A Q&A with Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (AKA: The Mountain from Game of Thrones and the World's Second Strongest Man)
No one in television kills quite like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. As Ser Gregor Clegane (a.k.a The Mountain) on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Björnsson has become a fan favorite for his pathological focus on destroying all who face him in Westeros.
But Björnsson is more than just your run-of-the-mill 6-foot-9, 419-pound actor. He competes on the Strongman circuit (he finished second behind Lithuanian power lifter Žydrūnas Savickas in the 2014 World Strongest Man competition in Los Angeles) and was just named Iceland’s Strongest Man for the fourth year in a row. Colts owner Jim Irsay even suggested in 2013 that Indianapolis would take a flyer on signing him. (Alas, they did not). Last week SI.com’s Extra Mustard caught up with the 26-year-old Björnsson – the questions were translated into English by his Iceland-based manger Sölvi Fanna – for a fun Q&A:
SI.com: How much fun is it to kill someone on screen?
Björnsson: Great fun!
SI.com: What Game of Thrones character would be most fun to kill and why?
Björnsson: The Mountain. Because he is a psychopath and enjoys killing.
SI.com: We’ve seen stories where you are listed at 6-feet-9-inches and weighing 419 pounds. Is that correct? If not, what is correct?
Björnsson: Yes, that is correct, although I weigh a bit less now, only around 400. My body weight fluctuates a bit, based on what I am doing. But I like to stay in good shape.
SI.com: What athletes in other sports do you admire and why?
Björnsson: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to name a few. I played basketball [professionally in Iceland from 2006 to 2008 before a knee injury] but have not been able to follow the sport as much as I would like because of my busy schedule.
SI.com: How many calories do you consume a day and what is your favorite food to eat?
Björnsson: It depends on what I am doing but usually around 8,000 calories. My favorite food is a medium rare filet mignon (filet de bœuf) with a baked potato and something like broccoli or salad. As a matter of fact, my father cooked me one when I was competing in Iceland's strongest man and I won it, the fourth time in a row. And that was having just returned from winning Strongman Champions League in Finland only a few days earlier.
SI.com: How important is it for you to be considered strongest man alive?
Björnsson: It's my number one goal!
SI.com: What is your best in the bench press, squat and deadlift and for each of these, how much higher can you go?
Björnsson: My best in the bench now is 507 pounds but my goal is to explode over 660 pounds off of my chest. I've lifted 793 pounds in the squat but will break the 1,000 pound barrier. In the deadlift I have hoisted 925 pounds (all these weights are with a conventional bar but I have done heavier lifts in strongman events). My deadlift goal is to surpass the half-ton mark (1,102 pounds).
SI.com: What are you thinking about when you are deadlifting nearly 1000 pounds of weight?
Björnsson: I am in my own inner world, yet aware of my surroundings. It is a very special moment.
SI.com: How seriously did you consider trying out for the NFL?
Björnsson: I was personally never that serious about it. Like I have said many times before, I am focusing solely on Strongman and want to reach my goals there. I am also open to do more acting. Although it is very tempting and would surely be a worthy challenge, playing in the NFL is not for me, not now.
SI.com: Did any NFL teams contact you, and if so, which teams?
Björnsson: The Colts contacted someone I have worked with in the past. They were definitely serious, as could also be seen in the media.
SI.com: What was the most challenging part of filming the now-famous Game of Thrones fight scene with Pedro Pascal?
Björnsson: To be able to finish the whole scene without mistakes after having learned the fight scenes -- they were really fast-paced and complicated. All of this was new to me, one big challenge. But we managed to make this incredible scene, one of the more talked about of all.
SI.com: You were trained by the swordmaster C.C. Smiff [who famously worked on Gladiator] for that fight scene. What did that training consist of?
Björnsson: We trained from morning until evening for weeks and went through every detail of the fight. C.C. Smiff is probably one of the more knowledgeable in the [movie fighting] business but the whole GoT team is incredible.
SI.com: How often do people ask you to pick them up and what was the strangest request?
Björnsson: People often ask me to pick them up and I often do, but not at airports and such. The strangest request was definitely just recently, the day before Independence Day in Iceland (which is on June 17), when a teenage boy approached me and asked me if he could have someone photograph him licking my bicep.
SI.com: What should Americans know about Iceland?
Björnsson: We have the most beautiful women and the strongest men.