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Westeros Blog: Catelyn Recast: Ehle Out, Fairley In

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Yeah, you know, Catelyn is never called a beauty. Except I guess by Littlefinger saying that she was his "Queen of Love and Beauty", which doesn't really mean anything. When she was younger, it sure seems like "pretty" Lysa was considered the better looking of the two, although on the other hand, Catelyn was generally considered the more "interesting" (Lysa was a giggly little fool).

Obviously, everyone has their mental image. Mine was Kristin Scott Thomas, but I'm very flexible.

Here is another clip of Fairley from the film Hideous Kinky, starting at the 3:30 mark:

Thank you Ran, that really helped out, she looks far more attractive in that clip and slender too. She has a stern attitude which mimics Cat at times.

This is the main problem though it took Ran to dig for something with her, not enough about her online (her agents fault), especially a wide range of photos and clips. Her agent or HBO really need to post more striking pics and or clips of her, remember ASoIaF has a massive fanbase in the millions they need to cater too. It's is also going to get crazy as the months go by.

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It's not really her agent's fault. As you see from the Belfast Telegraph article we've linked here, Fairley is very shy of publicity (it seems she's never agreed to a profile/interview prior to her involvement in last year's Best: His Mother's Son, after twenty years of being on the screen).

If she doesn't want herself trumped all over the theatrical and screen media, there's not a lot an agent can do about it, I expect.

I imagine she will have to become more friendly towards publicity with her participation in GoT, though.

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And by the way, Fairley isnt ugly. She might not be an eyecatcher like Ehle, but she's also an attractive woman with very interesting eyes.

Maybe Ehles look was just too close to what Cersei and Daenerys look like (young, blonde and hot), Fairley represents a completely different type of woman: mature, motherly and dignified.

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Well, but what's "motherly" supposed to mean anyway? I know I've brought this up before, but I didn't totally mean it rhetorically. Dare I guess that it means calm and beatific? I'm not saying this in particular respect to Michelle Fairley, but this idea of a motherly or maternal look seems like typecasting to me. We all have mothers, don't we? Do they all look alike?

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I thought of Kate Winslet, but with darker hair. ;) And its funny that I always pictured Lysa as less beautiful by a notch or so and she quickly lost what looks she had. And her unattractive personality made her deteriorate more quickly than Catelyn and made her "project" less beauty, for lack of a better term.

Actually, I'm looking forward to seeing Lysa cast since I always had an overwhelming sense of pity for her character.

I like this way of putting it. Catelyn has iron in her spine; she is a very compelling personality.

This is a good point too, from that clip Ran found, Michelle's character has somewhat of the steel Cat has for a personality.

My main gripe is what is online concerning the actress, all the pics show her as a basically plain, middle-aged woman. I mean you'd think her agent would have posted a hell of a lot more pics of her in various looks, garb, and makeup etc. I mean it's like the only roles she wants are alcholic, plain, middle-aged crisis roles.

About Cats looks, from all the info given of her in the books if you put a picture together, she is an attractive woman, who has a stern, no nonsense personality. If Sansa is one of the most beautiful girls in Westeros and she looks like a young Cat, that gives it away there. Catleyn Stark is very attractive at the least, the problem is with whats available online does not potray Ms. Fairley in a positive light.

My gripe is they should know the first thing fans will do when they hear the news is google it. Any good PR exec would know this and would check beforehand online and see that the pics of her online are downright unflattering, and say to her agent I need some glamour pics of her in evening attire so I can post them. Then HBO releases the news and thus all this fussing would be a mute point, period.

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Can we get a still pic of Fairley?

I'm shocked about this news, but it doesn't bother me too much after the initial surprise. I love Ehle, she's a great actress, but if she can't do it she can't do it... Don't know Fairley, but trust HBO to cast quality actors.

And as I said before- she really looks more similar to Sophie Turner than Ehle does. And she does have features that look like they can veer to tragic- and Catelyn's tale is tragic.

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Which I think casts it fairly clearly in terms of his judging them on personality more than looks.

Okay point there, but Lysa herself seems to feel like Catelyn always outshone her, and I don't think she's just talking only about Littlefinger's attentions. Her quote about even outshining Catelyn on their wedding day seems pretty clear, if subtle. She finally had a victory, she's usually Jan Brady to Cat's Marcia. (I went and looked this up, "even" isn't in the wording; but! in my experience most people assume Cat was the more attractive one.) And about biased sources, well, Lyanna Stark is said to have been surpassingly lovely only by Robert and Ned, and readers seem to accept that as gospel.

Striking is a good one. I tend to imagine Catelyn as striking ala Thomas (particularly circa The End of the Affair), rather than a classic beauty.

