Games of Thrones star Rory McCann on his meteoric rise from carpenter to fantasy TV star

SOURCE: Daily Record
AUTHOR: Brian McIver
DATE: 31 March 2014
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NOTE: Given other articles I’ve got here and what this one says, it sounds like he spent about two years in Iceland in total, 2006 to 2008.


THE Scots actor tells how he returned to Iceland to film the new series of the hit TV show just six years after working in the country as a carpenter.

EVERY Game Of Thrones cast member knows how lucky they are to be in this international blockbuster series.

But for Scots star Rory McCann, it really hit home when he set off to film the new series in Iceland – because the last time he visited the country he was living in a tent and working as a carpenter.

The 6ft star had been making a Viking drama on the island six years ago when the acting roles dried up and he decided to stay there, getting work as a chippie to make ends meet.

And he admitted that when he was back there to shoot season four of Game Of Thrones, which returns on Sky Atlantic next week, he couldn’t believe how much his life had changed – so much so, he had to keep pinching himself.

Rory, 44, stars in the HBO phenomenon as The Hound, a fearsome, disfigured warrior who has become one of the central characters in the ensemble epic.

The actor, who also worked as a landscape gardener and bridge painter, said: “I pinch myself all the time – we were shooting in Iceland this year and thinking that it was only six years ago I was working as a carpenter in Iceland. Now I’m back and swanning around in a chauffeur-driven car and part of one of the biggest TV shows in the world. I’m a very lucky boy.

“I had made a Viking film with Gerry Butler and after filming, I just went, ‘I’m staying’ and was there for 11 months. There wasn’t any acting work at the time.

“I had said to my agent to phone if anything was happening but it wasn’t, so I just stayed.

“It was coming into winter and some locals told me I was the only man on the whole island living in a tent, so they helped me get into a house and I found work as a carpenter. The people are so friendly and I loved it there. I would go back in a minute.

“I came back to the UK when a friend of mine told me about a job cutting down trees in Windsor after the hurricane there. Soon after that the Attila The Hun job came along and I was off again.

“I am very lucky in that if I don’t get a job for six months or a year, I’ve got other things I can do and am fit enough to still do physical work. I don’t have a mortgage or kids, so I can lie low and tighten my belt if I need to.”

Given the massive success of Game Of Thrones, it’s unlikely he’ll be digging out his tools any time soon – his next gig is playing a blacksmith in the new Jimmy McGovern series Banished, set in the colonial days of Australia.

He was working as a painter on the Forth Road Bridge when he got his big break as the Scott’s Porage Oats man, walking vested and kilted through the country.

That advert got him noticed and he was later working as a landscape gardener for Scottish writer Annie Griffin when she handed him the script for his first TV gig, cult Scots comedy The Book Group, playing a wheelchair-bound sportsman.

Until his Icelandic sabbatical, he worked on TV shows like State Of Play and Rockface, as well as films such as Young Adam, Oliver Stone’s Alexander and Hot Fuzz.

After Iceland, he worked on Clash Of The Titans and Solomon Kane, before getting the dream job in Game Of Thrones.

Based on the books by George RR Martin, the show tells the multi-stranded story of the fight for the throne of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, which is a grimy medieval world filled with sex and violence and magic.

Rory plays Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, who was once the bodyguard of the treacherous Lannister family, but who is now a roaming warrior travelling the country with Arya, the pre-teen orphan of heroic Ned Stark (Sean Bean) whose execution at the end of the first season sparked the wars that have defined the series.

Rory, who lives near Stirling, said: “It’s incredible, a great thing to be part of. When I started, they told me a rough synopsis and I sped read the first book.

“Once I found out more, I realised there was a history to it and such a huge following.

“The pilot was shot in Doune Castle so I thought, ‘Here we go, I could be cycling to work’ and it’s a shame that didn’t continue but we film in Belfast and I’ve really enjoyed the trips over there.”

Rory is also one of a few central characters to survive the curse of the ninth episode three years on the trot. Traditionally, the penultimate episode of each season is a bloodbath.

Rory joked: “Aye, when you get the script in for episode nine, you get a large glass of whisky before you open the first page and think, ‘Right, here we go, is it all over and time to get your coat?’

“Anyone who is still alive to get to season four has done very well and it’s a wonder there is anyone left alive, given the amount of death and destruction.

“I’m still just grateful for the part and we’re all happy to be here. My secret is that I make sloe berry gin at home and keep giving it to George Martin, so he keeps me in his tales.”

And while he can’t reveal too much about the plot for season four, Rory promised fans it will be bigger and better.

“I was just in New York for the premiere and it’s looking great. The pressure is always on as they are always looking to step things up. After the red wedding and they got rid of half the cast, I was thinking we have a right good chance of moving into The Hound’s storylines.

“We see him and Arya on their mad road trip, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and arguing all the way so somehow it’s funny as well.

“We seem to be doing double the swordplay and I’ve still got bruises from the fights.

“There are some moves that have never been seen before.”

Following his own brief encounter with Doune Castle, Rory has been watching with interest the development of Outlander, the new Sam Heughan series, which has been filming in Central Scotland recently.

It’s been billed as a rival for Thrones but Rory is delighted the new show is on the way.

“I’m really excited to see it. I know Sam, an absolute gentleman.

“Something like that being made here is just what Scotland needs and it’s great news for everyone.”