Wilko Johnson a.k.a. John Wilkinson (born 12 July 1947) is an English musician (guitarist and songwriter) and actor. He is best known for being a member of the bands Dr. Feelgood (1971–77) and Ian Dury and the Blockheads (1980-82) before founding the Wilko Johnson Band, which continues to tour successfully today. He has also contributed to talking head music documentaries, mostly commenting on guitar-playing and 1970s British rock.
Johnson made his acting debut in Game of Thrones. He plays Ser Ilyn Payne and was confirmed in the role on 2 September 2010. He initially appeared as a guest star in the first season and returned in this role for the second season.
The cold death-glare which Johnson is famous for effecting is really just part of his on-stage performance, and in real-life he is known for being a warm, funny person prone to laughter. The producers of Game of Thrones hired him because of this famous "cold-eyed, thousand yard stare", and didn't even audition anyone else for his role (Ser Ilyn is famous in the books for having a piercing, unsettling stare).
On January 9, 2013 Johnson announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. With the tumor assessed to be inoperable, Johnson chose not to pursue further treatment, as chemotherapy had no significant chance of working against this kind of cancer. Given an estimated ten months to live, Johnson announced plans for a series of farewell gigs in the UK.
In April 2014, however, Johnson revealed startling news to the press. Despite the estimate that he had only about ten months to live (to October 2013 at the most), he was surprised as the year passed that he was not becoming particularly sick, and the deadline came and went. Eventually, his doctors discerned that his tumor was a rare, less aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, which could potentially be removed through radical surgery. By early 2014, Johnson's tumor had grown from being walnut-sized to being nearly the size of a soccer ball, giving him the impression that he'd suddenly gained a beer gut, as well as making it difficult to play his guitar because it rested painfully over the tumor.
Johnson underwent the dangerous operation despite the chance that it might threaten his life, because if he did not take the chance he would certainly die within a matter of months anyway. The operation (which was so rare that the procedure doesn't have a formal name) removed the large tumor, as well as Johnson's pancreas, spleen, a section of his stomach and intestines (both large and small), and also removed and reconstructed some of the blood vessels connecting to his liver. Due to the removal of his pancreas the operation rendered him a diabetic for the rest of his life.
The operation was apparently a success, but it was weeks before Johnson could even think of leaving the hospital. All of his future concerts and appearances have been cancelled indefinitely. It is also unknown if he will ever be well enough (in several years) to appear again on Game of Thrones.
The TV series thankfully did not decide to kill off Ser Ilyn to explain Johnson's absence after Season 2. Instead he has been mentioned in dialogue as alive, but simply "off-screen". The character was last mentioned in the Season 4 finale, which aired in mid-June 2014.
On August 17, 2014, journalist Charles Shaar Murray posted on Facebook that Johnson is recovering well, and that he hopes to return to Game of Thrones as Ilyn Payne some day:
- "Yesterday: a lovely Sunday afternoon by the seaside… to be precise, hanging out with Wilko Johnson and a bunch of his mates… Wilk’s still in the comparatively early stages of recovery from his massive life-saving surgery, but he’s in good spirits (though he’s no longer drinking any), working hard to rebuild strength and stamina, itching to resume maltreating Telecasters (guitars) in public and even speculating on returning to Game of Thrones once Ser Ilyn Payne is no longer ill in pain and he’s strong enough to wield the Big Sword once more. And he thanks all y’all for the good vibes."
|Season one credits|
|Winter is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Season two credits|
|The North Remembers||The Night Lands||What is Dead May Never Die||Garden of Bones||The Ghost of Harrenhal|
|The Old Gods and the New||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|