Based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, Game of Thrones has become a cultural phenomenon since taking over our TV sets in April 2011. We look forward to the power struggle for the crown, but might not be so keen to these behind the scenes secrets (SPOILERS to follow).
Emilia Clarke Was Not The Original Daenerys
English actress Tamzin Merchant was the show’s first choice to play Daenerys. She left the show under suspicious circumstances after filming before the role was recast with Clarke.
Jon Snow Actually Knew Nothing
When the Wildling beauty Ygritte uttered, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she inadvertently brought up a strange tie to Jon Snow’s real life. Actor Kit Harrington revealed that he had no idea that his real name was Christopher until he was 11 years old. His mother loved the name, as did he, so she just let him continue going by Kit without filling him in. As fans know, it’s not the only time Jon/Kit did not know about his birth.
Peter Dinklage Thought The Show Got Canceled
Show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are known for cruelly ripping out the hearts of their audience with shocking turns. They carry this cruelty into real life with their actors too. In one of their earliest practical jokes, they called Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) and thanked him for his work in the pilot before informing him that the show had been canceled. Benioff waited six hours before telling him the truth. Dinklage has won two Emmys for the show.s
Valyrian Steel Has A Real-Life Equivalent
In the world of Game of Thrones, Valyrian steel is considered top of its class for sword making (and white walker killing) due to its combination of strength and light feel. Martin most likely based this distinctive metal with a rippled surface from Damascus steel. Damascus steel was developed in the Middle East and India and is known for the same qualities. The specific techniques and temperature to make were lost in the 18th century, leaving replicas absent of its perfection.
Brienne Does Not Know Her Age
Gwendoline Christie plays the noble Brienne of Tarth, the only female knight in the show. She will honor her oaths to the grave but do not think about asking Christie about her birthday. It is not that she does not like to reveal her true age, but she, in fact, has no idea what it is. Birthdays were not so important in the Christie household so her and her mother never really kept track.
The Show Could Host A Music Festival With Its Guest Stars
Although the show does not contain a soundtrack of mainstream anthems, musicians are lining up to be a part of the show in any capacity. Coldplay drummer Will Champion joined a fictional band in playing “The Rains of Castamere” at the Red Wedding. Icelandic ensemble Sigur Ros sat in as the house band at the Purple Wedding, while Of Monsters and Men entertained a crowd in Braavos in season 6.
Soccer With Ned’s Head
As one of the show’s most recognizable actors, audiences were shocked when good guy Ned Stark got the axe. It set the tone for a series that plays it loose when it comes to killing off major characters. Bean has said that it was weird for him to see the cast of his decapitated head. Bean and his co-workers decided to have some fun with his head by kicking it around like a soccer ball while in a big square in Malta.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The cast of Game of Thrones can be seen in films stretching back decades, some of which might come as a surprise. For instance, Lady Olenna Tyrell should be familiar to fans of 007. Before she was arranging marriages as the Queen of Thorns, Dame Diana Rigg was a Bond girl. She played Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and would go on to marry Bond (played by George Lazenby).
Top Of The Charts
The only singing Carice van Houten does on Game of Thrones is during breaks in filming. The show does not seem interested in having the Red Woman sing to the Lord of Light, but that does not mean van Houten has not found room for her talent outside of the show. Van Houten recorded a number one hit with the band Kane in 2012. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of them – the song topped the charts in the Netherlands.
You Can Learn Dothraki
Most of the show’s content comes straight from the minds of either Martin or Benioff and Weiss. One part that they outsourced was the creation of the Dothraki language. HBO hired David J. Peterson via the Language Creation Society to develop a unique language which stayed true to Martin’s description in the books. Before shooting, Peterson developed over 1,700 words, drawing inspiration from Turkish, Russian, Swahili and, Inuktitut. You can find language guides online.
