British actress Lena Headey was born October 3, 1973 in Bermuda, where her father, a Yorkshire police cadet, was sent shortly before her birth. Lena was raised in the beautiful Bermuda until relocating to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in England at the age of five. She later moved to London, which has been home to her a big part of her life. Headey originally intended to be a hairdresser but fate intervened…
At the age of 17, Headey’s performance in a one-off show in the company of six school friends caught the attention of a Hollywood casting agent. Subsequently, Headey was cast as young Mary in Waterland (1992), which became her big-screen debut. A natural talent even at such a young age, Lena took archery classes, horse training and practiced boxing while filming. Her turn as the sexually adventurous schoolgirl led to her being cast in Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day (1993). Lena also made appearances in the lesser-seen film Century (1993) and appeared in several episodes of Spender and Soldier Soldier in 1993.
More period adventures followed with Clothes in the Wardrobe (1993), in which Headey played Margaret, a quiet young woman who has no idea why she consented to a marriage with a thoroughly unbearable man twice her age. Answering Hollywood’s call, she landed the role of Kitty, the virginal heroine in Disney’s live-action take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994). On the set of the movie Lena met and dated actor Jason Flemyng and they remained together for the next nine years. They remain good friends to this day. Headey also made her American TV debut that year in the ABC movie, MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday (1994), based on the long-running adventure series. Next, Lena was given the opportunity to play a more contemporary role as Sarah, an Ectasy using raver, in the 1995 BBC Tv film Loved Up. In 1996, she took part in another BBC production, the series Band of Gold, in which she further distanced herself from her period past by portraying Colette, a lesbian dominatrix. To prepare for the role, Lena actually spent time with a Bradford dominatrix. Heady also made appearances in Fair Game (1994) and Devil’s Advocate (1995) before appearing next to Sting in The Grotesque (1995).
In 1997, Lena reprised her role as Colette in the third series of Band of Gold (1996) which was retitled Gold for its final series. In 1996 and 1997, Headey also appeared in episodes of Ballykissangel, Kavanagh QC, and The Hunger. Later, she began taking more prominent roles in higher profile films. First, Lena brought a spark of humanity to Antonia Bird’s Face(1997), starring as Connie, the girlfriend to persuade her boyfriend (played by Scottish actor Robert Carlyle) to abandon his life of crime. In the flashback sequences of the period drama, Mrs. Dalloway, she added sass as the daring Sally Seton, who flirts with women and in one scene runs naked through the Edwardian household. Headey lent her grace to the role of the magnetic girl whom two guys wish to marry in Twice Upon Yesterday (1998). Next, she was cast as the legendary Guinevere in the NBC mini series Merlin (1998), which reunited her with Sam Neill, who portrayed her father in The Jungle Book (1994). After appearing as Liv Tyler’s sister Olga in Onegin (1999), Headey sank her teeth into the role of a bitchy college student in the dark psychological thriller Gossip (2000). She additionally starred in Aberdeen (2000), earning praise for her turn as a lawyer who must reconnect with her estranged father, played by Stellan Skarsgård. This is still the role that Lena is the most proud of in her whole career. She says: “I think Aberdeen is the one. It still gets to me that it never got released in the UK. I read it and thought, ‘Wow, this kind of material never comes my way. I’m never given this sort of thing.’” Lena also played a small part in the film Ropewalk (2000), though it was unfortunately never released. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, Lena participated in a handful of short films – Shuttle (1999), Inside-Out (1999), Love (2000), Round About Five (2001), No Verbal Response (2003), and Vacancy (2006).
Over the next few years, Lena continued to expand her resume with a variety of versatile roles. She had key supporting appearances in such projects as Neil LaBute’s romantic mystery Possession (2002), the acclaimed HBO Winston Churchill biopic, The Gathering Storm (2002) and the adaptation of author Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley tale, Ripley’s Game (2002). Lena met actress Piper Perabo on the set of The Cave (2005), and shortly the two became close friends. “I genuinely really love Piper, I think she’s bright, funny and smart. We definitely got on. I think that by being thrown together sort of made our friendship. She left (the set of The Cave) two weeks before me. That was the longest two weeks ever! I remember crying! I was like ‘Oh no, don’t leave me!’”
