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Game of Thrones may have been the biggest show in the world during its reign, but that doesn't mean it still had secrets, scares, and lots of luck behind its success. Whether it was actors finding the roles that were right for them (instead of the ones they auditioned for) or the production escaping the "yacht rage" of an actor that may or may not have been Bruce Willis, HBO's adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire sometimes seemed like it was held together with spit and duct tape. Perhaps no time epitomized this like the audition of Pedro Pascal for the role of Oberyn Martell...which he recorded on an iPhone.
According to Variety, Pascal (now set to appear in Wonder Woman 1984) earned his spot as the super-sexual, quick-witted, ultimately doomed Dornish prince thanks to a video that's quality didn't exactly impress showrunner David Benioff. "First of all, it was an iPhone selfie audition, which was unusual," Benioff explained. "And this wasn’t one of the new-fangled iPhones with the fancy cameras. It looked like s***; it was shot vertical; the whole thing was very amateurish. Except for the performance, which was intense and believable and just right."
The wily, viperish Oberyn stole the screen until he decided to tackle the headache that was Hafþór Björnsson's towering Mountain, and the showrunners were confident in Pascal even from his Facebook Mom-style audition video. Pascal (who even got the GoT folks to see his tape by sending it to his friend Sarah Paulson, who then passed it along to her friend Amanda Peet...who happens to be married to Benioff) "figures out who the character really is and then he portrays that man, scouring off all falsehood,” Benioff said. “Plus, he’s really f***ing handsome.”
And once they got to set, any doubt evaporated. Benioff recalled telling the actor he "nailed it" in his first scene — and the love didn't stop there. "Once we saw the entire season there was no doubt Pedro was going to be a star. I thought he deserved more recognition, frankly," the showrunner said. "But Dan and I were thrilled that we gave Pedro a job that helped his ascent, because he’s an absolute gem of an actor and a man."
But it's Game of Thrones, so no good thing can last. But what's bad for Oberyn is good for Pascal. Series author George R.R. Martin had already sealed the character's fate...but it freed Pascal's scene-stealing self for even bigger roles — no iPhone audition necessary. "Part of the reason people remember Oberyn is because he died so horribly," Benioff said. "And if we hadn’t killed him, poor Pedro never could have done Narcos. So, it worked out. Not for Oberyn. But for the rest of us."