Wed
Sep 2 2009 5:24pm

Lena Headey Joins Game of Thrones. Very Interesting...

The Chicago Tribune confirmed today that Lena Headey is joining the cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones, its pilot offering for a possible series adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy behemoth, A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Game of Thrones casting started with period-piece powerhouses (Sean Bean, Jennifer Ehle) and strong character actors who elevate their material (Mark Addy, Peter Dinklage), but the last few reveals have gone from uncannily perfect to television standard (we’re pulling ingénues from The Tudors? For real?), and I’m beginning to worry.

Epic Fantasy Acting is a very specific skill set; it’s hard to make it look natural and not like Peoria Community Theatre Presents The Hobbit. Litmus test: some actors are perfectly decent until you throw them into a fantasy, where they flounder. As proof, allow me to offer every single person in Mists of Avalon, which should be a cautionary tale for all subsequent attempts to film epic fantasy on the small screen.

I like Leda Headey as much as the next person, but even though her work 300 is not a lot to go on, her most recent work is epic in the exploding-robots sense, which might work in her favor. She will not be getting a lot of help from her twin brother on this—he is being played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who underwhelmed me in New Amsterdam (and Virtuality, while we’re at it), so we’ll just have to take a leap of faith that he’s got the chops for something of this scope. They’ll be up against plenty of competition; if you need some acting done, you can put Addy, Dinklage, Ehle, and Bean in a room with a camera and they’ll take care of it, you know?

I had been holding out hope that these, uh, super-close siblings would be played by Marie Bonnevie and Dennis Storhoi  (The Thirteenth Warrior)—both excellent actors who work beautifully with epic settings. Then again, pipe dream casting happens no matter what the work, and it’s unfair to think that you can ever cast a piece this big and have everyone work out the way you hoped (Liv Tyler as Arwen, I am looking at you).

What do you think: is Lena Headey just what the series needed, or did you have your heart set on someone else?


Genevieve Valentine is a writer who gets invested in actors like some people get invested in fantasy baseball. She talks nonstop about movies of various quality over at her blog.

14 comments
Luke M
1. lmelior
Well I knew nothing about the casting at all so I want to comment on all of it (note: I've only read Game of Thrones so I might not know as much about the characters as many probably do).

First and foremost: Keep Sean Bean in focus on camera for a good portion of the show and it's golden. He's just that good. Aside from him, it's up to the kiddos to bring their acting chops to the table. As I recall it they are front and center just as much, if not more than Ned.

I like Mark Addy everywhere I've seen him, but I have doubts about him pulling off King Bob. Not big enough, and he doesn't have the booming voice I'd expect. Obviously they can change those things, but we shall see.

Tyrion is a great character, and as such it's going to be tough to live up to. I haven't seen enough Dinklage's work to know if he can pull off the delivery.

Unfortunately I had never even heard of Jennifer Ehle so I can't comment on that choice.

Now back on topic, I didn't have anybody pictured in my mind for the part when I read the book, but Lena Headey seems as good as any, though I'm having trouble picturing her as a blonde. Maybe it's 300's influence but she also looks physically stronger than how I pictured Cersei. But, I can see her pulling off an extremely ambitious and fiery-tempered character.
Nicholas DAutremont
2. nickd29
I could see David James Elliot of JAG pulling off Jaime opposite of Lena Headey. If I had to choose the ultimate pairing, it would likely be James Callis from BSG and I actually not think of any great female actors to play Cersei, everyone I think of is too young or too old.
Amal El-Mohtar
3. Amal El-Mohtar
I still can't get over the fact that Sean Bean got cast -- as I deeply desired -- but as Stark instead of Baratheon. WTF?

I loved Lena Headey in SCC, and I'm looking forward to seeing her play Cersei. I think she'll rock it.
Rob Munnelly
4. RobMRobM
Lmelior - Jennifer Ehle played Elizabeth Bennett in the late 90s Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. No doubt she's done other things since. She was very good in that role, and is a real actress.

Who is she playing?
Rob Munnelly
5. RobMRobM
Ah, Catelyn. That's who I figured. That could work.

I agree with comment above that casting of all the Stark kids could be even more important. R
Francesco Paonessa
6. ErrantKnave
Ehle has been in a couple of things since P&P. Posession is the one that comes to mind right away. I think the Stark casting was aced.

On the other hand, I am very underwhelmed by the Lannisters. IF the season gets picked up after the pilot, and IF the rest of the books get film, the Lannisters get way more face time than the Starks, and good acting would help. The golden twins cast so far... I'm not convinced that they can hold up their end.

Then again, I'm not sure who I would cast in those roles if I were the Almighty Casting Director.
Marcus W
7. toryx
I'm pretty happy with everything I've heard about casting so far, including Lena Headey. I haven't seen her in anything other than 300 but from what I've heard of the readings she gave she'll be fine.

I was a little surprised by Sean Bean for Stark but I think he'll be able to pull him off pretty well. I'm a little more worried about Mark Addy. Not so much for Robert as King, but if they do any flashbacks from him as the younger warrior...I have a harder time seeing that.

