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‘Game of Thrones’ has roots in producer’s Highland Park childhood

“Game Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau pranked producers by pretending he had cut off his signature long locks. | Helen Sloan~HBO

“Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau pranked the producers by pretending he had cut off his signature long locks. | Helen Sloan~HBO

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Updated: April 11, 2013 9:29PM



Turns out the North Shore has more in common with the Seven Kingdoms than you might think.

“There is no place more like Westeros than Highland Park, Ill.,” said “Game of Thrones” co-creator and showrunner D.B. (aka Dan) Weiss, 41, who grew up in the Chicago suburb. He recalls “a brutal, primal, red-in-tooth-and-claw upbringing that’s really informed the show on every level.”

Turns out Weiss has a sense of humor as dry as the desert Daenerys schlepped across with her dragons.

“I’d say the only part of Highland Park that found its way into the show is having fantastic parents who let me sit around reading fantasy novels all day when I was 10, 11 and 12 years old,” said Weiss, who now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

Weiss has taken his childhood love of fantasy fiction and, along with writing partner David Benioff (“Troy,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” — and Amanda Peet’s husband), parlayed it into HBO’s big-budget series, adapted from “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels by Northwestern University journalism grad George R.R. Martin.

In a phone interview last week, Weiss talked about the cinematic, mythology-laden series and what’s in store for this season:

Toughest obstacles

“The biggest challenge pulling this season off was just the sheer logistics of shooting in five countries with two main [production] units — sometimes three main units — running at all times.

“The two of us like to be on set every day, so if you’re shooting three units in two countries, obviously that becomes an impossibility. The logistics were much larger than in previous seasons. We finally hit the days where we actually had a cast of thousands for the first time.”

Narrowing the focus

“We went into the writing of the season three premiere with the idea that there were certain characters who were fan favorites and we needed to check in with all of them. But when you see the end result of trying to hit every single one of those slalom gates in the 60-minute run down the hill, it ends up feeling scattered and diffuse. Just because Arya doesn’t show up in the premiere, she has not in any way shape or form disappeared from the story and will be as big a part of the story — if not bigger — than she was in years past.”

Sex scenes

“I don’t understand why sex and violence get highlighted so much. You don’t hear people talking about gratuitous punch lines and gratuitous politics. We put in the show what we think belongs in the show.”

Added Benioff: “The only thing that bothers me is when people say you’ve made it so much more sexual than the books. That’s patently untrue. There are graphic sexual scenes with 14-year-olds in the book which would have us all thrown in prison — justifiably. We, if anything, shy away from some of the more graphic sexual material.”

Spreading the wealth

“This season is more expensive than the previous season. An inordinate amount of the resources of season two went into the last two episodes, especially the ninth episode [‘Blackwater’]. The resources were spread more evenly across this season, which leads to more sensational, epic, set-piece-type scenes being spread throughout.”

Robust prank culture

“The first season, Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister] got us good. He claimed that he was very upset he hadn’t been consulted on a hair change for his character … so he got his own hair cut and he hoped we were pleased with it. He sent us a picture of him with a modern, military buzz cut. We had to shoot in a week a scene in which that would have been a complete continuity gaffe. We were looking into getting him an emergency wig for $15,000. Finally he sent us an email saying he was just preemptively pranking us.”

Going head-to-head Sunday with the season finale of “The Walking Dead”

“Once upon a time that situation would have been a nightmare train wreck that both sides would have really wanted to avoid. But the way people watch television now is so different. I don’t think there’s a single person in the world who wants to see both shows who is not going to see both shows. By the time you get to the end of the week it will have all washed out.”



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