Actor J. J. Murphy dies after beginning filming for Game of Thrones season 5

JJ MurphyVeteran Northern Irish actor J. J. Murphy has died while filming scenes for Game of Thrones season 5.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the eighty-six-year-old thespian had been cast as Ser Denys Mallister, the “oldest member of the Night’s Watch”. He passed just four days after filming his first scenes for the series.

Best known for his theater work (having worked alongside Liam Neeson and Game of Thrones’ own Ciarán Hinds), he also appeared in Irish and Northern Irish films Mickybo and Me, Cal and Angela’s Ashes, and will appear in this year’s Dracula Untold.

Mr. Murphy’s agent said of him that he has “never encountered a man with more spirit, passion and love for his craft.”

It is unknown at this time whether the part of Denys Mallister will be recast or written out.

Our condolences to his family and friends.

Update: In an official statement from HBO, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have announced, “We will not be recasting J.J. Murphy. He was a lovely man, and the best Denys Mallister we could have hoped for. And now his watch is ended.”

73 responses

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    1. Very sad – condolences to his family. And agreed, this is not the kind of casting info you want to get.

      Suppose it is an indication there’s a bit of casting info that has not been released (unless the part was just not considered large enough to announce)

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    2. TaviColen123,

      This is exactly what I am thinking right now. Very very sad! I guess there is no chance he might have completed his scenes so there will likely be a recast. I hope this means that Cotter Pyke will also make an appearance in S5,

      his strife with Mallister was one of the more intriguing parts of the LC election

      plus it brings in another opportunity for Samwell to display his intelligence.

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    3. He was very good from what I’ve seen him in. Such a shame as I think he would have been fantastic for the role.

      I’m thinking it would be better if there was a different place to discuss the casting of Mallister and its repurcussions as seems a bit disrespectful to do it here.

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    4. He has one of those faces that a UK person (at least one that watches TV from time to time) will recognise even if the name is not immediately familiar. It is indeed sad news and I join my thoughts to those who wish condolences to his friends and relations.

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    5. TheTouchOfFrost:
      I’m thinking it would be better if there was a different place to discuss the casting of Mallister and its repurcussions as seems a bit disrespectful to do it here.

      I agree. Condolences to his family and friends.

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    6. TheTouchOfFrost: I’m thinking it would be better if there was a different place to discuss the casting of Mallister and its repurcussions as seems a bit disrespectful to do it here.

      It’s not disrespectful. If you want to discuss it not in this post however, you could always start a post in the forums.

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    7. Well, talking about his role is a testament to his memory.

      I’m glad Mallister is in. I actually truly wonder if the show will establish that there are other Watchers at the Shadow Tower and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, it could be a nice way to regarnison Castle Black and not have only 50 crows there.

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    8. Condolences for the friends and family.

      It’s odd because this is both bad and good news. Mallister being cast, that is. It means D&D intend to deliver the full package in terms of the LC election and also opens up the possibility of more roles getting cast that we don’t know of yet (Manderly, Fake Arya, Daerion, and Cotter Pyke and Euron especially since they’ll only appear in a couple of episodes). I hope HBO still have a few major castings to reveal…

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    9. Sad to hear that such an accomplished actor has left us.

      No disrespect, but D&D can always recast him with Conan Stevens.

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    10. Sad news – condolences to his people.

      I guess if it was a small role with only a few lines here and there they could give those lines to other characters but if it is quite a large part they may have to recast and reshoot the scenes I suppose…

      Also – surely Maester Aemon is the oldest member of the Watch ??

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    11. Even if they didn’t complete the scenes necessary for Mallister and need to recast, it would be nice if there’s enough footage there to keep Murphy’s presence in that scene(s) as a separate character – and, if possible, with a minor speaking role.

      Sad news, anyway. Despite it being nice to hear how they’ll be handling the story at The Wall, it’s certainly not nice in context. Condolences go to his friends and family, and I hope J.J. Murphy rests well.

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    12. Sue the Fury,

      I guess people grieve in different ways. If folks fancy discussing it here then that’s cool but I’ll just bow out of the thread and discuss it when it no doubt pops up again in general conversation.

