Promise me, Ned
By Winter Is Coming on in Casting, Speculation.

The role of Eddard Stark is going to be another crucial casting decision that the producers will have to make. Ned’s role in the pilot episode will be important and whomever they get to play Ned will need to pull it off well if this series is to get past the pilot stage. Due to the nature of the role, the rest of this post is going to be spoiler-territory. Proceed at your own risk.


Due to Ned’s condition at the end of the first book (namely that he is a head shorter then when the book began) there has been talk of HBO possibly going with a big name actor for the role. Obviously he would only need to commit to one season and having a star actor in what is essentially the lead role for the first season would help attract viewers. Plus it would be all the more shocking when he is offed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four names that are being talked about amongst the fans for the role.

Sean Bean – Probably the most popular choice, right now. He obviously is not averse to a role in a fantasy production. He certainly has the acting ability; but for some reason ever since he played the villain in Goldeneye, I’ve always seen him as a better actor for evil or dubious characters. His role as Boromir certainly didn’t change that perception. Could he pull off the honest, honorable and loyal Lord Stark? Possibly, but I don’t know if he is the perfect fit. He may also turn down the role for fear of being typecast.
James Caviezel – A very underrated actor, in my opinion. He can certainly play the honorable Eddard Stark. I mean, if you are able to pull off Jesus, you should be able to pull off Ned. Is he a big enough name though? Also, he is an American, which probably means his chances of landing the role are seriously diminished. I think he would be a great choice, but in the end, I don’t think that he will be Ned.
Gary Oldman – I am surprised Oldman hasn’t received more consideration. He is British, is an excellent actor and, in my opinion, has that certain Ned quality about him. Until recently he was more a character actor than anything and not that well known. His role as Sirius in the Harry Potter films however has improved his name recognition. I believe he would bring a decent audience with him and certainly having someone associated with the worldwide phenomena that is Harry Potter would help this series.
Jack Davenport – He is the least well-known of the actors on this list and therefore, probably has the most realistic choice of landing the role. He is most known for playing the Commodore James Norrington in the Pirates of the Carribean films. If Benioff and Weiss decide to go with a lesser known actor, Davenport would be a good choice. He has the right look and is a talented actor. Who knows, maybe playing the character of Ned Stark could be his break-out role?

While most people are hung up on the idea of casting a big-name actor as Ned, I don’t think that Benioff and Weiss will go that route. I admit, it is a good idea and could certainly help the series attract viewers early on. But I believe HBO and the producers are going to stick to casting talented but unknown actors and use the rest of the budget on getting the highest production values they can. In the end, I think that this is the right choice.


50 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I never thought of Sean Bean… which is funny, since he’s one of my favourite actors. I think he would be the best possible choice! And contrary to what you say, I think Bean is MUCH better as a good guy, and I’ve always been annoyed at the tendency to cast him as a villain. Even as Boromir, he’s best when playing Boromir’s noble side.

  2. Michael Natale
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Sean Bean would be great as Ned.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I think James Caviezel would look too young to play Ned. I would give thumbs up to other actors, but I dont Jack Davenport in the Pirate movies

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    You are doing a fabulous job with this website!
    Keep up the good work

  5. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    Sean Bean: “He certainly has the acting ability”

    Funniest thing I’ve read all day. Thanks. He’s a Blade and a top guy but an Actor! Please.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always imagined Bean to be Benjen Stark. I wouldn’t discount him as good-men roles as he did a good job as Odysseus in Troy. I love Oldman but he’s too old to play Ned.

    Since the introduction of Euron Greyjoy I could see Gary Oldman as Euron. Hopefully there will be a place for him in the HBO series somewhere.

    I’m just not a Caviezal fan. X(

    My favorite pick for Ned (I hope this isn’t too corny) would have to be Viggo Mortensen. That’s probably way too much to hope for. :P

  7. WinterIsComing
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    @Anon #4: I’m glad I could make you laugh. ;) All joking aside though, I don’t think that Bean is that bad of an actor. He’s no Daniel Day-Lewis (who btw, would make an awesome Ned, but I know he is picky about his roles so he would probably never do it) but he’s competent enough to play Ned.

