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Lena Kathren Headey (/ˈlnə ˈhdi/ LEE-nə HEE-dee; born 3 October 1973)[3] is an English actress. She is best known for her portrayal of Cersei Lannister on the HBO drama series Game of Thrones (2011–2019), for which she has received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe nomination.

Lena Headey
Lena Headey (47086135862) (cropped).jpg
Headey in February 2019
Born
Lena Kathren Headey

(1973-10-03) 3 October 1973 (age 45)
ResidenceEast Dulwich, London[1]
NationalityBritish
OccupationActress
Years active1992–present
Works
Filmography
Home townHighburton, West Yorkshire[2]
Spouse(s)
Peter Loughran
(m. 2007; div. 2013)
Partner(s)Dan Cadan (2015–2019)
Children2

Headey made her film debut in Waterland (1992), and continued to work steadily in British and American films and on television, before finding fame with her lead performances in The Brothers Grimm (2005) and 300 (2006). Her other film credits include The Remains of the Day (1993), The Jungle Book (1994), Ripley's Game (2002), Dredd (2012), The Purge (2013), and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014).

Outside of film, Headey played Sarah Connor in the spin-off television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008–2009). She provided voices for the role-playing video game Risen (2009) and the video game tie-in film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016), as well as the animated series Danger Mouse (2015–) and Trollhunters (2017–2018).

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Headey was born in Hamilton, Bermuda, to English parents, Sue and John Headey.[3] Her father, a Yorkshire police officer, was stationed there at the time in the Bermuda Police Service. She has one younger brother, Tim.[4] She is of part Irish descent.[5] The family moved to Somerset when she was five, and then to Highburton, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, when Headey was 11.[4] She took ballet lessons as a child.[6]

Headey had her first experience of acting when she was a pupil at Shelley College; she was noticed at age 17, when performing in a school production at the Royal National Theatre, and was picked for a role in the 1992 film Waterland.[7]

CareerEdit

Beginnings (1992–2004)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. She eventually obtained a supporting role in the drama Waterland (1992), in which she had the opportunity to work with actors who had been in the business several years before her. She also had a small role in the critically acclaimed film The Remains of the Day, which received eight Academy Awards nominations. Her career would continue to grow in England throughout the decade, and see larger parts in bigger motion pictures.

Headey played Kitty Brydon, the childhood friend and romantic interest of Mowgli, in Disney's The Jungle Book (1994). James Berardinelli praised the cast's "solid performances"[8] as part of a positive critical reception, and the film found moderate commercial success in theaters.[9] She appeared opposite Vanessa Redgrave in the 1997 romantic drama Mrs Dalloway, portraying the closest friend of a housewife, who is now wife of a self-made millionnaire and mother of five. She was then cast in the drama Onegin (1999), a film based on the 19th-century Russian novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, in which she portrayed the fiancée of an aspiring poet and appeared with Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler.[10] The film was critically and financially unsuccessful.[11]

In 2000, Headey played a newly promoted lawyer with no apparent emotional attachments in the romantic comedy Aberdeen, receiving the Silver Iris Award for Best Actress at the 2001 Brussels European Film Festival, and also starred as a troubled college student in the psychological drama Gossip, with Kate Hudson. In 2001's comedy The Parole Officer, Headey took on the role of a police officer, alongside Steve Coogan in his first film role. While the film was warmly received, ViewLondon remarked: "The only disappointment is Lena Headey, who, despite being fantastically sexy (she's given both a nude scene and a 'dressed as a prostitute' scene), smirks her way through the entire film, even at the most inappropriate moments".[12]

In 2002, she appeared as a mousey Victorian lesbian artist with Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart in the mystery drama Possession, based on the 1990 novel of the same name by British author A. S. Byatt, and as the wife of a law-abiding art framer dying of leukemia in the thriller Ripley's Game, adapted from the 1974 novel of the same name. In its review for the latter, Eye for Film noted: "Whilst this is very much a male-centered film, Lena Headey turns in a powerful performance as Jonathan's wife, creating a sense of balance and normality against which other events are contrasted".[13] Headey appeared in the comedy The Actors (2003), opposite Dylan Moran and Michael Caine, portraying the love interest of a struggling actor.[14]