      He only has a small role but look out for him if you ever watch Angela’s Ashes (great film). Will also be keeping my eyes peeled for him now I know he’s going to have a small part in Dracula Untold when it comes out later this year :)

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    13. My Condolences to his family.

      jentario,

      I am also incredibly excited by the news of Mallister being cast for it’s several implications as above.

      On absolutely no leaked casting list was Mallister included, so I am through the roof that there are still some pretty meaty roles being filled. Murphy was an actor of some repute, so this wasn’t just a throwaway casting, which does give me hope that there is still important casting announcements to be made.

      I really wanna see the Griff’s, and I always figured several major facets of their storyline being mentioned last season (several times and in several different places/storylines no less) made me seem rather certain that they would be involved in the show somehow, and given their importance (I think George has hinted one of them will do a pretty notable thing which would be a larger omission to cut from the show than even Arienne) I had figured they would be in this season, but was disappointed not to hear anything in the leaked casting (though I suppose they could be kept to Season Six, with people simply mentioning their actions this season).

      Likewise with Euron the same is true, though given that I’m willing to bet large money that Shield Island’s are cut (or will only be talked about at most) it would be well doable that his storyline is introduced at the very beginning of Season Six, and some ships then quickly borrow Littlefinger’s teleporter (or large periods of time pass between scenes, as has happened in episodes such as those). But I’m glad that the leaked lists were not the be all and end all of the casting, especially with Name actors still taking rather important roles we didn’t know about.

      Really unfortunate about Murphy’s passing though.

      PS: I don’t see spoilercode options on here so I hope everything I mentioned was vastly vague enough not to really spoil anything.

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    14. That is a sad casting news. :( -Who knew such a thing even exist… I hope J. J. Murphy gets to be in the show anyway, even if it is only for an episode. And I hope they devote the episode to him, like they did with the last episode Margaret John was in. It would be a nice little memorial for him.

      HouseMartellBitches,

      To find your answers and end your confusion you must travel to the top of the comments and truly see what is to find there, for that is the heart of posting.

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    15. HBO has replied to us on the matter of recasting, and this is their response:


      “We will not be recasting J.J. Murphy. He was a lovely man, and the best Denys Mallister we could have hoped for. And now his watch is ended.”

      Added to the post above, as well.

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    16. My condolences for the man’s family and friends. Let’s hope he finished his crucial scenes and that they were great!

      P.S. I seriously hope that he actually isn’t the oldest member member of the NW, it’s little unnecessary changes like that that annoy me greatly.

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    17. Makes sense. Denys Mallister couldn’t have been in any more than a handful of scenes so chances are very good that he had shot the bulk of what was necessary for the season. A re-cast would have been problematic for a number of reasons. They made the right choice.

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    18. Sad news, sorry to hear that.

      And what do they do? It would be the most poignant and respectful thing to keep his filmed scenes in… but it might make rewriting other scenes very difficult, and they may have no choice but to recast. But that would be such a shame for his memory and his family.

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    19. They could use the footage shot and then write around his remaining scenes, giving them to someone else. That way they can preserve the role, casting, and honor the man.

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    20. I suspect he shot probably a good chunk of what was needed, since they have a very efficient filming schedule and the NW has been filming a lot lately. But they may not even know yet how much of his stuff they’re keeping, so they may not address the issue publicly, it being so soon.

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    21. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

      That is an interesting question… Is Aemon officially a member of the NW? I mean, sure, he is bound in service to them as every Maester is to his house, but unlike all the others in the NW he not only serves the NW. He is also bound in service to the Citadel and it could be argued that he never can be a full member of the NW, because he never abandoned all the strings to his past.

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    22. Greenjones,

      Well, yeah, and as I said, that could mean, that he is not a official member, because he has strings to something else than the NW. And at least in your quote he only attaches himself to Castle Black (his house so to speak), not the NW as a whole.

