It is the TV show that has perhaps prompted more office discussions, theories, reactions and cultural changes than any other that has gone before it. That’s right, we’re talking about the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones.
The American fantasy drama was created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, adapted from the hugely successful book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R Martin.
The show is mostly filmed in Belfast and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, along with Croatia, Spain and Iceland. The series premiered on HBO in the Uniter States on 17th April 2011. Since then, it has snowballed into a cultural phenomenon, loved by Presidents and Royalty and illegally downloaded more than any other show.
Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, Game of Thrones has several plot lines and a large ensemble cast but centres on three primary story arcs.
The first story arc centers on the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms and follows a web of alliances and conflicts among the dynastic noble families either vying to claim the throne or fighting for independence from the throne.
The second story arc focuses on the last descendant of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty, exiled and plotting a return to the throne.
The third story arc centres on the longstanding brotherhood charged with defending the realm against the ancient threats of the fierce peoples and legendary creatures that lie far north, and an impending winter that threatens the realm.
It truly is an epic piece of work and its popularity only continues to grow.
It’s seventh and penultimate season aired last year, with the show’s climactic finale set for 2019. With all this time to kill before finding out who will eventually snatch the throne, why don’t you join us in learning 30 truly fascinating things about the seven seasons so far. Scroll to the end to discover the biggest divergences from page to screen…they have made quite a few shocking changes!
1. Some Cast Members Auditioned For Different Roles
Iwan Rheon, the actor who plays the loathsome and utterly evil Ramsay Bolton, had previously auditioned for a different role in the show. The part was none other than Jon Snow. In an interview, Rheon said that it was between himself and Kit Harrington before the showrunners decided that Harrington was to be Ned Stark’s bastard.
2. Sophie Turner Adopted Her Direwolf
Very early on in the show’s history (we’re talking season one,) Sansa Stark’s direwolf is executed by her father after Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria, attacked the future king, Joffrey Baratheon.
I know, we think this is totally unfair too! This meant that the dog who played the direwolf was out of a job. As such, Sophie Turner (who plays Sansa) adopted her.
3. Cast Members Have Changed Roles
Back in the early days, Tommen Baratheon, the youngest son of Robert Baratheon *cough* Jaime Lannister *cough* was played by a kid named Callum Wharry. In season three, an actor called Dean-Charles Chapman played Tommen’s cousin Martyn Lannister. Unfortunately, Dean-Charles Chapman only got a couple of scenes before being stabbed to death by Lord Karstark.
Well, the actor clearly made an impact because in season four, Chapman returned as Tommen Baratheon, replacing Wharry in the role. Confusing right? But then again, the Lannister family tree is rather confusing.
4. The First Pilot Episode Was A Bit Of A Failure
As with all major new TV productions, a pilot episode was filmed…meaning the first episode, one that doesn’t air so that it can be tweaked.
Although this one needed a little more than tweaking.
After watching the pilot, one of the show runners, Benioff said in an interview, “and I had this yellow legal pad, and I just remembered writing in all caps, ‘MASSIVE PROBLEM.’
To rectify the problem, several actors were recast.
Catelyn Stark was originally played by Jennifer Ehle before being replaced by Michelle Fairley (great shout!) Daenerys Targaryen was played by Tamzin Merchant (now Emilia Clarke.)
They also apparently filmed an elaborate death scene for Jon Arryn which never made it into the final version of the episode. We kind of wish that had stayed in.
5. George R.R Martin Had A Cameo In The Unaired Pilot
Also in the unaired pilot, George R.R Martin played a noble Pentoshi lord who attended the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen to Dothraki horse-lord, Khal Drogo.
The cameo didn’t make it into the final cut of the first episode.
6. That’s A Real Stag Charles Dance Is Skinning
When we first meet Tywin Lannister, portrayed by the legendary Charles Dance, he is seen skinning a stag. This stag acts as a metaphor, as the sigil for house Baratheon is a stag.
This was actually a real dead stag and Charles Dance was really skinning it. I guess some props are best when they’re real.
7. Game Of Thrones Has An Impressive Number Of Harry Potter Alumni…
To date, Game of Thrones has included ten actors who have also appeared in the Harry Potter franchise.
