The long and winding road from Game Of Thrones to 3 Body Problem

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ long string of failures was once the stuff of legend. After they tanked Game Of Thrones’ ending (we guess the showrunners kind of forgot they owed their rabid fanbase a little bit of effort, if not a perfectly satisfying conclusion), fans—this writer admittedly included— reveled as every single one of the duo’s subsequent attempts to get a show to air continued to fall on the proverbial sword.

Episode one of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem, which premieres March 21, is the first installment of a series penned by Benioff and Weiss (along with Alexander Woo) to make it onto a TV screen since 2019. And while getting any show over the finish line is an undeniable feat (and an increasingly rare one at that), both Game Of Thrones and 3 Body Problem are all about the shackles of history, and new viewers should know theirs. This is the song, if you will, of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

Before Game Of Thrones

David Benioff began his writing career in earnest while penning a novel, The 25th Hour, for his master’s thesis at the University of California, Irvine. The novel would go on to become the 2002 Spike Lee-directed thriller of the same name starring Edward Norton. Benioff also found real success in his early years as the screenwriter for Troy (2004), Stay (2005), and The Kite Runner (2007).

But the tide started to turn for the promising screenwriter long before the iron throne was a mere glimmer in his eye. In 2004, Benioff was hired to write an initial script for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which he strived to give a darker tone than previous films in the franchise. It apparently didn’t work (although his screenplay is still floating around out there, and some fans say it’s better than what we eventually got). While Benioff is still credited as a writer on the project, Hitman’s Skip Woods was later brought in to revise his original work. In 2007, Benioff also signed on with Universal to pen a biopic of Kurt Cobain, but it never came to fruition.

But back to the beginning: Benioff met Weiss while studying in Dublin in 1995 and worked on a few just-for-fun scripts together over the years (including a pretty dope-sounding one about Satan working as the headmaster of a boarding school), but their first official collaboration, on a screenplay for an Ender’s Game adaptation in 2005, was never used. In 2006, Weiss announced that he was working on an adaptation of the Halo games for Peter Jackson, but that project also never saw the light of day.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at the 2019 International Emmy Awards Gala in New York City

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at the 2019 International Emmy Awards Gala in New York City

After Game Of Thrones

We won’t re-litigate all of the backlash to Game Of Thrones’ final season here—we wouldn’t want to reopen any still-festering wounds—but a quick Google image search for the term “bad writers” or a glance at this 1.9 million-strong petition to “remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers” should get the job done pretty quickly. (To be fair, the duo’s show was pretty fantastic during its first four seasons.)

If none of that jogs your memory about just how much America hated these guys near the end of their run, a reminder of what was supposed to be their next project should. Remember Confederate? The two white writers’ “what if the South never lost the Civil War and slavery was still legal” fantasy? The one that was greenlit at HBO just six months after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017? The ill-advised series thankfully never made it to air despite the fact that the network waited all the way until 2020 to officially cancel it, but the stain it left on the creators’ legacy will be hard to completely scrub out. “It’s kind of a low point,” Weiss said of the series in a January interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “You try things that feel like they are worth doing and some of them work out and some don’t.”

Their 2018three-film Star Wars deal turned out to be yet another thing in the “didn’t work out” bucket, likely to the delight of all 25,000 people who signed on to yet another anti-Benioff and Weiss petition, this one titled “remove David Benioff and D.B. Weiss from working on any future Star Wars films.” The reasoning behind the duo’s split from Lucasfilm is slightly fuzzy, although the ethos behind the petition can’t have helped. The pair initially cited their historic, $200-plus million Netflix deal, claiming that “there are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects” (via Deadline) when the cancelation of their trilogy was announced just one year later. In their recent THR interview, however, the showrunners claimed that the breakup was actually instigated by Lucasfilm. To hear them tell it now, they were sketching out a film called The First Jedi that ended up not being the direction the studio wanted to take their IP.

But Benioff and Weiss are getting yet another shot at sci-fi with 3 Body Problem, the first show to come out of that massive deal. Will they finally break the curse and recapture some of that earlyGOT magic, or will the extraterrestrial series trigger another long winter for the duo? (For what it’s worth, my colleague Cindy White enjoyed their new show quite a bit.) Only time—and maybe a few more petitions—will tell.

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