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    23. Abyss,
      Greenjones,

      I’m re-reading ADWD and AFFC and I definitely noticed this time that Aemon is bound to both. It occurred to me when Aemon was talking about how nice it would be to sit at the inn on the island in the warmth and drink cider that he would never return to the Wall (of course, knew this already but hadn’t thought about it in terms to his Oath). Unless the LC sends someone off on a mission then they lived and died at the Wall. But Aemon has no “mission” per se. At least I don’t remember Jon telling the Watch what Aemon’s mission in Oldtown was supposed to be. To the rest of the Watch, it probably seems like he’s “retiring” him to somewhere more comfortable. That might stir up resentment among the older Brothers, dontcha think?

      And then it occurred to me, how could Aemon be loyal to both the Citadel and the Watch since it’s not clear that their purposes are the same? Of course, we don’t learn about how their purposes might be at odds until we get into the story in Oldtown and see the “factions” within the Citadel. There have certainly been hints that some of the Maesters have not always guided with wisdom but to some political purpose and that some are clearly not on the side of “good” (i.e., Qyburn, Pycelle, etc).

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    24. Veltigar,

      Seriously?? Calling one old man older than another old man, in a minor, meaningless even, contradiction to the book?? This would greatly annoy you????
      Wow… Just – wow…………

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    25. Sue the Fury,

      Awwwwww. Is it possible he finished his scenes? He would probably only be in two or three anyway…

      I can definitely see them adding “in memory of JJ Murphy” to an episode he features in.

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    26. I would imagine that Denys Mallister (and Cotter Pyke presumably) would be your S5 equivalent of the Lords of the Vale in S4 (Yohn Royce, Anya Waynwood etc). In for one episode to be featured in 2-3 key scenes and then dropped out of the story. If the actor had already been filming for a few days, there’s a very good chance they got through the bulk of the material they needed him for during that time. It’s an easy part to write around (as an off-screen presence) if necessary as well.

      It will be interesting to watch that episode when it airs to see if you can spot where accommodations might have been made.

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    27. Sad news indeed.
      And now his watch has ended….

      Interesting to see they did actually cast the role for this season. The more characters not mentioned in the leaks being cast, the higher my hopes are for Young Griff and company! Still not overly high, but there is a little hope now.

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    28. I would imagine that Denys Mallister (and Cotter Pyke presumably) would be your S5 equivalent of the Lords of the Vale in S4 (Yohn Royce, Anya Waynwood etc). In for one episode to be featured in 2-3 key scenes and then dropped out of the story.

      I’m quite confident we’ll see Lady Waynwood and Lord Royce in season 5.

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    29. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

      It’s very good. One of my friends is an actress and recently had the leading role in a musical stage adaption of it. It’s been performed locally ( Derbyshire, UK here!) and they took it around Ireland to positive reviews from the critics. Sounds like an odd book to convert to a musical but, from what I’ve seen, it worked pretty well!

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    30. Sounds like an odd book to convert to a musical

      Yes, the story can be tragic and dark at times. But one of the most popular musicals of all time, Les Miserables, was predominately about tragedy and loss, and I thought it was very well done. I would love to see the musical production of Angela’s Ashes here in the U.S. Probably will have to wait another 10 years if at all.

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    31. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

      May be even longer than that…if at all! Was a pretty small production (linked to the local University) and despite being very well-received I’m not sure if they’ll be able to take it any further unless it catches someone with some influence’s eye.

      Here’s a news report about it and you might find some clips on Youtube somewhere if you’re curious.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-20156398

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    32. My Condolences to his family :(

      I think D&D will find a way to figure out the rest of the scene / but is this mean we might see the shdow tower and East watch this season ? Or we will only see the comanders when they come to castle black to elect the next LC . I don’t know about TST but I think east watch is important to the story next season

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    33.   Quote  Reply

    34. Even if they can’t use his scenes anymore (maybe bc the pivotal part is missing), I’m hoping that he’ll appear somehow and the episode will be dedicated to his memory (as with Old Nan and Ilyn Pain)

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    35. Dutch maester,

      Great, I have always thought that removing her from the Kings Landing stage wasn’t one of Martins smarter decisions. If this is indeed true it will be very interesting to see what she might add to the new situation now that Tywin Lannister is dead.

