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Aidan Gillen's portrayal of Littlefinger: Yay or Nay?


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#1 valacirca

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 09:53 PM

Just a show of virtual hands here. If you could rate Aidan Gillen's Littlefinger on a scale of 1 to 10 - in comparison to LF from the book, what rating would you give his portrayal?

It gets a 4/10 from me. I really don't like how LF on TV is so understated, dull and monotonous. I would wanted to have him portrayed similar to how Alan Cumming plays Eli Gold on The Good Wife: Considerably more animated and colorful with a witty, clever and devilish personality. I don't get that from the TV Littlefinger.

Come to think of it, I just realized that Alan Cumming would probably have made an excellent LF. Oh well... As it is, LF might be my single biggest disappointment about the show. The character has become flat.

I'm not sure if Aidan is responsible for his portrayal or if that was really the direction that those behind-the-scenes wanted. I haven't seen The Wire (a shame I know), but after watching a few of Aidan's vids from that show, I can see that he's a very capable actor. His acting on The Wire is even more vibrant than on GoT.

Anyway, that's just how I feel about it. Thoughts?


#2 Ran

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:06 AM

I've always felt that Littlefinger in the novel was deliberately written by GRRM to come off, in his public persona, as someone who tries too hard, who makes the too obvious jokes, etc. He's not as hilarious as he pretends to be. So in this, Gillen's performance strikes me as just right: you can see why he grates on Ned, and why no one takes him as seriously, which of course is Littlefinger's plan.

I'm fine with this approach. It feels very calculated, and that's what Littlefinger is.

Edited by Ran, 31 May 2011 - 04:15 AM.


#3 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:28 AM

I've always felt that Littlefinger in the novel was deliberately written by GRRM to come off, in his public persona, as someone who tries to hard, who makes the too obvious jokes, etc. He's not as hilarious as he pretends to be.

So the way you described him, he comes off as this awkward and pretentious character in the books? I never got that impression while reading the novel.

We all know the stereotype of the typical runt in high school... the one that's smaller and weaker than the others so he always gets picked on. Then as time goes by, he learns to use his strengths to his advantage, build confidence and put himself in a position of influence/power. That's how I've seen LF from the start.

He's always been a sly, witty and scheming character for me in the books, and I think Aidan's LF does exude those aspects of LF's character. Too much actually, because I also imagined LF to be somewhat like a mischievous trickster: Devilish and playfully cunning, which is why I had hoped that his portrayal was more colorful than the flat, dull and monotonous presentation we get in the show.

Edited by valacirca, 31 May 2011 - 04:29 AM.


#4 Ran

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:51 AM

Not awkward. Full of himself, though. Does Gillen come off as awkward? I don't think so.

But that's different perceptions. I don't think I've ever seen the word "playful" associated with Littlefinger...

#5 uncle fester

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 05:02 AM

There a certain amount of mystery in the books re Littlefinger & his ultimate motives but episode #7 blew any mystery out of the water and turned him into a pantomime villain. I don't like it to be honest.

#6 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 05:18 AM

Does Gillen come off as awkward? I don't think so.

No... "awkward" is what I got from your description of LF as "someone who tries to hard, who makes the too obvious jokes, etc. He's not as hilarious as he pretends to be." It wasn't meant to describe Gillen's portrayal.

Edited by valacirca, 31 May 2011 - 05:18 AM.


#7 Azirafal

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:02 AM


No... "awkward" is what I got from your description of LF as "someone who tries to hard, who makes the too obvious jokes, etc. He's not as hilarious as he pretends to be." It wasn't meant to describe Gillen's portrayal.


I'm thinking that's not "awkward" that's "deliberate". He's deliberately making himself less threatening by being funny, a bit obscene and obviously witty with his quips and comments. I would have loved for Edward Norton to play Littlefinger (I know, not the budget, etc. but Gods! he would've been perfect), but after seeing the trailers first, then the episodes I'm very much OK with Gillen. I'd give him a fair 8/10 (maybe 9 after what he did at the end of ep 7, I knew it was coming from teh books, of course, but he pulled it off nicely).