I remember agreeing with you years and years ago about Scott Thomas, though I think you mean The English Patient? End of the Affair was that other old Catelyn pick, Julianne Moore. Personally, I always did see Catelyn as classically beautiful, in that old statuesque way, and perhaps the years faded it a little, I don't think she paid as much attention to it as Cersei, but she still leaves an impression. Kind of like how Alerie Tyrell is described as "still handsome" and Rosie's mother in the AFFC prologue as "still attractive" or something by Pate. In the great battle against time, Cat's supposed to be more of a winner than a loser, that was my impression.

Anyway, our quibbles about looks will never translate to one television image anyway. I just want the overall vibe to match.

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FWIW, I think that maybe Catelyn isn't perceived as stunning is because we almost never see her through another character's perspective? She and Ned doesn't really have a passionate relationship and I don't know that he ever thinks of her looks. LF thinks she's beautiful but he's also, ahem, got issues. I think, but for fleeting glances, we almost never see Catelyn through any perspective but her own whereas Cersei is only seen through other POVs for the first three books. Also, Cat's POV is very stripped of sexuality whereas Cersei lays it on hot and heavy, even making an effort to seduce Ned along with Moon Boy and the Kettleblacks.

Myself, since the combined forces of Sansa's beauty and her resemblance to her mother is emphasized in nearly every chapter she appears in, I always had the impression her mom must be a looker too.

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I think GRRM intentionally skirts the issue, yeah, though the reason is open to interpretation. Or I may be making it up, I can never feel totally sure what he intends with Catelyn, TBH. I think Ned is supposed to be someone who just isn't very open and effusive, and their relationship is supposed to have a bittersweet tone to it for different reasons, but the point I got was that his lack of commenting on Cat's looks is supposed to contrast with Littlefinger's caring only about her looks (since he's able to replace her with a lookalike). Likewise, Ned's backstory with Ashara contrasts with Littlefinger's line, "Only Cat". GRRM is going between feast and famine for a reason, and I don't think it is supposed to represent her physical looks so much as invoke a feminine double-bind in the society. For women in this society, you're either beautiful or you're nothing. Catelyn herself says when she sees Brienne that there is nothing so unfortunate as an ugly woman. Based on that line, actually, I got the sense that Catelyn was speaking from the perspective of the fortunate, only unlike Cersei she just doesn't care. Beauty to her is a practical factor, but nothing to do with inner worth, so she doesn't focus on it as much as Cersei.

(Right before she dies she thinks about "the face that Ned had loved", and when he was alive he would take her face in his hands, so that leaves it up to us if that's about her beauty or the fact that he loves her or ... something else, anyway the ambiguity could be the point.)

And I think the point about gaze directed at Catelyn is intentional too, at least that's what I got out of it, it juxtaposes the idea of being valued for more than beauty with not being noticed for one's beauty. Long story short, I think Catelyn was indeed supposed to be quite beautiful, only her character deconstructs beauty so that it's demystified. But I too thought we were supposed to reasonably infer it. I can see her with some well-earned wrinkles though, in fact I'd like that, it's like battle scars, and in any case what I want to see most is her personality. I think an amount of attractiveness is realistically a part of that given her society, but w.r.t. the casting I won't give a final word until I see the whole package.

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Hah. I woke up this morning saying, "Wait a minute. Did I really write The End of the Affair when I meant The English Patient?"

Heh. Put it down to posting past 3 AM. ;)

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I wonder of Fairley will be getting paid the same amount as Ehle? It could save a few euros on the budget and I think it's fair to say she is of lower profile than Ehle.

A positive in this casting is that she is from Northern Ireland so I doubt she'll have any problem with the filming locaction. Plus she seems to do mainly stage and the odd TV drama or small parts in films, so I think she'll be a lock for the three seasons (plus occasional guest slot thereafter).

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I wonder of Fairley will be getting paid the same amount as Ehle? It could save a few euros on the budget and I think it's fair to say she is of lower profile than Ehle.

No, she won't be getting anywhere near the rate that Ehle is getting, I'm sure. Not that Ehle was making huge money, probably, but she's got 3 very big acting awards under her belt and is a "name" actress with a following (all those P&P fans, especially). All of those things mean she brings attention to anything she's in that a little-known actress like Fairley does not, and that attention translates to her agents being able to get much higher pay for Ehle than lesser known actors.

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Am I the only one who prefers Fairley? I finally got down to watching the clips, and I think she'll be fantastic. I disagree with the notion that they need glamor shots of her. How many fans are we, in the end? A thousand? a bit more? At most I would think around ten thousand. How many of us live in the US? How many of us get HBO? I don't think they should have made it a priority to get glamor shots so that fans would stop complaining about something that's going to become irrelevant once the show starts.

I still wonder what caused the casting change.

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She does indeed seem extremely worn though, she certainly looks older than I would imagine for the wife of Sean Bean. Actual age aside, she seems to project a whole lot of fatigue.
lol.gif

Do you mean Sean Bean or Ned though? If it's the former that's not really relevant, is it?

