How important are age and appearance?

There has been quite a bit of talk about getting the age and appearance of characters just right. It seems that ASOIAF fans are divided on how important these factors are in casting. Some people feel that the producers should be as close as possible to the correct age of the character when casting. Others think that they should focus on getting talented actors and not worry so much about getting the ages to match up. Same thing with appearance, some folks think that hair color, eye color, size, etc. are all very important factors in casting. While others say that costuming and make-up can adjust for that accordingly.

Personally, I feel like David and Dan need to focus on getting great actors first and foremost. If they are the right age and have the perfect look as well, great. If not, then I don’t think that should exclude them from being cast. For example, quite a number of people have said that they don’t want Peter Dinklage as Tyrion simply because he is too old or too good-looking. In my opinion, that is crazy. You shouldn’t pass up an actor of Dinklage’s quality for those minor details, the former of which isn’t something that is that important to the story and the latter, something that can be altered.

But enough of what I think, how say you? Vote away and jump over to the comments to defend your point of view.

How important is age and appearance when casting a character?


  • I think the importance of age and appearance differs depending on the character. For example, I think both factors are important to the Lannister family. I think Tyrion being the youngest and the only ugly member of his family is important to who that character is.

    Personally, I am a bit apprehensive to having Dinklage play Tyrion; more so because of age than his appearance. I think that you can get away with having Dinklage not being as ugly as Tyrion is described because you can focus on his being a dwarf (and thus will never be a seen as a great knight or fighter of any kind) as reason enough why his father is embarrassed of him. But his being the youngest is critical to his relationship with both of his siblings. Tyrion love Jaime as the older brother who has always loved and defended him. And Cersei has always feared that Tyrion is the valonqar that Maggie the Frog prophesied about. I don’t know if either of those relationships work as well if Tyrion appears older than the twins.

  • I ended up voting the third option, “Important, but so is acting talent. All factors should be weighed equally when choosing an actor for a role”, although I wasn’t totally sure whether it was closest to my opinions. AGoT has many kind of characters and I feel that all the roles shouldn’t be cast by same principles. Smaller and/or less complex roles could even a mediocre actor/actress do well enough, I think, and in these cases appearance should weigh more. The main roles and multi-dimensional roles are in need of a quality actor/actress and his/her looks is not the main concern.

    I also think that in many movie/tv adaptations the appearances has been done terribly lackadaisically, so that’s why I wanted to stress the looks a bit. It isn’t so difficult to dye one’s hair, or get a properly rumpled look, but for some reason or another this simply isn’t done. Take a look at Potter-movies for example.

  • i could care less how old the characters look. i want to see a good tv show based on the book and a good tv show requires good actors. if we have a super-talented cast of great actors i think we’ll enjoy the show a lot more even if they have some young looking 20 year old playing sansa.

  • I also answered with the third option but it doesn’t exactly fit with what I feel. I think that age and appearance are very important in certain circumstances. For instance, I think that Dinklage would be perfect for Tyrion. Yes he’s older than is ideal but with the right makeup, I think that this can be minimized (particularly after they ugly him up a bit). However we couldn’t have an obviously post-pubescent actor playing Bran or an average sized fella playing The Mountain. Bran needs to be a young boy and The Mountain needs to be a monster of a man. I think that as long as the most important physical aspects of a character aren’t compromised then there should be a little wiggle room given for less defining characteristics.

  • I do really like ray stevenson as the Role of the Hound so I would like them to look at acting talent. Though, the guy who was Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood was a very good fit as well

  • More than wanting the characters to fit specifically their descriptions in the books, I want the acting and the talent of the show to be as high of quality as possible. Appearance is a lot easier to change than talent.

    Other than that, I would actually prefer consistency more than staying absolutely loyal to every little detail. For example, with the Starks, we’re supposed to see a strong resemblance in the family to both the Tully and Stark lines. Thus, if they can get actors and actresses to somewhat look like they could be part of the same family, I’d be willing to forgive some changes in appearance.

  • I chose the third option. I wouldn’t -quite- split them evenly, though. I think acting talent is a bit more important than age and looks, so long as with good makeup/costuming/props, the age and physical attributes can be made to be close to that of the book. Also, in regards to ages, I also don’t mind if they age everyone up a little bit, so long as they do it to everyone. I don’t want an 18 year old Robb with a 19 year old Theon, for example, or an 11 year old Rickon. If they age up a couple of characters, they should do the rest in order to keep it within the correct book time-line.