The only thngs that bothers mi in Gillen is his height. He's slim, the goatee looks perfect on him, his smiles and smirks are perfect, but dang it! he's tall. I always envisioned him as a short thin fella, not someone of height with Ned! But that's just minor.

As I said 8 (maybe 9)/10 for me.

#8 Ran

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:12 AM

Right, what Azirafal says. Petyr Baelish is performing. He's making himself seem harmless, a toady who's everyone's friend, who no one really takes seriously. He's feigning things, deliberately putting people off guard through his behavior. Does it come off as awkward to others?

I suppose that's possible. It's certainly grating to Ned Stark, it certainly doesn't endear Littlefinger to the Roberts and Jaimes, and so on. But because he acts something of the buffoon, they just grit their teeth... and get on with letting him rob the realm blind and learn all their secrets, because they just don't realize that behind that overly-extroverted, strained (even sophomoric) humor lies the one of the most dangerous minds in the realm, watching them all the time.

#9 David Selig

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:18 AM

Gillen is doing a fine job, it's the screenplay which has been problematic at times in regards to Littlefinger's character.

I've always felt that Littlefinger in the novel was deliberately written by GRRM to come off, in his public persona, as someone who tries too hard, who makes the too obvious jokes, etc. He's not as hilarious as he pretends to be. So in this, Gillen's performance strikes me as just right: you can see why he grates on Ned, and why no one takes him as seriously, which of course is Littlefinger's plan.

I'm fine with this approach. It feels very calculated, and that's what Littlefinger is.


Exactly.

#10 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:40 AM

But LF in the show doesn't appear to be "something of the buffoon" or "being funny" or "overly-extroverted."

He interacts with the other characters based on what he needs to do to satisfy his ulterior motives, yes. That much is well translated from the book. But the manner in which he acts to get it done, for me, has changed drastically from the LF in the novel. The lines written for his role do give way for the kind of a character that I've envisioned, but the way Gillen delivers his lines make the material fall flat.

I find his facial expressions to be quite wooden as well. That grin he flashes after delivering his monologue in the brothel during the latest episode... that for me was the height of his facial expressions throughout the show and it even felt contrived. IDK... I'm really not digging it.


#11 Holymoly

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:01 AM

I'm not a huge fan of Littlefinger's portrayal in the series compared with the books, and unless the writers are intending doing something very clever with his characterisation I would say that he is the weakest link in the chain at the moment. The books' entire ethos is to show that no-one is black or white and that we are all shades of grey, whereas Littlefinger's colours appear to have been fixed securely to the mast by episode 7.

As the books unfold Littlefinger remains an important pivot point, while not exactly hugely influential he remains in command of his own destiny more or less. If he were so easily unmasked as being such a shallow "bad guy" I'm pretty sure that he would have had the "pointy end" stuffed up where the sun don't shine way before he finds himself in such a position of authority by the start of the book. Coming from where he did and effectively making his reputation on his financial acumen, his scheming would only have worked had he been covert about it. Waxing lyrical about it to Varys, Ned and a collection of prozzers is not exactly circumspect.

Overall the actor does well with what he is given however I thought the soft core monologue was poorly done. Gillen appears to be a reactionary actor rather than one able to hold the scene on his own, and certainly not with a couple going at it in the background. At least my teenage son liked the scene and I'm sure he will be staying up late to run the recording from time to time.

#12 Werthead

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:17 AM

I think that he's having a tough time pinning down the character. Gillen is a terrific actor, as has been shown in The Wire, Queer as Folk and many other appearances, but he isn't really bringing the same skills to this role. He's not terrible, but the delivery of some lines has been a bit flat and wooden (even through the re-recording of lines, in contrast to how Dinklage's accent improved a bit between early trailers and the re-recorded versions), and the times he's really come to life have been rare (his sparring with Varys and his near-gleeful arrest of Ned at the end of the latest episode are notable highlights).

Maybe he's having accent trouble? This seems unlikely - he had a Baltimore accent in The Wire and IIRC a Manc one for Queer as Folk - but maybe dialling down to a neutral, RSC accent is using up so much concentration he can't pull off a great performance at the same time? Seems highly unfeasible, given the success other actors are having.

