Watching Game of Thrones, HBO’s densely layered, all-consuming fantasy epic, one can easily forget that the actors actually have careers outside of Westeros. Many have thriving film careers – and some can even do comedy and look convincing in contemporary clothes. Here’s our pick of the current cast’s best – and most interesting – film roles.
PETER DINKLAGE (Tyrion Lannister)
Best role: Station Agent (2003) – In Thomas McCarthy’s poetic, understated gem about a train-obsessed loner who inherits a tiny depot in rural New Jersey, Dinklage is nonchalance itself in the lead role, expressing feelings of solitude in subtle glances. The film won the 2003 Audience Award at Sundance.
Most interesting: Tiptoes (2004) – Dinklage plays a pistol-packing French Marxist “midget activist”, in this utterly ridiculous, tonally awkward romcom about a couple (Matthew McConaughey and Kate Beckinsale) whose relationship hits a snag when the wife finds out that her husband is part of a family of dwarves. Gary Oldman, hobbling around on his knees as McConaughey’s diminutive brother, has to be seen to be believed.
MAISIE WILLIAMS (Arya Stark)
Best role: The Falling (2015) – With echoes of Picnic at Hanging Rock, this eerie melodrama about a mysterious fainting epidemic that hits a Sixties girls school sees Williams bring a fascinating ambiguity to the role of the razor-sharp Lydia: is she the ring leader or is she a victim? Sublime.
Most interesting: See above.
KIT HARINGTON (Jon Snow)
Best role: Testament of Youth (2015) – Or should that say least bad? Harington, displaying a surprising lightness of touch, delivers a decent turn as the heroine’s dashing fiancé, who is shipped off to the trenches in this handsome adaptation of Vera Brittain’s memoir of love and war.
Most interesting: Pompeii (2014) – Back in scowling Jon Snow mode, Harington plays second fiddle to the meticulously rendered CGI in this enjoyably preposterous disaster flick, hamming his way through his performance as a slave turned gladiator.
EMILIA CLARKE (Daenerys Targaryen)
Best role: Dom Hemingway (2013) – Never mind the tragic – in every way – romance Me Before You. Clarke’s finest role outside of Westeros to date was in this ribald Sexy Beast-style crime drama about a safe breaker who’s fresh out of prison and wanting to reconnect with his daughter. Clarke, looking nothing like Daenerys, plays said daughter with a nice mix of softness and cynicism.
Most interesting: Terminator Genisys (2015) – Clarke’s only role so far in a big Hollywood franchise didn’t go quite according to plan. But as the formidable Sarah Connor, she carried the the leaden weight of Terminator fans’ expectation and threw it right back at them. Too bad that the film around her was a messy, incoherent flop that scuppered any chance of a repeat performance.
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU (Jaime Lannister)
Best role: Headhunters (2012) – Confidence, intelligence, icy menace – these are all qualities Coster-Waldau pours into his scintillating performance as a former CEO of a multinational, in this slick, nasty Norwegian thriller that is coated with a fine layer of farce.
Most interesting: See above.
LENA HEADEY (Cersei Lannister)
Best role: Dredd (2012) – We know full well Headey can do duplicitous but in Pete Travis’s brutal interpretation of John Wagner’s futuristic law enforcer she plays the ex-prositute gang leader Ma-Ma with a deranged intensity that helps lift the film way above Stallone’s camp original.
Most interesting: Aberdeen (2000) – After appearing in films such as the Merchant Ivory drama The Remains of the Day (1993), Headey landed her first meaty role in the harrowing road movie Aberdeen, and duly delivered. Hers is a raw, affecting performance as a coke-addled attorney who travels with her estranged, alcoholic father (Stellan Skarsgard) to see her sick mum (Charlotte Rampling).
NATALIE DORMER (Margaery Tyrell)
Best role: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) – Shaving off half of her head for the third Hunger Games movie, Dormer imbues propaganda film director Cressida with a sympathetic touch. She’s winningly tenacious, too – much like Margaery Tyrell.
Most interesting: W.E. (2011) – Having made her name as Anne Boleyn in the TV series The Tudors, Dormer was cast as the Queen Mother in W.E., Madonna’s laughably vapid drama about the Edward VIII abdication crisis. Sadly, the script here renders her nothing more than an elegantly dressed cipher.
DIANA RIGG (Olenna Tyrell)
Best role: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – As 007’s short-lived bride Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo, Rigg was one of the first – and last – Bond girls to have any real depth. Cool and sardonic, she’s a delight in this heartbreaking instalment in the Bond franchise.
Most interesting: Theatre of Blood (1973) – Douglas Hickox’s macabre and melodramatic horror comedy finds Rigg on charming form as the daughter of Vincent Price’s murderous thesp.
STEPHEN DILLANE (Stannis Baratheon)
Best role: Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) – A nicely restrained Dillane is the beating heart of Michael Winterbottom’s startling drama about a hardened ITN reporter who smuggles an orphan child out of Sarajevo during the 1992 siege and adopts her.