Game Of Thrones: Why Did The Mountain Change Actors? (Twice)
2024/02/07

ADVERTISEMENT

Despite being a character who clearly stood out, recast the Mountain actor twice. The Mountain, whose real name is Gregor Clegane, appeared in all but one season of the HBO series. ' strongest character, Gregor Clegane received the Mountain nickname due to his intimidating size and strength. The Mountain grew into a notable character in the series thanks to his brutality and several memorable scenes. However, given his smaller role earlier in the show, fans might not have noticed the character was played by three different actors.

Several in the series, but none more than the Mountain. Gregor Clegane was first introduced as a massive yet unimportant henchman to Tywin Lannister who was strong enough to cut off a horse's head with a single swing of his sword.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Mountain's most memorable scene came later on during his duel with Oberyn Martell which saw him crush the arrogant prince's skull with his bare hands. However, all of these moments were brought to life by three different actors playing the Mountain.

The Mountain: Game Of Thrones' 3 Actors

When it came to casting the Mountain, took full advantage of how the character rarely speaks, which helps make the casting changes less jarring for viewers. The Mountain was first played by actor and wrestler Conan Stevens in

ADVERTISEMENT

. He actually lobbied for a role in the show and auditioned for Khal Drogo before he won the part of Gregor. The actor appeared in two episodes, but he was later recast ahead of season 2 because of scheduling conflicts. After , Stevens was cast as an orc king in the divisive film series.

Ian Whyte () took over the Mountain character in season 2. He also reprised his role as a White Walker (which he initially played in the show's debut season). Whyte has stated that it was difficult to separate his emotions while playing Gregor due to how brutally the character was portrayed on-screen. Following his stint as the Mountain,

ADVERTISEMENT

retained Whyte who went on to play Dongo, a giant in the wildling army, and Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, a wight giant.

Icelandic strongman and actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson took over the role of the Mountain when the character made his return in season 4. Despite multiple recastings, it is Björnsson's face that most fans remember when referring to the Mountain. He portrayed Gregor during the character's most memorable scenes: Björnsson's Gregor crushed Oberyn's skull, stood by Cersei as a loyal guard, and the highly anticipated fight in the finale which claimed both their lives.

Who Was The Best Mountain Actor In Game Of Thrones?

Among the Mountain actors, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson was given the character's most iconic moments.

ADVERTISEMENT

Conan Stevens did provide a bombastic introduction to the character, displaying who the man was in his entirety when he cut the head off of his own horse and jousted with Loras Tyrell. However, the wrestler only got two episodes on the show and therefore wasn't given the time to fully flesh out the Mountain. Ian Whyte spent a lot of time in the world, playing the Mountain, a White Walker, Wun Wun, and Dongo. However, he got three episodes as the Mountain early on in the series, and his difference in appearance was notable when held up to Conan Stevens.

Björnsson, however, had the benefit of playing the character for the longest period.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Icelandic strongman first joined the show with the season 4 episode "Mockingbird," ending his 17-episode run with the season 7 episode "The Bells." He was also the only actor who got to perform an arc for the character, albeit a gruesome one.

Björnsson played the role only once before his big episode against Oberyn, then disappeared for nearly a whole season as Qyburn experimented on the severely poisoned Clegane. Seeing the Mountain return as a zombie really cemented the character as the scariest in the series. Though he didn't speak and was often covered in armor, Björnsson brought a presence to the character that was truly frightening and established the actor in people's minds as the true Mountain as the bruising figure became more involved in the story.

ADVERTISEMENT

House Of The Dragon Has An Equivalent To The Mountain

prequel spinoff wouldn't be complete without its own version of the Mountain: Ser Harwin "Breakbones" Strong, who was played by actor Ryan Corr. Set around 200 years before the events in , the allows for a deeper look into the past. The eldest son of former Master of Laws Lyonel Strong, Ser Harwin was not only the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms but is also the heir to Harrenhal. As Tywin Lannister once explained in Harrenhall's stones were melted to the ground by the flames of Balerion the Black Dread, the dragon Aegon the Conqueror rode during the War of Conquest.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cerseialso directly references House Strong when she proudly refers to the Mountain as "Ser Robert Strong" after Qyburn succeeded at reanimating Gregor's corpse. Even before theTargaryen Civil War, Harwin Strong died with his father Lyonel in a fire at Harrenhal caused by his brother, Larys Strong. Indeed, Harwin's reputation as Westeros' strongest warrior and his death at his brother's hands echoes the fate of the Mountain in . Though Harwin is crucial to the plot of , his brief appearances meant that he didn't need to be recast like Gregor Clegane.

What Did The Show Change About The Mountain?

ADVERTISEMENT

Not only didMountain actor change twice, the onscreen portrayal of the brute also has notable differences when compared to Gregor Clegane in the books. For instance, the Mountain in the books constantly complained about migraines, and as a result became addicted to milk of the poppy, which the show never tackled. Most notably, the books described in detail how the Mountain's raiding parties during the War of the Five Kings made him a menace in the Riverlands, which in the series was confined to a scene where Ned Stark gets briefed about the situation.

The Mountain even repeatedly killed the Lord of Light priest Beric Dondarrion in the books.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, despite omitting what would've been interesting scenes and arcs for Gregor Clegane, still succeeded at making the Mountain one of the franchise's most memorable characters.

What Filming Game Of Thrones Was Like For The Mountain Actors

Just as the Mountain actors onbrought different takes on the character, the experience was also quite different for each of these actors. Conan Stevens recalls shooting his most famous scene in season 1 of the series as the Mountain cuts off a horse's head with one swing of his sword. As easy as this feat was for the Mountain, Stevens remembers that it was trickier to film as he explains (

ADVERTISEMENT

) working with the horse,

"."

Ian Whyte's time as Gregor Clegane was quite brief and didn't get many standout moments to really make the character his own. However, even with all the characters Whyte ended up playing on , he cites the Mountain as his favorite, saying "" (). Indeed, the Mountain is one of the evilest villains on even if Whyte didn't get the chance to truly embrace his worst attributes.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson got the most screentime and the biggest moments of all the Mountain actors. This included a number of epic fight sequences, and even for someone who is as powerful as he is in real life, Björnsson admits that the filming could be difficult for those particular scenes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Björnsson reveals () that the fight with The Hound was the hardest to shoot, saying,

"."

The Mountain Actor Change Is Game Of Thrones' Best Recasting

Changing the Mountain actor so many times likely seemed like a problem at the time, but it actually resulted in best bit of recasting. With such a massive show with a large ensemble of characters coming and going, it stands to reason that there would be changes every once in a while. However, the show finally settling on Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson for the role of the Mountain role benefited from the fact that the character had not been a big part of the show up until that point.

ADVERTISEMENT

Before Björnsson took the role, the most memorable moment for the Mountain was back in season 1 when he beheaded a horse. Despite the fact that all three actors who played the role look very different, some fans might not have noticed the change simply because the Mountain was such a small presence in the series. Björnsson took the role at a time when the character was finally given things to do and he was able to deliver the most memorable moments for the Mountain, beginning with the fight with Oberyn and going all the way up to the fight with The Hound in the .

ADVERTISEMENT

AD
Article