Lena Headey is an English actress who is best recognized for playing Cersei Lannister in HBO’s runaway hit, Game of Thrones. Of course, she’s more than just that long (usually) blonde wig. There were times in Headey’s extensive career that her hidden (yet often adventurous) love life made headlines as much as her acting work in film and television. Is all that glitters always gold? Send our regards to these 42 quirky facts about Lena Headey.
1. Three Sides to This Origin Story
Lena Headey jokes about being born in the Bermuda Triangle. She’s not far off: she was welcomed to this world on October 3, 1973, in Hamilton, Bermuda, Headey was born to a Yorkshire Police Cadet and his wife while the family was stationed in the territory for work.
2. She’s Danced Around the Block a Few Times
As a result of her father’s law enforcement career, Headey moved around for much of her youth: first from her birthplace in Bermuda to Somerset in England, and then Highburton, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The one constant in her life? Ballet lessons.
3. Who Wants Fried Fish?
I wouldn’t trust Little Lena Headey with my pet. As a child, she owned two hamsters and some goldfish, the latter of which she once decided deserved a nice warm jacuzzi. Some of you can see where this is going...She didn't really plan the jacuzzi beyond hot water and bubble bath, and one of the fish was boiled alive.
4. Out of the Frying Pan and into the Iron(s) Pan
Headey entered show business at the young age of 17 when she was a student at Shelley College. A talent scout noticed her in a school production, after which the young actress was picked for her first movie role, in Waterland (1992). Co-starring with the likes of Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke, this was no small feat for a first-time performer.
5. More Than Just a Pretty Face
They can’t all be winners: Headey was the subject of negative reviews in her early film career. Co-starring with Steve Coogan in The Parole Officer (2001), which was Coogan’s first film role, she was appraised as little more than eye-candy by one critic. To quote the review, “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.”
6. There Should Be Nothing Between Us
After years of supporting roles in smaller films, Headey finally got her big-screen breakout role as Queen Gorgo in Zack Snyder’s 300 (2007). The part required nudity, but Headey found it necessary and even touching for her character: “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…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."
7. Leaving Her Mark on the Make-Up Budget
Lena Headey is a fan of tattoos and more than a dozen of them on her famous body. This presented a challenge, however, when shooting nude scenes in Game of Thrones. It sometimes took incredibly long make-up sessions to keep them out of HBO viewers’ sight. Dragons? Yes. Queens with body ink? That needs to be covered up for realism’s sake.
8. Committed to the Ink
While filming a live-action remake of The Jungle Book (the 1994 version, not the 2016 one…), Headey began a nine-year relationship with her co-star, Jason Flemyng. It was serious; she got a tattoo of his name in Thai on her right arm! Unfortunately, the relationship flared out in 2003. Since then, she’s done her best to cover the tattoo up.
9. Put Your Activism Where Your Mouth Is
Lena Headey is a vegetarian...sometimes. In 2011, she admitted that she occasionally eats meat, but not very often. Still, she has managed to campaign in the past for PETA.
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10. Silent No More
In 2017, Headey joined the massive list of women who have accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. In a public statement, Headey claimed Weinstein repeatedly attempted to turn professional discussions into queries about her sex life. At first, Headey laughed it off, telling him, “‘Oh come on mate?!?? It’d be like kissing my dad!” According to the actress, she was not cast in another Miramax film after that quip.
In another incident, Weinstein allegedly attempted to coerce Headey up into his hotel room. When she resisted, she was marched out of the hotel and told to stay quiet.
11. Was Fifth Time the Charm?
For her work as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, Headey was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series on four separate occasions (and counting; to date, the 2019 nominations haven't been announced yet at the time of this article).
12. What Are Brothers For?
Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, recommended Lena Headey for the part of Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones. Headey and Dinklage were friends and professional partners well before the show, and both were also fans of challenging TV roles. So not for the last time, Tyrion saved Cersei’s hide.
13. Love & Friendship
Headey is also close friends with actress Piper Perabo, her co-star in both The Cave and Imagine Me & You. The latter of these films is about Perabo’s character realizing she’s in love with Headey’s…even though both are married to men.
14. It Beats Hanging Out with Joffrey
Headey is a horror movie buff. She especially loves flicks about chainsaws, as they relax her and are “a real escape” from reality. Wow, what must acting in Game of Thrones have been like to make the loss of life and limb seem “relaxing”?
