Best known for his portrayal of Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, Richard Madden has since moved on and has done so much more. Despite the awards and acclaim he now has under his belt, his fame has never been a sure thing—we know, we’re surprised too! Why is that? Well, read on to find out some truly surprising facts about this awesome Scottish actor.
Born on June 19, 1986, Richard Madden spent much of his childhood growing up in the village of Elderslie, just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. He definitely caused a bit of trouble as a kid—he once blew off part of his finger while messing around with his dad’s air pistol—but for the most part, he was just like any other ordinary kid.
How did he go from a precocious kid to the prince of everyone’s dreams? Well, it all began when he turned 11 years old…
You know that awkward, shy kid that kept to himself in the back of the class? Yeah, that perfectly described Madden, and he was painfully aware of it. Add to that the fact that he was overweight and didn’t like sports, and you can probably imagine the cruelty he faced from the kids in his class. Still, Madden wasn’t going to just take this lying down. When he turned 11, he decided to do something about it.
At the young age of 11, Madden decided to join the PACE Youth Theatre to overcome his shyness. It was definitely an unexpected move—no one in his family had any connection to acting, after all—but he found his calling. At PACE, it was clear that Madden was something special, and had an unexpected talent for acting. As a result, he got his first acting job…but it wasn’t exactly the role of his dreams.
Madden was cast into a film adaption of Iain’s Bank book, Complicity. While this sounded great on the surface, Madden ended up playing an extremely dark role: he acted as the victim of rape. Now, the role itself wasn’t the problem for Madden—even his parents supported him—and it directly landed him another acting role in a show called My Barmy Aunt Boomerang. It was the kids at school that ended up being the problem.
This probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s ever been a theater kid, but being good at singing and dancing didn’t impress the kids at Madden’s school. If anything, the kids got worse. For the rest of high school, Madden lost interest in acting (no surprise there!), but the allure of the theatre kept pulling at him from the back of his mind. Soon, he couldn’t resist the siren’s call of acting any longer.
At 18, Richard Madden applied for drama school at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He got in, and since he “didn’t want to be the fattest boy in drama school,” he began losing weight. And judging by his more recent photos, it, uh, well it worked really well, to put it mildly. While he hated going to the gym, and still hates it to this day, there was no denying his dedication. This, in combination with his devotion to acting, landed him his next big-name role.
Looking for a real-life ugly-duckling-turned-beautiful-swan story? Look no further than Madden’s acting career. In a total 180, awkward, shy, uncharismatic Madden landed a role as the Romeo from the play Romeo and Juliet throughout the summer of 2007. Critics praised his portrayal of the handsome prince, and considering some of the wild conditions he worked in, he certainly earned the praise.
After a run in the Globe Theatre, Madden and the theatre company took Romeo and Juliet on the road, and performed the play in several open-air stages. Unfortunately, the summer of 2007 was a wet one, meaning poor Madden frequently found himself acting in the rain. Still, Madden managed to turn this into a positive, saying that “Vocally it was the best training that I’ve ever had.” What a superstar!
While in theater, Madden found a string of jobs in front of the camera. From 2009 to 2010, he acted in several British dramas and thrillers, from Hope Springs, a comedy about four female ex-cons trying to hide a vast fortune, to Worried About the Boy, a television-movie about the English singer, Boy George. Unfortunately, the pay for these gigs was low, and things took a turn for the worse.
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Now living on his own and trying to make it as an actor, Richard Madden didn’t have much of a safety net when it came to money. Between boring adult nonsense like rent, buying food, and utilities., Madden barely made it through the day-to-day. In fact, during this time, he lived off of $5 per day! It was a harsh life, and there was a chance he would have to drop his dreams of acting. However, he kept at it. Soon, his acting talent…GOT him noticed.
At 23 years old, Madden hit the jackpot with a tiny little cultural phenomenon called Game of Thrones. While it may be extremely hard to imagine anyone else but Madden in the role of Robb Stark, the character on the show that gained him global recognition, his spot on the show was never a sure thing. The pilot for the show was apparently a disaster, leading to a very scary moment for Madden.
HBO, the production company for Game of Thrones, hated the original pilot for the show, prompting the directors to reshoot the entire thing. As a result, many of the major characters, including Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, were re-cast. Madden losing the role of Robb Stark became a very real possibility. Luckily, Madden survived the culling, but he learned a valuable lesson: absolutely nothing about television is set in stone.
Despite Madden’s relative inexperience, even he had an inkling that the original pilot was a tad ridiculous. Originally, the pilot had a scene where he, along with Kit Harrington and Alfie Allen, stood around shirtless while getting ready for a shave. Instead of prepping for the scene, Madden and the two boys started to horse around by flexing for the camera and doing push-ups to one-up each other. Boys will be boys!
