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Dan Weiss and David Benioff open up about Game of Thrones' awful first pilot

Before Game of Thrones became one of the most successful television series of all-time, it was an expensive and disastrous pilot which Dan Weiss and David Benioff described as the most painful experience of their lives. After realizing that they had a very serious problem on their hands, the decision was made to re-cast, re-write, and heavily re-shot the pilot. Thankfully everything worked out, but Dan Weiss and David Benioff recently appeared on the Scriptnotes podcast (via Vanity Fair) hosted by screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin to reminisce about the time they first screened the pilot for a group of their friends.

Dan Weiss said that "watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life, as soon as it finished, Craig [Mazin] said, ‘You guys have a massive problem.'" Benioff added 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." Benioff was taking notes on a yellow legal pad throughout the screening and he remembered writing "MASSIVE PROBLEM" in all caps and couldn't think of anything else for the rest of the night. "Craig [Marzin] didn’t really have any great ideas except that he said ‘change everything.’

Original pilot director Tom McCarthy (SPOTLIGHT) was replaced by Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire) and some of the more significant re-casting included Michelle Fairley replacing Jennifer Ehle in the role of Catelyn Stark and Emilia Clarke replacing Tamzin Merchant in the role of Daenerys Targaryen. When all was said and done, Dan Weiss and David Benioff had not only managed to salvage the pilot, but turn it into something great. Craig Marzin recalls viewing the new and improved pilot for the first time:

I will never forget being invited to the premiere of the first season. I went in just thinking (skeptically), “Well, I guess we’ll just see how this goes.” I sat there and this show unfolds and I am stunned. Stunned. And I very specifically remember walking out and I said to [Weiss and Benioff], “That is the biggest rescue in Hollywood history.” Because it wasn’t just that they had saved something bad and turned it really good. You had saved a complete piece of sh*t and turned it into something brilliant. That never happens!

The sixth season of Game of Thrones will debut on HBO on April 24, 2016.

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