These 16 Celebs Were *Almost* On 'Game Of Thrones,' But Never Made It To Westeros

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You might not approve of how the final season of Game of Thrones is going, but one element that most fans can agree on is the tremendous casting job the HBO series did. The road to the final actors wasn't always easy though as this list of celebs who were almost cast on Game of Thrones shows. Adapting book characters always leads to some controversy and ensuring child actors will mature into their parts is extremely difficult. Yet, even if you don't love what Season 8 has done to the characters, the actors truly have embodied their roles. But Westeros (and Essos) would have looked a bit different if these actors had been cast on Game Of Thrones instead.

Casting director Nina Gold spoke to Vanity Fair in 2017 about what it has been like finding the actors for the TV adaptation of George R. R. Martin's book series. She noted that they never wanted to go with too many A-listers since it would have "unbalanced" the series. So when she did cast a bigger name, like Ian McShane or Max von Sydow, it came down to "they seem like they'd be really great in the part." Plus, as Gold noted, many of the actors who had no name recognition at the start of Game of Thrones, like Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, have become major stars in their own right thanks to the show.

Still, some of the below celebrities — who have either evolved to become VIPs or were already big when the show premiered in 2011 — might have enjoyed the boost to their résumé. So check out what Game of Thrones could have looked like if these actors had been cast.


Nicholas Hoult

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Just as Game of Thrones came to an end, Nicholas Hoult revealed that he had could have been King in the North. "I think I auditioned for Jon Snow," Nicholas Hoult told Page Six during a screening of his film Tolkien in May 2019. "I was filming Clash of the Titans at the time, so I had long hair extensions. They gave me a ponytail and also a very patchy fake tan. So I remember being like, 'This is probably not what they're hoping for,' and it obviously wasn't." So a bad spray tan ended up being a very good thing for Kit Harington.


Mahershala Ali

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The twice-winning Academy Award winner has been no stranger to TV with House of Cards, Luke Cage, and True Detective. But before all that, Mahershala Ali auditioned for the role Xaro Xhoan Daxos in Game of Thrones Season 2. As he told Jimmy Kimmel, "That was one of the worst auditions of my life." Casting director Gold told Vanity Fair that the actor she did hire, Nonso Anozie, is "bloody great," but admitted, "Wow, how could I have ever turned down Mahershala Ali?"


Sam Claflin

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Hunger Games star Sam Claflin told CinemaBlend in 2014 that he had auditioned for both Jon Snow and Viserys Targaryen when the series was first casting. Other projects got in the way, but don't worry — he got his screentime with Emilia Clarke in the 2016 movie Me Before You.


Jennifer Ehle

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Author Martin wrote on his blog how Jennifer Ehle was actually successfully cast as Catelyn Stark before Michelle Fairley took over. Ehle told The Daily Beast that she quit once Game Of Thrones was picked up to series due to other projects — like The King's Speech with Pride and Prejudice costar Colin Firth — and wanting to spend more time with her daughter. But Gold remembered it differently in her Vanity Fair interview, noting that HBO chose to recast Ehle after the pilot. "It's tough, but you've got to get it right, ultimately. Jennifer Ehle is really brilliant, but I guess things changed about the way everybody saw it," Gold said.


Sam Heughan

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Sam Heughan has his career-defining role of Jamie on Outlander, but he once tried his darndest to get on the HBO series. "I auditioned for Game of Thrones seven times! Loads of times," Heughan told Vulture in 2014. "I auditioned for Renly, Loras, some of the members of the Night's Watch. And I'd always get so close!" Even though he never was cast, things clearly still worked out for Heughan.


Dominic West

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"I was offered something on Game of Thrones and unfortunately, I hadn't seen it," Dominic West told Huffington Post in 2012. "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 them down." West said the part would have required him to shoot in Iceland for six months and that he was "reluctant to be away from home." Based on the timing and shooting location, Huffington Post theorized the part that West was offered was Mance Rayder, which Ciarán Hinds ended up portraying.


Jamie Campbell Bower

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Jamie Campbell Bower has been in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Mortal Instruments films, so he's quite familiar with fantasy book adaptations. Yet, he lost out on the role of Waymar Royce. As Martin wrote on his blog, Campbell Bower was Royce in the original pilot. But when they reshot it, the actor was busy as King Arthur in the Starz series Camelot. Rob Ostlere ended up with the role and while it's a small part, this Brother of the Night's Watch has the distinction of being the first person in Game of Thrones to die.