    @Anon #5: Surprisingly, Oldman is only one year older than Bean. But he does have an older look about him. Viggo is the closest to what I pictured Ned to look like in my head. But the character is too close to Aragorn, I don’t know if it would work.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Sean Bean would work but how about Christopher Eccleston?

    I can’t fully remember whether Ned had black hair or not (I think he did as I’m sure Jon has dark hair) in which case Richard Armitage would be an excellent candidate http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/content/images/2006/10/06/robin_hood_07_300x400.jpg

  9. Fate's Bitch
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Heh, Age of Innocence was on the other night and I couldn’t help but think what an awesome Ned a fifteen-year-younger Daniel Day-Lewis would have been. Looks like I’m not the only one.

    The more I think about his role in Pirates of the Caribbean, the more I like Jack Davenport for Ned. The issue is that he’s currently in Swingtown, and according to its IMDB page, it’s in this limbo between cancellation and renewal. The options on the actors run out in December so if it’s not picked up by then, Davenport will be available.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0928173/board/nest/122692511

  10. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    sorry I’m anonymous as i cant get livejounal account verified

    I just checked Neds physical description and it is “Physical Description: He has dark hair and a long face with grey eyes and a closely trimmed beard shot with white.”
    Armitage just may be on the young side but Eccleston isn’t. Both would be dead on for the appearance though

  11. WinterIsComing
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Blogger has been a pain in the ass recently in letting people log in to make their comments. Alternatively, you could just use the Name/URL option and enter your Livejournal account name.

  12. enjai
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem to like firefox either!
    Thanks for the interesting site. It’s nice to see shortlists of who could play various parts. I’m kind of with you on the I’d rather they had good actors who look the part as these roles could make them into stars. A bit like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

  13. Sebastian
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Uhm, Richard Armitage is actually in the exaxt right age ;-) Keep in mind that Ned (and Robert) were only in their *mid thirties* at the time of their deaths. Allthough the “age advancement” will probably mean that they’ll be in their early-to-mid 40′s.
    I would also like to suggest Liam Neeson… allthough he’s probably to old for the role.

  14. winterstar006
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    While I love most of the actors being suggested here I’d really like to see the man chosen for Ned to be relatively unknown. I feel like his role is too important to carry over impressions from another role that actor may have done.
    That being said if I had to pick someone we’ve seen before I always pictured Ned to be something like Steven Waddington (no irony intended). In fact when I was watching the Tudors the first time he came on screen I though “Omg he could be Ned!”

  15. Anonymous
    Posted November 27, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget Val Kilmer. But my guess is a relative unknown, since part of the thing that makes GOT unique is that Neds demise is somewhat of a surprise. It throws the traditional fantasy protagonist theme out the window. Would it help/hurt to have a big name as Ned? I don’t really know. I think a really big name like Bean, Oldman or Kilmer would have the audience suspecting very early on that by the end of the first season, that character would be offed. If that’s the case, go with the unknown actor.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    I’ve always thought that Clive Owen would make an excellent Ned — although this is probably another long shot given his film career. He’s another brit with what I’d consider to have the “right look”. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a very good actor, IMO.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Daniel Day-Lewis would be great as Ned. Very slim chance of that happening though. Liam Neeson would be my second choice. Again, very improbable. Guy Pierce maybe? I don’t know. Not many actors strike me as Ned-ish. I’d be fine with them selecting an unknown, given he had tremendous acting ability and the right look.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    What about Michael Nardone. He played Mascius in Rome. Checkout this head shot:

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTM1Nzk2OTU4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTgzMzI3MQ@@._V1._SX320_SY400_.jpg

    While we are talking about ex-Rome cast:

    Rick Warden / Littlefinger:

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTQwMTI4MTQxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQ3MDgyMQ@@._V1._SX450_SY308_.jpg

    Also if anyone gets Tywin Lannister other than Alan Dale there will be hell to pay!