A part of any actor’s job is to promote the show they’re on, and Richard Madden was no exception to this. This led to a super surreal moment for him in New York. As Madden traveled between interviews, he found himself too broke for a cab. He ended up hopping on a bus—which had his face on it. The double-takes the passengers took must’ve been a sight to behold, and it was a sign to Madden that the show he was on might just be a bigger deal than he initially thought.
While Game of Thrones became huge and started to earn itself awards and acclaim left and right, Richard Madden didn’t exactly reap the same kind of rewards—not right away. Since Madden didn’t have much experience before joining the show, HBO didn't pay him very much—at least, not as much as the success of the show would imply. This wasn’t the only thing about working on Game of Thrones that bothered him either.
The success of Game of Thrones was a boon for Richard Madden, but fame wasn’t without its downsides. As Madden made a name for himself playing as Robb Stark, the paparazzi began stalking the poor man. And “stalking” isn’t an overstatement by any stretch of the imagination. Once, he found a member of the paparazzi hiding in the trees outside his flat. Another time, he found someone hiding underneath the cars outside his home.
Obviously, Madden had to take drastic measures.
In another life, Madden may have been able to make a living as a professional spymaster. You see, after realizing just how far the paparazzi went to take photos of him, he set up a network of friends and neighbors to keep track of the paparazzi in his neighborhood. The group shares photos of paparazzi to alert Madden of their movements, allowing him to avoid unwanted photo-ops. And the paparazzi only got worse, because Game of Thrones was really picking up steam—and not always for a good reason.
Game of Thrones is infamous for its risqué and steamy love scenes, and Madden didn’t get to escape these scenes despite the controversies. While he worked with beautiful co-stars, it turned out that being in your birthday suit in front of the cameras wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Not only did Madden have to keep up a strict gym routine in order to look good for the cameras, he just never felt comfortable being objectified either.
Despite the downsides, he came to love working on the show. But all good things come to an end...
After leaving Game of Thrones, Madden found some small successes in comedies and dramas, but he never quite achieved Game of Thrones-levels of fame. Through it all, there was always a danger that lurked in the shadows of his acting career: he may never find success again, and the public would forever know him as “the Game of Thrones guy,” or “the guy who plays a lot of princes.” His next role certainly didn’t help things.
In 2018, many speculated that Richard Madden had a chance of being the world’s most famous super spy: Bond. James Bond. Most of his friends and co-stars, from Harrington to Lily James, agreed with the rumors. As for Madden himself: he admitted that he read all the James Bond books, but didn’t want to jinx anything by adding to the rumors.
Unfortunately, one of his friends just couldn’t keep her mouth shut about why Madden should be James Bond.
When an interviewer asked about why Richard Madden should be the next James Bond, Lily James revealed a fun fact about him. Much like the character, Madden enjoys sipping on a nice martini after a day of hard work. On top of that, he loves driving his silver F-Type Jaguar. As one source put it, it's indeed a “very Bond-esque car.” Hey, even if he never actually plays James Bond, it looks like he’s pretty darn close to living Bond’s life!
After his final episode of GoT, Disney cast Richard Madden as Prince Kit in their 2015 live-action remake of Cinderella. It was yet another prince role for Madden, and he was quite disappointed at first. It wasn’t until he read the script that he fell in love with the story, and decided to take on the role. And while being Prince Kit was never quite as bloody as his time being Robb Stark, it was, in some ways, a lot more painful.
You can bet that the live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella involved some beautiful costumes, even for Madden’s character. However, there was one tiny—err, actually, big—problem. Madden needed to wear tight pants as a part of his costume, and well… that meant his bulge showed through. Since the family-friendly movie really couldn’t have that, he had to wear a jockstrap.
Apparently, one jockstrap was so tight it made Madden cry! And that wasn’t the last of his hardships on set.
During Cinderella, Richard Madden had a ballroom dance scene with his co-star, Lily James. Madden found the dancing especially demanding, and actually tore James’s ballgown to shreds during the first few days of practice. This wasn’t just a little “oopsie” moment either: Cinderella’s ball gown involved some poor soul hand-placing a little under 10,000 Swarovski crystals, one by one, onto the dress.
After that colossal mistake, Madden managed to make up for it in a big way.
After his embarrassing first few attempts at dancing, Richard Madden knuckled down and got to work practicing his moves. He trained three to four days a week for two months to get the choreography down. It worked too—he ended up performing the dance so well that Cate Blanchett, who played the evil stepmother, almost broke into tears watching his performance.
Unfortunately, this would be one of the last times he found luck acting as the prince.