These are: Natalia Tena (Osha/Tonks); David Bradley (Lord Walder Frey/Argus Filch)…
Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle/Aragog); Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark/Mrs Granger); Ciarán Hinds (Mance Rayder/Aberforth Dumbledore); Ian Whyte (Gregor Clegane/Wun Wun)…
Ralph Ineson (Dagmer Cleftjaw/Amycus Carrow); Edward Tudor-Pole (guy giving a speech in King’s Landing about how terrible the Lannisters are in Season 2/Mr Borgin); Bronson Webb (Will, the guy whose head Ned Stark cut off in the pilot/Pike); and Jim Broadbent (Archmaester Marwyn in Oldtown/Horace Slughorn).
We guess that both things are pretty similar…magic…your favourite characters being killed off…castles. To be honest, that’s probably about it to be fair.
Can you think of anything else?
8…And Star Wars Isn’t Far Behind
Eight Game of Thrones actors also appeared in Star Wars, The Force Awakens. These are: Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), pictured, Max von Sydow (Three-Eyed Raven), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed), Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel), Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand), Emun Elliott (Marillion), Mark Stanley (Grenn) and Hannah John-Kamen (Ornela).
9. George R.R Martin Wrote Some Characters With Actors Already In Mind
The writer behind the epic “Song of Ice and Fire” series, George R.R. Martin, has said that he imagined Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister even before the show was thought about.
When it came to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to cast the role, no other actor was considered for the part. We can’t imagine anyone else taking on the sharp-tongued Lannister.
10. The Theme Song Was Nearly Very Different
It is said that co-creator of the series, David Benioff, originally wanted “The Rains of Castamere” to be the theme song for the show.
The song is one that is included in the books and tells of the destruction of House Reyne by Tywin Lannister after the house rebelled against the Lannisters.
The other co-creator, D.B. Weiss is said to have talked him out of it (and thank the Seven, because the theme tune is perhaps one of the most iconic of all time.)
Nonetheless, “The Rains of Castamere” can be heard dozens of times in the series, including versions by The National and Icelandinc rockers Sigur Ros.
Whenever it is heard in the show, you can be sure that bad things are about to happen.
The song is never a good omen, as it was played right before the Starks get slaughtered at the red wedding.
11. The Show Has Featured Many Other Music Cameos
As well as Sigur Ros, many other musicians have appeared in cameo roles throughout the seven seasons. In “The Rains of Castamere,” Coldplay drummer Will Champion played one of the musicians at the Red Wedding who helps slaughter Robb Stark’s men.
In “Hardhome,” the heavy metal band Mastodon can be seen playing wildlings who are killed by the White Walkers and later resurrected as wights. And Ed Sheeran popped up in Season 7 as a musically inclined Lannister soldier.
12. Ramsay’s Death Was Going To Be Much More Gruesome
It was perhaps the death that every ‘Thrones fan was looking forwards to the most, even more than (dare I say it,) Joffrey Baratheon’s. Yes, we’re talking about the grizzly demise of Ramsay Bolton.
After Jon Snow recaptures Winterfell following ‘The Battle of the Bastards,’ Sansa gives Ramsay a piece of his own medicine by letting his own hounds rip him to shreds.
Originally, we were to see the hounds tear off Ramsay’s jaw and the VFX team created the sequence.
However, when they saw it, they decided that it was too gruesome even for ‘Thrones’ standard and decided not to show it.
Personally, I don’t think anyone would have minded if they kept it in. That bastard (literally) got what he deserved.
13. The Night’s Watch Have IKEA To Thank For Keeping Warm
It’s pretty cold up north in Westeros. In fact, the Night’s Watch live against a massive wall of ice, so we imagine it’s pretty chilly. To keep warm, members of the Night’s Watch wear furs. So what did the costume department use to create these furs?
That’s right, rugs from IKEA! Costume designer, Michele Clapton, told an an audience at the Los Angeles Getty Museum, the rugs were cut and shaved, but were also waxed and frosted to make them look as authentic as possible.
14. Some Fans Have Correctly Guessed The Ending
According to its author, George R.R. Martin, some fans have correctly predicted how Game of Thrones will end. This isn’t much help though, because there must be a thousand different theories on how the series will wrap up and who will end up on the all important throne.
What are your guesses? Personally, I think it will be Tyrion and Sansa…providing they survive the final few episodes.
15. The Crew Go To Extreme Lengths To Prevent Spoilers
To confuse the internet and hoodwink leakers, who like to spoil things before episodes are aired, several fake scenes were filmed during the production of season seven.
Kit Harington said in an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that he filmed three different fake scenes specifically at about five hours each, specifically when the cast and crew knew the paparazzi were shooting photos of the production.
This is not the first time the production has done this.
For season six, Sibel Kekelli’s, who played the long-dead lover of Tyrion Lannister, popped up on set in full costume, prompting fans to speculate that she would appear in some sort of vision or otherwise.