Some Actors Said ‘No Thanks’
It is almost impossible to think of anyone turning down the show today, but a handful of well-known stars did exactly that. After turning down an undisclosed role at the beginning of the show (Cersei?), the closest Gillian Anderson gets to Game of Thrones is a chance run-in at Comic-Con for her role on The X-Files. Fans speculate that when Dominic West of The Wire fame turned down a spot, he missed his chance to be Mance Rayder.
The Mother Of Dragons And Sea Slugs
When scientists found a new species of sea slug off the coast of Brazil, they hoped to come up with a fitting name. The marine biologists that found it were stunned by the similarities between the organism’s pale yellow strands and Daenerys Targaryen’s hair. In honor of her, they named their finding the Tritonia khaleesi. Khaleesi, of course, refers to the wife of a Dothraki Khal and is one of the names taken by Daenerys.
Harvard Offers A Game Of Thrones Course
Are you jealous of Samwell Tarly’s journey to the Citadel and the infinite knowledge the city holds into the Game of Thrones world? Harvard University now offers a Game of Thrones course among its Ivy League course catalog. “The Real Game of Thrones: From Modern Myths to Medieval Models” might not be a straight breakdown of the show or books, but it allows students to use Game of Thrones to understand Medieval history.
Hasta La Vista Baby
Game of Thrones producers must really love the Terminator series, finding something worthwhile from its ill-conceived sequels. Two of Game of Thrones‘ biggest stars not only appeared in Terminator projects but played its leading female character, Sarah Connor. Before she wedded Robert Baratheon and became queen, Lena Headey starred in the short-lived Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Emilia Clarke turned her Game of Thrones fame into Sarah Connors for 2015’s Terminator Genisys.
Arya, First Of Her Name
American parents cannot get enough of Game of Thrones. They love the show so much that they began naming their children after characters from the show at staggering rates. Arya is one of the most popular names of them all. In 2014, Arya became the 216th most popular name as parents named 1544 babies after the young Stark. The Mother of Dragons holds the next two spots for female names, with 368 Khaleesis and 86 Daeneryses.
Where Is Nymeria?
Sadly, most of the Stark’s dire wolves are now dead. Arya’s wolf, Nymeria, has not been seen since Arya released her into the wild in the Riverlands. According to Maisie Williams (Arya), Nymeria has been around all along. “After my dog finished playing Nymeria, she actually went on to play Shaggy Dog…she was the best-behaved dog out of all of them, so she ended up playing all the other wolves, even though she was mine originally.”
Everyone Hates Joffrey
With plenty of ambiguity over good guys and bad guys during the early seasons of the show, one thing was for certain: everyone hated Joffrey. Jack Gleeson’s character was so detested, many felt it was necessary to tell him how much they hated him. People would stop him in public to express their hatred towards his character. After Gleeson’s first appearance, Martin sent him a letter which simply read, “Congratulations on your marvelous performance, everyone hates you.”
King Of The Franchise
Julian Glover plays Grand Maester Pycelle, the Grand Maester for a few kings and Lannister spy, but prior to GOT he played a villain in three of the highest grossing film series ever, plus another fan favorite. In Empire Strikes Back, he led the Empire’s attack on snowy Hoth. Glover faced off with 007 in For Your Eyes Only before tricking Indiana Jones into leading him to the Holy Grail. He also voiced the giant spider Aragog in Harry Potter.
The Red Wedding Surprised One Of Its Victims
For book readers, the Red Wedding was no surprise at the end of season three. Richard Madden (Robb Stark), however, chose to read the books congruent to the show not to pre-empt his character’s development. Before he reached the third book, he made the irreversible decision to Google his character and had his character’s fate spoiled for him. He admits that it broke his heart to be ousted from the show so viciously.
Theon Has A Song Written About Him
Before he found a home as Theon Greyjoy, Alfie Allen was a working actor with a more famous sister. Lily Allen’s debut album went 3x platinum in the United Kingdom and has sold over 2 million copies. One of the album’s tracks is about her baby brother. Alfie details how she tried to encourage her brother to stop wasting his life by playing video games and watching television to his chagrin.
