9 famous actors who were nearly in Game of Thrones

When actor Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, Luke Cage, Moonlight) revealed this week that he once auditioned for Game of Thrones, it made us sit up and listen. It was when he told the story of what a nightmare he had in doing so and subsequently failing to wow producers that made us want to give him a hug.

He described it as “one of the worst auditions of my life,” and went on to talk about the process to Jimmy Kimmel about how he planned to wow casting directors but was put off by the stool he had to sit on. Watch him retell the story below.

By the sounds of it, Ali was auditioning for the role of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, which Nonso Anozie eventually played in a handful of episodes in season two.

But it got us thinking of which other famous faces almost appeared in the HBO fantasy drama?

1. Sam Claflin

Credit: New Line Cinema
Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke in Me Before You. Credit: New Line Cinema

The star of The Hunger Games was nearly Jon Snow. Claflin revealed he also read for the part of Viserys Targaryen – that’s Daenerys’ not too pleasant brother. Funnily enough, both he and Mother of Dragons actress Emilia Clarke teamed up some years later for the 2016 romantic film, Me Before You.

2. Gillian Anderson

(Credit: Netflix)
Gillian Anderson in drama The Fall. Credit: Artists Studio

Film and TV veteran, as well as X-Files alumni Agent Dana Scully, Anderson confessed about being offered a role in the show and turning it down. She said: “My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game Of Thrones or Downton [Abbey] — things she loves to watch.” Yet while admitting the approach, it was never clarified which character it was for. Catelyn Stark, Cersei Lannister, or Melisandre? We may never know.

3. Brian Cox

Credit: Warner Bros.
Cox in Trick ‘r’ Treat. Credit: Warner Bros.

This legendary actor rejected a part in the show’s early days and admits he really regrets the decision. “Well, stupidly, I turned it down in the early days because they didn’t pay enough money [laughs]. Now they have more money. And I was silly. I was silly, it was silly, because I’m a complete addict now.” Oh, Brian, we feel your pain – but it goes to show that money isn’t everything.

4. Jamie Campbell Bower

Credit: Constantin Film Produktion
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Credit: Constantin Film Produktion

The Brit who has appeared in the Harry Potter franchise, Twilight saga, as well as Sweeney Todd musical, was almost Ser Waymar Royce in the pilot. In fact, he even filmed his role but when he was unable to attend reshoots he was promptly recast.

5. Danny Dyer

Credit: BBC
Dyer’s now an award-winning EastEnders favourite. Credit: BBC

This would have been amazing, probably. Now an EastEnders regular, Dyer’s long been known for his hard-as-nails TV persona when presenting shows like Britain’s Hardest Bloke or something similar. The Londoner auditioned three times and, unfortunately, failed three times. One time he tried out for the role of Pyp but we reckon he’s probably more suited to pulling pints in the Queen Vic than fending off White Walkers.

6. Ian McNeice

Credit: HBO/BBC
McNeice’s appearance in Rome. Credit: HBO/BBC

Due to commitments to Doctor Who, British icon McNeice was unable to attend reshoots for his role of Illyrio Mopatis in the show’s pilot, so was axed. In case you’re unfamiliar with the character, he would’ve been the one handing a vulnerable Daenerys over to future hubby Khal Drago.

7. Mark Strong

Credit: 20th Century Fox
Kingsman, one of Strong’s many film roles. Credit: 20th Century Fox

It was widely rumoured, yet never confirmed, that the now Hollywood actor was all set to play Stannis Baratheon but he favoured working on Low Winter Sun instead, which ended up getting cancelled. We’re not sure we could’ve seen him as Stannis, but in any case it’s hard to imagine anyone other than eventual actor Stephen Dillane in the part.

8. Dominic West

Credit: HBO
Once upon a time, West was the star of The Wire. Credit: HBO

The Wire actor reportedly turned down the chance to play Mance Rayder because it’d mean him being away from his family for long spells. “I was offered something on Game Of Thrones and unfortunately, I hadn’t seen it,” he revealed to HuffPost. “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.” Nevermind, Dom, you’ve still got acclaimed drama The Affair to fall back on.

9. Ray Stevenson

Credit: HBO/BBC
Another Rome alumni. Credit: HBO/BBC

Having starred in the similarly sexy, violent, and very sweary Rome several years earlier, Stevenson didn’t opt for a role he was offered very recently due to the fact his character wouldn’t be in it for long or have much of an impact. Without knowing the character it’s hard to say who he was playing or what impact they’d have had, but he was having none of it.

Did you know all of these famous faces nearly appeared in the HBO series? Leave you comments below…

Mike is a freelance TV, film, music and entertainment writer, with an unhealthy obsession for Game of Thrones. He’s written for Shortlist, MTV, GamesRadar+, Total Film, GoThinkBig, Loaded, and regularly scribbles for Yahoo Movies, BBC Radio 1, BuzzFeed, VODzilla, and Metro.

Read more:
Is Taboo the first great series of 2017?
6 essential TV shows that stand out from 2016
Stranger Things: What we can expect in season two