She was never seen in the season and fans speculate that she was there to throw leakers off the scent.
16. Conleth Hill (Varys) Isn’t The Only One In His Family Working on ‘Thrones
His brother, Roland Hill, is behind many of the amazing sound effects for the series. Roland has actually won three Emmys for his work as a production sound mixer on the show. Talking of family affairs, Lily Allen once jokingly said that she was offered the role of Theon Greyjoy’s sister, played by her real-life brother Alfie Allen.
Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea, as in one of the first scenes of the siblings together, Theon doesn’t realise Yara is his sister and well…get’s a little hands on shall we say.
17. The Most Expensive Death Might Not Be One That You Think
There have been many ways people have died over the seven seasons of Game of Thrones.
People have perished from molten gold (R.I.P Viserys,) their head being squeezed apart (R.I.P Oberyn) and from poisoned wine (stuff you Joffrey.) But the most expensive death on the show prior to season seven was when Arya kills Meryn Trant in a Braavosi brother.
Arya had Meryn on her ‘kill list’ ever since season one when he was responsible for killing (or so we think, it was never confirmed) her mentor, Syrio Forel. Arya gave him an utterly satisfying death by gauging his eyes out, something that required a lot of CGI to bring to the screen.
18. You Can Actually Learn Dothraki
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.
It seems Danny picked up the language pretty quickly, as well as High Valyrian and the common tongue.
19. Daenerys and Viserys Had Different Coloured Eyes In The Pilot
In the books, the Targaryen’s are renowned for having silver hair and violet eyes (a defect possibly due to all the inbreeding in the family.) In the pilot, both Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Harry Lloyd (Viserys) wore purple contact lenses.
However, Benioff and Weiss decided they negatively impacted the actors’ ability to portray emotion.
20. Some Characters Are Still Alive In The Book
In the books, there are several characters who are still alive that have met an untimely demise on the show.
These include Shireen, Selyse and Stannis Baratheon, Jojen Reed, Barristan Selmy, Myrcella Baratheon and Mance Rader! It seems like Benioff and Weiss are even more murderous than George R.R. Martin himself.
21. Horse Hearts Aren’t Nice To Eat
In season one, as a sort of initiation into the Dothraki world, Daenerys must eat a horse’s heart, freshly cut out of a horse. For filming, this heart was essentially a giant gummy candy that tasted a little bit like bleach.
To make things worse, all the fake blood that it produces made Clarke so sticky that she got stuck to a toilet.
22. Benioff and Weiss Had To Answer An Important Question For George R.R. Martin To Give Him Their Blessing
Before giving Benioff and Weiss his blessing to helm the TV series, George R.R Martin asked them to answer a question that fans have been speculating about from the very beginning: who is Jon Snow’s mother? “It was very much like a test question,” Benioff admitted. “Basically, it was like: ‘Guess. I want your guess to be intelligent and I want it to be based in the facts of the world,’” Weiss added. “We had already discussed it.
We’d had like a two-hour conversation about it. It was pretty well-trammeled territory for us.” Of course, this was all revealed during season seven so we won’t reveal the answer here. We can only assume that the pair got it right from the offset.
23. It Is The Most Pirated Show Ever
According to TorrentFreak, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show ever. It was the most pirated in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2015 it had more than twice the illegal downloads of the second most pirated show, The Walking Dead.
We guess a lot of people just love ‘Thrones but don’t have access to it. Who can blame a guy?
24. There’s A Companion Rap Album
Back in 2014, HBO released an official Game of Thrones-themed rap album called “Catch the Throne.” They did it again in 2015 before the release of season five, (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”).
25. What Do You Do When You Find Yourself Decapitated?
During a Reddit AMA, Sean Bean, who played head of the Stark household, Ned Stark, said that whilst on-set, he kicked the model of his character’s decapitated head around “like a football.”
Just imagine what it must feel like kicking your own head about. Talking of decapitated heads, there’s another prominent one in the show…
26. HBO Had To Apologise About A Particular Severed Head
In season one, in one particular scene, several heads can be seen mounted on spikes. One of these heads is a replica of George W. Bush, former American President. HBO had to come out and apologise for this inclusion, saying; “We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste.”
“We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologised immediately for this inadvertent, careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production.” What’s the fuss? I’d be honoured to have my severed head in Game of Thrones.
27. Game Of Throne Names Are Crossing Over Into Real Life
In 2012, over 150 babies were named Khaleesi and ‘Arya’ is the fastest-growing baby name in America. ‘Khaleesi,’ means the wife of a Dothraki horse lord.
