Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson talks playing the Mountain on Game of Thrones, being huge


Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is the third person to play Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane on Game of Thrones, but he’s easily the most recognizable. He crushed Oberyn Martell’s head with his bare hands in his second appearance in season 4’s “The Mountain and the Viper” — there’s no forgetting the guy who did that.

Since then, Björnsson’s star has risen — he’s gotten roles in other films like Kickboxer: Retaliation on top of his career as an award-winning strongman. Below, he reclaims the title of Europe’s Strongest Man by putting giant stone balls on a table.

Björnsson recently got a giant spread in Men’s Health where he talked about his fitness routine, his life, and of course, his work on Game of Thrones.

When HBO called Björnsson to ask if he wanted to audition for Thrones, he was an up-and-coming strongman working as a bank security guard on the side. Most strongmen, he revealed, need a day job to make ends meet. The show was looking to replace Ian Whyte, who played Gregor Clegane in season 2 — I’m guessing they did that because Whyte, while extremely tall, doesn’t possess the bulk the Mountain is supposed to have. (The show made it up to Whyte by having him play Wun Wun the giant, though.) “I thought it was some kind of joke,” Björnsson said of the HBO call. “I had no acting experience. I was just a big dude competing in Strongman.”

Although the audition included a few lines, the producers mostly wanted to see how Björnsson moved and handled a sword. “A lot of big guys can’t bend down, have knee pain, are slow,” Björnsson said. “I’m fast. I’m flexible, especially for my size.” The producers likely knew Björnsson wouldn’t need to know many lines, since the Mountain was just going to make a couple appearances before coming back as a mute zombie horror. The look of the character was more important, and Björnsson had that. Sword-fighting specialist CC Smith was impressed and offered Björnsson the job a few days later. “I knew it was a huge thing for me, but I didn’t know how huge,” Björnsson said. “It was a fucking huge U-turn.”

Björnsson didn’t need his security guard job for long after that. Now he can concentrate on Game of Thrones and training for more strongman competitions, together with side projects like being a spokesperson for SodaStream.

To read more about Björnsson’s fitness routine and the unique challenges posed by being a 430-lb human being (tailored clothes are a must), head to Men’s Health. And we’ll see the Mountain again when Game of Thrones returns with new episodes on July 16.

Before you go, here’s the Mountain making bedroom eyes at Septa Unella.