It may also simply be that Littlefinger is a tough character to pull off. If he hasn't read the novels, he may be finding the character too slippery and self-contradictary to nail down properly.

#13 Alexius

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:23 AM

The lines written for his role do give way for the kind of a character that I've envisioned, but the way Gillen delivers his lines make the material fall flat.
I find his facial expressions to be quite wooden as well.

I didn't like it at first too, but now I see it as the point. Petyr Baelish plays a role, he likes his lines, but he thinks that the audience doesn't deserve better execution. He's blatantly insincere, but these fools will catch the hook nevertheless, so why try harder?
He drops this mask a few times in the last episode.
And I like the contrast with Varys, he too is obviously insincere, but he is overly empathetic instead.

#14 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:24 AM

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that if Littlefinger was a campaign manager in the 21st century American political arena, his name would be Eli Gold.

That's more or less how I pictured LF. Alan Cumming has got the look, the variations in tone that make the delivery of his witty and humorously sarcastic lines effective, and his facial reactions complement the entire persona of his character perfectly. He turns the character into a colorful one that can hold its own in a scene.

I'm not out to say that they AG was miscast. I think he's a capable actor. All I'm saying that Alan Cumming as Eli Gold... that's my Littlefinger, only in a different setting.


#15 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:27 AM

I didn't like it at first too, but now I see it as the point. Petyr Baelish plays a role, he likes his lines, but he thinks that the audience doesn't deserve better execution. He's blatantly insincere, but these fools will catch the hook nevertheless, so why try harder?
He drops this mask a few times in the last episode.
And I like the contrast with Varys, he too is obviously insincere, but he is overly empathetic instead.

But what you're describing is being subtle. There's a difference between being wooden and being subtle. Aiden's LF to me is wooden, not subtle. There's a lack of expression... of physical gestures... of variations in tone when delivering lines... it's almost a robotic portrayal.

I think that he's having a tough time pinning down the character. Gillen is a terrific actor, as has been shown in The Wire... but he isn't really bringing the same skills to this role.

I agree. This is what I don't get. Like I said, I haven't seen The Wire, but I've viewed clips of AG from that show on YouTube and he's really good! I don't get why he's like this in GoT... /dunno.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':dunno:' />

It may also simply be that Littlefinger is a tough character to pull off. If he hasn't read the novels, he may be finding the character too slippery and self-contradictary to nail down properly.

Makes me wonder if Aidan has read the novels. Add that to my wonderment if his decision to portray LF this way is his decision or from the direction of those behind the scenes.

Edited by valacirca, 31 May 2011 - 07:34 AM.


#16 Alexius

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:46 AM

But what you're describing is being subtle. There's a difference between being wooden and being subtle. Aiden's LF to me is wooden, not subtle. There's a lack of expression... of physical gestures... of variations in tone when delivering lines... it's almost a robotic portrayal.

Er... No, I wasn't talking about subtlety.
Suppose you need somebody to do something for you. You don't like him (because you aren't very fond of people in general). You don't want to get emotionally involved (because emotions are liability and they hurt). The good news is that he will listen to you anyway, he's trustful and sees you as a friend. And you like the fact that you can manipulate him so easily. So you play your role and say some witty phrases (because you like your witty phrases), but you say them flatly (because you don't want to do more than required).

#17 NW Deserter

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:53 AM

In my personal review of episode 7 (in the subforum), I claimed Aiden to be my single disappointment of the series...but after a few days to think about it I'm not sure if this is really the case any more.

The character of Littlefinger from the books is an extremely difficult role to adequately describe, partly because he's taken no apparent 'side' yet apart from his own, and partly because he still hasn't truly revealed his ultimate motivation for doing what he does. I think that regardless of the intentions GRRM wrote him with, he's a very interpret-able character, and by that I mean that each reader can think of him how they like (at this juncture in the books). I personally see him as a bit similar to Heath Ledger's Joke from Batman: The Dark Knight. As Alfred puts it in that movie - "Some men just want to watch the world burn." I don't necessarily see LF as a sociopath, although he is leaning that way. I see him more as a man who grew up with an insufficient ego (largely due to

Spoiler


and now his modus operandi is just to create chaos everywhere he goes and have a great time doing it just because he has the mental capacity for it. Hence the obvious witty remarks that seem to only amuse himself and the general facade of "I'm just a lowly Lord with no real power". He just enjoys making chaos.

