Lena Headey: ‘There’s a real pressure on women to be beautiful and skinny’

Kesha arrives at Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport

Whenever I think of Lena Headey, out there, living her best life, I always think about the fact that she and Peter Dinklage have known each other for more than a decade, and they’re such close friends that they actually rented a house and lived together for years during filming of Game of Thrones. Like, the fact that Dinklage cosigns Lena as an awesome person really makes her seem cooler, doesn’t it? Anyway, Lena’s promoting the new season of GoT, which is how she ended up on the cover of the latest issue of The Edit. The photoshoot by Stefano Galuzzi is interesting – it’s very English countrywoman, which surprisingly works on her, even though I suspect she’s more of a “let’s meet for cocktails” city girl. Anyway, The Edit’s interview was conducted by none other than Lena’s costar Maisie Williams. I was actually charmed by the whole piece.

Lena on her best moment as Cersei: “I think the highlight was [last season] when she blew up the Great Sept of Baelor, then just enjoyed her wine. And this season coming, because she’s lost everything. Whatever was good [in her life] has been erased and she’s a horrible cow to one particular character… It’s really quite loathsome.

She liked blowing up the Sept: “I thought that was great. The High Sparrow [played by Jonathan Pryce] was yet another man who came along and was like, “I’m going to manipulate you.” So I think her revenge… Well, I was like, “Yes! F*** you!” And she took out Margaery Tyrell [Natalie Dormer] and her low-cut blouse. Bye, perky t-ts.”

She worries about her kids growing up to be wild:
“Yes, and that’s why my mum loves to say, “There’s karma.” I was talking to a colleague the other day about raising children, and I said, “I’ve got a son [Wylie, seven] and a daughter [Teddy, two], and I know my son is going to enjoy his time sleeping with girls” – well, I know he is – but then I thought of my daughter and had an instinctive reaction: “No! No one’s touching you!” My mum’s like, welcome to the world of children.”

Adapting to the fame of GoT: “I’ve been acting for 25 years and this has opened a lot of doors for me. I can now say I’d like to produce something and people don’t just say, “Ha, whatever” – they’ll listen to a conversation at least. But it’s not changed my life because I did my madness when I was younger. I’d probably be dead if [fame] had happened to me when I was young. The things it allows you to do, the places it takes you, the people you meet, the parties you go to… It’s bonkers.”

Being a woman in the industry: “I was talking about this with another actress, and I said, “Do you find that you have to say the same things seven times, whereas a man says it once and everyone listens?” Male counterparts can say the same thing [I just did] and everyone’s like, “Oh, that’s a great idea,” and I’m like, “I just said that 19 times but you chose not to listen or take it on board.”

She once said that “being a woman meant being judged on your looks as soon as you walk into a room.” “Yes. I’m happier now I’m older, playing women who aren’t expected to be beautiful. That pressure has gone for me. [Male] actors can be ‘interesting’, but there’s a real pressure on women to be beautiful and skinny. When I was in my twenties, and doing a lot of audition tapes in the States, a casting director told me: “The men take these tapes home and watch them and say, ‘Who would you f***?’” I’ve never played the game of going in [to auditions] and flirting; I’ve never done it.

Giving birth to her son just before Game of Thrones started: “Really horrendous – I was postnatally depressed but I didn’t know it. I saw a doctor for the medical check, and I just burst into tears. She said I was postnatally depressed and I went, “Am I? Why is that?” I saw a great guy and he sorted me out, but I did the first year [on Game of Thrones] in that space, figuring out motherhood and going through a weird time personally. It was tricky.

[From The Edit]

There’s some other GoT stuff in there, about how she watched “Hold the Door” and couldn’t stop crying, and how Dinklage always makes her laugh and how she’s always falling up or down steps as Cersei. I don’t know, you guys – I think I might love her? I love that she still has such nasty feelings about Natalie Dormer’s character. My only complaint is mild – while she can control whether she “flirts” in auditions, she can’t control whether male directors or casting directors objectify her or other women. She comes across as sort of judgmental there, like a woman should never, ever use her sexuality or beauty to get a job? And that’s an unreasonable standard.

Kesha arrives at Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport

Photos courtesy of Stefano Galuzzi for The Edit/net-a-porter.com.

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20 Responses to “Lena Headey: ‘There’s a real pressure on women to be beautiful and skinny’”

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  1. Jenns says:

    I think she’s the best actor on GoT. I really hated Cersi, but even I felt somewhat sympathetic towards her last season and was rooting for her to blow everyone up, lol.

  2. LizLemonGotMarried says:

    I love her facial structure. I’ve adored it since 300. Her face has so much character-it’s beyond beauty-it’s just such an arresting face. When she’s on screen, I just stare. Gerard Butler was NOT the most captivating part of 300-she was.


  3. KittyKat says:

    This a is a horrible cover image.

  4. adastraperaspera says:

    Love her. Truly, madly, deeply.

