Now that Game of Thrones is almost done, it's hard to imagine anyone playing the characters that inhabit Westeros better than the actors we've known and loved. But the Mother of Dragons might have been a lot different if things had gone another way; in a recent interview, Elizabeth Olsen revealed that she auditioned to play Daenerys on Game of Thrones when she first began acting.
The actor — best known for playing the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers films — confessed to Vulture that one of her worst-ever auditions was actually to play Daenerys Targaryen herself. "When I first started working, I just auditioned for everything, because I like auditioning. And I auditioned for Khaleesi," Olsen revealed. Sadly, though, the chances of Mary-Kate and Ashley's younger sister becoming a power player in Westeros were very slim: "It was the most awkward audition I’d ever had."
According to Olsen, she auditioned using a very memorable scene from Season 1 of Game of Thrones, "from after she just burned," when she walked into the fire and her dragons hatched from their eggs. "She’s making this speech to thousands of people about how she’s their queen," Olsen recalled. However, at the time, the producers weren't sure how Daenerys would sound, and make her do the scene twice. "They didn’t know if they wanted a British accent or not. So, you did it in both. It was terrible," she joked. "Anytime someone says, ‘Bad audition story.’ That’s one I remember."
Thankfully, Olsen doesn't have any hard feelings about missing out on the chance to star in the biggest television show of the past decade, as she admitted to Vulture that she's a huge Thrones fan. "I’m just so deep in Game of Thrones that all I can think about is Kit Harington," she joked. "I mean, he’s just brainwashed me."
As awkward as Olsen's audition story is, it also helps prove that Daenerys was probably the most difficult role for the Thrones producers to cast when adapting George R. R. Martin's books for the small screen. Before the show first aired, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made a version of the pilot that never made it to air, and in addition to making some of the show's core relationships clearer, they also recast two of the show's most iconic roles: Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. "It's terrible to disappoint... it's difficult to let down... that's hard," casting director Nina Gold told Vanity Fair in 2017 about recasting. "It's tough, but you've got to get it right, ultimately.
In addition to replacing Jennifer Ehle with Michelle Fairley, Gold and the producers recast the original Dany, Tamzin Merchant, with Emilia Clarke. "In the spring of 2010, my agent called to say that auditions were being held in London for a new HBO series," the actor recalled about auditioning for the Mother of Dragons in an essay for The New Yorker. "The pilot for Game of Thrones had been flawed and they wanted to re-cast, among other roles, Daenerys."
"The part called for an otherworldly, bleached-blond woman of mystery. I’m a short, dark-haired, curvy Brit. Whatever." Unlike Olsen, however, Clarke nailed her interpretation of some of Dany's most famous Season 1 moments in the audition room.
"To prepare, I learned these very strange lines for two scenes, one in Episode 4, in which my brother goes to hit me, and one in Episode 10, in which I walk into a fire and survive, unscathed," she wrote, later recalling, "At the audition, I tried not to look when I spotted another actor — tall, blond, willowy, beautiful — walking by. I read two scenes in a dark auditorium, for an audience of producers and executives."
Though she seemed to think it was unlikely that she would land the part of Daenerys back then, it's clear that Clarke was destined to bring the youngest Targaryen to the small screen. Plus, now that the show is ending, it means that Clarke is now free to bring things full circle by joining an Avengers movie and sharing the screen with the woman who was almost the Mother of Dragons.