By contrast, the Littlefinger of the show seems to have a more tangible goal that was highlighted by a scene a few episodes back - the Iron Throne. This LF doesn't care for wit or banter, but more for cold, calculated scheming. I truly do think that TV-LF is a sociopath. Whether this was a directorial choice or an actor-driven choice, I don't know, but it doesn't truly matter.

I sort of equate it to the changes in Cersei's character, from a two-sided bombshell/schemer to a pure cold bitch. I feel like LF lost a layer of his character in the translation from book to screen. But when thinking about it, it's not that huge a deal. He's not a worse character, he's just different - from sly/witty/chaotic to sociopathic/bitter/goal-driven. It's taken some getting used to, but after realizing that this is (probably) the case, I can understand Aiden's acting choices, such as revealing himself to his whores, his more monotone delivery, and his incredibly focused demeanor. I could possibly see these changes becoming a problem later, when

Spoiler


but if we get there at all I'll be too ecstatic to worry about it.

Rambled a bit there, but that's my $0.02 on Littlefinger. /smoking.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':smoking:' />

#18 Greywolf2375

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:54 AM

The problem I have with LF in the show is not about how Gillen is portraying him - I think he is doing fine with what he is being given. I have issue with what he is being given and the situations he is being put into. The back and forth with Varys in the throne room, the exposition in the brothel - those are the things that are taking away. The acting was fine, the lines being asked to be delivered were the weakness.

#19 valacirca

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 09:26 AM

Er... No, I wasn't talking about subtlety.
Suppose you need somebody to do something for you. You don't like him (because you aren't very fond of people in general). You don't want to get emotionally involved (because emotions are liability and they hurt). The good news is that he will listen to you anyway, he's trustful and sees you as a friend. And you like the fact that you can manipulate him so easily. So you play your role and say some witty phrases (because you like your witty phrases), but you say them flatly (because you don't want to do more than required).

Okay subtle probably wasn't correct. Well in any case, I feel that the dry characterization of LF in the show comes down to either a shortcoming or misdirection in portrayal.

Touching on what NW Deserter mentioned a few posts above, I see LF in a similar way: Something like your typical runt in highschool bullied by the jocks. In LF's case, how I pictured his development into adulthood is that he was able to recognize his strengths and weaknesses and use his strengths to put himself into a position of influence/power so that he can satisfy his personal desires. These strengths come in the form of biting wit and humorous sarcasm in order to cleverly manipulate who he needs to manipulate for the fulfillment of his personal motives. For me, his mischievous character is similar to Loki from Norse mythology: He has a colorful personality and is devilishly clever. He's calculated and scheming, but he knows how to have fun, if only to amuse himself. He's not dry, not cold, not indifferent or anything remotely dull or flat like how the TV show is portraying him.

If it were a change in characterization, I would agree that it's not necessarily worse, just different. But I just can't past the wooden acting to convince myself that what I'm seeing is merely a change in characterization. There's a way to play cold, dry and calculated, but this isn't it. It isn't committed enough to that overhaul in personality. It's almost like LF in the show is trying to find a middle-ground between being "mischievous" and "no nonsense" that it comes across as a clumsy and vacant depiction of Littlefinger.


#20 Arya The Assassin

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 10:23 AM

Just a show of virtual hands here. If you could rate Aidan Gillen's Littlefinger on a scale of 1 to 10 - in comparison to LF from the book, what rating would you give his portrayal?


I think he's miscast. There's something about Aidan Gillen's take on Littlefinger that doesn't quite 'jibe' with me. I also think his acting style seems a bit theatrical: Perhaps Littlefinger is supposed to be theatrical to a certain degree, but I think Aidan pushes things a bit too far. I'm not saying he's a bad actor, though (I've seen some of his appearances on The Wire), it's just that I don't think he suits the role very well.

I also think his character is getting too much screentime (which makes matters worse). When I read the books I never had the impression that his character was so central.

On a scale from 1-10, I'd rate him 5/10.