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    36. Sheepstealer,

      Technically she could just return or Tywin’s funeral and Tommen&Margaery’s marriage. If I recall correctly she leaves after that in the books (so the show sent her away early). But it would perhaps be a better idea to mix her back into the KL story now that so many characters are no longer there (Tyrion, Tywin, Varys, Sansa, Shae, Oberyn, Joffrey) or soon leaving (Jaime, Bronn).

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    37. Sheepstealer,

      Technically she could just return for Tywin’s funeral and Tommen&Margaery’s marriage. If I recall correctly she leaves after that in the books (so the show sent her away early). But it would perhaps be a better idea to mix her back into the KL story now that so many characters are no longer there (Tyrion, Tywin, Varys, Sansa, Shae, Oberyn, Joffrey) or soon leaving (Jaime, Bronn).

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    38. John:
      Even if they can’t use his scenes anymore (maybe bc the pivotal part is missing), I’m hoping that he’ll appear somehow and the episode will be dedicated to his memory (as with Old Nan and Ilyn Pain)

      They may have dedicated an episode to Wilko Johnson, I cannot recall, but just for the sake of clarification, he is alive.

      The news about JJ Murphy is quite sad. I do, however, like the thought his last work was in one of the most successful shows on television. I’d guess getting the role and doing that work, especially at 86, would have been a very fulfilling feeling for him.

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    39. Greatjon of Slumber,

      He had been shooting for four days (supposedly) when it happened, so it isn’t likely given the scope of the character (in the books at least) that he had much left to film. I just hope his bigger scenes were done so it will be easier to salvage it all.

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    40. Nymeria Warrior Queen,

      This is the last I could find on Wilko. It seems that everyone involved is actually quite optimistic that he will recover in time which is great considering that he was only given 10 more months in 2012. Hope he’ll get well soon! It’s good to have some positive news anyway…

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    41. Sheepstealer:
      Nymeria Warrior Queen,

      This is the last I could find on Wilko. It seems that everyone involved is actually quite optimistic that he will recover in time which is great considering that he was only given 10 more months in 2012. Hope he’ll get well soon! It’s good to have some positive news anyway…

      Thanks for the update! The last I’d read they’d determined the cancer they had thought inoperable turned out to be operable, he’d had the operation, and they’d thought it successful, but I think that was right after the operation. Glad to hear they remain optimistic, and here’s to a speedy recovery!

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    42. John,

      Wilko Johnson who plays Ilyn Payne isn’t dead! He was told he had terminal cancer and only had about a year to live but has since undergone radical surgery to treat his illness, and the doctors were hopeful that his prognosis would be good.
      Check out ‘Going Home’ the album he recently did with Roger Daltry ( he of The Who). Brilliant rock n roll record.
      Still hoping he returns to the show even if it’s in a cameo role as Ilyan as he was great in the part. More importantly I hope he wins his battle with cancer. He’s certainly giving it everything he’s got.

      EDIT: Didn’t read the following posts before replying! :P

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    43. My condolences to J.J. Murphy’s family and friends. I hope they know that the GoT fandom, as ornery as we can be, are a loyal and dedicated bunch and we will consider him a part of the GoT family even though he died before we got to know him.

      Since he’s not being recast I assume the bulk of his filming is complete. They can use stand ins and digital trickery to add him into places where they need to. IIRC they did that with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker’s parts in Hunger Games and Fast and Furious.

      And while we’re already here and having the sads RIP Robin Williams as well :(

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    44. Would just like to echo everyone else that this is very sad news and condolences to all his family and friends.

      Really not sure how appropriate it is to use this news to discuss the part he was playing but, as quite a few other people have, I’ll tentatively join in – with apologies to anyone who thinks I shouldn’t :O( Not a book reader so no idea what his character would be expected to do, but according to the BBC news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-28744169The character was due to appear throughout series five”. Although obviously that doesn’t necessarily mean a massive amount of screen time, could just be a few quick glimpses.

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