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The Last of Us creator Craig Mazin is earning widespread praise for the new HBO series. But he should also get some credit for making Game of Thrones a success because of the crucial advice he gave to the show’s producers. 

Craig Mazin is known for award-winning projects like ‘Chernobyl’ 

Craig Mazin attends HBO’s “The Last of Us” Los Angeles Premiere on January 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

Mazin is an acclaimed writer, producer, and director who has created several popular projects over the years. His incredible work on the 2019 HBO mini-series Chernobyl earned him multiple awards and critical acclaim. Before Chernobyl, he was known for his work as a writer and producer on the Hangover and Scary Movie franchises.

Mazin got involved with The Last of Us via Naughty Dog, the game developer behind the franchise. Through this collaboration, he was asked to write and produce a television adaptation of the popular game. 

The Last of Us follows a teenage girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), and a smuggler, Joel (Pedro Pascal), making their way through a post-apocalyptic zombie world. Unlike most zombie-fare, the series features stunning visuals, intense action sequences, and a gripping storyline. Mazin’s skill as a writer and director is evident, as his work captures the audience’s attention and keeps them hooked. 

Craig Mazin gave ‘Game of Thrones’ showrunners pivotal advice

Before Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss created a pilot with a different cast and tone. The project was four years into development. And when they finally finished the pilot, they screened it for a few of their colleagues, including Mazin. 

“We finally got it finished, and we show it to Craig [Mazin], Ted Griffin, and Scott Frank,” Weiss said during an appearance on the Scriptnotes podcast. “Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life.”

According to Mazin, as soon as the episode finished, he turned to Weiss and Benioff and said, “You guys have a massive problem.”

Benioff and Weiss took Mazin’s critique to “change everything” seriously. So they reshot more than 90 percent of the pilot and produced the Game of Thrones pilot that aired in 2011.

Craig Mazin called the reworked ‘Game of Thrones’ pilot the ‘biggest rescue in Hollywood history’ 


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When Game of Thrones premiered in 2011, Benioff and Weiss invited Mazin to a screening. The filmmaker didn’t know what to expect. But when he saw the first two episodes, he was floored. 

“I sat there, and this show unfolds, the first episode, and I am stunned,” Mazin said on Scriptnotes. “And I very specifically remember walking out in between [and telling Weiss and Benioff] ‘That is the biggest rescue in Hollywood history,’ because it wasn’t just that you had saved something bad and turned it really good.”

“[They] saved a complete piece of s***, and turned it into something brilliant,” he added. “That never happens.”

Mazin cast two Game of Thrones stars — Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey — as the leads in The Last of Us. The new series airs Sundays on HBO.