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Brian Cox has been in the spotlight for plenty of iconic roles, but the actor’s name currently crops up in conversations surrounding HBO’s Succession. Cox plays the patriarch of the dysfunctional Roy family, a complicated character to bring to life. And as it turns out, the actor could have appeared in another complex HBO series if he hadn’t turned down the opportunity: Game of Thrones.

Brian Cox regrets turning down ‘Game of Thrones’

'Succession' star Brian Cox wearing a black suit and silver tie.
Brian Cox | Arturo Holmes/WireImage

That’s right, Cox had the chance to join HBO’s hit fantasy series while it was airing, but he passed on the offer. The actor admitted as much during a 2016 conversation with Vodzilla, though he didn’t specify who he might have played on Game of Thrones:

“Stupidly, I turned it down in the early days because they didn’t pay enough money. Now they have more money. And I was silly. I was silly, it was silly, because I’m a complete addict now. But I don’t know what I could play.”

It’s hard to imagine a time when Game of Thrones wasn’t making the big bucks, but Cox’s chance to join the series came earlier in the show’s eight-season run. When he reflected on his choice to pass on the show, it was in the midst of its sixth season. And after an event like the Battle of the Bastards, Cox had to admit he was impressed by it.

The ‘Succession’ star was impressed by the fantasy series

When Cox initially turned down Game of Thrones, it hadn’t become the phenomenon it later grew to be. It wasn’t until he watched the show that he realized how grand the story was, even compared to fantasy films with bigger budgets.

Reflecting on “The Battle of the Bastards,” Cox told Vodzilla that the show surpassed the likes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit — an impressive feat for television at the time:

“But last week’s episode was phenomenal, and it was just phenomenal in terms of — it beat out — you know, if you think of The Hobbit or you think of The Lord of the Rings, the battle sequence in Game of Thrones was a lot more modest, but much more brilliant than any of the battle sequences in any of those movies and all those kind of CGI characters doing their bit, whereas this was real people, I mean, the CGI was just brilliantly done and clearly there was a bit of green screen, but it’s astonishing. For television, it is truly astonishing.”

Cox’s opinion on the series was also swayed by his friends making appearances — from Charles Dance to Ian McShane. He knew the seasoned actors wouldn’t sign on for any old series. And after seeing the action for himself, he understood why they’d said yes to this one.

Brian Cox never joined ‘Game of Thrones,’ but he headlines his own HBO series


‘Succession’: Why Doesn’t Brian Cox Sympathize With His Onscreen Family?

Cox may not have gotten around to scheming for the Iron Throne, but he’s had the opportunity to reign over his own empire in Succession. Like the fantasy series, Succession tackles themes of power. That’s something that appealed to Cox as soon as he read the screenplay. During a 2018 interview with Variety, the actor likened the show to William Shakespeare’s King Lear:

“What I was influenced by in the screenplay was King Lear. There’s a very classical element of dysfunctional royals. It’s gone on through history.”

He added that Succession serves as “a premise for now, about the entitled rich and what they are doing. It’s a satire and a morality tale about people who are highly dysfunctional, and about how entitlement removes people from a sense of reality.”

Clearly, such themes appeal to people, as Succession has quickly become HBO’s next big hit. It’s a good thing Cox jumped on the opportunity to appear in it. It’s difficult to imagine the show being quite as addicting without him playing Logan Roy.