  • IMO the problem with answer one is that every reader has different images in their minds eye of what the characters look like. Yes, we’d all agree on the important details (no one pictures Tyrion as a 6′ tall brawny beefcake) but each person is going to imagine different looks. If those responsible for the casting decisions used method 1 from this poll, they’d end up dissappointing most of the people they were trying to please. By focusing on talent over looks (or balancing between the two) we’ll all be pleased with the acting, and I believe that people’s small nitpicks over age/looks will fade away.

  • I do think age can be given some leeway but it shouldn’t be too drastic. Especially in the case of the “kids” where a significant part of their psychology is that these things happen when they do.

    The one that I am fearful of is Daenerys… I am pretty sure they’ll have to cast someone older than 18 for her and say that the character is over 18 too… Even HBO, I would think couldn’t get away with showing a 13 year old having sex even if the actor is actually 18+. At the same time, it would seem really bizarre for someone to be so timid when she is 18 and have that turn-around so quickly… It’ll be interesting to see how they work around that problem…

  • I think people generally really overplay the importance of age. There are a million examples from film and television where, for instance, actors of the same age will play parent and child. Honestly, when we’re talking about nebulously “adult, but neither old nor young” characters, it’s not a big deal.

    I’m way more concerned that, say, Cersei and Jaime can act worth a damn than that they look very strongly alike, have the right shade of blond hair or are exactly X age.

  • I chose option three because no child should be in a position regarding sex….its complicated enough for us growups, and u see how some of us handle it…..I don’t think that a child can convey emotions regarding it…it’s too complex, it’s too confusing and toooo emotional…..I, myself, am comfortable enough seeing the children in the story aged at least by 2 years

  • I would prefer acting ability and appropriate age over appearance, mainly because there are so many makeup and costuming options to help actors look “like they’re supposed to”.

    I think that age is going to be more of a factor than appearance in how they translate the book, because with so many characters their age is a very important part of their characterization. Arya and Daenarys are going to be pretty boring if they’re actually portrayed as in their 20s or even late teens, and Cersei and Catelyn aren’t going to be nearly as interesting if they portray them as in their late 20s/early 30s.

  • I went with option 3.

    Appearance is more important with some characters than others, but as long as they meet the characteristic appearance aspects of the character it will be just fine if the actor is up to the task. In many cases it is just going to come down to make up. Any number of capable and relatively tall male actors will be able to portray Sandor, for example.

    That boils down to Tyrion being a dwarf and ugly (looking younger isn’t critical, especially since his more beautiful siblings will look more youthful regardless just because they are beautiful).
    Cersei/Jaime – blonde and beautiful/handsome. Late 20s to Late 30s will be fine.
    Random lannesters – Blonde.
    Robert Baratheon – Brian Blessed look-alike :P

  • Having had some real world experience with this (independent full feature as exec. producer) there are other things to consider way beyond the scope of the description in a book.
    The medium is VISUAL. A very big concern is in appearance simply for the fact that if two great actors are cast that look a bit too much like each other they can confuse the audience. (sometimes this is subliminal but its a very important consideration when casting roles.)
    So when casting, the FIRST concern is the ability for the actor to display not only talent, but the ability to project that specific character as well as possible, then secondly the decisions regarding cast ‘chemistry’ – i.e. how well do they play off EACH OTHER, and then thirdly, the consideration has to be that those who are cast do not overlap each other (looks-wise) too much to avoid the audience confusion factor.
    Its a real eye opening experience observing and being a part of the casting process as it is more subtle (for bigger budget as well as high quality productions) than most people realize.

  • Agreed. What ‘works’ well on a page may not work as well on screen. Moreover, if this becomes a successful series, people who actually read the books will be a minority of the fans of the TV show.

    I’d rather see a well-performed adaptation that gains a broad audience than an attempt to cast the characters in every exact detail to the books. If this becomes one of HBO’s finest series, is anyone going to nitpick about how, in the book, so-and-so’s hair was a different color, or they were five years younger?

  • Because it’s a generational story with the sins of the elders returning to affect the children, the age issue does need some consideration. There should be a clear divide.

    I have no problem with a “good-looking” dwarf as Tyrion, because to me Tyrion started out decent looking, people just considered him ugly because he’s a dwarf. Once he got all scarred and lost part of his nose, then he was really ugly.

    Jaime and Cersei need to resemble each other. It’s the visual element to their twisted relationship.

    Arya and Jon should also resemble each other. Remember they’re the only two to have the Stark look, and among their family they stand out for it. It’s part of their bond that Jon looks more like Ned (which bothers the hell out of Cat) and that Arya gets on with Jon because she feels like the ugly sibling among the other children, but he’s clearly like her.

    A lot of things, however, can be achieved with makeup, wigs, hair dye, contact lenses, and simple voice and movement tricks. So the look is important, but not the only thing.

  • Hair color and eye color are pretty easily changed if the look is important. A bad actor is a bad actor no matter what.

