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I recently saw this answer which states the Targaryens in the show don't have purple eyes but they do in the books. I knew this to be the case but a quick search also proved it.

"She has had her blood. She is old enough for the khal," Illyrio told him, not for the first time. "Look at her. That silver-gold hair, those purple eyes … she is the blood of old Valyria, no doubt, no doubt … and highborn, daughter of the old king, sister to the new, she cannot fail to entrance our Drogo." When he released her hand, Daenerys found herself trembling.
A Game of Thrones, Daenerys I

I've seen various posts talking about why the Targaryens don't have purple eyes in the show and they all boil down to the following points:

  • They looked fake
  • Contact lenses were uncomfortable for the actors
  • CGI for them was too expensive for little gain
  • Contact lenses obscure "eye acting"

I've seen many people making these claims but have yet to have found a source for them, is there one?

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    I heard it was because Samuel L. Jackson came and stole the purple contact lenses they were going to use. – Ryguy Jan 3 '18 at 14:30
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    I actually always felt the purple eyes to be kind of a weird and unnecessary detail about the Targaryens. It always rubbed me the wrong way. I wonder if the director felt similarly. – Misha R Jan 3 '18 at 15:59
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    @MishaRosnach Turns out they tried to do it but couldn't. As for it being weird it's more to show the characters hereditary than anything else i.e. they are of the blood of Valyria. It's a detail so you can link characters together. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 3 '18 at 16:01
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    @TheLethalCarrot Yeah, no, I get it. I just thought it was unnecessarily exotic, especially for the amount of actual importance it had in the story. I think something more subtle would have made for better writing. – Misha R Jan 3 '18 at 16:03
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    @MishaRosnach Well it had to be some none standard colour to make people notice. I suppose he could have used grey but that is a bit more subtle. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 3 '18 at 16:04
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Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss stated in the Season 1 Blu Ray extra that

"actors act with their eyes, and [the lenses] really hurt the emotion."

as the reason for removing the colored contacts from Emilia Clarke.

Trying to find/extract a clip for definitive proof...


This was reconfirmed in a 2017 interview with Time

[BENIOFF] I also remember even at one point we were trying out purple contacts for Daenerys and [Tyrion] was supposed to have one green eye and one brown eye. The reality of it is that a character who’s in the show as much as Peter is in the show, to be wearing colored contact lenses every day you shoot is a nightmare. But sticking to the letter of the books was important enough that that was all on the table. I think by the time Emilia [Clarke] came along we were off that idea. But in the initial pilot we see what acting with purple contacts can do to somebody and how much time they spend focusing on the fact that their eyes don’t feel right.

So it seems conclusive that the reason you listed in your question are pretty much spot on.

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    This answer gives a quote form D&D which in my mind trumps a GRRM quote when talking about the making of the show. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 4 '18 at 10:15
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    @TheLethalCarrot D&D here meaning the showrunners David and Dan, not Dungeons & Dragons for any confused readers. – TylerH Jan 4 '18 at 15:08
  • @TylerH Haha of course I've got too used to talking to fellow GoT nerds like myself :) – TheLethalCarrot Jan 4 '18 at 15:10
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It appears as though George R. R. Martin discussed this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly back in 2011 before Season 1 was first aired.

This will be a big area of debate among your obsessive fans on the Web: What changes have you noticed the producers have made in your material?
There are changes, but I’m not sure how many of them are important. Like in the sets. The High Hall in the Eyrie, the one I described was long and rectangular with columns, and the one they built is round with curving staircases up. I had the Moon Door in the wall; they had the Moon Door in the floor. I know they tried, but they were not able to do the purple eyes for the Targaryens. You can do colored contact lenses, but that’s difficult for the actors and doesn’t always look right anyway. I have some great fans, but some of them get a little obsessive about things like that and are going to go crazy. But I’ve worked in Hollywood too long to worry about things like that. I’ve been on the other side of the process.
Entertainment Weekly, 'Game of Thrones': George R. R. Martin talks HBO show

As such it appears as though the reasoning is probably because it didn't look right and was uncomfortable for the actors. Whether the other reasons are true or not is unclear.

