no small sacrifice for Benioff, who had adapted his own first novel, The 25th Hour, into the Spike Lee film starring Edward Norton, and followed that up with the fabulous 2008 book City of Thieves.
For the uninitiated, Game of Thrones is an engrossing tale of clans struggling for dominion in the fictional realm of Westeros. (Benioff’s two-second elevator pitch: “The Sopranos in Middle Earth.”) With a stellar crew and ensemble cast anchored by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf scion of a power-hungry family, the show has raked in 17 Emmy nominations and eight wins, including Dinklage as outstanding supporting actor. Benioff and Weiss told me via email about their favorite characters, learning to “fail better,” and the challenges of shooting Season 3, which premieres March 31 on HBO.
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