Game of Thrones premiered in 2011 to rave reviews and wide-spread popular success. In the years which followed, the fantasy series has demonstrated solid acting, entertaining writing and revolutionary visual effects. Combining all these elements together, Game of Thrones is one of the show’s which continually stands on the forefront of the rapidly evolving television landscape.
In each installment of the Recasting Couch, a different contemporary film or television classic is recast with the stars of the golden age of Hollywood. Who would you cast in a golden age Game of Thrones?
Actor Lew Ayres broke out in Hollywood just as silent cinema transitioned to “talking” pictures. While he made his screen debut in 1929, Ayres’ star turn came in 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. He top lined a number of drama and romance pictures over the next few years before landing his career defining role as Dr. James Kildare in the long-running Dr. Kildare series. The series spanned 4 years and saw Ayres top lining 4 films. Ayres career struggled during the second World War when the actor declared himself a contentious objector. However, once the war ended Ayres continued working steadily into the 1990s. Ayres passed away in 1996.
Throughout not only his professional life, but also his personal life, Lew Ayres conjured the image a reluctant warrior. His first film role placed him in the horrors of World War I. In his choice to declare himself a contentious objector during World War II and choosing to serve as a medic, he further embodies the conflict inside Jon Snow. Ayres seems haunted, even scarred by battle. Finding himself continually haunted by the ongoing war, the weight of his responsibilities weighs heavy on Jon’s shoulders. He’s not the King of the North because he wants to be, he has to be.
Actor Charles Laughton hit his stride as an actor in the early 1930s after making his screen debut at the close of the silent film era. The actor’s big break came in 1932 when he played Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls. The movie is one of a number of film versions of the H.G. Wells classic, Island of Dr. Moreau. From that point, Laughton worked steadily for the next thirty years. The versatile and classically trained Laughton moved through genres easily, having no fear at playing in period pictures like Les Miserables and Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1939, the actor starred as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Aside from Lon Chaney’s take on the character in 1923, Laughton’s take is seen as one of the best remembered. Laughton passed away in 1962 at the age of 63.
After the premature death of horror legend Lon Chaney in 1930, Laughton is one of the actors to fill his large and imposing shoes. When thinking about Laughton as Tyrion Lannister, two things immediately jump to mind. First Tyrion’s description in the novels. In the classic Hollywood era the described deformities would be achieved with make-up, and Laughton seems like the most successful choice.
Actress Myrna Loy broke out in Hollywood during the silent era. She worked extensively, over the decade which followed. She cut her teeth in a variety of roles and genres, as she gradually moved up the movie industry pecking order. In 1934, Loy landed what was perhaps her biggest starring role in Manhattan Melodrama. The role partnered her with screen legend Clark Gable, as well as William Powell. The movie is known as her first pairing with Powell, who she would move on to work extensively with over the next two decades.
However, Loy is perhaps best known for her role as Nora Charles in the long-running Thin Man series. It is this role which typifies her star persona. She typically played society women. Yet, Loy always stood out as independent and self-sufficient. She possessed a stellar talent for tricky dialogue. As a result, she seemed at her best in a role where she could verbally spar with her male lead (like The Thin Man). Even as her career continued develop, she never was just the female lead. Loy stood as an equal to whichever actor she appeared alongside.
On the surface, Myrna Loy brought a very aristocratic look to the screen. As a result, she portrayed a number of wealthy, upper-class women. However, she also brings the versatility to inject additional layers to her characters. Sometimes it’s reliability, sometimes an added sympathy. When considering the skill she brings as an actress, Myrna Loy would absolutely thrive in an interesting role like Cersei Lannister.
Dashing Australian actor Errol Flynn hit Hollywood fast and hard. It was within the first two years of his career that he landed his first starring role in 1935’s Captain Blood. Before long, Flynn cemented himself as a go-to action hero in 1930s Hollywood. He seemed quite comfortable as swashbucklers like Captain Blood, or the arrow wielding Robin Hood. He even played General Custer in, They Died With Their Boots On. Flynn survived scandal, and continued to work steadily throughout the next two decades. He died in 1959 at the age of 50.
Errol Flynn seems the only choice to play Jaime Lannister. He established himself early in the sound era as Hollywood’s go-to action star. When combining Flynn’s matinee idol good looks with his unparraled skills as an action/swashbuckling star, he seems like the best choice to play Jaime Lannister.
Actress Carole Lombard began working in Hollywood in the early days of silent cinema. Her first screen appearance comes in a 1921 drama entitled A Perfect Crime. Her career simmered for a bit before truly catching fire during the 1930s. During the decade, Lombard stood out as a versatile leading lady, and a talented comedienne. Her roles in films like To Be Or Not To Be and My Man Godfrey truly show the talented actress at her peak. Her name today is perhaps best remembered for her marriage to Clark Gable, and her untimely death. Lombard died in 1942 when the plane she was riding in crashed while returning from a war bond fundraiser. The actress was 33.