Rise to prominence (2005–2010)Edit

Headey found much wider recognition when she starred with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam's adventure fantasy film The Brothers Grimm (2005), as Angelika, whose woodsman father was transformed into a werewolf by the Evil Queen. She was drawn to the "tomboy" nature of her character, on which she stated: "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".[15] The Brothers Grimm received mixed reviews and made US$105.3 million worldwide.[16][17]

In 2005, Headey also starred with actress Piper Perabo in the films The Cave and Imagine Me & You. The horror film The Cave saw the actress play a member of a group of divers who become trapped in an underwater cave network. While critical response was negative,[18] the film managed to turn a profit at the box office.[19] In the romantic dramedy Imagine Me & You, she took on the role of a woman who becomes infatuated with a newlywed bride, causing a stir among the bride's family and friends. The film found a limited release in theaters, but 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".[20]

 
Headey at the 2007 Scream Awards

Her most known film role came perhaps in 2007, when Headey played Queen Gorgo in Zack Snyder's epic war film 300, based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae within the Persian Wars. Her character has a much larger role in the film than she does in the comic book, where she only appears in the beginning,[21] and required her to film naked for one scene. "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 said 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."[22] The film received mixed reviews, but was a box office success, grossing over US$450 million.[23] In 2007, she also appeared as the stuffy Miss Dickinson in the sixth release of the St. Trinian's film series.

Headey starred as Sarah Connor in Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a television spin-off of James Cameron's popular Terminator franchise. The show ran for 31 episodes in two seasons, from January 2008 to April 2009. Variety praised "Headey's gritty performance as Sarah —managing to be smart, resourceful and tough, yet melancholy and vulnerable as well".[24] For her performance, she was nominated twice for the Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television. In 2008, she starred alongside Matthias Schweighöfer and Joseph Fiennes in The Red Baron, a biographical film of the legendary World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen,[25][26] appeared in Ridley Scott-produced sci-fi drama Tell-Tale, a film based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe,[27] and played a radiologist in the horror film The Broken, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.[28] While the three aforementioned films went largely unnoticed by audiences, some critics praised Headey's performance in The Broken, including Kim Koynar, of Cinematical, who wrote that Headey "largely carries the film, and does so quite ably".[29]

In 2009, Headey played an ill-fated character in the slasher film Laid to Rest, which received a DVD release,[30][31] had a part in a short film titled The Devil's Wedding, and also provided her voice for an episode of the Cartoon Network series The Super Hero Squad Show, playing Black Widow and Mystique. She briefly appeared in the independent comedy Pete Smalls Is Dead (2010).

Mainstream success (2011–present)Edit

Beginning in April 2011, Headey 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.[32] She was cast in the role after her friend and eventual co-star, Peter Dinklage, suggested her casting to producers.[33] Her performance as the ruthless queen has received critical acclaim,[34][35][36] earning a Scream Award nomination for Best Fantasy Actress for the role in 2011[37] and Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018.[38][39][40]

 
Headey in 2014

After guest-starring in the White Collar episode "Taking Account" in 2011, Headey took on the role of the leader of a drug dealing gang and the primary villain in the 3D sci-fi action film Dredd (2012), alongside Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby.[41][42][43] Her performance was inspired by punk-rock singer Patti Smith, and on the character, Headey asserted: "I think of [Ma-Ma] like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her [...] she's ready for it. In fact, she can't wait for it to happen [...] She's an addict, so she's dead in that way, but that last knock just hasn't come". Despite a positive critical response, the film flopped at the box office, seeing greater success following its home release; it has since been recognised as a cult film.

Headey joined again with Ethan Hawke to star in The Purge (2013), a "micro-budget" horror film, in which she took on the role of the matriarch of a family who find themselves endangered by a gang of murderers during the annual Purge, a night during which all crime, even murder, is temporarily legal. The film at number one position in the United States, grossing over US$36 million over the weekend;[44] it eventually made US$89.3 million worldwide.[45] She next played shadowhunter Jocelyn Fray/Jocelyn Fairchild inThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (also 2013), based on the first book of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and opposite Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. The film flopped at the box office, and as a result, plans for sequels were eventually canceled.[46]

Following the success of 300 (2007), Headey reprised her role as Queen Gorgo in 300: Rise of an Empire, which was released in 2014. Like the first film, Rise of an Empire received mixed reviews, but was a major commercial success, grossing over US$337 million worldwide.[47] In 2014, she also starred in the fantasy adventure film The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box[48] and the biographical film Low Down, which detailed the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany. In 2015, she played the wife of a federal prosecutor running for office who cannot stop himself from sleeping with high-class escorts in the political thriller Zipper, opposite Patrick Wilson.

