Last fall, Game of Thrones beat the odds at the Emmy Awards and became the first genre show to win Best Drama in the modern era of television. Game of Thrones is peaking in popularity as the sixth season approaches and it is even one of the most watched shows in HBO history.
But Game of Thrones came very close to never actually going forward at HBO. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss convinced George R.R. Martin to let them adapt his A Song of Ice and Fire novels and they sold it as a TV series to HBO. But Benioff and Weiss’ first attempt at the pilot was such a disaster that they had to reshoot almost the entire episode!
During an appearance on the Scriptnotes podcast (via Vanity Fair), Benioff and Weiss recalled their horrified reaction when the received feedback on the pilot episode from their friends and fellow writers.
“Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life,” related Weiss. “As soon as it finished, Craig [Mazin] said, ‘You guys have a massive problem.’” Among many other issues with the pilot, Benioff noted that “none of (our friends) realized that Jaime and Cersei were brother and sister, which is a major, major plot point that we had somehow failed to establish.”
“I was taking notes,” added Benioff, “and I had this yellow legal pad, and I just remembered writing in all caps, ‘MASSIVE PROBLEM,’ and it’s all I could think about the rest of the night. Craig didn’t really have any great ideas except that he said ‘change everything.’”
Benioff and Weiss took the “change everything” advice to heart. Several roles were recast, most notably Daenerys Targaryen and Catelyn Stark. Emilia Clarke took over the role of Daenerys from Tamzin Merchant while Michelle Fairley became the new Catelyn and replaced Jennifer Ehle. Some footage from the original pilot remains in the episode that debuted on HBO, but so far the first version of that episode has yet to resurface.
Game of Thrones season 6 will premiere on Sunday, April 24.