At the show's Comic Con panel last month, HBO delighted fans by releasing a video of Game Of Thrones actors auditioning for their roles. Witnessing the likes of Gwendoline Christie, Pedro Pascal, and Natalie Dormer read their characters' lines in street clothes well before they were even cast is like entering a bizarro universe in the modern Western world instead of fictional Westeros. But, watching those tapes raises an interesting question: who else auditioned for Game of T hrones that we don't know about?
It's not a question most people consider every time they sit down to watch a television episode, but obviously the people who won the roles weren't the only ones who auditioned. Over the course of five seasons, Thrones fans have watched various roles undergo recasting: Daario, Tommen, Myrcella, and The Mountain have all been played by multiple actors, and it was just announced that Max von Sydow will take over the role of the Three-Eyed Raven from Struan Rodger for Season 6. But, what about the actors we never even got the chance to see onscreen?
The following 11 actors have admitted they auditioned for Game Of Thrones — some were even briefly cast! — but never appeared on the show, whether they were recast, they declined their role, or they just plain didn't get it.
1. Gillian Anderson
Who she would have played: ???
The X-Files and Hannibal actress is remaining mum about who she was cast as, but it sounds as though she came thisclose to starring in a major role. In a 2013 interview with The Daily Mail about her serial killer drama The Fall, Anderson stated that, "My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game Of Thrones or Downton [Abbey] — things she loves to watch." While the article reveals that the role she turned down on the popular British soap was Lady Cora (the part that eventually went to Elizabeth McGovern), it didn't provide any further details on Anderson's brush with Westerosi fame. The likeliest candidates seem to be Cersei or Melisandre, but alas — we'll probably never know.
2. Jamie Campbell Bower
Who he would have played: Ser Waymar Royce
The 26-year-old actor/model who has appeared in just about every major YA film franchise (as Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter, Caius in Twilight, and Jace in The Mortal Instruments) was originally supposed to appear in the pilot as Ser Royce, the young and haughty lord who leads an ill-fated ranging beyond the Wall in the series' opening scene. In fact, Bower even filmed the scene — but when the pilot needed reshoots and Bower was unavailable, the part was recast, ultimately going to Rob Ostelere.
3. Sam Claflin
Who he would have played: Jon Snow, Viserys Targaryen
Claflin, who stars as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games (the one YA franchise Bower didn't snag a role in), admitted to CinemaBlend last year that he, along with pretty much "every British actor," had auditioned for Thrones . He said he read for the roles of both mopey bastard Jon and petulant prince Viserys, although his commitment to Snow White And The Huntsman precluded him from landing the part. (Or was it his commitment to Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides? He's so in demand not even Claflin can keep track.) Even so, he remains only one degree of separation away from the show: he has appeared in feature films alongside both Emilia Clarke (Me Before You) and Natalie Dormer (Mockingjay, The Riot Club).
4. Danny Dyer
Who he would have played: Pyp
Dyer's name may not be well-known on this side of the pond, but he's something of a national treasure in the UK, where he's a major star of the stage and screen. He's currently most famous for his role as Mick Carter on the long-running British soap opera EastEnders, which has been on the air for 30 years and has broadcast a truly staggering 5,120 episodes. (Dyer was just given the Most Popular Serial Drama Performance award at this year's National Television Awards for his role on the show.) The actor confessed to the BBC that he'd auditioned for Thrones three times (including once for the role of Jon's friend Pyp, played by Josef Atlin), but that he'd been turned down each time.
5. Jennifer Ehle
Who she would have played: Catelyn Stark
I mentioned earlier that the show's pilot needed some reshoots; that was an understatement. The entire first episode was re-filmed after HBO was unimpressed with showrunners David Benioff's and D.B. Weiss' initial attempt. (Apparently the original version of the pilot was so confusing that test audiences didn't understand that Jaime and Cersei were siblings when they were having sex at the end.) The unaired pilot contained a vastly different structure, flashbacks to Mad King Aerys that were cut completely, and even different actors. One of the most major roles that was recast was that of the Stark matriarch, who was originally played by Ehle (Fifty Shades Of Grey, The King's Speech) before going to Michelle Fairley in the second iteration.