In the historical action comedy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Headey appeared as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with her former Game of Thrones, Century and The Contractor co-star Charles Dance. Andrew Barker, of Variety, found her to be "excessively diverting" in what he considered a "tolerable, but not handsome enough" film.[49] In 2017, Headey appeared as a "predictably hard-boiled boss" in the crime thriller Thumper, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival,[50] and provided the voiceover for Mercedes A-Class television advertisement and Morgana in Trollhunters.

Public imageEdit

She has appeared on the covers of TV Guide, G3, Sunday 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.[51]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Headey in 2007

Headey was vegetarian; however, in a 2011 interview she stated she now eats meat again, albeit rarely.[52]

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

Relationships and familyEdit

Headey married musician Peter Loughran in May 2007;[56] their son, Wylie Loughran, was born on 31 March 2010.[57][dead link] She has spoken about suffering from postpartum depression following Wylie's birth.[58] Headey and Loughran separated in 2011, and she filed for divorce in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on 20 July 2012.[56] The divorce was finalised on 26 December 2013.[59] She was linked to Game of Thrones co-star Jerome Flynn; however, the relationship reportedly ended badly some time before March 2014, resulting in the two being kept apart on set.[60]

On 10 July 2015, Headey gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Teddy, with director Dan Cadan (her childhood friend, who also worked with Headey on his short film The Devil's Wedding).[61] They had separated by June 2019.[1]

Headey has been close friends with actress Piper Perabo since they starred together in the 2005 films The Cave and Imagine Me & You.[62] She is also good friends with her Game of Thrones co-stars Pedro Pascal and Peter Dinklage, the latter of whom first suggested to producers on Game of Thrones that she be cast as Cersei Lannister.[33]

ActivismEdit

Headey has campaigned on behalf of animal rights.[63] In 2008, she spoke out against animal abuse in an advertisement for animal welfare group PETA.[64]

Headey supports the LGBT rights organisation NOH8,[65] and in April 2015 appeared on a T-shirt designed by them and sold through Represent.com to raise funds for the cause.[66] She has been involved with humanitarian organization the International Rescue Committee (IRC), advocating for migrants languishing in Greece, saying that in the face of rising populism, and the "lost humanity in leadership", people should continue to "fight for the good".[67] In 2018, Headey did a voice-over for an advert by the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, which launched ahead of World Alzheimer's Day (21 September).[68]

FilmographyEdit

Headey's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, as of 2018, include:[69][70]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2001 Silver Iris Award Best Actress Aberdeen Won
2007 Teen Choice Award Choice Movie Actress: Action Adventure 300 Nominated
2008 Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Best Actress on Television Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Nominated
Scream Award Best Science Fiction Actress Nominated
SFX Award Best Television Actress Nominated
2009 Saturn Award Best Actress on Television Nominated
Scream Award Best Science Fiction Actress Nominated
2011 Portal Award Best Actress on Television Game of Thrones Nominated [71]
Scream Award Best Fantasy Actress Nominated [72]
Best Ensemble Nominated [72]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [73]
Women's Image Network Award Actress Drama Series Nominated [74]
2012 EWwy Award Best Supporting Actress, Drama Won [75]
Gold Derby Awards Best Drama Supporting Actress Nominated [76]
Golden Nymph Award Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [77]
Portal Award Best Actress on Television Won [78]
SFX Award Best Television Actress Nominated [79]
Saturn Award Best Actress on Television Nominated
2013 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [80]
2014 Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Supporting Actress Nominated [81]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [38][39]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [82]
Women's Image Network Award Actress Drama Series Won [83]
2015 Empire Award Empire Hero Award Won [84]
Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Supporting Actress Won [85]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [40]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [86]
2016 Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Supporting Actress Won [87]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [88]
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [89]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [90]
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress on Television Nominated [91]
2017 Golden Globes Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated [92]
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated [93][94]
Saturn Award Best Actress on Television Nominated [95]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [96]
2018 Saturn Award Best Actress on Television Nominated [97]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [98]

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