However, I have also found the following quote from George essentially stating he wishes he hadn't stated eye colours for everyone. As such it seems like that combined with the reasons above probably meant it didn't bother D&D anymore.

(17) Does he have a system for keeping track of his characters?
This is becomming increasingly more difficult for him. Most info is in his head. He does have family trees drawn up for the main families. But he finds himself having to keep going back and rereading his writing to find out info about his characters. He uses the "search" button on his books a lot. Computers and the "search" function make it a lot easier to find the info he is looking for. HE IS REALLY SICK OF EYE COLORS!!!!! He could tell everyone in the audience has eyes. However, he couldn't tell what color anyone has. You only really notice a person's eye color when you go in to kiss them. As a brown eyed person he gets really annoyed by the lack of brown eyed characters. Too much blue. And ff you have purple eyes...you are obviously important! He wishes he had never given any of his characters eye colors as he doesn't like having to keep that info straight. Instead he'd rather focus on things like a character's speach patterns. He likes to try and stay consistent to a character with that. Its important to him to keep a difference between the high born and poor people.
So Spake Martin, C2E2 Q&A


If you're wondering about what Dany and Viserys would have looked like if the show had used purple eyes it would be something like the following. The editors have added a very subtle purple hint to the eyes in the scenes and I must say it works very well. Obviously contains some spoilers as it is an edit of actual scenes so watch at your own risk.

  • Great video, seems like it could have been done, but her expressions are not as great as in the original version - might be the reason why they decided not to do so. – Lukáš Mrazík Jan 3 '18 at 17:57
  • I can see why you wouldnt want the actors to wear contacts. But they should have done it with CGI. Looks awesome! While reading the books I always perceived it as an important addition that when you are "close up" with a Targaryen, you are not just with some self sufficient person, but with a person that has a defining optical (awesome) distinction to actually support any claim of being special. – user1129682 Jan 4 '18 at 16:03
  • @user1129682 I feel like it's going to be a waste of money/time to try CGI'ing eyes of main characters. That's got to require some pretty detailed work, since eyes aren't a single color, and they move around a lot (and appear in practically every scene). – Riker Jan 4 '18 at 16:06
  • @user1129682 Awesome? Yes. Worthwhile? Depends on who you ask. It's a lot of work for not much gain and it only really makes the book readers go "I'm glad they did that" and that's not much gain to be honest. I would have been cool to do but not needed, plus the show and books are different canons so they didn't need to do it anyway. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 4 '18 at 16:13
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Sources

GRRM himself in an interview states:

There are changes, but I’m not sure how many of them are important. Like in the sets. The High Hall in the Eyrie, the one I described was long and rectangular with columns, and the one they built is round with curving staircases up. I had the Moon Door in the wall; they had the Moon Door in the floor. I know they tried, but they were not able to do the purple eyes for the Targaryens. You can do colored contact lenses, but that’s difficult for the actors and doesn’t always look right anyway. I have some great fans, but some of them get a little obsessive about things like that and are going to go crazy. But I’ve worked in Hollywood too long to worry about things like that. I’ve been on the other side of the process.
ComicBookMovie.com

Note, that Emilia Clarke actually wears contact lenses:

-buys new brand of contact lenses and swaps thrm for the old ones- there we go. Shouldn't fall out anymore
Twitter

On the other hand...

Colored contact lenses were used to blind Maisie Williams and to create the frozen effect in the eyes of Vladimír Furdík and Richard Brake, so it seems to be rather individual.

  • You seem to have found the same quote as I did but a different source +1 – TheLethalCarrot Jan 3 '18 at 14:49
  • Actually it seems your source is is the source of my source, should have seen it. – Lukáš Mrazík Jan 3 '18 at 14:54
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    To whoever downvoted this answer it is an perfectly acceptable answer and was even posted first. It also has the same original source as my answer. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 3 '18 at 15:58
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    +1 for the mention of times when contact lenses are used, which does seem to be for a slightly different use-case (though they should probably be sourced). – Harris Jan 3 '18 at 16:12
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    Emilia's official Twitter seems to be here: twitter.com/emiliaclarke The Twitter link in the answer is not Emilia's. – V2Blast Jan 3 '18 at 21:13

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