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BNzU4ODYxNzE4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTYyMDky._V1._SX450_SY298_.jpg

  19. Adam Whitehead
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    James Purefoy struck me as having the right look for the role of Ned. A lot of people have said that he wouldn’t be right for the role, but I think what they mean is that Mark Antony from ROME wouldn’t be good for the role. Purefoy is a much better and more versatile actor than they give him credit for and could pull off the honourable Ned with aplomb. He also has credentials working for HBO and is British.

    I’m hoping they find a role for John Simm (LIFE ON MARS, THE DEVIL’S WHORE), who is one of the best British actors around at the moment. He’s the right age to play Ned, but he looks a lot younger than he is and doesn’t really have the right build. He would make a stupendous Littlefinger, but he wouldn’t commit to any more than two seasons or a smaller role.

  20. WinterIsComing
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Lots of great suggestions here. I can’t wait until we get some word of actual casting decisions. Until then I will keep posting these character casting summaries as they seem pretty popular. I was thinking of doing Dany or Cersei next.

  21. johnnybaowulf
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Jack Davenport seems a good look and age, but I do think Oldman could pull it off. One of the Anon notes of Richard Armitage sounds good; I think he has the right build and face. Mortensen & Eccleston I think might be too small a build.

  22. Chrysee
    Posted December 3, 2008 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Ooo Sean Bean. I agree, he strikes me as more.. not necessarily villain-ish but…rogue-ish than Eddard would need to be. He would make a good Benjen maybe? Bean would be a good choice though. Or, if not him, perhaps the actor that played Faramir? I never remember his name, but he has a similar look to Bean but may play an “honorable” character better.

  23. coaldustcanary
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Christopher Eccleston would be amazing. And I don’t just say that because I’m a rabid Doctor Who fan. The man looks the part and is a fan-fecking-tastic actor.

  24. Anonymous
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    ehm… no-one ever saw Bean in the Sharpe mini-series? He most defninitely has the chops to play a morally upstanding good guy but still with a rough edge. That’s a hard thing to do…

  25. jeanjeanie
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I always pictured Eccleston as Stannis Baratheon. But I think he could pull off Ned. Jack Davenport would also be an excellent choice, I think.

  26. trashbag-helmet
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    What about Jeremy Irons as Ned??

  27. Anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I would love to see Gary Oldman in any role in the series, although I personally saw him as a great Littlefinger.

  28. coaldustcanary
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    @jeanjeanie Ooooh, point. Eccleston would make a wicked good Stannis, agreed.

  29. Anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Eccleston as Stannis? heavenly…
    A stranger as Ned would please me best, I don’t want to watch him and think ‘oooh, there is Boromir’ (or whoever). With some characters that wouldn’t happen but with Ned I think it would. He is such a ‘good’ character that they would probably have to cast a typecasted (?) actor.

  30. Anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    James Caviezel would be great. If anyone has seen The Passion of the Christ, he would be a natural and perfect fit for the role of Eddard Stark.

    The story of Jesus is very much like the tragedy of Eddard; they both are are forced to be comdemned as traitors, both are honorable, Jesus has a similar look as Ned, etc.

  31. Brett
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Seems to me like some of these guys are just a bit old now. I didn’t think Ned or any of them were supposed to be approaching 50. Anyway if they were to consider a big name…why not Edward Norton? He’s got charisma, and people love him.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Tom Seleck

  33. Anonymous
    Posted December 14, 2008 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    I’d cast Oldman as Davos, and Sean Bean as Qhorin Halfhand. Too bad they don’t appear in the pilot. I think Gerard Butler would be a good Ned.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Sean Bean has played a somewhat Ned-ish character before. He was Richard Sharpe in the 16 or so Sharpe’s movies and he was wonderful in them.

    I’m convinced Gary Oldman can play anyone and anything. My husband was completely insistent that I was off my rocker when I pointed out he was Dracula, Sirius Black, AND Commissioner Gordon. He thought 3 different actors played those parts.