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Ehle is higher-profile, but Fairley has far more television credits under her belt. She's also been in several notable projects. The George Best TV documentary was fairly well-received, and Fairley received praise for her performance, for which she was aged up to 54:

The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson wrote that it was a "gloomy drama" in terms of the material it was dealing with but "the recreation of late-Sixties Belfast was accurate and...intelligently subdued" and described Michelle Fairley's portrayal of Ann Best as "magnificent, pulling off the difficult trick of conveying the hidden drunkenness of the respectable woman alcoholic."

She also has the pull of appearing in the Harry Potter movies, albeit in a fairly small role. So no, she won't be paid as much as Jennifer Ehle, but I doubt it will be a staggering amount less.

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Well, the initial announcement of Ehle's casting was the first of what turned out to be quite a few "holy shit, this is for real" moments for me, as she was (and still is, of course) a terrific name actress who seemed to fit the part quite well and I was very much looking forward to seeing her on the screen.

I don't know anything about Fairley, but if Ehle was #1 and she was #2, I'll take it on faith in the producers that she had a fantastic audition and fit the part very nicely. I see nothing from the clips that have been posted that worries me in the slightest as to her ability to play the role (though, frankly, from the beginning I've never seen Catelyn as the sort role that absolutely had to be nailed for the series to work - not in the sense that, say, Tyrion needs to be just right). I only hope that needing to reshoot her scenes from the pilot won't break the bank, particularly the banquet. If we're lucky, her presence in wide shots is minimal and in this day and age could likely be cg'd in for less than the cost of a reshoot (obviously everything in close would need to be reshot).

Discussions as to her relative attractiveness are distasteful and irrelevant from my POV. Catelyn is not a character for whom physical beauty (or any particular lack thereof) is a relevant point in the series (as it is for, say, Cersei, Jaime, or Tyrion) and that leaves plenty of wiggle room for the show in my book.

As for her private personality, I've always viewed it as an actor's right to shun the spotlight to the degree that they desire, save for the time they are actually, physically on screen. I would hope that that mentality is not completely incompatible with doing at least a nominal amount of press to support the show, but really, that's between the producers, HBO, and Ms. Fairley herself when it comes to how to handle that (given the ensemble cast, it's not absolutely necessary that everyone on screen be on Leno). I wonder, though, how much privacy she'll be able to retain following her appearance in Harry Potter. Even the extras in those movies have fan clubs.

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Am I the only one who prefers Fairley? I finally got down to watching the clips, and I think she'll be fantastic. I disagree with the notion that they need glamor shots of her. How many fans are we, in the end? A thousand? a bit more? At most I would think around ten thousand. How many of us live in the US? How many of us get HBO? I don't think they should have made it a priority to get glamor shots so that fans would stop complaining about something that's going to become irrelevant once the show starts.

I still wonder what caused the casting change.

I don't have any particular preference with the two, but I was impressed by the clips too, and I think she'll probably fit more convincingly as the Catelyn of the books, and much more so after the first season. I can understand why some people are upset, in that any change to the cast makes things more uncertain, but the only accusations being thrown about are relating to her image (and mostly arrived at from production pictures). There's absolutely no reason for Catelyn to be especially beautiful, and general photos suggest that she looks perfectly normal for her age. I'm sure she'll do a fantastic job, and I'm also sure this kind of reaction won't convince her to change her view on being in the spotlight.

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As for her private personality, I've always viewed it as an actor's right to shun the spotlight to the degree that they desire, save for the time they are actually, physically on screen.

Indeed. I doubt she took this role because aSoIaF has a passionate fanbase. She'd have no interest in feeding our desire to speculate about the smallest detail of the series. And her desire for some privacy hasn't stopped her getting this role. So fair enough.

Recasting is never ideal but i'm sure HBO has selected a good replacement. And that's why she took the role i'm sure. HBO does good TV.

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I was surprised by this news, but not shocked.

It sounds judgemental, but I always thought Ehle was too glamorous to play Catelyn, I mean, Ehle has played some very sexy roles.

I did google Fairley, and she is a pretty woman, too. But, more as I picture Catelyn to be: serious, and yes, kinda stern. I think she will do well as Catelyn. :thumbsup:

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No, she won't be getting anywhere near the rate that Ehle is getting, I'm sure. Not that Ehle was making huge money, probably, but she's got 3 very big acting awards under her belt and is a "name" actress with a following (all those P&P fans, especially). All of those things mean she brings attention to anything she's in that a little-known actress like Fairley does not, and that attention translates to her agents being able to get much higher pay for Ehle than lesser known actors.

In that case I'd rather the money was going on securing a couple more "named" actors for roles. Either one big role eg littlefinger or several smaller ones such as Tywin or Jeor Mormont.

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