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Lena Headey

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"I think she is deeply, deeply fearful. She sleeps with fear in her soul. She is full of terror and paranoia and insecurity. She hides it with stillness. She does not move much and that's been a real challenge for me. I fidget. She's like a cobra, she's a snake just waiting and waiting."
―Lena Headey on playing Cersei.[1]

Lena Headey (pronounced "Lee-nuh Hee-dee") (born 3 October 1973) is an Bermudian-born English actress, who plays Queen Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones.

Early life and education Edit

Headey was born in Hamilton, Bermuda, the daughter of Sue and John Headey.[1] Her father, a Yorkshire police cadet, was stationed there at the time. She has one younger brother, Tim.[2] The family moved to Somersetwhen she was five, and then relocated to Shelley, West Yorkshire when Headey was eleven.[3] As a child, she took ballet lessons for a time before being told to discontinue.[4]

Headey had her first experience of acting as a pupil at Shelley College and was noticed at the age of 17, when performing in a school production at the Royal National Theatre, being picked for a role in the 1992 filmWaterland.[5]

Career Edit

1990s: Debut and early roles Edit

At the age of 17, Headey performed in a one-off show and afterwards a casting agent took a photo and asked her to audition. Later, she got a supporting role in the drama Waterland, in which she had the opportunity to work with actors who had been in the business several years before her. She landed a small role in The Remains of the Day, which came out in 1993 and received eight Academy Awards nominations.

She played Katherine in Disney's The Jungle Book, released in 1994. The film received positive reviews and earned nearly $44 million in the United States.[6] Headey, alongside her co-stars (one of whom was Ron Donachie, who plays Rodrik Cassel) received favourable reviews with James Berardinelli praising their "solid performances".[7] On the set of The Jungle Book, she met her boyfriend of nine years, actor Jason Flemyng.

After a number of film roles, she appeared opposite Vanessa Redgrave in the 1997 romantic drama Mrs Dalloway. Headey landed a supporting role in a higher-profile film titled Onegin, which starred Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler. The following year, she had the starring role in the drama Aberdeen. Headey received several good reviews for her performance in the film. She also had roles in 2000's Gossip and 2001's The Parole Officer.

She received the Silver Iris Award for Best Actress at the 2001 Brussels European Film Festival for her role in Aberdeen. In 2002, she had a role in the mystery drama Possession alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.

2000s: Rise to prominence Edit

Headey co-starred with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, which was released in August 2005. The film received mixed reviews. In an interview, Headey spoke about her character in the film: "I loved the fact that she was a tomboy. That is what attracted me to her, that she wasn't this predictable female character in this big film. You meet her and she is masking who she is. I loved that her environment dictated who she is. She lives and grows up and survives in the forest. Terry and I talked about how her instincts are almost animalistic and she can see 360 degrees around her. She is aware of what is going on. That is how she is grounded. She is of the earth".[8]

In 2005, she starred with actress Piper Perabo in the films The Cave and Imagine Me & YouThe Cave was not well received by critics[9] and did poorly at the box office.[10]

The romantic comedy-drama Imagine Me & You received a limited release and earned positive reviews. Critics praised Headey's performance as a lesbian in the film; Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle stated that the actress "has a forthright, irresistible appeal and a face and especially a smile that suggest intelligence, integrity and lots of fun".[11]

Headey played Queen Gorgo in Zack Snyder's 300. Headey had to do nude scenes in the film. "It's always weird the thought of taking your clothes off in front of 20 people and then to have it projected in front of many more", she told IndieLondon during an interview. "I think it was necessary because we only get that scene to establish their relationship. It is a very obvious moment but I think it does it in quite a beautiful way."[12]

In addition to her film work, Headey starred in Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a television spin-off of James Cameron's popular Terminator franchise. Headey played Sarah Connor (a role later played by Emilia Clarke) from January 2008 to April 2009. The show ran for 31 episodes in two seasons until its cancellation in May 2009. Variety praised "Headey's gritty performance as Sarah – managing to be smart, resourceful and tough, yet melancholy and vulnerable as well" and that the Chronicles "continue to deliver", getting "considerable mileage out of the constant peril" facing the characters.[13] She was nominated twice for the Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television for the role.

