Today, the cast members from Game of Thrones are household names, having made their characters iconic and unforgettable on the silver screen. Looking back at some of the now legendary performances, most viewers cannot possibly imagine these characters being played by anyone else.
However, when the show was still being cast, many actors were considered for some of the key roles in the series, some of whom went on to be cast in equally iconic roles in various other pieces of film and media. Here are some of the actors that narrowly missed out on portraying some of television’s best-loved characters.
Elizabeth Olsen — Daenerys Targaryen
Elizabeth Olsen, best known for playing Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, had initially auditioned for the role of Daenerys Targaryen. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, she noted that the audition didn’t go too well.
“I auditioned for Game of Thrones. I auditioned for, like, the assistant to the casting director in a small room in New York with just a camera on me and them reading the script,” Olsen recalled.”I was doing the Khaleesi speech when she comes out of the fire. It was awful,” she added. “I didn’t get a callback.”
Sam Claflin — Jon Snow
Sam Claflin, who played Finnick Odair in the Hunger Games franchise, was apparently in the running to be cast in the first season of Game of Thrones. During a 2016 interview with Cinema Blend, he revealed that he had auditioned for the role of Jon Snow, as well as that of Viserys Targaryen. He stated that he had to drop out as he had been offered a role in a major motion picture at the time.
“I’m kind of glad [I didn’t get the part],” Claflin told Cinema Blend. “I like getting into things like that [as a viewer] and not being a part, because I always find it’s very jarring if I was part of it. But I’m a big fan.”
Gillian Anderson — Cersei Lannister
Gillian Anderson, who starred in the long-running X-Files series as Agent Dana Scully, told the Daily Mail that she turned down offers for roles in both Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. Though Anderson never explicitly revealed which role specifically she had been offered, fans have speculated the role was that of Cersei Lannister. She also stated in the interview that her own daughter had found her decision baffling.
“My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game Of Thrones or Downton — things she loves to watch. If I am going to be spending that amount of time working on something, I would rather be working with a director like Martin Scorsese,” she said.
Charlie Hunnam — Rhaegar Targaryen
Charlie Hunnam, who played the lead role in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, had the opportunity to make a cameo in Game of Thrones, though the specific role is not known. Fans have speculated that it was for the character of Rhaegar Targaryen, the brother of Daenerys and Jon Snow’s real father, who appeared in a flashback in season 7. Hunnam told the Sun in a 2017 interview that he had to turn down the role due to scheduling conflicts.
“I would love to do a Game of Thrones cameo, they offered me a cameo on that show a little while ago but I was shooting something else so I wasn’t able to do it but maybe in the future, who knows.”
Jennifer Ehle — Catelyn Stark
Jennifer Ehle, who is known most prominently as Elizabeth Bennet from BBC’s Pride and Prejudice series, played Catelyn Stark in the unaired pilot of Game of Thrones. She told the Daily Beast that she left the role voluntarily due to personal reasons.
“My daughter was seven months old when we did the pilot. It was too soon for me to be working, emotionally and bonding-wise, but I needed to do it and I was also passionate about the books. I loved the idea of telling that story. I love ‘Game of Thrones,’ but it was too soon,” she concluded. She also said, “I think everything worked out beautifully, because clearly the show is what it was meant to be.”
Mark Strong — Stannis Baratheon
Mark Strong, of Kingsman fame, was offered a role in Game of Thrones, but declined to reveal the identity of the character. People have speculated that the role was that of Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s brother and the Lord of Dragonstone. He said as much in an interview with Metro.co.uk when he was asked about his connection to the show.
‘I was offered a role in it but I can’t ever say who it was,’ Mark said. ‘Because I don’t want to belittle the person who eventually did it because they may have no idea they weren’t first choice.’ When asked whether he had turned the role down, Mark added: ‘No it came my way and we were flirting a while with it, but I didn’t have to turn it down.’
Lilly Allen — Yara Greyjoy
Pop singer Lily Allen revealed in a recent Reddit webchat Ask Me Anything that she turned down a fairly major role in Game of Thrones. She claimed that she was offered the chance to play princess Yara Greyjoy alongside her brother, Alfie Allen, but declined because she felt that filming the introduction scene with her brother would be too uncomfortable.
“They asked me if I’d be interested in playing Theon’s sister, “Once they told me what was entailed, I said no thanks.” However, Alfie Allen has recently followed up on her statement by claiming that the incident never occurred.
Mahershala Ali — Xaro Xoan Daxos
Mahershala Ali, who came to prominence after his performance in the Oscar-winning movie Moonlight once auditioned for the role of Xaro Xoan Daxos. He stated in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he fumbled during the audition.
“I think my audition guaranteed that I wasn’t almost on ‘Game of Thrones.’ Had this whole thing worked out with this chair… I was working with doing all these power moves and stances and what not, had my stuff all worked out…” Ali stated. When he went into the audition, however, he saw that backless stools had been provided instead of chairs, which threw him off. He said that he did not get the part because he “looked too stiff.”
Millie Bobby Brown — Lyanna Mormont
Millie Bobby Brown, whose career skyrocketed after her Performance as Eleven in Stranger Things, said in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that she auditioned for the role of Lyanna Mormont. She added that she almost gave up acting altogether after being rejected.
“I was auditioning for commercials, anything really,” Brown said. “I then auditioned for ‘Game of Thrones’ and I got a no for that. That’s kind of when I was like, ‘Oh, this is really difficult.'”
Jamie Campbell Bower — Ser Waymar Royce
Jamie Campbell Bower who has also starred recently in Stranger Things played Ser Waymar Royce in the unaired pilot of Game of Thrones. This was confirmed by author George R.R. Martin in a post from his blog, where he clarified that Bower had signed onto a Starz series “Camelot” by the time HBO was doing reshoots.
“Unfortunately, Jamie’s shooting schedule with CAMELOT conflicted with our own, so there was no way he could return and reprise his performance as Ser Waymar. But we wish him luck with his new (much larger) role… and who knows, if GAME OF THRONES should happen to have a longer run than CAMELOT, maybe one day he can come back and play another (much larger) role for us.” Martin wrote.
Perdita Weeks — Roslin Frey
Perdita Weeks, who starred in the medieval period drama “The Tudors” turned down the role of Roslin Frey, who married Edmure Tully at The Red Wedding. She opted out of Game of Thrones to play a role in a show called The Heretics, which never saw a day of filming.
In an interview with The Daily Mail in 2012, she said “I gave up a role on Game of Thrones to take the part and even rang the producers to beg for it back once I’d heard the news about Romania, but it was too late.”
Brian Cox — Robert Baratheon
Brian Cox, who has been lauded by critics recently for his role as Logan Roy in the HBO series Succession, was offered the role of King Robert Baratheon. Cox turned the role down partly due to the pay being offered at the time. He mentioned this in his memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat.
“When it was originally offered the money was not all that great.” he wrote in an excerpt published in Esquire Magazine. He continued: “Plus I was going to be killed off fairly early on, so I wouldn’t have had any of the benefits of the long-term effects of a successful series where your wages go up with each passing season.”
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