  • I think age is the most important of the appearance criteria. But, I think it only comes into play when the character’s age is part of the plot. To take an extreme instance, a 25-year-old Sansa is not going to work — unless the 25-year-old actress can pass for 15. Remember that most of the actors in 90210 (the one from the 1990s) were in their 20s and 30s. About Peter Dinklage, I do feel he’s too old, but let’s face it, the casting pool for that character is none too deep.
    Also, consider that only we SOIAF dweebs know the characters’ ages. Viewers who are new to the material won’t care as long as the acting is compelling.

  • I actually think that portraying the children as slightly older than they are in the book wouldn’t be so bad. I think that viewers who have not read the books might find them too young for much of the storyline. And I’m not sure actors that young can really pull off Arya and Bran’s stories.

  • I think slight variations in the age is fine. An 18-20yr old playing Dany would be fine as long as she is one that looks young like the high school drama kids.

    What would be tragic if they jump ship on it like Sci-Fi did with Children of Dune. They took 9yr olds and ramped up to 18. Bleh, but there were also a lot of other things wrong with that adaptation in the end.

  • My vote was for C, which was a bit of a cop-out but I think having really good, strong actors is more important than matching them to the characters in every minor detail. But at the same time you don’t want a five-boot, ten-stone guy playing Jaime Lannister.

    Also, just wanted to ask if you’re going to do Tywin in the casting vote soon, as it seems to me he’d be the easiest one to come up with suggestions for (cough Alan Dale/Charles Dance/Patrick Stewart cough).

    And as a bonus, the second choice could go on to play Randyll Taryl :-)

  • Acting of course. No other way. Only get the looks if critical to the story. The 3 characters that people complaint the most are Tyrion and the twins. For Tyrion being an ugly (and I don’t mean the looks) dwarf is what counts, and that can be achieve with little make up and great acting. Age? irrelevant. He can be older than the twins for his relationships to work. To Jamie, the tall, strong and protective brother does not need to be older. At 15 Jamie was already a very capable warrior, he could already protect his older brother. ‘For c’s valonquar, honestly, kk he killed her mother, that psyco-event can be altered a bit and create a similar psychosis in cercie by an accident or a suicide due to Tyrions looks. Even a jealousy-like reaction to a bigger but deformed brother that requ. much attention from mother could achieve that. And the twins. They only need to look similar, not identical. There is no critical plot alteration if they are not identical twins. Their main point is the incestuous relationship and the god looks. Both can even be achieved even if they are not twins.

    As much as I would like to see my fav series on the TV, untouched by scripters, I know the program will not survive with only book fans as viewers. A few alterations, adaptations and the series would be a great tv show for many more than avid fantasy readers. Look at LoTR films, a few changes not critical to plot and it worked like a charm Harry Potter did an extremely faithful first movies and it did not work too well, a few twists on later movies and it is suddenly much more enjoyable and film-like. In my opinion anyway.

  • Adam: Yeah, I will probably do Tywin at some point. I was sticking with characters that only appear in the pilot, but I am running out of them. I think Arya is the only major character from the pilot that I haven’t done yet. After that I would have to go to minor characters (Pycelle, Rodrick, Jory, even Robert would have to be considered a minor character). Most of those roles would likely go to completely unknown local actors. So it’s probably not worth doing a casting post on them.

  • The toughest thing concerning age is the children. I, myself am torn on this issue. Half of me wants the show to be as faithful as possible, but the other half says “Its one thing reading about children in sexual situations and another seeing it happen..and I don’t really want to see that at all,” even if in reality the actors playing the kids are adults. Its a tough call to make. I don’t know exactly where I stand.

  • I’m not sure if Robert would be a minor character. I suspect he will turn up in flashback in later seasons (such as when Cersei is reminiscing about their very brief ‘good times’ in AFFC). And we’ll need a good actor to sell the, “It was not kingly,” line and his varying attitude to Ned later in the book.

  • I voted B. As many have pointed out – editing and costuming can bring a great actor close enough to the books to work. I’m interested in seeing the best possible series; not a walking, talking carved miniature collection.

    One of the things that worries me is that the project will come off feeling like so many other fantasy adaptations, i.e., embarrassing and tasteless. I’m thankful HBO and the BBC are involved, and I also think we owe a lot to the LOTR movies for setting the bar as high as they did.

  • Good directors can make good actors, and you should thank deadwood for setting the bar, not LotR.

    I wont bother to vote, but It’s obvious that everything need to work if we want to see more than one season. Ceartain characters are easier than others. For Tyrion all we need is a dwarf and so much make-up that he looks ugly enough that we look away from the screen. Therefore the focus will be on acting talent and that alone. Other characters that require the right face as well as talent is Littlefinger, Varys, Jamie, Tywin, The Hound and so on.

