With the long awaited return of Game of Thrones. Here are some fun facts you might not know about the show
THERE’S AN UNAIRED PILOT.
The first pilot, directed by Spotlight writer-director Tom McCarthy, was so terrible that it had to be shelved and reshot. “We got everything wrong on a very basic level with the writing of it,” show co-creator David Benioff told Variety. One of the biggest problems? None of the friends he and Weiss invited to watch the pilot “realized that Jaime and Cersei were brother and sister, which is a major, major plot point that we had somehow failed to establish.”
CATELYN STARK AND DAENERYS TARGARYEN WERE ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY OTHER ACTORS.
In the original pilot, Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen were played by Jennifer Ehle and Tamzin Merchant, respectively; by the time the show aired, they had been replaced by Michelle Fairley and Emilia Clarke. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the book series on which Game of Thrones is based, also had a cameo in the original pilot as a guest at Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s wedding.
THERE WERE A BUNCH OF OTHER CASTING CLOSE CALLS.
Ehle and Merchant weren’t Game of Thrones’s only could-have-beens. Gillian Anderson turned down an unspecified role on the show, as did The Wire’s Dominic West. (Judging by the fact that, per West, the role would have involved shooting “in Reykjavik for six months,” it was probably Mance Rayder, a role that eventually went to Ciarán Hinds.) The Hunger Games franchise’s Sam Claflin auditioned for Jon Snow and Viserys Targaryen, and Outlander star Sam Heughan auditioned for a variety of roles, including Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell, seven times.
PETER DINKLAGE THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD BEEN CANCELED.
After the pilot was picked up, David Benioff pranked Peter Dinklage by calling him and telling him the show had been canceled. It was six hours before Dinklage learned the truth.
SANSA STARK ADOPTED HER DIREWOLF IN REAL LIFE.
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, adopted Zunni, the Northern Inuit dog that played her pet direwolf on the series’ first season. “Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one,” Turner told Coventry Telegraph in 2013. “We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set. We knew Lady died and they wanted to re-home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her.”
DOTHRAKI IS A REAL LANGUAGE.
In 2014, Living Language released a conversational language course that will have you speaking like Khal Drogo in no time. The course was crafted by linguist David J. Peterson, who worked with HBO to create the Dothraki heard on the show.
SEVERAL CHARACTERS HAVE CHANGED ACTORS.
A handful of characters have been played by more than one actor over the course of the show, notably Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein in season three, Michiel Huisman in seasons four, five, and six), Tommen Baratheon (Callum Wharry in seasons one and two, Dean-Charles Chapman in seasons three through six), and his sister Myrcella (Aimee Richardson in seasons one and two, Nell Tiger Free in season five), and Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Conan Stevens in season one, Ian Whyte in season two, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in seasons four, five, and six.)
A LOT OF DEAD CHARACTERS ARE ALIVE IN THE BOOKS.
More than a handful of characters are alive in Martin’s books, but dead on the show. These include: Shireen and Stannis Baratheon, Night’s Watchmen Pyp and Grenn, Barristan Selmy, Myrcella Baratheon, and Mance Rayder.
SHOOTING THE HORSE HEART SCENE WAS AN UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE.
The horse heart Daenerys had to eat in season one was essentially a giant gummy candy—one that, per Clarke, tasted a little bit like bleach. To make the proceedings even grosser, all the fake blood made Clarke so sticky that she got stuck to a toilet.
THE STARK KIDS ARE DIFFERENT AGES IN THE SHOW THAN IN THE BOOKS.
When A Game of Thrones-the-book starts off, the Stark children are much younger than their on-screen counterparts. Bran was supposed to be seven, while the actor who played him (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was 12; Arya (played by Maisie Williams) went from nine to 13, while Sansa (Sophie Turner) went from eleven to 15 and Rickon (Art Parkinson) from three to six. In perhaps the most, ahem, stark difference, if Game of Thrones had stayed completely true to its source material, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) would have been only 15 and 14 years old, respectively.
RAMSAY SNOW ALMOST PLAYED JON SNOW
Iwan Rheon was the runner-up to play Jon Snow. The role went to Kit Harington, and Rheon went on to play Roose Bolton’s sadistic bastard son, Ramsay, instead.
IT HAS AN OFFICIAL COMPANION RAP ALBUM.
In 2014, HBO put out an official Game of Thrones-themed rap album called “Catch the Throne,” which they released for free via SoundCloud. They did it again in 2015, before the show’s fifth season (though volume two contained some heavy metal tracks). Contributors include Method Man (“The Oath”), Snoop Dogg (“Lannister’s Anthem”), Big Boi (“Mother of Dragons”), Talib Kweli (“Lord of the Light”), and Anthrax (“Soror Irrumator”).
YOU CAN VISIT KING’S LANDING IN REAL LIFE
Throughout its lengthy run on HBO, Game of Thrones has filmed on location in upwards of six separate countries: Croatia, Northern Ireland, Spain, Morocco, Malta, and Iceland. It’s in Croatia though where we have the most fascinating sets in the entire series. The town of Dubrovnik has served as the backdrop for King’s Landing since Season 1, highlighted by its iconic red-roofed buildings and an old-world aesthetic.
The town required little in the way of CGI to make it look like the medieval metropolis we see on GoT, making it the perfect locale for Westeros’ capital city. The benefits go far beyond even that too: Back when the series was first looking for a location to double as King’s Landing, Dubrovnik’s mayor sold HBO on the town by letting them film there free of charge.
Also worth noting, Dubrovnik has since served as a shooting location for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with the mayor offering Lucasfilm a similar deal as the one given to HBO for Game of Thrones.