Headey has also appeared in a number of independent films, such as The Red Baron, a biographical film of the legendary World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, in which she appeared alongside Matthias Schweighöfer and Joseph Fiennes.[14] Her character was the love interest Käte Otersdorf, a nurse who may or may not have had a romance with Richthofen in real life.[15] She also appeared as the stuffy Miss Dickinson in the 2007 release of the St. Trinian's series. She starred in the Ridley Scott produced Tell-Tale, a film based on the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. The movie went straight to DVD on 25 May 2008.[16]

In 2008, Headey starred in the horror film The Broken. The film was directed by Academy Award-nominated Sean Ellis.[17] The film was about "a woman who suspects she's being followed around London by a murderous doppelganger".[18] The Broken was screened at the midnight portion of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and generally got average reviews. Some critics praised Headey's performance, including Kim Koynar of Cinematical who wrote that Headey "largely carries the film, and does so quite ably".[19]

Headey was cast in the lead part in another horror film titled Laid to Rest, which was first screened in 2008. However, the film went straight to video on 21 April 2009 and earned mixed reviews. Critic Mark H. Harris for About.comstated that the film "has a great look and boasts an impressive cast," referring to both Headey and co-star Thomas Dekker.[20] Headey had a part in a short film called The Devil's Wedding. She provided her voice for an episode of the Cartoon Network TV series The Super Hero Squad Show playing Black Widow and Mystique.

2010s: Game of Thrones Edit

Since its premiere in April 2011, Headey has portrayed queen regent Cersei Lannister on the HBO series Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels.[21] Her performance as the ruthless queen has received critical acclaim.[22][23][24] In 2011, she was nominated for a Scream Award in the category of Best Fantasy Actress for the role.[25] Headey was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for portraying Cersei in 2014[26][27] and 2015.[28]

Headey made a guest appearance in the television show White Collar in the episode "Taking Account" in which she played the role of Sally. In 2012, she appeared in the 3D action science-fiction film Dredd alongside Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby. Her character is Madeline Madrigal (Ma-Ma), the leader of a drug dealing gang, and the project's primary villain.[29] Dredd is a film adaptation of 2000 AD character Judge Dredd.[30] The film was directed by Pete Travis with a script by Alex Garland.[31] In May and June 2012, Lena filmed the fantasy adventure movie The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box throughout South West England, playing the role of Monica. The film was released in 2014.[32]

She re-teamed with Ethan Hawke to co-star in The Purge, a 'micro-budget' horror film, which opened on 7 June 2013 at number one position in the United States, grossing over $US36 million over the weekend.[33]

In 2013, Headey was cast as Jocelyn Fray in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opposite Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. The film never received a sequel, and Headey will not reprise her role in the Freeform TV series Shadowhunters.

Following the success of 300, Headey reprised her role as Queen Gorgo in the 2014 sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire.

Headey also appeared in the 2014 biopic Low Down, a film which detailed the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany, as well as playing the wife of Patrick Wilson's character in Zipper in 2015. In July 2015, it was reported that Headey will voice Jeopardy Mouse in Danger Mouse, a reboot of the 1981 TV series of the same name, which was broadcast on CBBC in late 2015. Headey stated that "I wanted to do it because it was pure nostalgia for me. I have children now and it’s just a treat to be involved in something that you loved as a kid and be able to share it. Those moments as an actor that come along once in while are not to be missed."[34] She will appear alongside Alexander Armstrong as Danger Mouse and Stephen Fry as Colonel K.[35]

In 2016, Headey co-starred in the horror film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, opposite her former Game of ThronesCentury and The Contractor co-star Charles Dance.