  35. Anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    My ultimate Ned is Damian Lewis. He’s british, He’s worked with HBO before on Band Of Brothers. And his character in that, winters, is pretty much Ned anyway… If Ned was a paratrooper in WWII.

  36. Chancy
    Posted December 25, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    ok,ok,ok..hear me out…Patrick Warburton as Eddard Stark. Big and imposing..Deep commanding voice, an air of honor and the discretion of a father…His death would come as shocking as in the book…James Caviezel as the oldest son…

  37. Anonymous
    Posted December 28, 2008 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Although he doesn’t have the English accent, maybe he could fake it, how about Josh Brolin?

  38. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2008 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    What about flashbacks in future seasons? A big-name actor might not be able to commit to coming back.

  39. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I have a man-crush on Christopher Eccleston. Right on with the others who posted on him. He’d be an awesome Ned. But all the other names mentioned would be OK. I don’t necessarily imagine British accents for all characters in the books, especially the Northmen. I could easily see ‘neutral’ American style English.
    One thing about Oldman though… I kind of imagine him as Littlefinger. Heh heh.

  40. David Brownell
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    What about Scott Speedmen perhaps??

  41. High and Mighty Jeffrey
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Hello! You’ve inspired me to join the SoIaF forums so I can start putting in my two cents of who I think should be cast. I’ve been following your blog for over a month now, and finally have time to write a suitable post.
    I hope that HBO doesn’t try squeezing a big-name actor as Eddard so that the budget won’t be used as an excuse to cancel this series like it was for Rome. There are some terrific actors available who aren’t “big-names” who have a fan base that would check out the show and give HBO more of a bang for their buck.
    Here is my top 5. I’m sad to say that none of them are one of the top 4 in this post, and two of my five haven’t received one vote (other than mine), I guess it doesn’t bode well for me. Nevertheless, here they are.

    1. Skeet Ulrich
    2. Garret Dillahunt
    3. James Purefoy
    4. Dominic Keating
    5. Bill Campbell

  42. fitheach
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Christopher Eccleston is amazing and I could see him as Stannis or Davos or many other characters (he has great acting range), but not Ned. Richard Armitage is my main pick for Ned. But-I like him so much as an actor that I’d rather have him around awhile and cast him as Sandor-’The Hound’ instead. Either way he’s great.

  43. fitheach
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and if HBO is going for big name actors for the shorter lived roles. I wan’t Gerard Butler as King Robert… I think he could play a man who would rather fight and whore than rule wonderfully.

  44. Anonymous
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    It never occured to me but I could see Jack Davenport and Patrick Walburton as Ned and Billy Campbell was on of my choices also.

  45. Eric
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Patrick Walburton is a great actor, but unfortunately I can only see him as Puddy, The Tick or Brock Sampson. I would have a very difficult time trying to watch him play a serious role. I think he could do it, but it just wouldn’t fit right to me.

  46. alicelouise58
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I can see Battlestar Galactica's Callum Keith Rennie as Eddard Stark. Eric Bana(not likely)is another candidate.

  47. alicelouise58
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Dominic Keating? That would be interesting. I liked him on Star Trek Enterprise. However, I picture Lord Eddard as being more of a stoic sort.
    Skeet Ulrich? He looks a little young to have 5 kids and two of them in their teens to boot.

  48. alicelouise58
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    It was posted under "sandor" that Callum Keith Rennie would be an excellent Sandor Clegane. he would be good there as well.

  49. Anonymous
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    What about Mads Mikkelsen? Greyed up and with a beard I think he would be perfect. It's not the most original choice (mine, but I've seen others suggest it on the ASOIAF site) but most of the others mentioned here seem to be too old/famous or too young/pretty.

    Someone above mentioned John Simm as a choice, which I would second. I'm rereading the series now though and it occurred to me that JS would make an awesome Davos…

  50. Anonymous
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Whoops– I see Mads has been suggested already as Ned on one of the earlier pages of the site. still, next to Sean Bean I think he's the best choice…

    http://www.madsmikkelsen.com/uploaded_images/800px-Mads-701526.jpg


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