15. A Lannister Is Worth Every Second
Headey was only in 25 minutes of all 434 minutes of Game of Thrones’ final season. Someone did the scary calculations: by that math—dividing her salary by the 60-second marks—Headey was paid $48,000 for every minute of on-screen acting. It was a severance package fit for a queen.
16. Do I Sound As Good as I Look?
As a young girl, Headey was a fan of musical theater—but not for the music. She was more fond of the decadent costumes that the singers would get to wear. It was this aesthetic, according to her, that mobilized her dream to become an actor, particularly in musicals. To this day, Headey she hasn’t done a lot of theatre work, but hopes that will change.
17. More Like Triplets
Remember that pivotal scene in Game of Thrones’ first episode, when Bran catches the Lannister twins “in the act”? Well, Headey actually used a body double for this infamous sex scene. Five seasons later, Headey would use a body double once again, this time for the Cersei's infamous Walk of Shame.
18. Arya Can Relate
According to Headey, there’s not much real-life similarity between her and the cunning characters she’s often asked to play. When pressed to compare herself to any of her roles, Headey picked Angelika from The Brothers Grimm. The actress admired and related to the character’s “tomboy” ways.
19. The Game Sarahs
Cersei Lannister isn’t her first big role on the small screen. Anyone remember Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Lena Headey played the titular Sarah Connor in this FOX show that lasted two seasons. Over 300 actresses auditioned for the lead role until they found their match in Headey.
20. The Beginning of a Fantasy Queen
Headey’s performance in The Sarah Connor Chronicles was often praised as the driving force of the short-lived television series. For her work, she was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actress on Television.
21. A Lioness Keeps To Herself
Despite her big stage presence, Headey describes herself as a shy person in real life. According to her, this shyness is only getting worse with age…
22. Until There Comes Another…
Cersei’s “a younger queen will take you down” prophecy came true in real life for Headey...kinda. Two years after the wrap of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Headey embarked to more fame as Cersei Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Several years after that, Headey’s co-star, Emilia Clarke (AKA Daenerys Targaryen) would star in Terminator: Genisys (2015) as—wait for it—Sarah Connor. Coincidence? Yes, but still pretty spooky.
23. Cersei Is Hiding Something…
Headey shot the first season of Game of Thrones while pregnant with her first son, Wylie. The series hid this reality by using body doubles for Headey’s sex scenes and dressing Cersei in flowy gowns. Classic Lannister trickery.
24. A Mother’s Rage
Headey leaned into her pregnancy hormones to effectively portray the royally on-edge Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones’ first season. To quote Headey, “I’m not a naturally pregnant person, so I was having all these hideous post-pregnancy hormonal moments, mentally, and that’s a completely other thing—I was not happy. But that helped for playing Cersei.”
25. As Long As It Makes You Happy
After the birth of her first child, Wylie, Headey suffered from postpartum depression. She looked to creative remedies for her mental illness: “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.”
26. The Lioness & The Viper
It was never confirmed, but one of Headey's relationships was definitely worth noting among the most avid Game of Thrones fans: in 2014, Lena Headey was romantically linked to one of her co-stars. This time, it was Pedro Pascal, who played the doomed Oberyn Martell. The two actors were frequently seen getting “very comfortable” with each other on daytime outings and on social media.
The relationship was only speculation—and Headey went on to have a child with Dan Cadan in 2015—but it probably made a few avid fanfic writers happy.
27. Double the Trouble
The first season of Game of Thrones was not the last time Headey showed up with a passenger in her belly. While filming season six, she was also pregnant with her daughter, Teddy.
28. You Could Say She’s a Dog Person
As a true animal lover, Headey owns many pets. In addition to a beagle named Wizard, she owns two dachshunds named Monkey and Skippy, a rescue dog named Irish, and even a Brussels Griffon originally named Nugget. She changed Nugget’s name to “Angela Lansbury” after realizing her new pet looked a bit like the star of Murder, She Wrote. We hope that’s a compliment.
29. A Canine’s Friendship is Priceless
According to celebritypets.net, Lena Headey’s family of dogs are valued at over $2 million. Only the best for a Lannister, I guess.
30. Catch These Hands
Don’t mess with this queen: Lena practices both yoga and boxing. The latter started as a hobby, but it became very real, very fast. To quote Headey, “I took up boxing as a fitness thing. I got obsessed and I would go every day when I wasn’t working. It’s just an insane sport when you get into it.”