In the media Edit

She has appeared on the covers of TV GuideG3Sunday Mirror and Germany's Filmstar. She ranked No. 64 on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 of 2007 list. She was listed at No. 4, No. 10 and No. 3 in AfterEllen's list of the Hot 100 in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.[36] In 2008, Headey spoke out against animal abuse in an advert for animal welfare group PETA.[37] Headey supports the LGBT organisation NOH8[38] and in April 2015 appeared on a T-shirt designed by them and sold through to raise funds for the cause.[39] In 2015, she appeared on the cover of More.[40]

Personal life Edit

Headey was once engaged to Johnny Cicco, and dated actor Jason Flemyng for nine years, from 1994 to 2003. She and Flemyng met during the filming of The Jungle Book, and she had a tattoo of his name in Thai on her arm, which has since been covered. She was reportedly dating Marcos Domina, a Brazilian model, following her breakup with Flemyng. She was linked to Game of Thrones co-star Jerome Flynn, however the relationship reportedly ended badly, resulting in the two being kept apart on set.[41] She married musician Peter Loughran in May 2007.[42] Headey and Loughran have a son, Wylie Loughran, who was born on 31 March 2010.[43] She has spoken about suffering from post-natal depression following Wylie's birth.[44] Headey and Loughran separated in 2011 and she filed for divorce in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on 20 July 2012.[42] The divorce was finalized on 26 December 2013.[45]

In February 2015, Headey confirmed she was expecting her second child in the summer.[46] On 16 April 2015, Headey stated that the baby will be a girl.[47] On 10 July 2015, she gave birth to her second child, a daughter.

Headey has been close friends with actress Piper Perabo[48] since they starred together in the 2005 films The Cave and Imagine Me & You.[49] She has also campaigned on behalf of animal rights.[50] Headey was a vegetarian, however in a 2011 interview she stated she now eats meat again, albeit rarely.[51] Headey is good friends with her Game of Thrones co-star Peter Dinklage, whom she has stated first pitched the role of Cersei Lannister to her.[52]

Headey has a number of tattoos, and has stated "I was born wearing ink."[53] Her tattoos include a large floral design on her back[54] as well as a Pema Chödrön quote on her ribs.[55] She told Esquire magazine that "I love tattoos. I find it calming."[56] Her tattoos often require covering when Headey works, although she has stated that "you can usually get away with it by keeping your clothes on."[56]

Game of ThronesEdit

Headey stars in HBO's Game of Thrones as Cersei Lannister. She was announced as the role on 1 September 2009. She was part of the initial starring cast and remains a member of the starring cast for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons.

On Cersei in Season 5, Headey said: "I always think of Cersei as a wayward 15-year-old who's never had any real parenting. She presents herself as this image of perfection, when underneath there's deep paranoia. She has no one to trust now."[2]

Headey reprised her role as Cersei in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series.

Personal lifeEdit

Lena Headey was born in Hamilton, Bermuda, because her father (a Yorkshire police cadet) was stationed there at the time. She spent the first five years of her life in Bermuda, until her family moved back to England. They settled in Shelley, West Yorkshire, where Lena grew up. By her own admission, Lena was rebellious and frequently skipped school, spending the day riding around on trains. Lena describes herself as a "Northern girl" - the irony being that in Game of Thrones, her character Cersei is one of the main enemies of the Northerners led by the Starks, who are modeled on northern England/Scotland from real-life history. She also never thought of herself as particularly good looking, saying: "I think I look slightly like a horse. Hand on heart, I think I’m pretty average. I’m a Northern girl."[3]

At the age of 17, a casting agent noticed Lena in a publicity photo for a Shelley High School drama competition at the Royal National Theatre, which started her acting career. Headey did not attend a formal drama school, but instead acts instinctively. Describing her acting process, she said: "You make-believe that you are that person and that your environment is real. That's the only way I can do it. I can’t fake it. I can't be like, 'I'll just pretend to be-' Clearly I'm not a queen. The wig and the costume all help."[3]

Lena has been suffering from bouts of clinical depression since she was 15 years old, when she was officially diagnosed. She eventually learned to manage it without taking medication, because she is extremely worried about becoming dependent on it. Lena described herself as functioning fairly well until the birth of her son in 2010 (near the end of her filming on Season 1 of Game of Thrones), after which she developed postpartum depression. In reaction, she did start taking several homeopathic remedies, but she still does not want to become dependent on prescribed medication. As Headey said,