We’re not sure if these mothers are aware of what being a Khaleesi entails. If they did, they might think twice about naming their little baby daughter after one.
28. Several Famous Greats Have Relatives On The Show
In Game Of Thrones, Robb Stark’s wife, Talisa Stark, is played by relative of Charlie Chaplin, Oona Chaplin. Viserys Targaryen is played by the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, Harry Lloyd.
29. Peter Dinklage Is Actually Vegetarian
All the meat that you see Tyrion Lannister eating on the show is fake.
30. Many of The Cast Haven’t Read The Books
To avoid it potentially affecting their acting, and from ruining future plot-points, many actors did not read the books. One of these actors included Charles Dance, who plays Tywin Lannister. In an interview, the actor said… “I haven’t read the books. We’re filming adaptations by David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss].
We’re not filming the books. And it’s counterproductive sometimes for actors to go back to the book, because they then tend to come on set and say, ‘Why aren’t we doing this scene? I’ve got this wonderful line here, and I want it in.’ That’s not what we’re about.”
And for those who are up-to-date with the show, here are the five biggest differences from the books…
1. Missandei And Greyworm’s Relationship
This is a completely fabricated plot for the sake of the show. In the books, Missandei is only ten years old. Daenerys refers to Missandei as her “little scribe,” because the girl is so small.
2. Mance Rayder’s Big Storyline
In the show, Stannis Baratheon tells Mance to either bend the knee to him or die. Mance refuses and so is burned at the steak before being put out of his misery by an arrow of Jon Snow’s. This plays out very similar in the books, but what happens after is completely different.
In the books, Melisandre does some red-priestess magic to switch Mance Rayder and the Lord of Bones’ (aka Rattleshirt’s) body. Rattleshirt is burned (looking like Mance) whilst Mance goes on a mission to Winterfell disguised as a singer.
In the letter that Jon Snow receives from Ramsay, he says that he has Mance Rayder locked up in a cage to provoke Jon into war. Many believe this letter was sent by Stannis to try and convince Jon to help him take Winterfell.
3. Sansa Doesn’t Marry Ramsay
In the show, Sansa marries Ramsay Bolton as a ploy of Littlefinger’s in order to get Winterfell back in the hands of a Stark. In the books, it doesn’t plan out like this at all. Sansa’s friend, Jeyne Poole, is told to pretend to be Arya and marry Ramsay to appease those who are still loyal to the Starks and oppose the Boltons. The Boltons know that Poole isn’t really Arya, but she fools everyone else. Jeyne Poole flees Winterfel and seeks refuge at Castle Black with the Night’s Watch.
In the books, Sansa is still safe in the Vale whilst all this is going on.
4. The ‘Other’ Targaryen
In the book and in the show, it is believed that both children of Rhaegar Targaryen were killed by The Mountain after Tywin Lannister sacked Kings Landing. However, it is revealed in the book that one of his children, Aegon, was secretly smuggled out and has been trained up to eventually be king. He is being looked after by a character named Jon Connington. In the books, we meet these characters as Varys ships Tyrion off with them to go and meet Daenerys. However, Connington gets greyscale whilst pulling Tyrion out of the waters of the river (just like Jorah did in season five.) In the show, this entire storyline is given to Jorah.
In the show, Dorne is but a mere shadow of what it is in the books. To cut a long story short, in the show, just as in the books, Cersei’s youngest daughter, Myrcella, is taken off to Dorne to be married to Tristan Martell, son of Doran Martell (leader of Dorne.) Jaime goes on a rescue mission along with Bronn to get Myrcella back after The Mountain kills Oberyn Martell in combat. They are thwarted, but Doran agrees to send Myrcella back to Dorne. On the ship back, Myrcella dies from being poisoned by Oberyn’s daughters. They later go on to kill Doran and take over Dorne to seek revenge on the Lannisters.
In the books, things are totally different. Doran’s daughter, Princess Arianne, attempts to kidnap Myrcella to crown her as the rightful Queen of Westeros. Her plan is thwarted and her, along with Oberyn’s daughters, are imprisoned. Doran explains that he has a bigger plan in the works to overthrow the Lannisters. He has sent his son, Quentyn Martell, to try and join forces with Daenerys. Unfortunately for Quentyn, he gets a little too close to her dragons and meets a fiery demise.
There are plenty of other changes from book to screen, too many to list them all on here. If you’d like to find out, go and get yourself a copy of the books and indulge yourself in ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’