Dinklage for Tyrion was my first choice. I can't think of anyone better.

Anyway, so far GRRM has seemed pretty damned pleased with the casting so I'm happy. Besides, we still have to see whether or not the pilot will get picked up.
Ellen B. Wright
8. ellenw
Since the only things I've seen Headey in are 300 and The Brothers Grimm... Well... Actually, as people are probably tired of hearing me say, I'm just overjoyed that the rumors about Sophia Myles as Cersei were completely off-base.

Casting epic fantasy is tricky, and the TV show could easily still be a disaster, but I've just been pleased with their choices so far.
Navah Wolfe
9. nwolfe
I am thrilled to pieces by Lena Headey. She blew me away in TSCC, and I really think she can pull Cersei off.

The casting for this is so remarkable that it had better be good. Fingers crossed.
Elio García
10. Egarcia
I'm bemused by two thoroughly Scandinavian actors with almost no experience outside of Scandinavia being tipped. Is this solely on the basis for their roles in The Thirteenth Warrior? I'm pretty sure I've seen Bonnevie somewhere or other on Swedish television, but the credit that leaps out to me on IMDB is Tre Solar, a truly dire historical epic...

In any case, I think the fact that people are associated with bad productions doesn't necessarily mean anything. Headey's won and been nominated for awards, she did a well regarded turn in Aberdeen and, most importantly, she read for the part like any other actor. The same can apparently be said for all the significant actors (Merchant, McCann, Addy, Coster-Waldau, Iain Glen, etc.) besides Bean and Dinklage. Nina Gold (whose credits include casting Rome) knows her business, and George seems enthused by what he's seen of their audition clips.

This doesn't preclude the possibility of mistakes, but it seems incredibly unlikely that they're going to strike out with a majority of these actors.

Perhaps more saliently, I think the choice of Tom McCarthy as director -- best known for small, intimate dramas such as The Station Agent -- suggests they're going to push the interpersonal dynamics and realism of the setting over its epicness. It's not going to try and outdo LotR, it's not going to try and hit the same soapy, tawdry vibe of The Tudors (or the far more enjoyable True Blood). I'm not even sure it'll aim for a vibe like Rome -- I could see a lot of the scenes blocked and directed in a very much more intimate fashion.

Will the giant size of the Wall and the huge scale of the Seven Kingdoms disappear? No, but I think in essence this'll feel a lot like a high-quality historical drama which happens to be in an epic fantasy setting, rather than an epic fantasy which happens to borrow some historical conventions, if that makes sense. And Headey's been repeatedly cast in historical dramas, so Gold and the producers aren't the first to think she'd fit into that sort of milieu really well.

I haven't seen much of Headey's work, though I plan to track down Aberdeen. From what I have seen, though, regal hauteur seems to be something she can manage, and a certain sensuality. The most important thing will be whether she can capture the hot and cold humors of Cersei Lannister -- the raging lioness and the reptilian schemere -- because I'm not sure she's ever played a villainess (or at least, not one quite like her). George's remarks suggests she can, but the proof will be in the pudding.
- -
11. heresiarch
I've no doubt that Headey can pull Cersei off after TSCC--Sarah, while an essentially good person, certainly does some awful things in that show and Headey did a good job of selling it. What I'm really afraid of is that playing such a terrible person might sour me on her permanently.

(Also, I'm not sure if I approve of her going blond. Yech.)
Amal El-Mohtar
12. Superquail
In my dream casting, I had Lena Headey as Lady Stark, so I was just blown away by the awesome of her actually being cast in the series!

I am very excited to see what Peter Dinklage can do with the role of Tyrion Lannister. By my count, Tyrion has more sex scenes then any other character in the entire series - and with three different women! I wonder if that might have been how they sold him on the role? ;)
Amal El-Mohtar
13. Mike Natale
I have watched the entire runs of HBO's Rome, Deadwood and The Wire.

They know their casting business COLD. They have a knack for finding great character actors and then somehow getting fantastic performances out of them. Sometimes even to the point of elevating the actor's performance above the material.

If you ever told me I'd obsessively devour every episode of a WESTERN drama, I'd have laughed in your face. Yet Ian McShane's Al Swearengen is probably one of the BEST characters on television EVER.

I have OCD when it comes to Martin's Song of Ice & Fire and want this television adaptation to work SOOOO badly. If HBO weren't doing it, I'd probably have given up hope as soon as it was announced. Truth be told HBO is the perfect place for this series.
Amal El-Mohtar
14. Georgia Connor
I've learnt about Lena Headey from TSCC and I instantly loved her from the Pilot episode.I think that she was superb playing Sarah Connor - powerful and true heroine but at the same time a human being who has suffered a lot and has its fears.It was Lena who brought the personality of Sarah Connor to life for me and I think she can cope with anything as a role. No matter what kind of character Lena's playing I'll enjoy it because she's interesting as an actress.Love that serious/cautious/determined look of her green eyes.

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