David Benioff Friedman (// //; born September 25, 1970), better known by his pen name David Benioff, is an American screenwriter and television producer, writer, and director. Along with his collaborator D. B. Weiss, he is best-known as co-creator, showrunner, and writer of Game of Thrones (2011–2019), the HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin's series of books A Song of Ice and Fire. He is also known for writing Troy (2004) and co-writing X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009).
David Benioff Friedman
September 25, 1970
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Education||Dartmouth College (BA)|
Trinity College Dublin
University of California, Irvine (MFA)
|Occupation||Screenwriter, television producer, television writer, director, novelist|
Benioff was born David Friedman in New York City, to a Jewish family who emigrated from Austria, Romania, Germany, Poland and Russia. He is the son of Barbara (Benioff) and Stephen Friedman, who is a former head of Goldman Sachs. He is a distant cousin of Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. He is the youngest of three children; his sisters are Suzy and Caroline. and grew up in Manhattan, first in Peter Cooper Village, then on 86th Street where he spent most of his childhood, before eventually moving near the U.N. headquarters when he was 16.
Benioff is an alumnus of The Collegiate School and of Dartmouth College. While at Dartmouth he was a member of Phi Delta Alpha Fraternity and the Sphinx Senior Society. After graduating in 1992, he worked in a number of jobs: for a time as a club bouncer in San Francisco, and as a high school English teacher at Poly Prep in Brooklyn, New York City for two years, where he served as the school's wrestling coach.
Benioff became interested in pursuing an academic career and went to Trinity College Dublin in 1995, for a one-year program to study Irish literature. While in Dublin he met D. B. Weiss, who would later become his collaborator. Benioff wrote a thesis on Samuel Beckett while at Trinity College, but decided against a career in academia after writing the thesis. He worked as a radio DJ in Moose, Wyoming for a year—mostly as a side job, which he mainly accepted to take a year in the countryside at a writer's retreat. He then applied to join the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Irvine after reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (an alumnus there), and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing there in 1999.
In 2001, People magazine included Benioff on its list of America's Top 50 Most Eligible Bachelors.
As an adult, he began using the pen name "David Benioff" when his first novel was published in 2001. "Benioff" is actually his middle name, and is itself his mother's maiden name. He explained that he did this to avoid confusion with other writers named David Friedman.
Benioff spent two years writing his first published novel The 25th Hour, originally titled Fireman Down, and completed the book as his thesis for his master's degree at Irvine. He was asked to adapt the book into a screenplay after Tobey Maguire read a preliminary trade copy and became interested in making a film of the book. The film adaptation, titled 25th Hour and starring Edward Norton, was directed by Spike Lee. Benioff then wrote a collection of short stories titled When the Nines Roll Over (And Other Stories) (2004).
He drafted a screenplay of the mythological epic Troy (2004), for which Warner Bros. pictures paid him $2.5 million. He also wrote the script for the psychological thriller Stay (2005), which was directed by Marc Forster, and stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. His screenplay for The Kite Runner (2007), adapted from the novel of the same name, marked his second collaboration with director Marc Forster.
Benioff was hired in 2004 to write the screenplay for the X-Men spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). He based his script on Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" story, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's 1982 limited series on the character, as well as the 2001 limited series Origin. Hugh Jackman collaborated on the script, which he wanted to be more of a character piece compared with the previous X-Men films. Skip Woods was later hired by Fox to revise and rewrite Benioff's script. Benioff had aimed for a "darker and a bit more brutal" story, writing it with an R rating in mind, although he acknowledged the film's final tone would rest with the producers and director.
In 2006, Benioff became interested in adapting George R.R. Martin's novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and began working with D. B. Weiss on a proposed television series, Game of Thrones. The pilot, "Winter Is Coming", was put into development by HBO in 2007 and the series greenlit in 2010. Benioff and Weiss acted as the executive producers, showrunners, and writers of the show, which began airing on HBO in 2011. Benioff and Weiss had previously worked together on a script for a horror film titled The Headmaster, but it was never made.
In October 2007, Universal Pictures hired Benioff to write an adapted screenplay of the Charles R. Cross biography of Kurt Cobain, but the screenplay was not used. In 2008, Benioff's second novel, City of Thieves, was published.
