It feels like it's taken a Westeros winter to get here, but we'll finally get to witness the spectacle and glory of George R.R. Martin's novel fantasy world come to life in HBO's Game of Thrones this Sunday night at 9 p.m.
While all the trailers, previews and behind-the-scene featurettes have certainly teased audiences into an anticipatory frenzy, there are still plenty of concerns left in the minds of A Song of Ice and Fire readers as to whether even a 10-hour adaptation can really do justice to Martin's ambitious book series.
In an exclusive interview, series showrunners and executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss answered some of the big questions still lingering in the air about their Game of Thrones adaptation and even offer a really beneficial life tip in the process.
Isn't epic fantasy storytelling just not well suited to TV, even HBO?
Dan Weiss says, "No! We just think it's a grand and fantastic story. People will always be hungry for grand, fantastic stories—it seems to be hard-wired into our story DNA. It is true that genre is looked at as problematic, but this seems like a perception issue, not something intrinsic to genre itself. Broadly defined, epic fantasy is probably the most successful genre in the history of storytelling, and whatever the common wisdom on this, we think the average person who enjoys the genre is older than 13. Although I would have eaten this show up when I was 13 ... as soon as my parents left the room."
Even at 10 hours, isn't that too condensed to bring the first book to life without major sacrifice of plot points or characters?
David Benioff says, "Of course, George's world is too big to include everyone ... but I have to say, I think we got all the primary characters and storylines in there. There are people and places missing that it would have been nice to see, but none of their absences quite rise to the 'kill us' level. We still have to make certain cuts, of course, but we have a far bigger canvas. And because it's HBO, there's no pressure to cut the more adult themes from the books—the sexual heat, bloody violence and profane language that would have been excised from a PG-13 studio movie."
Be honest, isn't George R.R. Martin's inclusion in the process just so the fans will give the show a try? Will he be around for season two?
Benioff is adamant when he says, "We wouldn't have had it any other way. We think his episode is great, and if we're lucky enough to get another season, we're confident his episode for that season will be great as well. How he can write for the show in addition to writing the books and doing the 10,000 other things he does is beyond us," he laughs.
Because of the structure of the books, isn't it going to be impossible to do a book a season after A Clash of Kings?
Weiss reflects, "Well, when we get to books four and five, they all take place concurrently, so there would need to be some shuffling around there to make them work. And Storm of Swords (book three) is extremely long. But really, the only way to tell how they'll lay out over a season is to do the work and lay them out. It's hard to predict until you do it."
And as to that life lesson, we asked the duo what's been the greatest lesson they've learned in the whirlwind making of this beloved fantasy series to screen. Their sage answer:
"Guinness is good for you, but not when you need to be on set at 6:00 a.m."
We think Robert Baratheon would approve of that.