You probably know her as Cersei Lannister, but English actress Lena Headey had a successful career long before she starred on HBO’s Game of Thrones. While it’s true that the epic series makes up the bulk of what Lena Headey is worth, it’s not the only thing that has filled her bank account. Find out her net worth after a decades-long history in film and television.
What Is Lena Headey Best Known For?
Headey was born in Bermuda and raised in England. According to Yorkshire Live, she was discovered by a casting agent at age 17 while appearing in a school production at London’s Royal National Theatre. The opportunity kickstarted a professional acting career that is just shy of 30 years long.
Headey’s on-screen debut was in the 1992 British mystery Waterland, starring Jeremy Irons and directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of actor Jake and Maggie). The following year, she had a small part in Remains of the Day, a drama that received eight Oscar nominations.
By 2005, she took a bigger role starring alongside Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in The Brothers Grimm. Other popular movies she’s starred in include The Purge (2013) with Ethan Hawke and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).
Her most well-known film role was playing Queen Gorgo in Zack Synder’s 300. Perhaps her portrayal of a strong female leader is what led to the television role of a lifetime.
In 2011, Headey was cast as Queen Cersei Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Fans loved to hate her ruthlessness, but Headey told Time in 2017 that she wanted to create a character that was more complex than cruel.
“I love playing Cersei,” she said. “I’m very intrigued to see what happens to her! She’s so layered, endlessly. Every time you think you know her, there’s another depth of insecurity or fury or resentment or drive or grief.”
She continued, “I’ve always really fought for her, especially early on, because she had seemed just to be a self-serving manipulator. As we’ve grown to know her a bit more, we see that she’s a woman surviving in a really s–tty world desperate to be heard, saying something seven times when a man says it once.”
But Headey’s television career has actually begun years earlier on the British crime drama series Band of Gold. In 2008, she played the lead in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The Fox series, which was based on the Terminator film series, received generally positive reviews. However, it was canceled after the second season.
Headey’s post-Game of Thrones life includes voice acting for two animated series: Infinity Train (2019-2021) and Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation (2021).
For those who might be surprised to see Headey jump from Game of Thrones to a Netflix cartoon, the move isn’t as weird as you’d think.
“You would get people like Lena Headey, [who] was like, ‘I watched this as a child,’” Smith said at a press event (via CheatSheet). “I’m like, ‘What?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, man, I always loved Evil-Lyn. It’s a trip that you’re asking me to play Evil-Lyn.’ But she did it in a British voice that sounded way better.”
Headey was nominated for multiple awards for her roles in 300 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. However, playing Cersei on Game of Thrones was the most rewarding job in terms of accolades.
Between 2011 and 2019, she received six Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, five Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
Victories include an Entertainment Weekly EWwy Award, a Women’s Image Network Award, and a British Empire Award.
What Did Lena Headey Make Per Episode Of Game Of Thrones?
Lena Headey’s Game of Thrones salary steadily increased with each season. According to a 2017 report from Variety, Headey and her co-stars Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, and Kit Harington each made an estimated $500,000 per episode.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed that by the final season, their paychecks more than doubled to an average of $1.2 million an episode. This was a massive increase from the $150,000 rate they commanded in earlier seasons.
Fox News broke down Headey’s screen time for Season 8 and determined that she earned $144,000 per minute for a total of 25 minutes.
In 2012, She Had Less Than $5 In Her Bank Account
Despite Headey’s lucrative role, a failed marriage temporarily left her in dire straits.
According to TMZ, Headey filed for divorce from Peter Loughran in L.A. County Superior Court in 2012, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple married in 2007 and have one son, Wylie.
By the following year, a report by the same outlet revealed that the couple was fighting over a $46,000 tax refund from 2011. Loughran demanded half the amount, but Headey filed a legal response claiming she had “less than $5 in her bank account” and was living off of credit cards. She said she urgently needed a $6,000 advance to cover her living expenses.
Headey asked the court to provide her ex with an equal share of $6,000 and to place the remainder of the tax return in a blocked bank account until the divorce was settled. A judge overseeing the case denied her request.
A bitter battle over their child ensued, with Headey demanding that Wylie be schooled in England rather than the United States. In 2016, a judge ruled that she was in violation of a custody agreement and ordered that Wylie be returned to the U.S.
As the custody battle raged on, Loughran tried to use Headey’s GOT fame against her. In 2016, he asked a judge to order that his ex-wife pay $40,000 to cover his legal fees.
Headey, who appeared to have bounced back from the verge of bankruptcy, had already complied with an earlier court order to pay $20,000 in fees. She also reportedly paid Loughran $9,000 a month in child support.
By 2018, the Daily Mail reported that Loughran had resorted to becoming a street musician in Leeds, England. Concerned friends tried to set up a GoFundMe account to help with his expenses.
What Is Lena Headey’s Net Worth?
According to various websites, Headey’s net worth is anywhere between $9 to $19 million. We are inclined to believe Celebrity Net Worth’s in-between figure of $12 million.
She may have played a queen on TV, but Headey doesn’t live an extravagant lifestyle. According to Know Net Worth, she lived in a Los Angeles home that she purchased for a relatively modest $790,000 in 2014.
Headey had already downgraded from a Hollywood Hills home that she purchased for $1.8 million in 2008. According to the Daily Mail, she sold it as a loss for $1.3 million in 2012.
And the website HotCars, which has kept tabs on her rides over the years, reported that her cars include an Audi A7, Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler 300, and Tesla Model S—all of which are available for well below six figures.