Thor Björnsson: Getting ‘Game of Thrones’ Role Was “F—king Huge U-Turn”
You may not recognize the name Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, but you’d probably recognize his face, and you’d definitely recognize his body.
That’s because the 431-pound, 6-foot-9 Iceland native — with his 17-inch biceps and his 63-inch chest — plays Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on Game of Thrones. And now he’s talking about how the role took him for a ride.
Known by friends and family as Thor, the 29-year-old grew up playing basketball, even making Iceland’s junior national team. After a series of injuries, he quit the sport when he was 20.
Shortly thereafter, famed Icelandic strongman Magnus ver Magnusson spotted him working out and asked him if he’d be interested in becoming a strongman himself. A year later, Thor was named Iceland’s Strongest Man.
By 2014, he had placed third in the World’s Strongest Man competition two years running but was still holding down a job as a bank security guard. That’s when Game of Thrones came calling.
“I thought it was some kind of joke,” he tells Men’s Health. “I had no acting experience. I was just a big dude competing in Strongman.”
Producers were looking for someone to take over the role of Gregor for Season 4, and they needed someone who was not only Mountainous but agile.
“A lot of big guys can’t bend down, have knee pain, are slow,” Thor says. “I’m fast. I’m flexible, especially for my size.”
CC Smiff, Game of Thrones’ resident swordmaster, offered Thor the part a few days later.
“I knew it was a huge thing for me, but I didn’t know how huge,” Thor says now. “It was a f—king huge U-turn.”
The job allowed him to quit the bank security job and pursue his strongman career full-time while moonlighting on the show. He booked commercials, he became co-owner of Icelandic Mountain Vodka, and he bought a house and a Range Rover.
These days, the weightlifting champ is the owner of Thor’s Power Gym in Reykjavik. A poster of the Mountain drenched in Oberyn Martell’s blood hangs above a leaderboard for the gym’s rowing machine.
Thor is at the top of the list, of course, with a time just nine seconds shy of the world record.
“It was the third time in my life I ever tried it,” he says.
He also has a two-bedroom home outside the Icelandic capital, which he shares with his girlfriend, Andrea, and their pint-sized dog, Asterix.
Andrea is a mechanical engineer who hadn’t been watching Game of Thrones and didn’t recognize Thor when they met at his old gym. He asked her out four times before she said yes.
“She was just thinking, ‘Who the f—k is this guy?’” Thor says.
Millions of people know that answer now!
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on Sunday, July 16 on HBO.
Read more of Wetpaint’s Hafþór Björnsson coverage below: