Curtain Call: Peter Vaughan

It’s that time of the week, Gatewatch faithful: Time to doff our caps or dip our heads in solemn reverie – one part eulogy, one part celebration for the wonderful talent we get to see onscreen. Curtain Call time, and today we celebrate the incomparable Peter Vaughan.

Peter Vaughan in Smokescreen (1964)Peter Vaughan (born Peter Ewart Olm) began acting back in 1954 – back before most of us were born. My first impression of Peter Vaughan wasn’t even really my impression. I was speaking to John Bradley in London – we were doing an interview for the Site That Shall Not Be Named – and of course I began mentioning various people he had the opportunity to act with. And as soon as I mentioned Peter Vaughan, his eyes completely lit up.

John: He’s stunning. In the 70’s and 80’s, he was where people went for certain kinds of characters. He was in a sitcom called Porridge, set in a prison… one of the best beloved sitcoms in British history. And he was incredible in it. And he played a kind-of gangster who, unofficially, took charge of the whole prison. It was kind of a sinister part for a comedy. His character had this extremely sharp wit… really, he was someone I’ve been dying to work with. He was in a scene with me where he spoke to me but I couldn’t speak back. I was dying to speak back. It was amazing, one of those pinch yourself moments.

vlcsnap-2013-02-25-19h25m33s198It goes without saying that Mr. Vaughan has made an impression. A number of Unsullied viewers I know were actually outraged that Maester Aemon was gone. (Most of us knew he was doomed, yet a part of me hoped he’d hang on at least ’til season 6.) And, he has that odd distinction of being the only Game of Thrones actor to have his character die of natural causes. (Jon Arryn and Hoster Tully were both introduced to us already dead.)

For me, Vaughan’s defining moment came in season one, where Maester Aemon spoke to Jon Snow about his regrets.

2634f095caaa758d7ae89dcec11d7924“The gods were cruel when they saw fit to test my vows. They waited till I was old. What could I do when the ravens brought news from the South? The ruin of my House, the death of my family? I was helpless, blind, frail. But when I heard they had killed my brother’s son, and his poor son, and the children. Even the little children!”

There was so much anger in him still. It nearly took the breath from him. Peter Vaughan nailed it.

And now his watch is ended. And we shall never see his like again.

Thanks for everything, Peter!

Show ‘im your love, peeps!

75 responses

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    1. And now his watch has ended…

      Rest in peace our dear Maester Aemon.

      Continued long life and long love for most excellent Peter Vaughan! You are honestly one of a kind, we will miss you on our beloved Game of Thrones.

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    2. jasonw:
      Jon Arryn did not die of natural causes.It does suck that he never got the meet Dany.

      That’s true! Though I suppose the official word is still Death-By-Natural-Causes. Good catch, my error.

      (Clearly I am just showing my support for Oz, who believes his beloved Lysa Arryn would never do something that duplicitous!)

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    3. Amazingly he was in only 3 episodes of Porridge but is still remembered as a main character, such was Peter Vaughan’s portrayal.

      “…winter is coming. This one will be long, and dark things will come with it”

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    4. I just want to share one of my favorite Maestor Aemon quotes:

      “What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms … or the memory of a brothers smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.” We shall never see his like again 🙁

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    5. That scene with Jon Snow is where I first took notice of Maester Aemon. Gasped out loud as I figured out who he was. What a talented actor! And now his watch has ended

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    6. I have been in mourning all week. I have draped my motorcycle with magnetic Targ sigils and colors in his honor. I am so happy with D&D’s & Vaughan’s adaptation of Aemon. Couldn’t ask for better. Peter Vaughan will be greatly missed.

      “Egg, I dreamed that I was old!” Just perfect. RIP Aemon.

      Btw, why didn’t Aemon know more (and disclose more) about Bloodraven?

