Most actors would probably love a chance to
score a role in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and
there’ve been plenty of A-list celebs who’ve
tried to get on the hit series to no avail.
But there was a time when that wasn’t the
Whether it was because of the grueling overseas
filming schedule, gripes with the cast’s payscale,
or sheer confusion over the George R.R. Martin-inspired
story, here’s a look at some actors who refused
Game of Thrones roles.
Before Emilia Clarke gained international
fame as Daenerys Targaryen, Tamzin Merchant
was originally cast as the Mother of Dragons
for the show’s original, unaired pilot.
The first version of the pilot was, according
to showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff,
a “massive problem,” and 90 percent had to
“We had this great opportunity when HBO decided
to pick up the series despite, um, all of
the problems with the pilot.
We got the chance to go back and rewrite it.”
When HBO reshot, Merchant dropped out of the
project “for unknown reasons” and moved on
to Salem, opening the door for Clarke to take
Merchant wasn’t the only original Game of
Thrones star to walk away after its early problems.
Pride and Prejudice star Jennifer Ehle was
also in the original pilot, playing Catelyn
Stark, but she, too, walked away after the
first take spelled trouble, due to unavailability for the reshoots.
She went on to star in films such as The King’s
Speech, The Adjustment Bureau, and Zero Dark Thirty.
She also nabbed a part in the television series
A Gifted Man, so her career hasn’t really
been hurt by her decision to skip out on the
role that ultimately went to Michelle Fairley.
Jamie Campbell Bower
Another actor featured in the original pilot
who had to drop out was Jamie Campbell Bower.
The Twilight and Harry Potter actor was originally
cast for the role of Night’s Watchman Waymar
Royce in the scrapped pilot, but became unavailable
once reshoots were scheduled.
Around the same time, the actor was starring
in the small screen series Camelot and readying
for a lead role in The Mortal Instruments,
so he was replaced by Rob Ostlere.
It might not have made much of a difference
for his career anyway, since Royce was killed
in the show’s opening scene.
Maybe that was an omen?
Given his impressive resume, Scottish actor
Brian Cox might seem like a good fit for one
of the Seven Kingdoms, and somebody on the
show must’ve agreed — he admitted he was
once offered a role early on but turned it
down over the lack of loot.
He told Vodzilla, “…stupidly, I turned it
down in the early days because they didn’t
pay enough money.
Now they have more money.
And I was silly.
I was silly, it was silly, because I’m a complete
Cox admitted that he regrets missing out on
his chance, especially since it’s featured
some of his old friends.
He hopes he hasn’t closed the door on that
opportunity for good.
“I don’t know what I could play.
Maybe I could do — I mean, I just watched
my friend Ian McShane, and I thought, ‘Ooh,
Ian’s in it’, so I settled down to watch him.
And I thought, ‘Ian did that?’ and immediately
I thought, ‘God, they must have paid him well,
because I know Ian!’
I’m still waiting for the call for Game of
Thrones and if they’ve got more decent money,
I’ll be there!”
Hopefully they listen, because — seriously
— no one wants to be on the receiving end
of an angry Brian Cox.
“And you, my friend, don’t know crap about
And why the f— are you wasting my two precious
hours with your movie?”
While it’s not quite known which Game of Thrones
role Dominic West was originally courted for,
many suspect The Affair star may have been
asked to appear as Mance Rayder,
the former Night’s Watchman who became known as “The King Beyond the Wall” for his affiliation
with the Free Folk.
Whatever the role, though, West told Huffington
Post in 2012 that he had to decline the “lovely
part” because of family obligations.
“I was offered something on Game of Thrones
and unfortunately, I hadn’t seen it, but my
nephew and his father said, ‘Gosh, Game of
Thrones is the only great show on!’
And I felt terrible, because I’d just turned
It was a lovely part, a good part.
I’m going to regret it…
My problem is, I’ve got four kids, and at
the moment, I’m reluctant to be away from
home for a long time.
I can get a lot of work in London and still
be at home.”
X-Files star Gillian Anderson also had to
say “no thanks” to a chance at Game of Thrones
due to her obligations as a parent.
She told Stylist Magazine in 2013, “Whether
it’s Game Of Thrones or Downton Abbey, my
18-year-old cannot believe I’ve turned down
things she loves.
But with a four and six-year-old, I can’t
justify spending that kind of time away from
home, unless I’m working with [Martin] Scorsese.”
While Anderson didn’t share which role she
might’ve been offered, many speculate that,
due to her famous red locks, she may have
been a match for Melisandre the Red Witch.
“There is someone I work with I like.
His name is Jon Snow.
But I’m not really sure he’s the right guy.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s dead.”
Game of Thrones fans will undoubtedly recognize
Jonathan Pryce as the actor who portrayed
the duplicitous High Sparrow in Seasons 5
But believe it or not, he was actually asked
to join the show long before that — and turned it down.
As he told BBC Radio 4, “I’d said no to the
very original series of Game of Thrones and
all I did was flip through and look at the
names, look on these strange names, strange
dialogue and I thought ‘Oh, it’s not for me.'”
What changed his mind, he said, was the High
Sparrow’s personality and presence.
“High Sparrow, it’s a great character.
He comes into the story—everyone’s well
established, the goodies and the baddies,
and they’re all baddies in some shape or form—and
High Sparrow comes in as again quite relevant
because of the present Pope who presents himself
as a man of the people who’ll get down washing
their feet and stuff … yet he is this incredibly
powerful figure who has the wherewithal to dispense justice.”
This one simply has to hurt.
The Tudors and Penny Dreadful actress Perdita
Weeks was originally cast to star as Roslin
Frey, Edmure Tully’s wife.
But she backed out because her commitment
to another series called The Heretics required
her to be on location in Romania for six months.
One problem: the Romanian government refused
to let them film, and the whole show got scrapped anyway.
Weeks told The Daily Mail in 2012, “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.”
The role was ultimately played by Alexandra
Dowling — although Weeks might not have
missed out on much.
The character has appeared in just one episode
and was notably absent when her husband returned in Season 6.
Irish native Ray Stevenson was also given
a chance to star in Game of Thrones in its
earliest episodes, but he told Movies.com
that he turned it down because he was simply
not into the TV scene at the time and that
he’s not willing to join it now since it’s
already too developed at this point.
“I was offered [a role].
I also saw them before they even started,
very early on.
I would rather have been [cast] at the beginning.
I think it’s wonderful, but it’s not something
I would come into at this point.
I don’t know if I would add anything to it
at this stage … I would rather have been
involved in the growth of a show, even though
everyone gets bumped off left, right and center.
I kept seeing all the people I knew from Rome
But I can’t, man!
Given that Stevenson joined both Dexter and
Black Sails in progress, though, it’s possible
he could still change his mind.
According to singer Lily Allen, she turned
down the chance to star in Game of Thrones
opposite her real-life brother Alfie Allen—she
would’ve been Yara Greyjoy to his Theon—because
of the ick factor associated with the roles.
She wrote in a Reddit AMA in 2014, “I’ve been
asked to do a Game of Thrones cameo, they
asked me if I’d be interested in playing Theon’s
sister, and I felt uncomfortable because I
would have had to go on a horse and he would
have touched me up and s***.
Once they told me what was entailed, I said
Then again, she may have been pulling the
Internet’s leg that time.
Her brother himself later came forward to
dispel her claim, telling Vulture that her
words weren’t true and that Gemma Whalen was
always the original choice for the role.
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