During certain years in Hollywood, you wouldn’t throw a rock without hitting a platinum blonde. As such, there are no shortage of options to play the warrior queen. Despite her incredibly short career, Lombard tackled a wide variety of roles. While she is perhaps best known for her comedic parts, she jumped into dramas and action films with relative ease. As such, she’s a strong candidate for the strong and versatile character.
The actress above is best known to audiences a few years younger. Shirley Temple made her screen debut in 1932 at the tender age of four years old. She spent her childhood on screen, and played a big part in raising American morale during the depths of The Great Depression. Her roles in films like Heidi, Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel are iconic parts of film history. As she grew into a young woman, Temple continued to act. She also largely escaped the drama typical of aging child stars. She continued to appear on screen deep into the 1940s in films like: Since You Went Away and Fort Apache. After her retirement from acting, she segued into politics. Over a number of years she served as the U.S. Ambassador to a number of nations, including Ghana. Temple died in 2014 at the age of 85.
Sansa Stark… you either love her or you hate her. After enjoying immense popularity as the precocious young child star during the Great Depression, Temple came of age right before our eyes. The struggles of a much loved child star growing into a teenager mirrors Sansa’s struggles. The treasured eldest daughter of a wealthy family, she begins the series destined to make a good match with a handsome king. However, the rug is quickly pulled out from her, and she finds herself struggling to regain her footing. The complexities of this character are ones which Temple could undoubtedly sink her teeth into.
Actress Margaret O’Brien is another youngster who grew up on movie screens. She made her film debut in an uncredited role in Babes On Broadway at the age of 4. By the middle of the 1940s, O’Brien was a common sight on screen, appearing in well-remembered films like Jane Eyre and Meet Me in St. Louis. Like Temple, she continued working deep into her teen years, before eventually shifting to television. O’Brien is still active in the industry today. She turned 80 in January.
O’Brien came into the public eye as a precocious child actor. The young performer injected an interesting complexity into her roles, perhaps best seen in the popular musical Meet Me in St. Louis. In O’Brien’s hands, Tootie transformed from merely the youngest child of the Smith family, to arguably one of the most memorable characters in the classic film. O’Brien’s skill as an actress, and her ability to inject a unique quality to her characters makes her ideal to play Arya.
Brienne of Tarth
Actress Katherine Hepburn made her screen debut in 1932. She rose to stardom (much like Lombard) in the very dialogue heavy comedies popular in the 1930s. Her star took off quickly, and she began landing roles within a year of her screen debut. Hepburn’s career is stuff of legend. By the 1940s, she found herself a solid A-lister. By the 1960s, she was an acting legend. She is still remembered today for her roles in films like: The African Queen, The Philadelphia Story and On Golden Pond. Hepburn passed away in 2003 at the age of 96.
This choice speaks for itself. Hepburn injected a fierce and fiery independence into even her earliest roles. When leading ladies were clad in glamorous and frilly gowns, Hepburn seemed equally at ease in slacks. She thrived in roles like Jo March in the 1933 version of Little Women. Katherine Hepburn was never just another leading lady. Even in the 1930s, she stood for a different version of feminity. As such, she seems the perfect candidate to play the tough and independent Brienne of Tarth.
Robert Montgomery is a name tragically under remembered by all but those deeply rooted in the film community. Montgomery made his screen debut just as the silent film gave way to the “talking” pictures. His rise to fame turned out to be quick, and by 1930 the dashing leading man landed his first staring roles in films like The Big House and The Divorcee. He worked at a break-neck pace throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He showed definite versatility, jumping between the screwball comedies of the 1930s, romance pictures and later to film noir. Montgomery is probably best known for his role in the under-appreciated film noir experiment, Lady in the Lake. Montgomery retired from acting in 1960. He passed away in 1981 at the age of 77.
Robert Montgomery came to prominence in the dialogue heavy films of the 1930s. While he began as a romantic male lead, his quick career evolution into film noir establishes him as the perfect candidate to play the shifty and villainous Littlefinger. Looking at the actor, Montgomery gives brings a fast-talking sense of intelligence to his roles which would lend itself perfectly to the sleazy, self-serving character.
Actor Franchot Tone is another name tragically under-remembered outside of certain highly specialized corners of the contemporary film community. Tone made his screen debut in 1932, and by 1933 he found himself toplining movies. The dashing young actor typically fell into second banana roles, often playing opposite screen legends like Clark Gable and William Powell. Tone is perhaps best known for his partnership (both on-screen and off) with actress Joan Crawford. The two paired on 7 movies, and were married from 1935 until 1939. Tone worked steadily into the 1960s on the big and small screen. He passed away in 1968 at the age of 63.
As a role, Samwell Tarly was a difficult one to cast. Franchot Tone eventually came to mind, as the young actor spent much of the 1930s and 1940s playing second banana to the screen legends we remember today. Often, Tone played more intellectual, soft-spoken characters. As such, Franchot Tone jumped to mind as the ideal candidate to play Samwell Tarly.
Game of Thrones airs its eighth and final season on HBO starting in 2019.