In 2016, Madden once again took up the mantle of Romeo in the West End production of Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, critics this time were much more mixed about his performance—it seemed as though his “prince” shtick was getting old. To add insult to injury, Madden badly hurt his ankle, forcing him out of the play. The signs were clear: it was time for Madden to move on from playing the prince. And that was exactly what he did.
Madden’s next few roles were definitely a far-cry from his past prince roles. After starring as a powerful banker named Cosimo de’ Medici in the Italian-British drama Medici: Masters of Florence, Madden got a chance to star alongside Idris Elba in The Take. This time, Madden took on the role of a master pickpocket named Michael Mason. Just like in any movie, Madden had to undergo some training for the role, but this kind of training was… unique.
In order to learn the tricks of the trade, a consultant named “Keith the Thief” (yes, really) took Richard Madden under his wing. Keith taught Madden sleight-of-hand and distraction techniques, turning Madden from prince to bonafide pickpocket. He’s never confirmed if he used his newfound skills outside of the film set, though! Of course, this wasn’t the only challenge he had on the set.
The movie ended up being a huge physical challenge for Madden as well. Wanting to do all his own stunts, Madden spent weeks training his body into peak physical condition. One scene in particular required Madden to run through a 15-foot high obstacle course while Elba chased him. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Madden purposely slipped and fell while running through the course in order to give the scene more character. Talk about falling with style!
In 2018, Madden starred in the BBC hit series Bodyguard as Sergeant David Budd, a veteran suffering from PTSD. Madden took on the show, assuming it would maybe become a small hit in the UK. Well, he turned out to be totally wrong. In fact, Bodyguard ended up garnering him critical acclaim. While all this sounded great at first, the fame came with a very embarrassing downside.
Like Game of Thrones, Bodyguard featured some very hot and heavy scenes involving Richard Madden. This led to him receiving a very distressing call from his mom, who didn’t realize the show featured Madden acting out intimate scenes. After the show “treated” her to the sight of her son’s bare bottom, she stressed to Madden the importance of letting her know if his future projects involved him being in his birthday suit so she could mentally prepare herself. Whoops!
Luckily, the show wasn’t just all about how Madden looked. It definitely let him show off his acting chops too—and it led to one of the biggest moments of his career.
Madden soon found himself at the 2019 Golden Globes Awards, much to his shock, seated next to Julianna Moore. Funny enough, she had more faith in his chances of winning an award for his work on Bodyguard than he did. Before the host announced his category, Moore insisted that she and Madden coordinate how he would get onto the stage. Madden waved her off, convinced he wouldn’t win. He was in for a huge surprise.
To no one’s surprise but his own, Richard Madden won the award for Best Actor for his performance in Bodyguard at the Golden Globes—but the shock was a bit much for him. Moore ended up shepherding a shell-shocked Madden up to the stage, where he managed to stumble through a speech—which, fun fact, his dad had to force him to write in advance.
Later, a very cross Moore scolded him for not preparing his entrance onto the stage better. Despite this huge win, the stress from it all hit Madden in a devastating way.
The filming of Bodyguard left Richard Madden downright exhausted. As you might’ve guessed, acting isn’t exactly an 8 to 5 job, but Madden’s schedule was nothing short of insane. For five consecutive months, Madden worked for 15 hours every day, six days a week. Factor in time spent eating, sleeping, and a couple of bathroom breaks, and you can imagine that the poor man barely had time to sleep. And on top of the grueling work schedule was an even darker problem.
The show took a disturbing toll on Richard Madden. Mentally, he was in a terrible headspace. Not only was he working 15 hours a day, but he spent those 15 hours acting as someone with PTSD. Despite his best efforts to keep his character separate from his actual life, he found that many of his character’s thoughts and fears began “filtering” into his life.
By the end of his time at Bodyguard, Madden seriously considered quitting acting altogether. He might’ve gone through with it too, if it wasn’t for one bright spot in his career.
During the filming of Bodyguard, Madden fell in love with the script for Rocketman, a biopic about Elton John. Rocketman was a musical comedy—pretty much the opposite of Bodyguard. And honestly, that was just what he needed. He accepted the role of John Reid, who was Elton John’s former music manager and ex-boyfriend. The script wasn’t the only thing that inspired him to make the film either.
Madden’s other motivation for joining the film was Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the film. During a lunch meeting with the director, Madden asked if Egerton could sing. The director let him listen to Egerton singing "Rocket Man," and Madden was so impressed by Egerton’s interpretation that he “heard the song new, like [he had] never heard it before.”
This sealed the deal for Madden, and he jumped onboard to make the movie. Unfortunately, Rocketman came with its own set of challenges.
