Game of Thrones took a long and unlikely path from books to HBO show, and it was shepherded the whole way by executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. There were several points where the whole project was almost scrapped and thrown into the trash, only for one of those two men to rise to the occasion and will the project back to life.
Details of the original pilot being “a complete piece of sh*t” have been making the rounds, but just this past week HBO head Richard Plepler shared another moment where Game of Thrones almost met an untimely end. Here he is talking at The New York Times’s New Work Summit about how David Benioff convinced him to give the show a chance.
“So I was very nervous after I read the pilot script for Thrones because I was a little concerned that it was off brand,” he said. “We’d never done sci-fi [wut?] in any form, I was worried that it was very expensive. The BBC had dropped out, they were going to co-finance the pilot. So it meant that the whole cost burden was on us.”
“Benioff came in and confronted it head on and said ‘Look, I understand you’re a little concerned. You think it’s a little off brand.'” Plepler remembers. “I said I did. He said ‘Well, let me try to allay your concern. Number one: you’re a political junkie, right?’ And I said I am. He said ‘All this is is archetypal power. That’s all this is, a story of power. Number two: you’ll forget where you are in the first 15 minutes. You could be in 10th century England, you could be in 5th century … you’ll just forget where you are.'”
“Then he looked at me and he said ‘I have wrestled with this for the past two years. I understand it, I feel it, I breathe it. There are very few things in my life that I would devote the next eight to ten years to, and this is one of them. And I won’t let you down.'”
And pull it off Benioff did, with Game of Thrones becoming one of HBO’s most popular shows ever. Benioff isn’t lying about the show being less about the fantasy and more about the politics. Game of Thrones isn’t really focused on the dragons and magic and white walkers. It’s about the ruling families of the realm and their struggle to keep their power and gain more. As Thrones fan site Winter Is Coming aptly comments, “Game of Thrones’ political parable of leaders myopically fighting for power as uncontrollable disaster looms resonates not only in the US and the UK, but to people around the world.”
Oh, if only it didn’t resonate in that way. Game of Thrones is great and all, but if I had to choose, I’d take a functional government dealing with the problems of the world. I’d have to think about it for a while, but that’s what I’d pick.