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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.

In two seasons, the show has raked in 17 Emmy nominations and eight wins.

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.


Mother Jones: So what made you want to adapt Martin's work for the small screen?

David Benioff and Dan Weiss: Reading the books is a compulsively addictive experience. We had this notion that an HBO adaptation could replicate that. Basically, we wanted to be pusher-men.

MJ: How much obligation do you feel toward the source material?

B&W: We're under no contractual restrictions with regards to the storytelling. It’s just that we pursued these books—and pushed for the show's green-light—for almost four years before we got to shoot the pilot. We gave up other opportunities because we love these books and want to do them justice. So for us, it's about adapting the books according to our notions of justice—which won't mesh with the fundamentalist book fans' notions. Which is fine with us because if the fundamentalists were running the show, there wouldn't be a show.

Read the full interview here at the source.

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