The Allens are not the only famous relatives from Game of Thrones. Instead of seeking the Iron Throne, perhaps Harry Lloyd (Viserys) should have followed in great great grandfather Charles Dickens’ steps and written a social criticism of Westeros. Another famous Charles has Game of Thrones lineage. There was nothing funny about how Oona Chaplin’s Talisa Stark died during the Red Wedding, but her grandfather Charlie Chaplin became an icon as a silent film comic.
Sansa Adopted Lady
Cersei might have torn Sansa away from her dire wolf in response to Nymeria attacking Joffrey, but that does not mean the deceased wolf could not find a home beyond the screen. After her role, the producers wanted to find a new home for Lady, real name Zunni. Instead of bringing her to an adoption center, Sophie Turner (Sansa) adopted the Mahlek Northern Inuit Dog that she had become close with on set.
The Batman Connection
Game of Thrones actors are always popping up in older roles from which they become out of sight, out of mind. Two of GOT‘s most chilling villains had small parts in the first installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman Begins. Head White Walker, the Night King, played by Richard Brake, is responsible for killing Bruce Wayne’s parents as Joe Chill. King Joffrey even had a small part as the little boy to whom Batman gives a periscope.
Rave of Thrones
Everyone’s favorite man-child, Hodor, might be simple-minded, but in reality is tearing up clubs as a DJ. He used to be the resident DJ at a club in Belfast. When he was not shooting for the show, Kristian Nairn was on tour as a part of the “Rave of Thrones.” He has headlined parties all across Australia, frequently mentioning his on-screen character. He claims that he wanted to be a guitar player when he was young.
The Battle Of Bronn and Cersei
If you look at Lena Headey’s Instagram, you would assume she is best friends with all of her costars. The one actor you won’t find in her photos is Jerome Flynn (Bronn). They had been romantically linked for over a decade but do not appear to be on good terms. In fact, things are so bad that it is written into their contracts that they do not have to film any scenes together.
Martin Quizzed Benioff And Weiss For The Rights
Before Benioff and Weiss could turn A Song Of Ice and Fire into a series, they needed permission from George R.R. Martin. They came prepared with a presentation for him, but Martin came prepared himself. He had a handful of questions for them, concluding with “who is Jon Snow’s mother?” At the time only Martin knew concrete answers. They needed to display their true fandom based on research and theory – which they did, answering correctly.
The Mountain Is Enormous In Real Life
When he is not protecting Cersei and crushing skulls, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson (better known as Thor) is performing in strongman competitions. He is currently the third strongest man in the world. It takes a small grocery store to feed him too. He eats near 11,500 calories per day to maintain his size. His diet includes 1.5 kg of potatoes, 1 kg of beef, spinach, 150 g of Rice Krispies, three dozen eggs, and a ton of nuts.
The Queen Can Fence
Although her brother, the Knight of Flowers, is known for his swordsmanship, we do not ever see Margaery Tyrell wield a sword. If she did, however, it’s possible that she would put on a clinic. One of Natalie Dormer’s biggest hobbies is fencing. She practices at the London Fencing Academy in her spare time to keep in form. Maybe Tyrion should have looked at the Queen as his champion in his trial by combat.
Dinklage Recommended Headey As Cersei
On screen, the animosity between siblings Cersei and Tyrion Lannister is overwhelming. It’s a tough bit to play for Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey to play because they are such close friends from before the show. In fact, it was Dinklage that recommended Headey to the producers for the role of Cersei. Fortunately, they listened to him, and she has run with her menacing role. Often the pair will explode in laughter after filming a serious scene.
When Life Mimics Westeros
The only known Targaryen in Westeros, Maester Aemon’s familiar past has been long forgotten as he held down his job as Maester at Castle Black. Old age robbed him of his vision before the beginning of the show, but he has held on to his wits. When British actor Peter Vaughn took the role of Maester Aemon, he coincidentally suffered from partial blindness like his character. Vaughn died peacefully (like Aemon) in 2016 at age 93.