    Honestly, as this is HBO this is the stupidest thing to talk about. Both the acting and the characters looks will be splendid. I’m far more worried about visuals on the line with Merlin.


  • They should focus on acting talent first and foremost, as that is what will keep the show on the air if we do get the pilot.

  • Short answer: Acting, Acting, Acting!

    There's obviously some issues regarding age, but that's why the screenwriters list the characters' age in the script. "Appearance" is a pretty vague term, especially considering these characters will be adapted from a series of novels (as opposed to comics or other pre-existing visual media). In other words, I don't think the casting call for Dany will require the actor to have silver hair and violet eyes. Makeup, people! I do think Cersei & Jaime should look similar since they're twins, that's about it tho.

    Back to age, here are the listed ages in the pilot script:
    Tyrion (no age listed, 28-32 based on info)
    Rickon 3
    Tommen 7
    Myrcella 8
    Bran 8
    Arya 11
    Joff 13 (this is the only one I think they missed. Joff needs to be at least 14 if not 15 to fight Robb in the yard, even with padded swords.)
    Sansa 13
    Dany 15
    Robb 17
    Jon 17
    Theon 19
    Viserys 20
    Cersei 32 (initially listed as 30s, which would make Tyrion 27-29)
    Jaime 30s (same as Cersei, obviously, so 32)
    Catelyn 35
    Sandor 35
    Ned 40
    Robert 40s (gotta be early if Ned's 40, say 42-43)
    Illyrio 50
    Jon Arryn 60s
    Maester Luwin 60s
    Maester Pycelle 70s

    This all sounds right, and shouldn't be any problem, except, of course, for casting the kids. Assuming the series gets picked up for multiple seasons, Rickon, Tommen & Myrcella all have such small early roles they would likely be played by various actors over the years. Dany and everyone older will almost certainly be played by young looking 18+ actors, both for labor law purposes as well as actual aging issues.

    Sansa, Bran, Joff and Arya are the real problems, since they are major characters and start off quite young. Sansa will probably be cast by a 16-17 year old actor which will likely avoid any major physical changes between seasons, yet still pull off a 13 year old in the 1st season. Joff should also be played by a by a young looking 16-17 year old, and it'll be fine (again, I think Joff has to be 14-15 from the start of the series). He's such a petulant baby anyway, like his folks, it shouldn't be a stretch to act younger than he actually is.

    Bran and Arya, however, are right at that age where you are really gonna see some aging between seasons. Fortunately, they both "age", in terms of maturity, so quickly and so monumentally as the story unfolds, that the creators may be able to play it off. Still, this would be the biggest casting problem in my mind.

    It all comes down to the actors, though. We know the writing is there, and technology is such that quality visuals are certainly not unattainable.

  • Even if the actors are over 18 seeing as how they will be “children” in the show will they still have all the explicit content involving the kids? That’s what I’m curious about.

  • Acting quality is the first priority for me, but I also recognize the fact that GRRM made physical appearance an important factor for a lot of the characters. I voted for the more pragmatic approach.

  • Peter Dinklage would be perfect for Tyrion and has long been my first choice for the role. He is, by far, the best actor among the little people I’ve ever seen on television or in film. He is definitely too handsome for the role. However, you should not be amazed at what makeup and CGI are capable of today.

  • When it comes to ages, I’m not so worried…as long as the RELATIVE ages are the same, and the children remain children, it’ll be fine. It’s really not that big a deal with adult actors. Have you seen “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”? I was amazed at how young, AND how old, both Cate Blanchette and Brad Pitt could be made to appear. The makeup work was very plausible.

    However, I am going to be one of those people who nitpicks hair and eye colors. I’m adamantly NOT among the crowd who complained about Boromir’s hair being light in the movies (as opposed to dark in the books), but that’s because Tolkien was in very large part quite vague about the physical appearances of his characters. They’re given a few words of description at their introduction and then nothing else is mentioned, ever. It’s unimportant. Martin, on the other hand, is both VERY particular and repetitive about the hair and eye colors of most of his main characters. The continuity of these things among the great houses is an important point – consider Jon Arryn’s last words. I believe that hair and eye color in the series should be made as close as feasibly possible to what is described in the books.

    Also, Dinklage is the only Tyrion. That’s all there is to it. Anyone who has a problem with him will have to get over it.

  • Despite loving Masie as Arya I think she is growing fast. From all the characters this might be the one that probablbly ill have a slightly issue. Arya is a child, not a teen. But then again, “kill your darligs” and be open. Masie you are doing a terrific job!