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    7. That scene of Aemon with Jon in Season 1 remains one of my favorites in the entire series to date! Wonderful character and actor – Aemon was brought to life so memorably in such few short scenes. Just awesome talent.
      I feel especially sad that Aemon Targaryen never actually got to see a dragon. How I wish he was on a boat like Tyrion, looking into the sky and could watch Drogon gliding by.

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    8. Hodor’s Bastard,

      I’m not sure anyone alive in the Seven Kingdoms knows what happen to Bloodraven after he disappeared from the Wall. He basically went missing along with DarkSister unless he hid it somewhere.

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    9. Loved him, and loved his portrayal of Maester Aemon.

      I liked this throwaway line from Season 1, when he tells Dareon that he’s being sent to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea: “Report to Borcas when you arrive. Make no comment about his nose.”

      Great portrayal. Great character. Will miss him. First noticed him as Mr. Stevens, the underbutler and father to Anthony Hopkins’ character in “The Remains of the Day.”

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    10. For me, Vaughan’s defining moment came in season one, where Maester Aemon spoke to Jon Snow about his regrets.

      “The gods were cruel when they saw fit to test my vows. They waited till I was old. What could I do when the ravens brought news from the South? The ruin of my House, the death of my family? I was helpless, blind, frail. But when I heard they had killed my brother’s son, and his poor son, and the children. Even the little children!”

      The Aemon – Jon scene from S1 is one of my favorites. Everything in the speech (“What is honor compared to. . ” “The gods were cruel. . “) and Jon’s response (“You’re Aemon Targaryen!”) was perfect.

      I also liked his S4 line “I grew up in King’s Landing”. 😉

      Peter Vaughan was just excellent.

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    11. Hodor’s Bastard: Btw, why didn’t Aemon know more (and disclose more) about Bloodraven?

      D’uh! Everyone knows that Bloodraven jokes in Westeros jokes were like Elvis jokes to us. He’s partying in Essos, he’s a litter driver in Kings Landing, he went back to his home planet, etc., etc.: and every one a side-splitter!

      Aemon, wonderful man that he is, didn’t want to ruin the jokes for other people with all of those pesky facts. He even had some overly literate new watchman coincidentally named Goldman sent on a suicide mission to Thenn territory just for that reason!

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    12. Wondeful Actor. Wonderful Portrayal.

      I missed him greatly when Jon was away from Castle Black. I will miss him even more now.

      And Now His Watch is Ended.

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    13. Thank you, Mr. Vaughn, for bringing to life so wonderfully the wisdom, frailty and strength of Maester Aemon on the screen. No one could have done it better.

      And now his watch is ended 🙁

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    14. So good. I liked all the open Targ references in Sam’s speech, but I was mildly outraged that he didn’t wrap up with “we shall never see his like again”.

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    15. Wimsey,

      Thank you, now I’m picturing Bloodraven as an Elvis impersonator. His best covers:
      Deciduous Minds
      Return to Seastar
      Weirwood Hotel
      If I Can Greendream

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    16. In my oppinion Peter Vaughan can’t get enough credit. He might not have been in a lot scenes, but he nailed every single one of them, and we are talking about a man who is 92 years old as of now. – Another thing that I loved about Peter Vaughan in the role, a partly bind truely old actor plays a blind truely old Maester, and, as I said, nailed it!

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    17. I love this character and this actor so much… I already miss him on Game of Thrones!
      Thank you for this great Curtain Call! He deserves it so much <3

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    18. One of the few actors to nail the role so well that it completely replaced whatever image I originally had in my head from reading the books. He *was* Aemon.

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    19. And now his Watch has ended! Great acting from him and I wish we could have given him more line.

      Luckily, Aemon Battleborn will carry on his noble deeds in the future… Oh, wait no.

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    20. Thanks for this feature, Axechucker. I remember him as Groutie in Porridge though he’s been in loads of things in the UK over the years. I was sorry to see Maester Aemon go, though even in Westeros one couldn’t expect a 100+ year old character to go on for ever.

