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Actors Who Auditioned For Game Of Thrones But Weren't Cast

Over the course of its eight seasons on HBO, the cast of Game of Thrones was always positively brimming with talent. However, not every actor who auditioned landed a spot on the show, with some notable names missing out — sometimes despite trying out for multiple roles. 

In some cases, other film obligations prevented a successful casting. Other times, a particular English accent got in the way. And sometimes, actors even did some filming for the series before getting the boot. Read on to find out why Westeros refused these actors entrance to the Seven Kingdoms.

Sam Claflin

When Sam Claflin sat down with CinemaBlend to discuss his work in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, he mentioned he'd auditioned for two roles on Game of Thrones. Casually claiming that every British actor tried out for the show, Claflin said he read for the role of Jon Snow—and simultaneously auditioned to play Viserys Targaryen. "I auditioned for two different parts at once," Claflin recalled, "But I think Snow White and the Huntsman—or was it Pirates of the Caribbean?—one of the two happened." With film commitments calling, Claflin lost Game, but he still ended up getting to act opposite Thrones vet Emilia Clarke, with whom he co-starred in the 2016 romantic drama Me Before You.

Danny Dyer

EastEnders star Danny Dyer has admitted he was turned down for Game of Thrones—not once, not twice, but three times. Dame Diana Rigg, who played Lady Olenna Tyrell on the fantasy drama, claimed Dyer's voice was the biggest problem, reportedly telling the actor "I'll put in a word for you as long as you lose the cockney accent." Instead of losing the accent, he lost his chance to land several roles on the show.

To his credit, Dyer's aware of the issues certain casting directors might have with his speech. But as he sees it, audiences are up for it—and he'd love a chance to put that theory to the test by playing a pair of beloved British characters. "I think that I could play Sherlock," he went on to argue. "That role is about being highly intelligent rather than posh. ... I think I could do Doctor Who as well."

Izzy Meikle-Small

We all know Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, but Izzy Meikle-Small almost landed the role first.

Stating she was one of the final two actors in contention for the part, the East Sussex-born star admitted disappointment, though she thinks her parents were probably happier in the long run. "I was a bit sad," Meikle-Small told The Telegraph, "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." 

Missing out on the chance to star in a hit series is tough for any actor to deal with, but Meikle-Small has continued to work steadily ever since. Seen as Young Ravenna in 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, her most recent projects include the drama Another Mother's Son and a pair of appearances on the series Ripper Street.

Tamzin Merchant

Everyone knows Emilia Clarke is the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, the Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, et cetera—but most don't know she wasn't the original choice for the role.

When the original pilot for Game of Thrones was filmed, Tamzin Merchant was cast as the silver-haired heroine—and actually filmed the first episode before being replaced by Clarke, who'd never even heard of the George R.R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire book series that inspired the show. Clarke was in desperate need of the job, too; as she told the New York Times, the unexpected call to play Daenerys came when she was struggling to pay the rent. Great news for Clarke; not so great for Merchant.

Merchant's loss didn't slow her down, however; in fact, she'd soon land her best-known role as Henry VIII's fifth wife in The Tudors, and more recently starred in the supernatural TV series, Salem.

Ian McNeice

Tamzin Merchant isn't the only English actor to have been chosen for Game of Thrones' unaired pilot, only to miss the final cut: Ian McNeice also portrayed a critical early role that ultimately went to another actor.

Numerous reports claim McNeice played Illyrio Mopatis in the original pilot, and according to McNeice's résumé, the Basingstoke-born actor did, in fact, play the merchant prince of Pentos. Some have speculated that the casting change occurred due to scheduling conflicts; given McNeice's extensive filmography and penchant for playing similar roles, this is an entirely reasonable assumption.

In addition to playing the Newsreader in historical drama Rome, McNeice is most famous for portraying Harcourt in 1985's television miniseries Edge of Darkness, and also starred in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the three-part miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune. He surely would've made a great Illyrio, but the show's definitely done just fine without him.

Sam Heughan

Danny Dyer's three blown Game of Thrones auditions sound rough, but Scottish actor Sam Heughan has him beat: he claims to have auditioned for the show seven times. Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell are among the characters he lost out on, as well as some members of the Night's Watch. "I'd always get so close," he lamented. "I'd be like, "Guys, just give me a sword!""

In Heughan's defense, the competition was pretty strong; as he put it, "everyone was going in for those parts." And even though he never ended up on Game of Thrones, he credits his failed auditions for helping him land his starring role in Outlander. "That's the life of a jobbing actor," he added, saying that in retrospect, he's "quite pleased" it didn't work out with Game of Thrones.

Elizabeth Olsen

Mary Kate and Ashley of Full House (1987-1995) were nearly not the only acting Olsens to star on a show that dominated television for eight seasons. Their younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, best known for portraying Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, auditioned for the first season of Game of Thrones.  

Olsen didn't make her unsuccessful attempt to win the role of Daenerys Targaryen public until May 2019, a few days before Emilia Clarke played the role for the last time on the series finale. There's a good reason Olsen never mentioned it — she put it out of her head because it went so poorly. "When I first started working, I just auditioned for everything, because I like auditioning. And I auditioned for Khaleesi. I forgot that," Olsen told Vulture. "It was the most awkward audition I'd ever had." Her audition piece: Daenerys' monologue from the end of season one. "After she just burned. And she's making this speech to thousands of people about how she's their queen." Olsen actually read the speech twice, because producers weren't sure if the character should or should not speak with a British accent. "Anytime someone says, 'Bad audition story.' That's one I remember."