31. Worth Her Weight in Ratings
For her work in Game of Thrones, Headey became one of the highest-paid actors on television. It’s estimated she and her main co-stars (such as Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, and Peter Dinklage) made about $500,000 per episode in the final season.
32. All the Gold in Casterly Rock Couldn’t Solve This One
By the end of Game of Thrones, Headey was one of the most bankable stars on television. In 2013, however, she was in reported to be in dire financial straights. Headey told reporters that she was “broke” and had “less than $5 in her bank account.” What gives? Well, it’s kind of confusing; she and her first husband, Peter Loughran, were going through a messy divorce.
From child support payments to a battle on how to divide their assets—including a tax return—Headey’s finances got a bit “puzzling.” Loughran demanded that Headey cough up his half of an alleged $46,000 tax refund the couple was entitled to back in 2011. On her end, she claimed she needed $6,000 (at least) from him for expenses. After selling their Hollywood Hills house for $450,000 less than what she paid for it, Headey’s financial situation might mystify anybody.
33. Living Like a Queen
To quote Headey herself, she only “did 15 days of work a year” during her run as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. When a reporter asked her if she ever got to visit any of the show's exotic filming locations, she blandly responded, “I am always in Belfast in a room.”
34. Back to the Start
In 2018, Lena Headey married her childhood friend, Dan Cadan. He is the father of Headey’s second child, her daughter Teddy, born in 2015. However, the pair allegedly split in 2019 after just one year of marriage.
35. Room for All
Headey is an advocate for migrants’ welfare and rights in Greece. Her experiences with the International Rescue Committee in Greece have made her “los[e] hope in leadership” to deal with the crisis that immigrants face in the country.
36. What’s Another One?
Altogether, Lean Headey has at least 16 known tattoos.
37. Better Plastic Than a Pet
Headey’s role in The Brothers Grimm required her to skin a rabbit. As a vegetarian (most of the time) and animal rights activist, she naturally could not do it. Meeting her halfway, the producers let Headey skin a latex rabbit instead.
38. He Won’t Be Turning into a Prince, BTW
While Headey’s vegetarian beliefs got her out of skinning a hare for The Brothers Grimm, it couldn’t get her out of licking a toad. No latex replacement in this case. However, she was able to suck it up and lick the reptile like a professional. Headey even later stated the taste wasn’t so bad—it was the texture that was the problem.
39. Queen of the Six Senses
As a child, Headey claimed to have several encounters with paranormal activity. While staying a French hotel, she allegedly met a ghost: a little girl who was asking for help. And that wasn’t her last ghastly episode. While staying in Nantucket, she also met a ghost mother and baby. This pair was followed up by a woman who could walk through walls. These misadventures have cemented Headey’s belief in the supernatural.
40. This Tongue Will Get You in Trouble
Headey was bullied as a child for her “upper-class” accent. Growing up, Headey’s mother made her take elocution lessons so she could “speak like a lady.” These airs did not make the young Headey popular among her mostly working-class peers. It even resulted in violence. As Headey recalls: “I remember asking this boy where the playing field was, and he was like, ‘Where are you from?’ Then he literally smashed me on the head with his cricket bat because I was different. Or maybe he just wanted to kiss me.”
41. Blast from the Past
Lena Headey showed up with a black eye to her first day of shooting Disney’s 1994 Jungle Book remake. Why? Schoolyard beefs die hard, I guess. According to Headey, she was out for drinks with friends when an old school frenemy, who apparently still held a grudge against Headey for her upper-crust airs, recognized the actress.
The classmate approached Headey and said, “Oh you think you’re so [swear word] good coming back here, don’t ya?” and punched Headey in the eye.
42. A Clash of Exes
Lena Headey had an infamously wayward romance with her Game of Thrones co-star Jerome Flynn, who plays the sellsword Bronn. To this day, the former couple are not on speaking terms with each other. It was a classic Game of Thrones romance: boy meets girl; boy and girl date; boy and girl apparently break up so horribly that it was briefly rumored that HBO was contractually obligated to keep them physically apart.
It remains unknown when they hooked up and broke up. What’s clearer is their animosity. This offscreen rift explains why Cersei and Bronn never shared scenes together.