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15 actors who were almost cast in Game of Thrones

Like all good shows, the best thing about Game of Thrones is its characters. As much as the writing establishes their characteristics, both from the script and the books they're adapted from, it's the actors whose personality brings the characters to life.

Getting a shot at playing a random character in a fantasy series in 2011 isn't necessarily the best career choice for an actor. No one knew the show would grow to be the biggest thing on television, so even those who came close to being cast might not have been too bothered about losing the role to someone else. They must be kicking themselves by now...

1. Dominic West

West, who has had leading roles in both The Wire and Showtime's The Affair, was initially offered the role of Mance Rayder, the king beyond the wall. He turned it down as he wasn't happy about filming in Reykjavik, Iceland, where many of the scenes north of the wall were shot. "I've got four kids," he explained, "and at the moment, I'm reluctant to be away from home for a long time".

alt Credit: Showtime

2. Jennifer Ehle

The original un-aired pilot for the show was re-written, re-cast and re-shot, meaning some actors and actresses never made it back to the set. The star of Pride and Prejudice and Zero Dark Thirty was one of these casualties, originally cast as Catelyn Stark, before being replaced by Michelle Fairley.

Jennifer Ehle Credit: Universal Pictures

3. Gillian Anderson

Anderson turned down both Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey because she didn't want to spend that much time away from her family. "My 18-year-old cannot believe I would turn down Game of Thrones or Downton - things she loves to watch", she said. It hasn't been confirmed, but it has been rumoured that she was up for the role of Cersei.

Gillian Anderson Credit: Getty

4. Tamzin Merchant

Known for her appearances in TV shows The Tudors and Salem, Merchant was originally cast as Daenerys in the original pilot before Emilia Clarke took on the role.

Tamzin Merchant Credit: BBC

5. Sam Heughan

Heughan auditioned for both Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon seven times, but the roles eventually went to Finn Jones and Gethin Anthony respectively.

Sam Heughan Credit: Sony Pictures

6. Lily Allen

Lily's real-life brother Alfie Allen plays Theon Greyjoy, so it was a good shout to cast her as Theon's sister Yara. But after reading the scene where Theon feels Yara up on horseback, not knowing that she's his estranged sister, she felt too uncomfortable to do it. Conversely, Alfie later said that this wasn't true and Gemma Whalen was the first choice.

7. Izzy Meikle-Small

This actress was neck-and-neck with Sophie Turner for the role of Sansa Stark, making it to the final two.

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8. Danny Dyer

The Eastenders actor claims he has been rejected after trying out for a number of roles on the series, including the Night's Watchmen Pyper.

Danny Dyer Credit: Getty

9. Sam Claflin

The Hunger Games star has said he tried out for the parts of both Jon Snow and Daenery's brother Viserys. Funnily enough, he did end up starring alongside Emilia Clarke in Me Before You.

Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke Credit: Warner Bros.

10. Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali has spoken about how he failed his audition for the role of Quarth merchant Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who is later locked inside a vault by Daenerys.

mahershala ali Credit: Netflix

11. Jared Harris

Jared Harris went for the role of the High Sparrow in season 6, but lost it to Jonathan Pryce.

Jared Harris Credit: 20th Century Fox

12. Brian Cox

"Stupidly, I turned it down in the early days because they didn't pay enough money," the actor admitted, "Now they have more money. And I was silly. I was silly, it was silly, because I'm a complete addict now." He says that he would happily join the show if he were asked again.

Brian Cox Credit: Momentum Pictures

13. Ray Stevenson

"I would rather have been [cast] at the beginning," he explained. "I think it's wonderful, but it's not something I would come into at this point. I don't know if I would add anything to it at this stage … I would rather have been involved in the growth of a show".

Ray Stevenson Credit: Lionsgate

14. Charlie Hunnam

“I would love to do a Game of Thrones cameo. They offered me a cameo on that show a little while ago but I was shooting something else so I wasn’t able to do it but maybe in the future, who knows?” Charlie told the Sun Online.

Charlie Hunnam Credit: FX Productions

15. Mark Strong

The actor, who starred in Kingsman and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was reportedly up for the role of Stannis Baratheon, but backed out to star in the show Low Winter Sun.

Mark Strong Credit: 20th Century Fox

Frankly, anyone who chose not to appear on Game of Thrones must be pretty gutted right now, knowing that they could have had a spot on one of the most popular shows of all-time. And those who simply didn't make the cut mustn't feel too good either. Lucky enough, it seems like they are all doing pretty well regardless of the missed opportunity. Not to mention loads of celebrities have made sneaky cameos in the show anyway.