While Daenerys was battling White Walkers and the Lannisters on Game of Thrones, the actor who played her was facing a whole different kind of danger. While filming Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke experienced two life-threatening brain aneurysms. Now, a new book by James Hibberd called Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series, Emilia Clarke shares quotes about her brain injury during Game of Thrones and how she got through it while filming.
Clarke first revealed her health scares in an essay she penned for The New Yorker in 2019, titled "The Battle for My Life." In the essay, she talked about the multiple brain surgeries she needed to undergo in order to survive. Clarke couldn't even remember her own name right after her surgery, yet she still returned to the Game of Thrones set just weeks later.
In this new book, Clarke expands on this experience, saying her doctors told her she had a second growth on her brain that could "pop at any time," but that she continued to try to "keep it under wraps" while filming the fantasy series.
"It was crazy intense," Clarke said in the book. "We are in the desert in a quarry in like 90-degree heat, and I had the consistent fear that I was going to have another brain hemorrhage."
Even through bouts of extreme fatigue, Clarke continued to work.
"If I had called my doctor, he would have been like, 'Dude, you just need to chill out,'" Clarke explained. "But I still felt blind fear, and the fear was making me panic, and the panic was leading me to feel like I’m going to pass out in the desert."
According to the new book, the producers of the show were also worried about Clarke's condition. Game of Thrones showrunner Dan Weiss said, "It was terrifying because this amazing, sweet, wonderful human being came this close to not being around anymore — this person we loved so much after just one year."
Clarke explained she was wary of saying no to any part of her job because she was so grateful to be playing Daenerys. She said:
In all of my years on the show, I never put self-health first, which is probably why everyone else was worrying, as they could see that. They didn’t want to work me too hard. I was like, “Don’t think I’m a failure; don’t think I can’t do the job that I’ve been hired to do. Please don’t think I’m going to f*ck up at any moment.” I had the Willy Wonka golden ticket. I wasn’t about to hand that in.
You can read more about the behind-the-scenes experience of Game of Thrones in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series.