Tamzin Merchant

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Another, far more important, character to be recast was Daenerys Targaryen. Before Emilia Clarke, Tamzin Merchant had the role. Merchant is known for Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Tudors (like Margaery Tyrell actor Natalie Dormer), and Supergirl, but portraying the Mother of Dragons would have dramatically impacted her career. However, just like Campbell Bower, Martin announced that she was replaced by Clarke following the original pilot.


Jonathan Pryce

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OK, technically Jonathan Pryce was in Game of Thrones. But he had been offered a role before the High Sparrow that he said he turned down because he's not really into the fantasy genre. "I'd said no to the very original [season] of Game of Thrones and all I did was flip through and look at the names, these strange names, strange dialogue and I thought, 'Oh, it's not for me," Pryce told BBC Radio 4. But the Glengarry Glen Ross and Pirates of the Caribbean star let go of his bias by the time Season 5 came around.


Jared Harris

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In 2017, Vulture spoke to a number of performers about the actors they frequently lose roles to. Jared Harris of Fringe, Mad Men, The Crown, and HBO's Chernobyl noted that he lost out to Pryce for the High Sparrow part. Even though he has acting talent in his blood (the OG Dumbledore himself, Richard Harris, was his father), he said how he didn't get Anthony Hopkins' part in Westworld either.


Perdita Weeks

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Perdita Weeks was Dormer's sister on The Tudors and now regularly appears on American TV in Magnum P.I., but she missed out on Game of Thrones due to a scheduling mishap. As she explained to Daily Mail, she turned down a part because she was cast in the miniseries The Heretics. At the last minute, production was canceled, so Weeks understandably tried to get the Thrones job back. "But it was too late," Weeks told Daily Mail. Although Weeks didn't confirm it, the part is generally considered to be Walder Frey's daughter Roslin Frey. So Weeks not only missed out on the Red Wedding, but The Heretics ended up never being made.


Brian Cox

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In 2016, the publication Vodzilla asked the Succession actor if he would be in Game Of Thrones if he were asked. "Well, stupidly, I turned it down in the early days because they didn't pay enough money," Cox said with a laugh. He noted what a mistake it was in retrospect — not just because of the cash but because he's such a fan of the series. "Now they have more money. And I was silly. I was silly, it was silly, because I'm a complete addict now," Cox said.


Lily Allen

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Singer Lily Allen's brother Alfie portrayed Theon Greyjoy and according to Allen herself, she could have joined her sibling on the show. In 2014, she wrote on Reddit, "... 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 sh*t. Once they told me what was entailed, I said no thanks. I would be open to doing a musical cameo like Sigur Ros, though."

However, this one is up for debate since Alfie gave quite a different take on his sister's casting. When Vulture asked Alfie if Allen's claim were true, he replied, "The only thing I'm going to say on that is that it's not true. And also that Gemma Whalen was always their first choice for the part. And she's fantastic. And that's the only thing I'm going to say about that." Although, Alfie said to Vulture a couple of years earlier how Martin had become a fan of Allen's music after Alfie's audition (Martin actually wrote he became a "huge fan" on his blog), so who knows?


Mark Strong

Another debatable potential cast member is Mark Strong. His name often comes up in "could have been" Game of Thrones cast lists, but this might all stem from HBO Watch writing in 2016 that "he was a hot favorite to play Stannis Baratheon." There is virtually no evidence that the Shazam actor was actually ever up for the part, so this is probably just the fandom wishing it into existence since as Winter Is Coming highlighted in 2011, he was a fan-favorite candidate for the role.


Charlie Hunnam

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Charlie Hunnam is an actor who truly turned down a Game of Thrones role due to a scheduling conflict. "I would love to do a Game of Thrones cameo," Hunnam told The Sun online. "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." Yet, the Sons of Anarchy star's window of opportunity time has passed ... unless, of course, he shows up in the prequel series.


Gillian Anderson

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Agent Scully herself told Daily Mail that she turned down a role. "My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game Of Thrones or Downton — things she loves to watch," she reportedly said with a sigh. He reason? "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." Ouch, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. As Digital Spy noted, fans typically assume Anderson was up for the role of Cersei, but Melisandre is also another legitimate theory.

Depending on how Game of Thrones ends, these actors may or may not regret being on the biggest show in TV history. But what is not cast may never die.