For those of you uninitiated to the HBO series Game of Thrones (and there are possibly six or seven of you under the age of 50 in the entire universe unaware of what it is), let’s start with a brief synopsis. Game Of Thrones is the first novel in a series of fantasy novels called A Song Of Ice and Fire, created by American Author George R.R Martin. In a few words, it centers around the fictional land of Westeros, modeled after medieval Europe. Westeros rules over seven kingdoms. Basically everyone is trying to grab the Iron Throne (I.e the crown of Westeros). There are several subplots as well, and of course excessive violence and nudity.
Considering the hype surrounding Game of Thrones, it’s hard to imagine that the actors, who are so linked to this show today, ever had a life or career outside of Westeros. What’s amazing is that most of these actors are movie veterans, but not necessarily in North America. Their past is probably the only little known (if that is entirely possible) aspect of the show. Has Littlefinger always been as self serving and untrustworthy as he is now? Can Cersei Lannister, Queen of Westeros, match the evil and treachery she displays now in any of her previous roles? Hopefully this article will get you thinking and saying, yeah I remember that!
10. Carine Van Houten (AKA Melisandre) – The Black Book
The 38 year old Dutch Entertainer, who has also dabbled in music, was not well known in North America prior to Game of Thrones. She has primarily appeared in Dutch and European Films for which she has won numerous awards. Her character on Game Of Thrones was originally born a slave, and she became a priestess to the Lord of Light. Her influence on her King “Stannis Baratheon”, is extremely strong to the point where she convinced the king to burn his own daughter alive. What made her famous? The Dutch Movie Black Book (2006), where her character Rachel Stein, infiltrated the local Nazi base to spy for the resistance. Her need to hide her Jewish identity in the movie, even forced her to paint her pubic hair blonde in one scene. This movie gained attention in North America, because of its director Paul Verhoeven, famous for overly violent films like RoboCop, Total Recall and the erotic Basic Instinct.
9. Jason Momoa (AKA Khal Drogo) – Stargate Atlantis
The 36 year old actor was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. His character “Khal Drogo” didn’t last that long, nor did he say much, but he was pivotal to the story. He was a chieftain of the warrior like race The Dothraki, who married Daenerys Targaryen. His death was unlike any other on the show. He dies after fighting and killing several of his own people who tried to overthrow him. No one stabbed him, decapitated him or crushed his skull (as is normal on the show), but he dies from a small little wound from a dagger that scratched him along with a little sorcery. Where do we know him from? Baring his chest on Baywatch Hawaii (1999-2001) as lifeguard Jason Loane, baring his chest again as Conan on the remake Conan The Barbarian (2012). Prior to Game of Thrones, his biggest role was as “Ronon Dex” in the TV series Stargate Atlantis (2005-2009). He did write, produce and direct and act in Road To Paloma (2014). So he has proven to be multi-talented. Fans are eagerly awaiting his next role as Aquaman, in 2016. But will that role eclipse his popularity as Khal Drogo?
8. Stephen Dillane (AKA Stannis Baratheon) – Hamlet
Stephen Dillane had his start way back in 1985, as a guest star on the TV series Remington Steele. An accomplished veteran actor born in London, he has had a surprisingly high number of films and television appearances to his credit, piling up 12 awards including a Tony and an Emmy. Who would have known? So where have you seen him? He played Horatio in the movie adaptation of Hamlet (1990), Merlin in King Arthur (2004), Thomas Jefferson in the television series John Adams (2008) and CIA deputy director Charles Harker in Spy Game (2001). Out of the movies listed, Spy Game is the only one where he hasn’t starred in movies set in a bygone era, but Hamlet is where he made his mark, and what’s amazing is that he hasn’t changed a bit in 25 years. Goodbye Stannis, you actually survived a pretty long time as a contender to the throne, longer than most, but what you did to your daughter, unforgivable!
7. Julian Glover (AKA Grand Maester Pycelle) – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The 80 year old actor, born in London as well, has appeared in too many movies to mention. His character is the Grand Maester of all seven kingdoms. He serves the King in counsel, history, science and medicine. His character appears harmless, but is actually sharp and dangerous. In recent times he has fallen slightly out of favor with the Queen. His character still remains alive, though. Where have you seen him? General Maximilian Veers in the Empire Strikes Back (1980), the soviet agent and drug smuggler Aristotle Christatos in the James Bond flick For Your Eyes Only (1981) and the deceptive Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), where he should have avoided his own counsel when choosing the cup of Christ.
6. Iain Glen (AKA Ser Jorah Mormont) – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
The 54 year old Actor from Edinburgh, Scotland, graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. On Game of Thrones he plays an extremely loyal Knight and counselor to Iron Throne contender Daenerys Targaryen, the woman who he was originally sent to spy on. He momentarily fell out of favor with the Queen because of this deception. Where do we know him from? Gorilla’s in the Mist (1988), The evil antagonist Manfred Powell in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Dr. Isaacs in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Richard The LionHeart in Kingdom of Heaven, Uncle Ralph in Kick-Ass 2 (2013) and Sir Richard Carlisle in Downton Abbey (2011). He has also appeared on stage in a huge number of theater productions, and has guest-starred in the recreation of Doctor Who (2010), as Father Octavian for a couple of episodes. As awards go, he has won a couple of film festival awards.
