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Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff talks about adapting A Song of Ice and Fire for TV



Game of Thrones is one of the greatest TV shows ever, and that is so because it is adapted from a pretty great work of fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire. Adaptations are always tricky, and there have been very few adaptations that the public has actually whole heatedly accepted, and Game of Thrones seems to be one of them. So how did the showrunners manage to do it? David Benioff discussed this in an interview withDartmouth Alumni Magazine. Read on!

Benioff apparently was a novelist himself, before he got around to being a showrunner and screenwriter. Speaking of adapting his own book, titled25th Hour, into a movie, Benioff said in an interview with The Guardian in 2003, “If the choice ever boiled down to keeping faith with the novel or doing what was best for the script, I chose the latter.” It seems he has kept this philosophy in his adaptation of Game of Thrones. Speaking to the Darthmouth Alumni Magazine :

“Once you make the decision to sell your novel and have it adapted, I think you understand that there are going to be compromises and there are going to be changes made. I’ve seen a lot of adaptations that run into trouble by being too faithful to the book and they get kind of hamstrung by that.”

“It’s something that we told George a long time ago: For this to work, we have to make choices that are sometimes going to deviate from your intentions. Then there are a lot of things that work in prose that just wouldn’t work on screen, and part of that is just the nature of the beast. In George’s books so much of the story takes place in the characters’ minds. That’s one of the weaknesses of television compared to fiction—what people are thinking cannot be conveyed as easily, other by than having long voiceover monologues, which are boring.”

“There are certain scenes that work so wonderfully in the novels that just wouldn’t on the show and other scenes that are pretty much as they are on page. The Red Wedding was very faithful to what happens in the book.”

David and Dan seem to have made the right compromises. Even though the show deviates from the books, the fanbase is still in love with the show nonetheless. George R. R. Martin by his own admission, is a gardener, and not an architect, which means he doesn’t plan the whole story beforehand. Speaking of surpassing the storylines of the books, David said :

“Now we don’t have a choice. It’s not even a question of, well, maybe we should be faithful to the scene or not. It’s we don’t have the scene. About three years ago we realized we were probably going to catch up based on his rate of progress and our rate, and we visited him and we got a sense of where he was going.”

“George always says there are two kinds of writers: gardeners and architects. The architects are the ones who create blueprints and really serious outlines and have a sense of exactly where the story is gonna go and then they create the edifice based on the blueprint.”

“Gardeners are more organic about it. They plant the seeds and then they sort of see what blooms. And he is a gardener, by his own admission. And that works beautifully for his novels, obviously, but for us, we don’t really have a choice. As TV writer and producer, you have to be an architect. There’s no organic way of doing it.”

He also spoke about the Ramsay-Sansa rape scene that caused backlash, and whether he expected it :

“For sure, because there had been a scene in the previous season with Jaime and Cersei, where it was not quite as violent but was very much a non-consensual sex scene, and there was a massive uproar about that. And this was darker.

“It’s a show with dragons, so people might think, well, it’s a fantasy, therefore, it should be more kind of PG. But it’s not. It’s supposed to be a dark mirror to our world and a dark mirror to our medieval world, which was a horrific place for women. So I believe that this is what would have happened to Sansa on her wedding night, and all the writers did. So it was a brutal scene to watch for us and a brutal scene to shoot on the day, but I felt it was right for the story.”

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He also revealed that he is a fan of Dan Harmon’s Rick and Morty, and spoke about many other things, so go read the interview, over here. Come talk to us in the comments, down below!


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Founder at Wiki of Thrones and a full-time Game of Thrones fan who does other work when he has finished reading and writing about Game of Thrones and also dreams about playing a role in the show.