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    21. Dark-Stark,

      Good catch about Dark Sister. I hope the sword is behind a root somewhere and Bloodraven has Leaf fetch it for Meera Reed…

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    22. This guy has so much history behind him outside of this show. Peter’s done a whole range of roles and theatrical styles. The one constant is what you saw in GOT, as Aemon. The right role still brings out his best, even at age 92!

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    23. Bravo Peter Vaughan- a spot on Maester Aemon who nailed every scene. I miss him already! Top quality! I only wish he could have had more screentime!
      And now his watch is ended.

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    24. Ahh Porridge! What a fun show. Loved Peter Vaughan acting alongside the late great Ronnie Barker. I also remember Peter as being wonderful in Bleak House in the 80s as Tulkinghorn where he played against Diana Rigg as Lady Dreadlock.

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    25. Maester Aemon was my favorite secondary character since S1. I had tears in my eyes during the great death scene. My unsullied daughter literally sobbed and kept repeating, “But I love him!”

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    26. Simply superb actor. Damned TV time constraints! I wanted more… He’ll be playing all those other scenes in my mind.

      Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

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    27. My favourite character from the TV series and book series. Thank you Peter for bringing Aemon to life in such a spectacular way!

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    28. Loved him as Aemon. What a great job. Looked him up to try to figure out when he first got on my radar… and found out he was the ogre in Time Bandits… my favorite part of Time Bandits 

      Winston the Ogre: I grew too fast when I was young, that was the problem.

      Mrs. Ogre: You’ve been overdoing it a bit dear, that’s all.

      Winston the Ogre: You try being beastly and terrifying… you can only get one hour sleep a night because your back hurts, and you daren’t cough unless you want to pull a muscle.

      Mrs. Ogre: But you ARE horrible, dear.

      Winston the Ogre: You’re just saying that.

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    29. What an absolute inspiration he is, still knocking it out of the park at 92 years of age. Living proof that age doesn’t matter. You will be missed at the wall Peter!

      And now his watch is ended!

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    30. It’s so long ago now that I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure the scene where he’s revealed as a Targaryen was the first goosebump-inducing moment this show ever gave me. The moment I realised I loved this story, and the obsession began.

      Thanks, Peter Vaughan!

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    31. And Now His Watch Is Ended.

      Thank you Peter Vaughan !

      And the snowflakes on Aemon’s black funeral robe were beautiful ! Like stars in the night ! Very poetic !

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    32. One of the two natural deaths in the show.Fantastic actor and an absolute legend in every sense of this word.Every scene was a pleaseure to watch,but they way he deliver the line about Egg…it was too much for me.One of my favourite characters in the show/books,but sadly now his watch has ended.

      I’ve always wanted to see some scene with Aemon and Dany in the books or in the show.He was great source of wisdom,but at least he gave a valuable lessons to another family member.

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    33. I still remember the first time I saw Peter Vaughn in a film. I was still a teenager at the time (1999) and it was the Liam Neeson version of “Les Miserables”.

      Perhaps not a perfect adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, but it left a great impression on me because of several of its performances. It was the first non-Star Wars role I saw Neeson in (and I loved him in it), and I consider Inspector Javert to still be Geoffrey Rush’s finest role (he gave me chills).

      But perhaps the most stirring moment of the film comes early on. Peter Vaughn plays the Bishop in the opening minutes of the film. It’s a brief role, but impactful beyond measure. I still remember hanging on every word of the last exchange between him and Neeson’s Valjean.

      “And don’t forget – don’t ever forget it. You’ve promised to become a new man.”

      “Promise? Wh-why are you doing this?”

      “Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul – a ransom due from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God…”

      The two actors stared into each others eyes, and a moment was etched into my mind that I am unlikely to ever forget.

      I did not know the actor’s name at that time. It would be years later, when the casting was announced for Game of Thrones that I came to realize that this master performer had also been responsible for a sterling performance as Denethor in the BBC’s radio drama production of “The Lord of the Rings”, which I had long loved.