Although Lena was not director Terry Gilliam’s initial choice to play Angelika, the sassy love interest of the brothers in The Brothers Grimm (2005), producer Harvey Weinstein insisted that she be cast over Gilliam’s personal choice, Samantha Morton. Lena says that the filming of the movie was one of the toughest experiences of her life – and nearly she decided to give up on the profession after an unpleasant on set disagreement with the director, who also blamed the actress for the critical failure of the movie. “Once the film came out and didn’t do so well, he blamed me for absolutely everything. It was pretty appalling, and it made me want to not work for a while.”
More than a decade later, following the expose and downfall of Harvey Weinstein, Lena came forward with her own experience of being sexually harassed by him. The first occurrence took place during the Venice Film Festival, where she was promoting The Brothers Grimm (2005). Lena described Harvey taking her down to the water and making a suggestive comment and gesture towards her. She laughed it off, and attempted to diffuse the situation by suggesting they rejoin the others for a drink. Her second experience occurred years later when Harvey asked her to meet for breakfast. While Lena kept the conversation about work, he continued to shift it towards her personal life. Harvey then invited her up to his room, claiming he had a script for her to read. When she felt the energy change, she bravely told him she was only interested in work and nothing would happen between them. She described him as silently furious, and when she was able to leave, he told her not tell anyone of their meeting. Not even her manager or agent.
After taking a small break from acting, Lena co-starred with friend Perabo in Imagine Me & You (2005) as a tough-as-nails lesbian florist. Said Piper: “And this picture came along and it made so much sense for both of us. And talk about being three steps ahead by the time you start. Like I borrow her clothes, you know what I mean? Like we’re really, really close. And so you can kind of jump to a much higher level quicker because you have a lot of the groundwork done.” Next, Lena tried her hand at pilot season, snatching the lead role of Penny/Ultra in the tv show Ultra (2006), based on the comic of the same name. Unfortunately, the pilot was not picked up for series. Following this, Headey appeared alongside Wesley Snipes in The Contractor (2007) where she played Detective Inspector Ballard.
In 2006, Lena also embarked her biggest project to date – at least on a budget level – as she won the role of Queen Gorgo in 300 over Sienna Miller and Silvia Colloca. The visually stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is a loose telling of the famed Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors inflicted heavy damage to a massive Persian army led by Xerxes I. Lena, who was a stand-out for most film critics, portrayed the wife of Gerard Butler’s Spartan King Leonidas.
Headey married Irish singer Peter Paul Loughran in May 19, 2007 and even got his last name tattooed on her left wrist. “He’s not an actor, he’s a normal man. Well, he’s not normal; he’s Irish, but you know what I mean. We met at a friend’s wedding and had a little dance together; it was pretty serious, right from the start.”
In 2007 Headey landed the titular role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, based on the character from the Terminator franchise. The series aired for a total of two seasons and debuted in the US on Fox on January 13, 2008. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled by Fox in May 2009 due to low ratings. The series saw a drastic dip ratings after being moved to Friday nights. While working on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Lena also found time to appear in other movies such as St. Trinian’s (2007), The Red Baron (2007), The Brøken (2008).
Lena also participated in smaller roles and cameo appearances in such movies as Laid to Rest (2009), by her friend Rob Hall, and starring alongside The Sarah Connor Chronicles co-star Thomas Dekker. Lena later appeared in another movie directed by him titled Whore which we hope will get released one day. That same year Lena’s movie, Tell Tale, was released on DVD. A thriller starring Josh Lucas and Brian Cox, it is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous work, “The Tell Tale Heart”.
On July 2009 Lena also attended the LA’s Short Film Festival in which she presented The Devil’s Wedding (2009), a short movie in which she plays the Devil’s bride, and which she also produced.
On September 1, 2009, the Chicago Tribune announced that Lena had been chosen to play the role of Queen Cersei Lannister in a television adaptation of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by American author George R. R. Martin, produced by HBO and titled Game of Thrones. Her friend, and soon-to-be co-star, Peter Dinklage suggested her for the role. The pilot episode was shot in October 2009 and the series debuted in Spring 2011.
In late November 2009 we learned another piece of major news; Lena’s co-star in Game of Thrones, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, revealed that Lena was expecting her first child! Answering a question about working with Lena, Nikolaj said this: “It was a really good experience. She’s really cute and smart – and she’s also a lot of fun. She was also pregnant during filming, but not so far along that you could see it clearly. But she had to have a stand-in in a nude scene with me.”