  5. Penfold says:

    She nails it as Cersei. Love her in the role.

  6. scar says:

    My queen…

  7. Faye says:

    “Bye, Perky Tits!” Couldn’t have been the headline quote?! I’m dying. Iconic!

    I love her. Loved her since she was in that Grimm Brothers movie and always wondered what happened to her. Can’t wait to see what she does next!
    Side note: did we ever find out who her baby daddy was? I’d die if it was Pedro, that child would be gorgeous regardless but the two of them? Yes, please!

  8. INeedANap says:

    I think her words are more damning for the male directors.

    I think she’s a phenomenal actress and she seems really cool. Loved her (and everyone else) in the Judge Dredd remake.

  9. Lucy says:

    She just seems like such a cool, punk-rock gal. And of course, she’s talented AF.

  10. Mei says:

    Not sure why Peter Dinklage needs to co-sign her ‘cool-ness’ when she’s obviously just as amazing by herself. That’s pretty backwards thinking that she needs a man to co-sign anything.

  11. detritus says:

    “I was talking to a colleague the other day about raising children, and I said, “I’ve got a son [Wylie, seven] and a daughter [Teddy, two], and I know my son is going to enjoy his time sleeping with girls” – well, I know he is – but then I thought of my daughter and had an instinctive reaction: “No! No one’s touching you!” My mum’s like, welcome to the world of children.”

    Thats not the world of chilren, thats the world of ingrained sexism. Its ok for the boy to enjoy sex, but the girl child, no way? We have to stop supporting people when they say this trash.

    • ichsi says:

      Yeah, that stuck out like a sore thumb for me too. Tired of this.

    • kaiko says:

      i’ve always considered that as a sort of protective stance that parents take, both mother and father, because they are frightened their daughters may start dating men who may take advantage of them, physically and/or mentally….not that they think their daughters shouldn’t go out into the world and be in different relationships, sexual or otherwise….like the dads that say their daughters can’t date men because, as a man, they know just how bad men can be.

      • Shiba says:

        (Leana Headey is not a woman who believes women’s worth = ‘virtue.’)

      • Otaku Fairy says:

        Thanks, Detetritus and Ichsi. The sexism there did stick out, and I’m just as tired of the “young women must be sexually repressed for their own good” narrative as you are. @Kaiko: I get what you’re saying about the physical strength part and male behavior part, but mentally, girls aren’t any weaker than boys their own age are. Guys can be stupid, be wreckless, or get manipulated/taken advantage of too. The fact that women don’t really have the privilege of being acknowledged as naturally sexual beings that guys do, combined with the fact that it’s women who are seen as ‘compromising’ and signing over their worth/respectability/self-respect/ownership of their bodies through sex, also play a part in why some parents and others have this double standard.
        It’s also disturbing how the conversation is always “Men treat women badly, so young women need some restrictions on their sexuality for their own good. It’s not sexism, we’re just concerned about them” instead of “I’m concerned about my boy not growing up to be the type of man to worry about. As parent, what can I do to make sure my boy and my girl internalize as little of those messages sent by certain politicians, hate groups, religious groups/people, infamous abusers and their apologists etc. as possible?”

      • detritus says:

        @Kaiki, this is super common. My dad did this too and I HATED it. It removed my agency and treated me as an object boys wanted, not capable of my own choices. Reducing their interest to me into something degraded and completely of a sexual nature. It reinforced that women are only for sex, and their value is as sexual partners.

        Instead of paternalistically protecting them from themselves, those parents should teach them what bad men are and how to avoid them.

        Saying its protectiveness is just excusing lazy parenting. Its uncomfortable for most people to realize their children are sexual beings, and that makes everyone want to justify it.

        If you want to protect them, talk to them about the dangers. Don’t cloister them.

  12. V says:

    Cersei is my fave and Lena is the best actor on got. I feel like I would enjoy jon and dany way more if there were decent actors playing the characters. Lena outacts them by a mile.I will be so sad when Cersei finally eats it.

  13. NΞΞNΔ ΖΞΞ says:

    GoT just wouldn’t be as good without her. That’s the hallmark of a great actor.

    Awful typo on the magazine cover… poor Arya.

    • Pdxari says:

      Yeah that was the first thing I noticed!!! I can’t believe that typo made it to print. Jesus.

  14. Addison says:

    RE: Being a woman in the industry – This is just not Hollywood. It’s everywhere. This happens at work all of the time. We have 6 men in my department and 13 women. The male boss is always praising males when they have an idea but women’s ideas are hardly ever considered. I also know if the observations I make were made by one of the males they would be accepted much more easily. I have been complaining for years and years that the male boss and a male counterpart not communicating effectively. Often times causing work that is incorrect because of this. Neither of them has ever cared. Just about 3 months ago we had some changes and my male counterpart kept messing up he started whining that people were not communicating with him. We had to re-haul the process just because of him. Unbelievable.