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Why Did The Mountain Change Actors? (Twice)

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Why was the Mountain recast multiple times throughout Game of Thrones? The Mountain Game of Thrones character, whose real name is Gregor Clegane, appeared in all but one season of the HBO series. The Mountain, Game of Thrones‘ strongest character, received his nickname due to his intimidating size and strength the brutal muscle to Cersei Lannister’s sinister mind. As the Game of Thrones franchise focuses on spinoffs like House of the Dragon and the yet unnamed Jon Snow series, it’s the perfect time to look back at the characters that laid the foundations for the continued onscreen adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels.

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Ser Gregor Clegane was a deadly warrior known for his brutality and bloodthirstiness. Robb Stark and his men once found the remains of 200 Northmen and Rivermen prisoners that the Mountain personally executed. Gregor’s most memorable scene came in season 4 when he dueled Oberyn Martell in a trial by combat. Oberyn wanted to avenge his sister’s rape and death at the hands of Gregor. The Mountain confessed to the killing before crushing Oberyn’s skull with his bare hands.

Related: Game Of Thrones Cleganebowl: Why The Hound “Won” Against The Mountain

The Mountain came out victorious but was also lethally poisoned by Oberyn’s spear. Though this led to the death of the Mountain, Game of Thrones brings him back as a zombie almost entirely covered in Lannister steel. In the finale, during the moment known to fans as Cleganebowl in season 8, Sandor Clegane finally gets his revenge on his big brother when Sandor kills the Mountain. Throughout these appearances, the Mountain Game of Thrones actor has been recast multiple times. In fact, Gregor stands as the only character in Game of Thrones to be played by more than two different actors.


The Mountain: Game of Thrones’ 3 Actors

When it came to casting the Mountain, Game of Thrones 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 Game of Thrones‘ first season. 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 Game of Thrones, Stevens was cast as an orc king in the divisive The Hobbit film series.

Ian Whyte (Prometheus) took over the Mountain Game of Thrones 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, Game of Thrones 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 Game of Thrones season 4 — the last season in which George R.R. Martin actually wrote episodes. 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 (despite his decaying flesh), and finally fought his younger brother Sandor in the much-anticipated Cleganebowl. Without question, the Mountain’s Game of Thrones story arc is one of the most interesting in the series, brought to life by three different and equally imposing actors.


Related: Game Of Thrones: How Do Seasons In Westeros Actually Work?

Who Was The Best Mountain?

The Mountain Game of Thrones actor who had arguably the best moments on the show was Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. The Icelandic strongman first joined the show with the Game of Thrones season 4 episode “Mockingbird,” ending his 17-episode run with the season 7 episode “The Bells,” which saw an epic battle unfold between the Clegane brothers. 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 at a joust. 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 GOT 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. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, however, got to dominate some of the best Mountain scenes, most notably crushing Oberyn’s head in an astounding turn of events during “The Mountain and the Viper.” It was at this point he was poisoned and resurrected into something barely human. While prosthetics did most of the work after this point when it came to the character looking freakishly intimidating, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson brought a presence to the character that was truly frightening and cemented the actor in people’s minds as the true Mountain as the bruising figure became more involved in the story.

House of the Dragon Has An Equivalent To The Mountain

Game of Thrones prequel spinoff House of the Dragon wouldn’t be complete without its own version of the Mountain: Ser Harwin “Breakbones” Strong, who is played by actor Ryan Corr. Set around 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones, the timeline of House of the Dragon allows for a deeper look into the past. Apart from the story of the Targaryen Civil War, this will involve Westeros’ other noble houses, such as House Strong. The eldest son of Master of Laws Lyonel Strong, Ryan Corr’s Ser Harwin “Breakbones” Strong is not only the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms but is also the heir to Harrenhal. As Tywin Lannister once explained in Game of Thrones, 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. Cersei also directly references House Strong when she proudly refers to the Mountain as “Ser Robert Strong” after Qyburn succeeds at reanimating Gregor’s corpse.


In Game of ThronesTargaryen Civil War, Harwin Strong sided with the Blacks and was loyal to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. Harwin is also described in the books as a massive man who is formidable in battle. Harwin and Rhaenyra were rumored to have shared a bed before the Princess was wed to Ser Laenor Velaryon. Apart from taking the Mountain’s place as the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms, Harwin “Breakbones” Strong will likely be an even more dynamic character with more actual lines, as Harwin’s story is tied to Rhaenyra Targaryen as well as the final fates of House Strong and Harrenhal.

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