On April 10, 2014, Benioff announced he and Weiss had taken on their first feature film project to write, produce, and direct Dirty White Boys, a novel by the Pulitzer prize-winning author Stephen Hunter. On July 19, 2017, Benioff announced that he and Weiss would produce another HBO series, titled Confederate, after the final season of Game of Thrones. Benioff and Weiss said, "We have discussed Confederate for years, originally as a concept for a feature film, but our experience on Thrones has convinced us that no one provides a bigger, better storytelling canvas than HBO." The announcement of Confederate was met with public animosity, and as of August 2019 (when Benioff and Weiss' deal with Netflix deal was announced) would not be moving forward.
Towards the end of the final season of Game of Thrones, a petition to HBO was started on Change.org. It described showrunners Benioff and Weiss as "woefully incompetent writers", and thus demanded "competent writers" to remake the eighth season of Game of Thrones in a manner "that makes sense". The petition eventually amassed over 1.5 million signatures. Richard Roeper, writing for the Chicago Sun Times, described that the backlash to the eighth season was so great that in his 25+ years of reviewing movies and television, he doubts that he has "ever seen the level of fan (and to a lesser degree, critical) vitriol leveled at" Game of Thrones.
In early August 2019, Benioff and Weiss negotiated an exclusive multi-year film and television deal with Netflix worth US$200 million. Due to their commitments to Netflix, Benioff and Weiss exited their contract to produce Star Wars films for Disney and Lucasfilm.
Benioff and Weiss together directed two episodes of Game of Thrones, but used a coin-flip to decide who would get the credit on the show. Benioff was given the credit for season 3 episode 3, "Walk of Punishment", while Weiss was credited with season 4 episode 1, "Two Swords". Benioff and Weiss co-directed the series finale.
|The 25th Hour||2001||Novel||Paperback: 224 pages|
Publisher: Plume; Reissue edition (January 29, 2002)
|When the Nines Roll Over (and Other Stories)||2004||Short Story Collection||Hardcover: 223 pages|
Publisher: Viking Books (August 19, 2004)
|City of Thieves||2008||Novel||Hardcover: 281 pages|
Publisher: Viking Books (May 15, 2008)
|2002||25th Hour||Yes||No||Spike Lee||Nominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay (2002)|
|When the Nines Roll Over||Yes||Yes||Himself||Short film based on a story from When the Nines Roll Over|
|2007||The Kite Runner||Yes||No||Marc Forster||Christopher Award for Best Feature Film (2007)|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film (2008)
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (2008)
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (2007)
|2009||X-Men Origins: Wolverine||Yes||No||Gavin Hood||Co-wrote with Skip Woods|
|2019||Gemini Man||Yes||No||Ang Lee||Co-wrote with Billy Ray and Darren Lemke|
|TBA||Lovecraft||No||Yes||TBA||Co-produce with D.B. Weiss|
|2011–2019||Game of Thrones||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-creator|
Directed and wrote episode: "Walk of Punishment"
Directed and wrote episode (with D. B. Weiss):"The Iron Throne"
Wrote: 45 episodes
Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (2012)
Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (2013-2014)
Producers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama (2015)
Golden Nymph Awards for Outstanding International Producer (2012)
Nominated—Producers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama (2011-2014, 2016, 2018)
Nominated—BAFTA for Best International Programme (2013)
Nominated—Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (2015, 2017)
Nominated—USC Scripter Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (2016-2017)
Nominated—Humanitas Prize for 60 Minute Network or Syndicated Television (2017)
|2013||It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia||Yes||No||No||Wrote episode: "Flowers for Charlie"|
Bored Lifeguard #1 (cameo in "The Gang Goes to a Water Park")
|2020||Leslie Jones: Time Machine||No||No||Yes||Co-direct with D.B. Weiss|
Awards and nominations
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- Brenican, Anthony (February 6, 2018). "Game of Thrones creators developing new Star Wars films". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- Multiple sources:
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- McCarthy, Tyler (May 16, 2019). "'Game of Thrones' fans are petitioning HBO to remake the last season 'with competent writers'". Fox News. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "'This was abysmal': Nearly 1 million disgruntled 'Game of Thrones' fans demand a final season remake". The Washington Post. May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Fieldstadt, Elisha (May 16, 2019). "Nearly 800,000 'Game of Thrones' fans sign petition for remake of season 8". NBC News. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
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- Bucksbaum, Sydney (December 19, 2019). "'Leslie Jones gets a Game of Thrones-themed trailer for Netflix special Time Machine". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
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- Saad, Nardine. "Amanda Peet, 'Game of Thrones' producer David Benioff welcome baby boy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
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- "'Big Short' takes home top prize at Producers Guild of America awards". Fox News. January 24, 2016. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
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