A fantasy tale of dragons, knights and the living dead —not many would have predicted that Game Of Thrones would become a television phenomenon.
Yet eight seasons, 72 episodes and too many deaths to count later, the show has drawn a global audience of around one billion, who will all eagerly be tuning in to watch the final episode this weekend.
When the cast — many of whom were still children — was assembled a decade ago, most were virtual unknowns.
Yet all are now thought to be multi-millionaires and, thanks to the popularity of Game Of Thrones, have huge pull at the box office with film-makers desperate to add a Thrones star to their cast list.
Far from the meagre salaries they were offered for the early seasons, some of the British stars command almost £1million an episode, and have scorned the casual nudity and physical discomforts originally asked of them.
Beth Hale and Mary O’Connor delved into the fame, fortunes and the money their films have made at the box office to see who’s the real winner of the Game Of Thrones. . . .
Steely negotiator who refuses to strip
Emilia Clarke at HBO’s Golden Globes after party (left) and in her role as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones (right)
As the grand finale approaches, life has taken an unexpected turn for Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen.
But it’s an entirely different matter for Emilia Clarke, 32, who was working in a call centre when she landed the role back in 2010.
The actress is part of an elite group (along with American Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Dane Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey) who reportedly took home £930,000 per episode for the final season after some very slick negotiating.
Over the eight series, Emilia’s earnings are estimated to be more than £13 million. Documents for her company Scenic Root show net assets of more than £6 million.
In the early days of the show, Emilia appeared naked on a regular basis. But around season three she was rumoured to have insisted on a no nudity clause.
She has appeared in a string of hit films including Me Before You and Solo: A Star Wars Story. She’s also had deals with Dolce & Gabbana and Dior.
Net worth: £13 million
Box office gold (film takings since the start of GOT): £814 million
Royal pay cheques and body doubles
Lena Headey arriving at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles (left) and in her role as Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones (right)
She featured in just 25 minutes of the 432-minute final season, during which she did little more than stand around looking furious before finally being crushed to death as her city fell on top of her. But playing villainous Queen Cersei has landed Lena Headey a majestic pay cheque. Having reportedly negotiated a £930,000 per episode deal for the final season, she is estimated to be worth £7 million.
The 45-year-old was the subject of criticism when it emerged she had used a body double for Cersei’s memorable naked walk of shame.
Lena said it was because she was an ’emotional actor’ and spending three days naked would make her feel angry, an emotion she did not think Cersei would share.
One of a handful of established stars to land a part, her other roles have included The Brothers Grimm alongside Matt Damon, and Ripley’s Game with John Malkovich.
Net worth: £7 million
Box office gold: £483.2 million
Baronet’s son who found love on set
Kit Harington at ‘Game of Thrones’ season eight premiere, Arrivals, New York, USA (left) and in his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington was an unknown when he was asked to audition for the part of Jon Snow — his only previous role had been in the National Theatre’s production of War Horse.
He turned up to this GOT audition with a black eye as the result of a late-night brawl, but thankfully the creators were looking for ‘brooding intensity’.
The 32-year-old’s earnings have reportedly rocketed season on season, landing at £930,000 per episode for the final run.
The son of baronet businessman Sir David Harington, Kit is married to his former Thrones co-star Rose Leslie, who played his lover, Ygritte, until 2014. After filming for the final season wrapped, Kit said he was looking forward to cutting his hair, (having been forbidden to trim his long, curly black locks by producers of the series) and obscurity.
He’s achieved the former, but with multiple appearances on stage and screen, there’s no danger of the latter.
Films including Pompeii and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World were huge hits.
Net worth: £9.4 million
Box office gold: £1.1billion
Equality warrior and Vegas wedding
Sophie Turner at ‘Game of Thrones’ season eight premiere (left) and as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones (right)
Cast as Sansa Stark when she was 13, Sophie Turner turned down a place at the Royal Ballet School to take the role.
Inevitably, the show’s child stars weren’t as well paid as the adults. Nevertheless, during season six she was reportedly paid £133,000 an episode.
She’s also modelled for Louis Vuitton and in 2015 won the role of Jean Grey in Marvel’s X-Men movies, with the next instalment due out next month. Growing in clout as well as success, Sophie insists on an inclusion clause — which means she can ensure a 50:50 male/female workforce — in all her contracts.
Naturally blonde Sophie had to dye her hair to play redhead Sansa, and in later seasons the writers insisted she also leave it unwashed for authenticity — something she has dubbed ‘disgusting’. For the final season, she was allowed to wear a wig. She met her rock-star husband Joe Jonas of The Jonas Brothers on social media in 2016, and they tied the knot in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Net worth: £3.5 million
Box office gold: £427 million
Child star is a wise investor
Maisie Williams at the HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 7 premiere held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, USA (left) and in her role as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams was just 11 years old when she landed the role of Arya Stark. Now 22, her character came of age in the final season — killing the evil Night King and participating in her first on-screen romp, although she didn’t reveal as much flesh as her co-stars, saying: ‘I don’t think it’s important for Arya to flash.’