While Egerton had an excellent singing voice, Madden had much less faith in his own vocal performance. He admitted in an interview that his singing experience was more or less limited to giving his own private concerts—in the shower, that is. In fact, he felt so uncomfortable that he initially downright refused to sing. One of the movie’s producers finally forced him to sing the song "Honky Cat" for the movie. Madden was less-than-pleased with the results.
Despite singing being wildly outside of his comfort zone, multiple media outlets later praised Madden for his singing voice in the film. Madden, however, waved off the compliments, simply stating, “Thank God for autotune,” as well as praising his team for coaching him on how not to think about his singing voice too much. It turned out the real issue would be his old nemesis: dancing.
Both Madden and Egerton were nervous about the dance numbers for the film. Madden later recalled how he and Egerton both felt inadequate next to the “ripped” and “beautiful” professional dancers in the film. They actually ended up bonding over how terrified they were about the whole thing. Their training must’ve paid off though, since the film received largely positive reviews and earned itself no less than 16 accolades.
Unfortunately, Madden’s role in the movie got him into a troubling controversy.
Critics of the movie pointed out the troubling implications of having Richard Madden—a presumably straight man—play a gay character. In response, Madden said, “It’s a really terrible route to go down if we start restricting people’s casting based on their personal lives.” While he believes that there needs to be more diverse characters seen on-screen, he staunchly separates an actor’s professional and personal life.
It’s not hard to see him putting this into practice either, especially when it comes to his love life.
Most of the speculation around Madden’s love life is just that: speculation. The tabloids have speculated that he's had romances with famous faces like Jenna Coleman, Suki Waterhouse, Ellie Bamber, and Brandon Flynn. However, Madden has steadfastly refused to publicly discuss his love life—or much about his personal life, for that matter. And considering how nutty his fans are, perhaps this is really for the best.
Even during Madden’s Game of Thrones days, fans seemed to lose their minds when they saw him, and we can only imagine their reactions have gotten wilder. Madden once had a fan see him in the street, run up to him, and wordlessly scream at him—presumably in excitement? However, his reaction was legendary. He invited her for a nice chat. What a lucky fan!
In multiple interviews, Madden credited his childhood brushes with fame for allowing him to not let the attention go to his head.
After playing a small supporting role as Lieutenant Joseph Blake in the film 1917, Madden made a surprising career move by starring in, of all things, a science fiction podcast series called From Now. From portraying a medieval prince in Game of Thrones to playing an astronaut on From Now, it’s safe to say that Madden managed to thoroughly escape being typecast! And his future roles are looking even more diverse.
In an interview with Elton John, Richard Madden made an offhand comment about wanting to play a superhero. This turned out to be a prophetic statement. In 2020, Marvel announced that Madden would be their leading man in their newest superhero movie, Eternals. And Madden isn’t playing a small role either—he will be playing as Ikaris, who leads the movie’s superhero team. And for Madden, that isn’t the most exciting part.
Not only will Madden be the leading man in a Marvel superhero movie, but he’ll be acting alongside some old friends. Most notably, Kit Harrington, who acted alongside Madden in Game of Thrones and with whom Madden became good friends, will be in Eternals as well.
Although his friends do accidentally let his secrets slip at times, Madden has continued to find ways to stump and annoy the paparazzi to protect his privacy. One of his favorite tricks is to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row, preventing the paparazzi from getting usable photos. After all, as he puts it, “There’s only so many photos you can have of me with a green juice walking down the street.”
While Richard Madden can act in front of thousands of people, one of his biggest fears is, strangely enough, being himself. He once stated, “I can stand in front of 2,000 naked easily if I’m in character, but standing up at my mate’s wedding, doing a speech, crushing.” It seems that he hasn’t quite managed to shake that childhood shyness. Madden has even mentioned that he’s still unsure of himself when he looks in the mirror.
Madden’s last day of filming in 2013 was an emotional one. Without going into spoilers, let’s just say it involved a lot of tears, a sprinkle of tragedy, and copious amounts of fake blood. After filming, Madden's reaction stunned his co-stars. He left immediately, without saying so much as a “good-bye” to his fellow cast members.
The reason? He hated goodbyes, and just “wanted to get out.” When he boarded the plane, he made a disturbing, if heartbreaking, scene.
When we say he “left immediately,” we mean he literally left immediately. In his costume. Covered in fake blood. How Richard Madden got on the plane back to London is a bit of a mystery, but it was while in the air that the emotion of the day caught up to him, and he broke down into tears. Needless to say, the air stewardesses were totally bewildered.
On top of it, the people around him kept asking to change seats. Fortunately for Madden, this moment didn’t stymie his future successes.
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