You would think that nobody would turn down a chance to star in Game of Thrones. It’s one of the biggest shows on television. Landing even a small role ensures a hefty salary, and plenty of other acting opportunities in the future. However, when the show was still in its baby-stages, many actors chose to opt-out. Most of them regret that decision.
See who could have been Catelyn Stark, Cersei Lannister, or even Danaerys Targaryen…if only they had taken the chance.
1. Gillian Anderson
Most people know her as Scully from X-Files, but Gillian Anderson almost became the most hated blonde in Westeros. She reportedly turned down a role in Game of Thrones because it would take away too much time from her family. It’s not entirely clear what role she was offered, but most people have concluded that she was probably the first choice for Cersei Lannister.
2. Lily Allen
According to singer Lily Allen, she was offered the part of Yara Greyjoy (Asha, for book readers), opposite her real-life brother Alfie Allen. She turned it down out of pure ick factor. 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 no thanks. I would be open to doing a musical cameo like Sigur Ros, though.”
Alfie Allen has dispelled her claim, saying that Gemma Whelan was always the first choice. George RR Martin is a fan of Lily Allen’s, so the truth remains a bit foggy.
3. Jonathan Pryce
“But this guy was in Game of Thrones!”
Yes, yes he was. Jonathan Pryce did play the High Sparrow in Seasons 5 and 6, but he was originally asked to join the show way before that and declined, thinking it wasn’t for him.
“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.’”
He ultimately gave in because he was intrigued by the High Sparrow himself: a complex man who presented himself to others as a humble ‘man of the people’, but was in truth an extremely powerful figure hell-bent on dispensing justice. It was a role he couldn’t resist.
4 . Jennifer Ehle
Actress Jennifer Ehle was originally cast as Catelyn Stark in the show’s unaired pilot, but walked away from the part because the pilot was so bad. When they asked her to return for the reshoots, she was, unfortunately, unavailable. She went on to star in The King’s Speech, and Zero Dark Thirty. The role of Catelyn Stark ultimately went to Michelle Fairley.
5. Jaime Campbell Bower
This Twilight and Harry Potter actor was the showrunners’ first choice for Night’s Watchman Waymar Royce. However, after the epic failure of the original pilot, Jaime Campbell Bower was completely unavailable for any reshoots. After leaving Game of Thrones, he went on to have a small role in Camelot, and almost landed a role in The Mortal Instruments, but was replaced by Rob Ostlere.
6. Ray Stevenson
When the show’s producers offered Ray Stevenson a part in Game of Thrones, he apparently turned it down because he just ‘wasn’t into the TV scene’ at that point in his life. Now, he says that even if he was offered a part, he still wouldn’t join up because the show is too developed.
7. Tazmin Merchant
Tudors actress Tamzin Merchant was the showrunners’ first choice for Danaerys Targaryen. She actually starred in the unaired original pilot for the show, but quit shortly after. The original pilot was so bad that 90% of it had to be completely scrapped, and the show was nearly cancelled for good. The showrunners managed to save it just in time, and recast Emilia Clarke as Danaerys instead of Merchant.
8. Brian Cox
Brian Cox is known for his period pieces. He’s a Scottish actor, the kind you’d expect to see in Game of Thrones, but he reportedly turned down a casting offer because he thought it wouldn’t pay enough!
“Stupidly, I turned it down in the early days because they didn’t pay enough money,” Cox said, “Now they have more money. And I was silly. I was silly, it was silly, because I’m a complete [Game of Thrones] addict now.”
He says that if Game of Thrones ever calls again with a good offer, he’ll be happy to play a part in the show.
9. Perdita Weeks
This Tudors actress, Perdita Weeks, ended up deeply regretting opting out of a role in Game of Thrones. She was originally cast as Roslin Frey, Edmure Tully’s wife, but decided against it to open up her schedule to star in a series called The Heretics, which never got off the ground. She said that once Heretics flopped, she called the producers of Game of Thrones, asking for her part back. No dice.
10. Dominic West
No one knows for sure who Dominic West was originally cast as, but some people have speculated that he might have been the first choice for Mance Rayder – the King Beyond the Wall. Unfortunately, West said he had to decline a part in Game of Thrones due to familial obligations.
“It was a lovely part, a good part. I’m going to regret it,” He said. “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.”
We suppose that’s fair.
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