Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss on preparing for the end of ‘Game of Thrones’

Dan Weiss and David Benioff teased by Emilia Clarke during filming

Emilia Clarke teases Dan Weiss and David Benioff during Season 7 filming.

Thinking about the end of something is never preferable, especially when it’s the end of the global phenomenon that is Game of Thrones. Ironically, though, knowing how you’ll wrap things up while you’re still in the thick of it (or even before you get started) is one of the most necessary aspects of storytelling — something that showrunners Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss know well.

In a recently-published article from EW that was written back in 2015 during Season 6 filming but not released until now, Benioff and Weiss talked about the ending of Thrones (sort of, anyway) and how they’ve had to plan for it from a filming standpoint — and how they would feel when a decade-long chapter of their lives finally comes to a close.

EW’s James Hibberd was visiting the set as the crew was preparing to burn down the temple of the Dosh Khaleen in Season 6, at a point when “Benioff and Weiss were still a couple of seasons away from being finished, but were now beginning to seriously think about the end.”

“They’d decided the fates of every major character. Sometimes they gave actors cryptic suggestions when filming certain scenes, with those final episodes in mind,” Hibberd writes. “The actor didn’t know why they were doing something a certain way, only that it was somehow important. After Thrones is finished, fans will look back and see subtle hints that were dropped.”

Hibberd noted that there were “some fears” among the showrunners, like the private concern that one of the show’s major cast members would quit or fall victim to some random tragic circumstance. So many actors were becoming “absolutely essential” that “If something had happened to them, or if they decided not to do it anymore, to make movies, we would be screwed,” Benioff said.

As to how the pair felt about the creation they’ve poured so much into coming to an end, they had understandably emotional responses.

“If you’re going to spend 10 years working on one show, you better really love the people you work with, because you’re spending a sh—load of time away from your family and friends,” Benioff said. “You always put everything into it. So to spend time on a show that people respond to all over the world, it’s incredibly gratifying. You have these characters you love and you can come up with ideas for them, and a few months later these incredible actors will be saying those things. That’s such a rare gift.”

Weiss was quiet for a bit before answering. “If 10 years ago somebody had given me a chance to write a ticket, I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to write a ticket to something this great,” he said. “I just think about how bizarre it will be to not be doing this anymore, because it becomes the water you swim in. It becomes every minute of every day, 365 days a year, this show is on your mind or in your life. After it’s done, it will be like re-entering some weird universe where I don’t even know how people act there anymore.… When I’m 75 years old, I’m going to be [affecting a quivering, elderly voice], ‘You know, it would be great if Tyrion said… Ah, goddamn it!’”

Hibberd writes that there was also “relief and sadness” on the part of Benioff and Weiss, who put enormous amount of year-round work into the show. “They don’t just pen the scripts while filming happens somewhere else. They’re on set every day, for long hours, neck-deep in decision-making that impacts every aspect of what’s seen on-screen,” he writes.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had, or ever likely will have,” Benioff told Hibberd. “But it certainly doesn’t get easier.”

36 responses

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    1. Hodor!

      When I first heard about the possibility of a show, I never imagined so many years ago that one of my favorite series would come to life. Its been an amazing run. Things haven’t allways gone the way I wanted or expected, but I have to say all in all they did something I never dreamed could happen, to see those images from my head, onto the screen. Congrats D&D for a job very well done

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    2. D&D are the best… Foreshadowing at it’s finest – burning down the temple of the Dosh Khaleen foreshadows Jon & Daenerys’ daughter will survive a major fire… probably wildfire, be unburnt and be chosen by the people the Rule the 7 Kingdoms.

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    3. D&D faces read – We are only slightly amused.

      These guys have done such an excellent job with this series.

      Not everything has been great but overall they have done very well. They ran out of source materials but did cobble together enough to deliver the entire thing. This series is a creative and a managerial challenge and so far they have delivered a top product. I hope they can deliver at least a satisfactory Season 8. Either way, they have already done enough to make an excellent reputation.

      Well done!

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    4. I love the show. I got hooked after watching the season 1 trailer knowing nothing of the books. After watching season 1, like many, I had to know what happens next so I turned to the books which I consumed quickly 1-5. Then reread with boiled leather chronology which is much more enjoyable. These 2 guys have done an incredible job. Any little critiques or nitpicks along the way are very minor. Look forward to seeing what they have in store for season 8.

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    5. “Sometimes they gave actors cryptic suggestions when filming certain scenes, with those final episodes in mind. The actor didn’t know why they were doing something a certain way, only that it was somehow important. After Thrones is finished, fans will look back and see subtle hints that were dropped.”