Her pay is reckoned to be similar to that of on-screen sister and best friend Sophie Turner. With 59 episodes under her belt, she is now also a director of four companies, one of whose assets have soared from £12,970 in 2013 to £1.1million last year.
Maisie — who nearly missed her audition because she wanted to go on a school trip to a pig farm — has had a string of other screen roles, including in Doctor Who.
Next she will appear in the X Men spinoff New Mutants. A wise investor, she recently launched an app called Daisie, which has been billed as LinkedIn for creative types.
Net worth: £4.6 million
Box office gold: £44.7 million
Bodyguard who rose from the dead
Richard Madden (left) at the Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of Camp: Notes on Fashion, Arrivals, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in his role as King of the North, Robb Stark in Game of Thrones (right)
As the King of the North, Robb Stark, Richard Madden met a grisly end after just 21 episodes. It meant he missed out on the bumper pay rises afforded to his co-stars as the show took off. Other gripes include being objectified for his heartthrob good looks, and he refuses to take part in ‘gratuitous’ sex scenes. However, it didn’t stop him stripping off in Bodyguard, which won him a Golden Globe for his efforts.
Tipped to play the next James Bond, Madden stars as Elton John’s former manager and lover in biopic Rocketman.
Net worth: £4.7 million
Box office gold: £437 million
The model who’s a towering success
Gwendoline Christie: 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles (left) and in her role as Brienne of Tarth
As statuesque warrior Brienne of Tarth, Gwendoline Christie has totally wowed fans with her fighting prowess.
Like a raft of ‘smaller’ stars, the 6ft 3½ in blonde is thought to have been earning around £80,000 an episode until recently.
In 2013 her company, Christie Ventures, had net assets of £1,467; by last year this had soared to £1.1 million. All very satisfying for a star who was warned she’d ‘probably never work’ due to her unusual height.
The 40-year-old has also appeared in two instalments of an even bigger franchise — Star Wars — playing Stormtrooper Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi and starred in hit drama series Top Of The Lake.
In a long-term relationship with fashion designer Giles Deacon, Christie is also signed to Kate Moss’s modelling agency.
Net worth: £2.35 million
Box office gold: £3.2 billion
From Hollister to Hollywood
Nathalie Emmanuel ‘Game of Thrones’ TV show premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles in 2017 (left) and in her part as former slave Missandei in Game of Thrones
A child star in the West End, appearing in the likes of the Lion King, Nathalie Emmanuel, 30, was working in clothes store Hollister when she was told she had won the part of former slave Missandei.
She first appeared in season three, and her salary is not known — she has claimed it ‘wasn’t life-changing money’,
But given her co-stars’ whopping earnings, she will probably have tallied tens of thousands of pounds per episode. Her company, Emmanuel & Co, had £335,981 in the bank by 2017.
She met an untimely end in episode four of the final season, but her career continues to flourish.
In 2015, Vin Diesel asked her to appear with him in the film Fast And Furious 7, which drew £1.18 billion at the global box office. Nathalie also has a starring role in a TV mini-series revamp of the Richard Curtis rom-com Four Weddings And A Funeral, which is due for release in July.
Net worth: £780,000
Box office gold: £2 billion
Outshining his scandalous sister
Alfie Allen at the Variety and Women in Film Emmy Nominee Celebration, Party, Los Angeles (left) and in his role as Theon Greyjoy (right)
AS the hapless Theon Greyjoy, Alfie Allen survived 47 seriously traumatic episodes before he was killed off.
So frequent were his nude scenes that Allen, 32, revealed he had become so relaxed about taking his clothes off that he had to be asked to cover up by crew members when they weren’t filming.
Despite his showbiz surname — his sister is headline-grabbing singer Lily — reports suggest Allen was paid a relatively meagre £80,000 per episode prior to the final seasons.
His most recent work for cinema was sci-fi film The Predator.
Net worth: £1.5 million
Box office gold: £196 million
Boy wonder was too cool for school
Isaac Hempstead Wright at the ‘Game of Thrones’ season eight premiere, Arrivals, New York (left) and in his role as Bran Stark (right)
Isaac Hempstead Wright’s future in the show was thrown into question from the first episode, when his character, Bran Stark, was pushed out a tower window.
Bran survived and Isaac, 20, is said to have earned an impressive £137,000 per episode.
He dropped out of Birmingham University when fans kept mobbing him on the way to lectures, but will start university for a second time in September, studying neuroscience, and hopes to continue acting.
His biggest success at the box office comes from voicing a character in kid’s film The Boxtrolls.
Net worth: £3 million
Box office gold: £93.7 million