"...Then I had postnatal depression, which I didn't realise for a long time. I went a bit nuts and eventually went to a guy who mixes Western and Eastern philosophy in terms of medicine and he put me on a course of something that changed everything. But I would never want to be dependent [on medication]."[3]

Lena Headey married Irish musician Peter Loughran in May 2007. Lena and Peter had a son together, Wylie Loughran, born in March 2010. Lena's pregnancy coincided with much of her filming for Season 1 of Game of Thrones, but the production team was so enthusiastic about her performance - and the larger scale concern of having Headey play Cersei for several years - that they didn't recast the role but instead worked around it. For example, directors in Season 1 kept the camera frame above her waist or had her sit at a table. For wide shots when Cersei was walking around, most of Cersei's costumes in Season 1 had large billowing sleeves which she carried in front of her to hide her pregnancy. At other times, body doubles were shot from behind in quick-cuts.

Lena developed postpartum depression after the birth of her son in 2010, compounded by her predisposition to bouts of clinical depression. She separated from Peter Loughran in 2011 (during or near the end of production on Season 2), and they formally filed for divorce in July 2012 (at the beginning of production on Season 3). The divorce was finalized a year and a half later in December 2013 (just after production on Season 4 finished). She also turned 40 in October 2013, which she described as "a bit of a shock", which made her reflect on her life and career. Lena described the divorce as "difficult", saying:

"I've done it without falling into bitterness or engulfing anger. I remember being on my knees in the middle of it because you're really alone – as much as people offer help, only you know how painful it is on so many levels. Even though there were times when I wanted to do terrible things, I kept thinking, 'I've got to do it with a bit of grace because I want my son to look back and be proud of me.'"[3]

During the long proceedings from 2012 through 2013, a dispute arose over the division of a joint tax refund, which resulted in Lena telling a court that she was broke. By March 2014, however, she said that she was financially stable, and while she had been renting homes for the past two years (in Hollywood Hills, California) she was now looking to buy a permanent home in the San Fernando Valley/Hollywood Hills region.[3]

Lena hated the public scrutiny surrounding her divorce, including what she called "a fascination with my bank account" (as multiple news outlets reported on her financial difficulties during her divorce). She also found the general prying by the media about her divorce to be very insensitive, and said: "I just thought, 'You f— faceless t—. Just meet me in an alleyway and then I will be graceless.'"[3]

Lena received some happier news in July 2014, when it was announced that she had received her first Emmy Award nomination, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Drama Series, for her role as Cersei Lannister in Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Ultimately she did not win the award when the winners were announced two months later in August 2014.

On February 15, 2015, Lena announced in People magazine that she is pregnant with her second child, due in summer 2015. She did not say who the father was.[4] In an interview with MORE magazine in April 2015, she explained that after the media focus around the divorce that ended her first marriage, she doesn't want to publicly reveal details about her current relationships, such as who the father of her second child is. Lena said, "I like to keep my personal life private."[5]

On July 10, 2015, Lena announced the birth of her second child via Twitter, exclaiming "Just fallen in unconditional heartbreaking divine love for the second time."[6]

Multiple reports have described Lena Headey as both extremely foul-mouthed and very funny.[3]



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
Season three credits
Valar Dohaeris Dark Wings, Dark Words Walk of Punishment And Now His Watch is Ended Kissed by Fire
The Climb The Bear and the Maiden Fair Second Sons The Rains of Castamere Mhysa
Season four credits
Two Swords The Lion and the Rose Breaker of Chains Oathkeeper First of His Name
The Laws of Gods and Men Mockingbird The Mountain and the Viper The Watchers on the Wall The Children
Season five credits
The Wars to Come The House of Black and White High Sparrow Sons of the Harpy Kill the Boy
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken The Gift Hardhome The Dance of Dragons Mother’s Mercy
Season six credits
The Red Woman Home Oathbreaker Book of the Stranger The Door
Blood of My Blood The Broken Man No One Battle of the Bastards The Winds of Winter

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games SeriesEdit

Telltale Game Series credits
Iron From Ice The Lost Lords The Sword in the Darkness Sons of Winter A Nest of Vipers The Ice Dragon

See alsoEdit


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