      Are they specifically referencing season 6? Because I’m about to re-watch with relentless and analytical focus (again, lol). But if they are dropping hints that relate to the final season, there are some pretty stand out moments in S6: Jon and Melissandre’s conversation about bringing him back from the dead; Confrontation between Bran and the Night King; Kinvara speaking with Tyrion and Varys saying a voice spoke a name within the flames (which a few of us were discussing in the last post); and Beric’s conversation with Sandor to name a few….

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    6. Haven never read the books, and only found the blog sites after watching the first five seasons, I can say I was often on the edge of my seat. Shocked beyond consolation more than once. I’ll read the books someday, perhaps when complete. I’m just glad I took the journey into uncharted territory.

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    7. Do we know he was talking about those burning the temple scene? Maybe the scary face Dany made? That she enjoyed killing the khals?

      Or maybe Sansa enjoying killing ramsay.

      Maybe something with daario? Or the sad face of the nk.

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    8. Gods be good, they both look like the parents of newborn twins! Hats off to you, gentlemen, your lack of sleep has been our gain.

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    9. Kevin1989: Or the sad face of the nk.

      A couple of years ago (I think) a bunch of regular commenters put together an impromptu playlist for the NK (“Songs for the Long Night” or something like that). It was screamingly funny—all sad songs for the sad blue frozen man.

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    10. I don’t agree with a lot of their writing decisions, but these men worked their asses off to give us the show.

      Their work ethic is extremely commendable. They pulled out all the stops 52 weeks a year, managing an insanely huge production, and they were both novices in TV when they started.

      That alone deserves a huge amount of praise.

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    11. David, Dan, thank you for bringing this series to us. Without you two, there would have been so much talent in front of the cameras and behind the scenes that never would be known.

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    12. Thrones basically tells us what will happen throughout in subtle ways or heavy handed ways lately since leaving the books
      joffery being poisoned and who done it was a easy one for example,
      the relentless reminding us of dany could die, in the last season the baby and Tyrions betrayal is more obvious,
      the 99 sons, voice in the fire, The red woman revealing herself as a old woman when taking of the necklace are all clues

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    13. The fact that they were so hands on really doesn’t look good for them. Last season to redeem the utter crap s5 onwards.

      “A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good.” Their changes, the story telling early on in the show was obviously amazing. But production has gotten better while the writing has become lazier.

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    14. D&D get a lot of stick from a certain minority element within the fan base but in my opinion they’ve been absolutely superb overall. Yes there has been the odd hiccup (S5 Dorne, Beyond the Wall etc.) but given the complexities and the time investment required I am truly grateful for all they have done.

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    15. Dark Sister:
      “Sometimes they gave actors cryptic suggestions when filming certain scenes, with those final episodes in mind. The actor didn’t know why they were doing something a certain way, only that it was somehow important. After Thrones is finished, fans will look back and see subtle hints that were dropped.”

      Are they specifically referencing season 6? Because I’m about to re-watch with relentless and analytical focus (again, lol). But if they are dropping hints that relate to the final season, there are some pretty stand out moments in S6: Jon and Melissandre’s conversation about bringing him back from the dead; Confrontation between Bran and the Night King; Kinvara speaking with Tyrion and Varys saying a voice spoke a name within the flames (which a few of us were discussing in the last post); and Beric’s conversation with Sandor to name a few….

      Assignment – take notes on all the instances that you think COULD be a clue and report back to us here ^_^ so we can all pick over them endlessly, well until the show starts 🙂

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    16. viki,

      “…Kinvara speaking with Tyrion and Varys saying a voice spoke a name within the flames (which a few of us were discussing in the last post);…”

      ________________
      By way of clarification, Kinvara did NOT say the voice in the Varys junk-burning fire “spoke a name within the flames.” She asked Varys if he wanted her to identify “the name of the one who spoke.”

      Here’s an excerpt of what Kinvara said to Varys (from S6e5):

      Knowledge has made you powerful. But there’s still so much you don’t know.
      Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed your parts in the fire? You heard a voice call out from the flames. Do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said? Should I tell you the name of the one who spoke? We serve the same queen. If you are her true friend, you have nothing to fear from me.”

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    17. Occasional misfire,

      I couldn’t disagree more. Their writing hasn’t suffered at all and is still going strong. And considering GOT is one of the most successful television shows in history, the fact that they were so hands on does look good for them, as they deserve the vast majority of the credit.