6. Sam Heughan
Who he would have played: Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell
Long before he was cast as hunky Scotsman Jamie Fraser in Starz's Outlander, Heughan was auditioning for Game of Thrones ... over and over and over and over again. He read for various parts a grand total of seven times, including for both halves of Westerosi power couple King Renly and Ser Loras. "I'd always get so close!" the actor insisted in a 2014 interview with Vulture. "Everyone was going in for those parts," he said, echoing Claflin's sentiments. If Heughan had been cast as Renly, he probably would have been killed off in enough time to still land his role on Outlander; but just imagine if he'd won the role of Loras and we'd had to suffer through some second-rate Jamie-wannabe on Outlander because Heughan was already committed to Game Of Thrones. The horror!
7. Ian McNeice
Who he would have played: Illyrio Mopatis
Another casualty of the pilot reshoot, McNeice was unavailable to film his scenes again for the new version due to his role as Winston Churchill on Doctor Who. In the original version, the Rome actor had played Magister Illyrio, the Pentoshi benefactor to Daenerys and Visery Targaryen, who presents the young dragon queen to her future husband, Khal Drogo.
8. Izzy Meikle-Small
Who she would have played: Sansa Stark
This 19-year-old British actress opened up to Huffington Post in 2013 about the fact that she was the runner-up to play the long-suffering eldest daughter of the Stark family. "I got to the final two to play Lady Sansa Sark," she said. Ultimately, Meikle-Small lost out to Sophie Turner. "I was a bit sad, because the show’s massive, but I’m not that unhappy, because they all show a lot of flesh, don’t they? I don’t think my parents would be happy." Instead, she has made a career out of playing younger versions of famous actresses, including Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go and Charlize Theron in Snow White And The Huntsman — alongside fellow GoT reject Claflin!
9. Tamzin Merchant
Who she would have played: Daenerys Targaryen
The other major role that was recast from the unaired pilot along with Catelyn Stark was the future Khaleesi herself. Before Emilia Clarke landed the role, Dany was played by Merchant, who is famous for a recurring role as Henry VIII's fifth wife Catherine Howard on Showtime's The Tudors and currently stars as rebel witch Anne Hale on WGN America's Salem. It's unclear if the recasting was a creative decision or merely a matter of scheduling — but it's almost impossible to imagine Game of Thrones without Clarke as our fierce Mother of Dragons.
10. Perdita Weeks
Who she would have played: Roslin Frey
Oh, look! Another Tudors actress. Weeks is most well-known to American audiences for playing Mary Boleyn (sister to Anne, who was played by GoT's Natalie Dormer) on the Showtime drama. She auditioned and landed the role of Roslin Frey; a small part, to be sure — but one that appeared in the show's iconic Red Wedding episode, no less. However, Weeks had to turn down the offer because of her commitment to another project. When that project was unexpectedly postponed, the actress "rang the [GoT] producers to beg for it back," as she told The Daily Mail in 2012. But opportunity is not a lengthy visitor: "It was too late," Weeks lamented.
11. Dominic West
Who he would have played: Mance Rayder
In 2012, the actor most famous for his portrayal of Jimmy McNulty on HBO's The Wire revealed to Huffington Post that the network had previously offered him a plum part in their increasingly popular fantasy drama. Whether he auditioned for it or whether it was offered to him out of the blue is unclear, but West was so blasé about the whole thing he couldn't even remember what the character's name was. (Some quick detective work deduces that he would have likely played the gruff Wildling leader Mance, the part that went to Ciarán Hinds.) Although the actor claims to have turned down the role for family reasons, not wanting to spend six months away from them in icy Reykjavik, his family were the ones most upset about his decision. "I was offered something on Game Of Thrones and unfortunately, I hadn't seen it," he said. "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." At least West didn't make out so badly for himself: he's currently starring on Showtime's critically acclaimed drama The Affair .
As fun as it is to think about the alternate-universe version of GoT that might have been, five seasons into the show and I think we've all fallen so much in love with the talented cast that we wouldn't trade them for anything. Except for Jon Snow not being dead. I'd trade anything for that.