      His casting meant so much to me, and I never doubted that he would deliver 100-fold. And thus I saw the character of Maester Aemon come magically to life off the page.

      And Now His Watch Is Ended.

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    34. He was also one of the best things about Brazil aside from Jonathan Pryce and Katherine Helmond. Funny and sinister all at once. And his crazy turn in Death at A Funeral was hysterical (alongside Peter Dinklage)

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    35. Knew what was coming when the locale changed last episode, and had pre-emptive shivers because I had come to know what Peter Vaughan could do with such a scene. Didn’t disappoint. Of course he didn’t. I knew he wouldn’t. I knew that from that wonderful scene with Jon in season 1 and every single other scene since.

      I may even have cried a little. We will never see his like again…

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    36. I was flabbergasted when I realized he had only been in 11 episodes total. That says something about the impact Aemon made. And now his Watch is ended.

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    37. Probably one of the most impactful portrayals in the show. Although his scenes were limited, I think they were all pitch perfect thanks to a great actor and superb writing. I too have the feeling he was in more episodes than he actually appeared in. The intensity in Vaughan’s acting is simply remarkable and that at his age. Hope there will be an interview with him to his GoT related work.

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    38. His “I grew up in King’s Landing.” response to Allister Thorne’s inquiry about how he could be sure a man was telling the truth or lying was classic and one of the best laugh out loud one liners in the show’s history.

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    39. My heart skipped like 5 beats when i realized he was another living Targarian! The scene feeding the ravens with Jon was such a moving and emotionally explosive scene! I loved how he took Jon under his wing without intruding on his personal growth and also became the strongest advocate Jon could ask for on the Wall.
      He was EXACTLY what Jon needed to get him through. I truly think Maester Eamon was the last bit of glue holding the Watch together. Jon will hopefully move on to do great things with the knowledge and council from this great man!
      He will truly be missed. (Or be mistakenly poured into someone’s horn mug and chugged from the forgotten barrel of blackberry rum…
      * and now his watch has ended*

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    40. Dark-Stark:
      I just want to share one of my favorite Maestor Aemon quotes:

      “What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms … or the memory of a brothers smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.” We shall never see his like again

      And the way he said the lines…with that wistful, almost breaking tone in his voice. Brought me to tears. When I saw him playing a Nazi colonel in the “War and Remembrance” miniseries I stopped the movie to google around and prove to my husband it was the same guy. He was the perfect Master Aemon. And now his Watch has ended.

      /runs off to have a good cry

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    41. My parents are Unsullied (the kind that get Lancel and Loras mixed up and didn’t know for four seasons the Mad King was Dany’s dad) but they loved Aemon and thought he had a great sendoff. I think that speaks to how well Peter Vaughn played the role- a minor character with a lot of backstory who makes small appearances over five seasons…yet Vaughn had such presence about him he was instantly memorable. Great actor and awesome performance

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    42. In his very first scene, back in Season 1, I wasn’t sure I liked Vaughan’s casting. He seemed perhaps too crotchety to be Aemon? But he quickly won me over, particularly when he told Jon Snow his true identity. “You must make your choice and live with it, for the rest of yours days… as I have.” Still gives me chills. From then on, he WAS Maester Aemon to me. And now his watch is ended.

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    43. Definitely a great Aemon portrayal who gave the night watch a lot of wisdom. I did enjoy every appearance of him on the show. Despite being a natural death I was feeling extremely sad for him to go. Thanks, Peter Vaughn!
      And now his watch has ended.

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    44. Peter Vaughan was perfect as Aemon, he was a great actor and I loved every scene with him. I knew this was coming but I kinda hoped they’d postpone his death untill season 6.
      His last scene was hearbreaking, it was one of the sadest scenes in the books and I am glad that Peter and the writers did it justice!
      And now his watch is ended.