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    18. Occasional misfire,

      A podcast I was listening to made an excellent point…D&D had to keep churning out this epic story against hard deadlines. HBO would not wait for writer’s block or time to untangle knots, the production could not be stalled indefinitely, the actors would not continue to be available. That is tremendous pressure. And D&D were not just writing an epic story in those time frames, they were overseeing a massive production to bring it to life according to their vision.
      I have my own whinges about the way certain things played out, but credit where credit is due – D&D went out on a limb and have done an amazing job overall. GOT is truly groundbreaking and we are fortunate to have this feast to endlessly dissect!

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    19. Winterkat:
      Occasional misfire,

      A podcast I was listening to made an excellent point…D&D had to keep churning out this epic story against hard deadlines. HBO would not wait for writer’s block or time to untangle knots, the production could not be stalled indefinitely, the actors would not continue to be available. That is tremendous pressure.And D&D were not just writing an epic story in those time frames, they were overseeing a massive production to bring it to life according to their vision.
      I have my own whinges about the way certain things played out, but credit where credit is due – D&D went out on a limb and have done an amazing job overall.GOT is truly groundbreaking and we are fortunate to have this feast to endlessly dissect!

      Well said.

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    20. Young Dragon,

      hasn’t suffered at all? are you having a laugh?

      There isn’t even consistency within their own story. That goes for character development to the amount of gaping plotholes they’ve created. Not to mention the awful dialogue we have become used to since season 5.

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    21. Winterkat,

      I mean HBO would gladly milk GoT for more seasons. They had more seasons to play with, DnD chose 8. 8 seasons is obviously not enough time to flesh out an epic story like a song of ice and fire. With that in mind why do they waste so much time on minor characters like Sam/Gilly?
      Why is the dialogue utter crap and the plotholes massive? Why huge inconsistencies? Some of these inconsistencies not only undermine the world that has been established, like the fast travel. But some of them completely undermine characters like Jon Snow, Tyrion, Littlefinger, Sansa, etc.

      I give credit where credit is due. But after season 4, barring Hardhome, we have had a massive pile of w**k (technical term).

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    22. Occasional misfire,

      No, I’m being absolutely serious. Season 5 is may be my least favorite season, but season 6 is my second favorite and season 7 is my fourth favorite, ahead of seasons 2 and 3. I’m not alone, either. There’s a reason why viewership increases every year. The vast majority of the audience love what D&D are doing. You are in the miniority.

      Also, the dialogue has continued to be fantastic and considering how often the fandom incorrectly uses the term “plot hole”, I’m willing to bet you don’t quite know what the word means.

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    23. Young Dragon,

      They have broken internal consistencies time and time again. Which to the casual viewer maybe fine, but there is a sizeable minority not okay with it.

      Dialogue has been crap. The more recent Tyrion scenes are surely proof of that.

      There is so much to pick at. And you can go on about viewership. I actually like the show, as much as I love whinging about it, I am one of those viewers. Just because more people are watching it doesn’t excuse the crap.

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    24. Occasional misfire,

      People who complain about “inconsistencies” are usually confuse book logic with show logic. The show has its own logic, and its not an inconsistency just because it conflicts with what you know about the books. Look, I’m not saying GOT is perfect. I have my own criticisms, but I have criticisms for every show I have ever watched. But the positives to me far outweigh the negatives, and that’s how I judge a high quality show.

      The dialogue has continued to be amazing to me. Arya posing as Walder Frey, Jaime and Edmure at Riverrun, Jaime and the High Sparrow, the High Sparrow and Olenna, Jaime and Olenna at High Garden, Jon meeting Danerys, Cersei and Ellaria, the Dragonpit meeting, all the Beyond the Wall dialogue, Cersei and Tyrion, Tyrion being named Hand of the Queen, Tyrion and the slavers, Jon and Theon, Arya and Sansa’s reconciliation, Arya and “The Game of Faces”, etc. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

      You say there’s so much to pick at, yet you have yet to name one, besides Tyrion’s dialogue, and even your critique about that is vague. The reason I mentioned the viewership was because, based on your comment, you seemed surprised that I’m still enjoying the show and don’t believe the show has gone downhill. I was simply pointing out that I’m not alone.

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    25. Young Dragon,

      Well some of these are to do with character developments. Like building Jon up to be some great leader, wise beyond his years.. and then turning him into a wet lettuce
      LF selling Sansa off.. that is not consistent with show LF.

      I disagree with some of the bits of dialogue. dragonpit meeting was terrible and anything with jon and dany in it is generally awful these days.

      but whatever, most of it is actually good, even if it is watered down.

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    26. When Daenerys burns down the temple of the Dosh Khaleen she foreshadows

      that she will be the Lord of Light aka: The Night Queen and she will be a part of ending the Long Night at the end of season 8… I also think Tyrion will be the Warrior of Light aka: The Night King

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