On Saturday, Austin Film Festival awarded "Game of Thrones" co-creators and executive producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with the 2019 Outstanding Television Writer. After the ceremony, Benioff and Weiss joined AFF executive director Barbara Morgan for a lively conversation about the process of adapting George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series into an epic saga that gripped audiences around the world. Here are five things we learned from the panel.
An internet fan group helped cast Khal Drogo. As they prepared to adapt Martin’s work for television, Benioff and Weiss spent a fair amount of time lurking in fan groups for his best-selling books. In one of these forums, fans did hypothetical casting for the story and an anonymous commenter pegged Jason Momoa, an actor best known, at the time, for his role as a lifeguard in "Baywatch Hawaii," as a perfect Khal Drogo. Visually, Momoa matched Benioff and Weiss’ idea of what Khal Drogo should look like so they called him in for an audition. Momoa followed his reading for the part with a performance of the traditional Maori ceremonial dance, the Haka, and sealed the deal.
In the early days, the whole thing seemed a bit ridiculous. Benioff and Weiss did not have a background in fantasy before creating the series and writing the dialogue for the piece felt awkward at first. "In every scene, we were three lines away from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Weiss joked.
The series employed the same battle teams for all eight seasons. When the "Thrones" team arrived in Belfast, where much of the series was shot, they discovered a scene of passionate filmmakers with limited work opportunities. They hired a core group to work on the battle scenes for season one and ended up keeping them on staff for the entire run of the series. With each season, the battle scenes improved as the artists working on them gained more experience.
The original cut of season one was 100 minutes too short. With money running out, Benioff and Weiss were forced to pare down episodes for season one, but with the deep cuts they made — some episodes were clocking in at 39 minutes — they failed to fulfill their overseas contracts. They added a series of low action scenes to make up the difference. Scenes they added included the fan favorite scene in which King Robert Baratheon and Queen Cersei discuss their relationship and Tyrion’s drinking game.
They ignored the internet chatter about the show. Look, we know you were frustrated with the dragon queen’s abrupt personality pivots in the final season, but Benioff and Weiss didn’t care to listen. While friends and family would send the show runners irate articles about the show, the "Thrones" writers refused to engage with the commentariat.