The Iron Throne’s Mosaic Of Swords
The Iron Throne is supposedly made of the 1000 swords that were surrendered to the first Targaryen King, Aegon the Conqueror. Some of those swords might be familiar to sharp-eyed viewers. Lord of The Rings fans, if you look closely, you can find Gandolf’s sword Glamdring among the dragon fire-fastened throne. Two other recognizable blades include Kevin Costner’s sword from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Orlando Bloom’s sword from Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.
A Very Adult Cast
Game of Thrones plays fast and loose with the amount of clothes that some of the cast wear. The show has plenty of scenes with “working girls” that seem to have forgotten their shirts. When casting these roles, the show frequently selects former adult film actresses knowing they will be comfortable in compromising conditions. Most of the actresses play bit roles, but Sibel Kekili’s past profession helped her stay relaxed in character as Tyrion’s lady, Shae.
Could The Mountain Crush The Red Viper?
Tyrion Lannister’s second trial by combat came to a dramatic and alarming finish as Gregor Clegane squished Oberyn Martell, literally. Time researched if it is actually possible for a human head to react in such a way. They found that it takes 520 pounds of force to do so. Although the Mountain used no momentum with his finishing move (force = mass x acceleration), they concluded it is possible for a person of his size and strength to generate the necessary force.
Madonna of Dragons
Emilia Clarke is not the only actress to don Khaleesi’s blue dress and leather corset. Clarke received an email from HBO’s publicist asking if pop star Madonna could borrow her costume. She told Jimmy Fallon, “I thought, ‘God, this must be a dream. This can’t be real.'” Madonna is a big fan of the show and wanted to borrow the costume for the Jewish holiday of Purim, a Jewish Halloween of sorts. Sadly, she could not borrow the CGI dragons, though.
An Ancient Method Of Writing
George R.R. Martin is not one for typing technology. With a strong hatred towards spellcheck and autocorrect, Martin sticks with his old typing machine to get through his novels. Martin writes on a DOS computer running WordStar 4.0 and owns a separate computer for email and the internet. “I don’t want a capital. If I’d wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key,” said an ornery Martin.
George W. Bush Had A Cameo…Of Sorts
At the end of the season one, Joffrey sadistically takes Sansa on a tour of Kings Landing after her father’s beheading. They go to the battlements draped with the heads of those sentenced to death, including Ned Stark. One head that people did not notice: President George W. Bush. The show buys recycled props in bulk, and Dubya’s head was part of the pack. No one noticed until Benioff and Weiss mentioned it the DVD commentary.
The Original Pilot Was A Flop
It is almost impossible to picture a world where Game of Thrones is not a smash hit. However, the original pilot directed by Tom McCarthy was apparently an utter disaster. It has never been released, but Benioff and Weiss did show it to some friends for first impressions. Benioff claims they got all of the basics of the show wrong including that no one knew Jaime Lannister and Cersei (Lannister) Baratheon were brother and sister.
Clarke Got Stuck To A Toilet From Fake Blood
Khaleesi eating a raw horse heart is one of the more graphic scenes of season one. To replicate a heart, Clarke was given a bitter three-pound gummy bear injected with red sugary syrup. After one of many takes, Clarke went to use the restroom still drenched in fake blood. When she tried to stand up from the toilet, the concoction had hardened and fastened her to the seat until someone could help her get up.
A Costume Designer Spoiled Major Character Meetings
(SPOILER ALERT) In an interview about the seventh season, costume designer Michele Clapton spilled the beans on what could be a crucial point in the season. Clapton confirmed that Jon Snow would meet two major characters this season as she described his wardrobe preferences. Producers put Harrington in Wildling garb to show vulnerability (which he prefers) like in a meeting with Daenerys, but a heavy Northern cloak to seem strong when facing off with Cersei.
Emilia Clarke Is Done Going Topless
At the beginning of the show, Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys was seen topless on a handful of occasions. However, after season 3, fans began to question why Khaleesi had not taken her clothes off in some time. It was revealed that Clarke had a clause in her contract that said she did not have to appear topless. She would not bare all again until season 6, stating that it was important to furthering the story.