Game of Thrones star Lena Headey has cast yet more light on the murky world of Hollywood sexism.
The Yorkshire-born actress – who plays Cersei Lannister in the smash hit HBO series – says young women auditioning for roles face intense pressure to be “beautiful and skinny”, as male directors speculate over who they want to have sex with.
Speaking to her co-star Maisie Williams (aka Arya Stark) in a new interview for Net-A-Porter's magazine The Edit, Headey says:
“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***?’”
The star says she refused to play “the game of going in [to auditions] and flirting” and is “very happy” to have lost out on roles as a result.
Headey, 43, says the situation is easier for her now she’s older:
“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.”
However, some aspects of being a woman in the acting industry still grate – and they sound suspiciously similar to the issues many women in the workplace face:
“I was talking about this with another actress,” she recalls. “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?’” she says. “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.’
Headey praises 20-year-old Williams for being so down-to-earth – despite the overnight phenomenon that Game of Thrones became, and the influence of global fame:
“I’ll always love you, Maisie, because you’ve just remained. You guys [Game of Thrones’ younger cast members] have all handled it brilliantly. I just think it’s great; you’ve grown up with this, and you’ve remained delightful. There isn’t a knob amongst you, which is incredible. Not everybody would have come out…knobless.”
Headey’s alter ego Cersei Lannister radiates blood-thirsty ambition on the medieval fantasy show – and it seems she’s on full form in the upcoming seventh season of the show.
“I think the highlight was [last season] when she blew up the Great Sept of Baelor, then just enjoyed her wine,” Headey says, talking about her character’s favourite moments.
“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.”
Headey also talks about the “really horrendous” period in which she was suffering from post-natal depression after the birth of her son Wylie, just as filming for Game of Thrones started in 2010.
“I was postnatally depressed but I didn’t know it,” she says.
“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.”
Game of Thrones Season 7 hits our screens on July 17 on Sky Atlantic
Images: Rex, HBO