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    45. Vaughan did a fantastic job, obviously the actor isn’t quite as old and frail but in therms of mannerisms and aura etc he really brought the character to life

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    46. Aemon was played masterfully…. Peter Vaughan was the only actor rivaling Charles Dance’s command of a character on this series.

      And now his watch is ended.

      Thank you Mr. Vaughan, and thanks Axechucker for the great write up.

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    47. Peter Vaughn was absolutely golden in the role of Aemon Targaryen. The beloved old Maester’s kindness, warmth, wisdom, and wry humor were necessary and treasured sources of relief in the unrelentingly grim environs of Castle Black, and Vaughn embodied those qualities and virtues perfectly. Aemon was a valued counselor and a trusted friend to Jon and Sam from the moment our two young heroes arrived at the Wall. Likewise, Peter Vaughn was a a vastly respected colleague and a willing mentor to all of the young actors who shared the set with him during his time on the show. Every time I saw a fellow cast member speak about him in an interview, they couched their remarks in a tone of respect and awe. From the way he conducted himself during his time on the show, Vaughn never gave anyone reason to doubt such admiration was both genuine and thoroughly earned.

      By popular acclamation, Aemon’s signature scene in this story was his conversation with Jon about duty and the cost that it bears. Vaughn was indeed spellbinding he relays the anguish Aemon felt when he was helpless to stop his house from collapsing into ruin. Personally, however, my favorite Aemon scene came in “The Watchers on the Wall”, when he and Sam pass the long night before the battle reminiscing about love and loss. “Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death”, Aemon said, as his blind eyes stared wistfully off into the darkness. I am hard pressed to think of a line in the series that I found more significant or moving.

      The past always held a special appeal for the old Maester, whose own life was a rich tapestry woven with both joy and tragedy. Much of that history fell beyond the scope of the show. But whenever Vaughn was called upon to convey the weight of that history via dialogue, he delivered, from his first line until his last. I seldom care whether or not iconic lines from the books are altered or omitted for the show. But I’m glad that perhaps Aemon’s most celebrated quote – “Egg, I dreamed that I was old.” – was included, because I can think of no finer end point for the character than the moment when his long life came full circle, and he returned, however briefly, to a time before war, politics, and circumstance tore him away from those he loved most in the world.

      Aemon’s death, and the subsequent end of Vaughn’s tenure on the show, marks the loss of yet another member of the original cast. We’ve had to say goodbye to several of them this year. For me, this departure is both the most significant and the most inevitable. Under different circumstances, I could go on about a character and the actor at much greater length. But Sam’s eulogy for Aemon summed up the character’s contributions to the world far more concisely and poetically than I ever could. Furthermore, Vaughn’s prowess as an actor, both in this particular role and over the course of his long career, can’t be summarized in a more effective or respectful fashion than John Bradley and Axey conveyed in this Curtain Call. So I will simply say thank you to the great Peter Vaughn for his contributions to the character of Aemon Targaryen and to Game of Thrones, both of which are significantly richer for his efforts. To add my voice to the chorus of many who have expressed similar sentiments, we shall not see his like again.

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    48. It’s very reassuring that I’m not the only sappy sucker who tears up whenever Maester Aemon speaks. I choke up every time I think about the scene in Season 3 when Sam presents Gilly (ah, for the Gilly flower…lovely!)” and they tell him what they’ve just seen. Aemon tells Sam, “we had 44 ravens at last count. Make sure they’re all fed..”

      “…every one of them flies tonight!”

      Captivating. I still get goose bumps. It all suddenly became very, very real.

      Farewell, sweet Maester Aemon (and THANK YOU, Peter Vaughn!). Thanks for staying around long enough to cast that last vote for Jon Snow.

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    49. I first became aware of Peter Vaughn through his films with Terry Gilliam; The Ogre in Time Bandits and Helpmann in Brazil. Like many others, the scene with Jon Snow, where he reveals his own ancestry is one of my favorites of the whole show. I do hope we see an interview or two with him on his time on GoT.

      Well done, sir.

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