How Game of Thrones' The Mountain went from scrawny basketball player to world's strongest man and TV star despite never acting before

HE’S the muscular Icelandic giant who plays “The Mountain” in Game of Thrones.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson – who also holds the title of “world’s strongest man” – devours 10,000 calories a day and deadlifts a freakish 474kg.

But the 6ft 9in monster wasn’t always such a hulking unit.

Yesterday he admitted to using steroids – which is strictly forbidden in the world’s strongest man competition.

He made the confession in an interview with ESPN saying “when you want to be the best, you do whatever it takes”.

Before he transformed into a 30-stone brute, Björnsson was a gangly teen growing up in his native Iceland.

A talented sportsman, he represented his country at basketball at U17 and U18 level.

A spell as a professional in the Iceland first division followed but his dream of a career in basketball was ended by surgery on his ankle aged 20.

“I was very sad”, he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what the next step was.”


It was then the strongman started to train in the gym – hard.

He said: “I’ve always enjoyed lifting heavy. I saw extremely good results. I just got hooked, seeing how strong I got and how much my body changed.”

Two years after his basketball injury, he won the strongest man event in Iceland.

Björnsson, nicknamed “Thor”, competed in his first World’s Strongest Man in 2011, finishing sixth.

Earlier this month he won Europe's Strongest Man for the fifth time and will defend his world title later this year.


Two years later, when the Game of Thrones crew were filming in Iceland, he received an email asking if he’d like to audition for the TV drama.

He said: “I didn’t have any acting experience and getting an email like that out of nowhere from Game of Thrones was like ‘nah that’s not true…it’s got to be bulls***’.

“So I didn't answer the email. A few days later I got a phone call and it was a man who asked if I wanted to audition for Game of Thrones. I obviously said, 'Yes. I don't know what I'm doing but yeah, let's try it.'"

He then had a somewhat bizarre audition for the role.

“They asked me to pick one guy up to see if I was strong enough”, he said.

“I picked the man up over my head easily. They were very surprised: 'Woah, OK you're strong.”’

Björnsson then had a fight with one of the main sword teachers in the show.

He recalled: “After about 10 minutes he said ‘you’re the guy… you’re the man we’re looking for.”’


Björnsson is the third actor to portray Cersei’s personal protector on the show, following in the hefty footsteps of Conan Stevens and Ian Whyte.

He told Men’s Health: “I was definitely more nervous with acting. But I did my homework. If you’re dedicated, it’s going to pay off.”

Since landing the role as “The Mountain” Björnsson, has twice been crowned the world’s strongest man.

He had further cause for celebration last year when he married 5ft 2in Canadian blogger Kelsey Henson, 29.

But how does the “Mountain” maintain his bulging physique?

The 30-year-old has revealed he eats six to eight meals a day.

He told GQ: “It’s just like constantly work for me: I have to eat every two hours to maintain my body mass. It is not easy. When I’m filming, I always have to have breaks to eat.”



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His breakfast consists of six eggs, six pieces of bacon and a ginormous bowl of oatmeal.

Björnsson, who listens to heavy metal music when he trains, then devours 250 grams of ribeye steak along with 200 grams each of rice, carrots and peppers.

“For me, ribeye steak is the best meat for strength”, he explained.

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