From Living on $5 a Day to $1 Million Paychecks: How Life Has Completely Changed for the Game of Thrones Stars

Ahead of the final season’s premiere, Clarke penned an emotional essay for The New Yorker, titled A Battle for My Life,” in which she revealed she almost died after suffering two brain aneurysms after filming the first season. 

“The diagnosis was quick and ominous: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture,” Clarke writes. “As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed. If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees.”

At just 24, she underwent brain surgery before eventually returning to work, with the public unaware of the health battle she was fighting. 

“I told my bosses at Thrones about my condition, but I didn’t want it to be a subject of public discussion and dissection. The show must go on!” Clarke wrote. “Even before we began filming Season 2, I was deeply unsure of myself. I was often so woozy, so weak, that I thought I was going to die…If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”

Clarke is “now at a hundred per cent,” and helped to develop the charity SameYou, which helps to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.

And she recently told E! News that her Thrones family helped in her recovery, saying, “It saved my life, literally. The entire show, the family that is a part of this show, and the show itself, saved me, and Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, saved my life for sure.”

Since Game of Thrones‘ debut, Clarke has joined several other historic franchises, including Star Wars when she starred in 2018’s Solo, and the 2015 Terminator reboot, Terminator: Genisys. In a recent THR roundtable, Clarke reflected on her decision to join major blockbusters (though she turned down Fifty Shades of Grey). 

“In the beginning, when it was, ‘Do you want to do this really big movie?’ you’d be like, ‘Yeah, of course I do. Are you kidding?’ Then you do lots of them and suddenly you’re like, ‘I went to drama school, I care about art, I care about working with auteurs,

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