It's no secret that the original Game of Thrones pilot was a bit of a disaster. Over the years since the show debuted, occasional mentions to this never-released episode have done the rounds and from what we can gather it's a miracle that the series ever made it past that hurdle.
During a recent episode of John August and Craig Mazin's podcast Scriptnotes, the show's creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff opened up about their troublesome experiences shooting the pilot. As Weiss recalls the worst part was screening it for Mazin and a group of friends. “Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life," he says. "As soon as it finished, Craig [Mazin] said, ‘You guys have a massive problem.’”
At which point Benioff interjects with his recollection of events: “I was taking notes 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.’”
That "massive problem" was so great that the pair admit to reshooting "92%" of the pilot. Changes involved an extensive recasting process that saw Jennifer Ehle replaced by Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark, and several key scenes rewritten to make certain information clear after viewers weren't aware that Cersei and Jamie were siblings. That's kind of a big one - especially seeing how the first episode ends.
Everything worked out of course. Director Tim Van Patten joined the effort to rework the pilot, and the end result was a major success - something that came as a surprise to Mazin: “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 shit and turned it into something brilliant. That never happens!” Yeah, we're going to need to see that pilot...
Season 6 of Game of Thrones premieres on HBO on April 24, 2016 in the US, and airs on Sky Atlantic the next day in the UK.