5. Aiden Gillen (AKA Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish) – Queer As Folk
The 47 year old actor born in Dublin, Ireland, first became famous in Europe on the television series Queer as Folk (1999), although his first acting role was years before in 1987. On Game of Thrones, he plays the self-built success story “Lord Baelish”. He is an accomplished businessman (okay, so he owns a bunch of brothels, it’s still a business), turned politician turned ruler (after assassinating the Queen, who was his wife as well, without anyone knowing). He is a sly politician who manages to run his own kingdom, while still sitting on the council of Westeros. He knows when to jump ship and change alliances at will. He became a surprise contender for the Iron Throne, and the only contender without any real royal blood. Where do we know him from? Prior to Game of Thrones, he starred in the acclaimed TV show The Wire (2004-2008), as the ambitious politician turned mayor of Baltimore Thomas J. Carcetti. Sound somewhat familiar? After Game of Thrones started, fans saw him on The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as CIA agent Bill Wilson.
4. Charles Dance (AKA Tywin Lannister) – Golden Child
The 68 year old actor from Redditch, England, has made a career out of playing the villain or the bureaucrat. His career spans close to 100 movies, TV show appearances and stage performances. He started his career in the 70s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. True to form, his character is both a bureaucrat and a villain to most in Game Of Thrones. As the patriarch of the most powerful family in Westeros, and the Queen’s father, “Tywin Lannister” sometimes wielded more power than the actual monarchs themselves. Alas his character died in Season 4 by the hand of his own son, who he imprisoned for a murder that he knew his son did not commit. Where have we seen him before? Eddie Murphy’s nemesis Sardo Numpsa in Golden Child (1986), Dr. Jonathan Clemens in Alien 3 (1992), Benedict in Last Action Hero (1993) and Archbishop Langton in Ironclad (2011). At one point in his career he was offered the role of James Bond, but turned it down.
3. Peter Dinklage (AKA Tyrion Lannister) – 30 Rock
The American actor (one of the few born in North America on this list) was born in New Jersey, 46 years ago. This actor has had several appearances in movies where he has not played the stereotypical little man. He portrays probably everyone’s favorite character on Game of Thrones, a testament not only to the writers, but to the way this actor perfectly portrays his role. His multiple Emmy Awards attest to this. Let’s face it, if his character gets the axe on the show, like so many before him, there will be hell to pay for the producers and writers. Peter’s most famous recent role was as the villainous Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). He made his acting debut in 1995 ironically playing a frustrated actor with dwarfism. What made him famous prior to Game Of Thrones? In 2003 he won a film critic’s award for his breakout performance as Finbar McBride, who inherits a rail station in the film The Station Agent. This movie received rave reviews across the board. That same year he played Miles Finch, an irritable Elf who beats up Will Ferrell in Elf. In 2008 he acted in Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008). In 2009 he appeared on the TV sitcom 30 Rock, as Liz Lemon’s (Tina Fey) boyfriend. In theory his most acclaimed performance was in Station Agent, but we are picking his appearances in 30 Rock because they were way too funny.
2. Natalie Dormer (AKA Margaery Tyrell)
The 33 year old British Actress started her career 10 years ago in 2005. In her early career she seemed to have been typecast as a period piece actress. In Game Of Thrones she is a member of one of the most powerful families around. Her mother plotted the murder of Joffrey Barathian, the bratty child ruler of Westeros. Her character marries well, as she has had 3 husbands on the show, all of them kings, two of them dead. Always appearing as pleasant and kind, she has shown (in season 5) that she can play politics as well, going up against the Queen Mother. Her recent appearances in the Hunger Games franchise have definitely changed her stereotype. What made her famous before Game of Thrones? Her role as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors (2007-2010). In 2011 she also appeared as Private Lorraine in Captain America: The First Avenger. We can pick her character Cressida in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay as her top role, but The Tudors wins out.
1. Lena Headey (AKA Cersei Lannister) – 300
The 41 year old actress, was actually born in Bermuda. She got her start at the age of 17 in a minor supporting role. She had several supporting roles in the 90s before she rose to greater fame at the turn of the century. On Game Of Thrones, she portrays the Queen Mother who finally got her chance to rule through her underage son, the King. She is the character most people love to hate. Every character on that show seems to shift from good to bad and back again, but is there really something good about “Cersei Lannister”? What made her famous? Playing Queen Gorgo in 300 (2006) and Sarah Connor in the short lived television series the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009), a role for which she received great reviews. After Game Of Thrones was released, she portrayed the villainous drug dealer and homicidal maniac Madeline Madrigal in the remake Dredd (2012). As the main antagonist on Dredd, Lena proved that she could carry herself on the big screen. 300 wins out though, because she’s the Queen. Also, Dredd was released after Game of Thrones and Terminator was short lived.