Emilia Clarke is a British-born actress, best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s hit medieval fantasy series 'Game of Thrones'. Being cast as the “Mother of Dragons” was unquestionably the defining moment of the young actress’s successful career on stage and screen. In 2010, Miss Clarke was relatively unknown; now she is conquering Hollywood, having starred in several major productions, received three EMMY award nominations and been crowned sexiest woman alive, in just a few short years.
Emilia Clarke was born Emilia Isabelle Euphemia Rose Clarke. She grew up in Berkshire, England and received her early education at Catholic schools Rye St Antony and St Edwards. Emilia’s mother had a successful career as Vice President of marketing for a global management consultancy, while her father was a theatre sound engineer. Her interest in acting began to develop at a young age; she was heavily influenced by visiting the theatre with her mother to see the musical Show Boat, which her father was working on. Miss Clarke has also reflected that Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady, one of her favourite childhood films, contributed to her desire to become an actress.
By the time she was ten years-old, Emilia had her eyes set firmly on a career in acting. When she expressed this desire to her parents, her father took her to a children’s musical theatre audition to show her what the acting world was really like. Emilia’s very first audition was not as successful as you might think; she competed against 200 or so other young hopefuls who sang popular musical theatre songs, while Emilia herself sang a folk song about donkeys – which was not very well received!
Growing up in the English countryside, Emilia describes her childhood as being “idyllic”. She recalls blackberry picking and playing in a stream which ran along the bottom of the family garden. On one occasion, Emilia and her younger brother lured some ducks from the stream into the house and locked them in their mother’s home office!
Emilia performed in various productions including West Side Story and Twelfth Night while she was in secondary school. After leaving St Edwards in 2005, she decided to take her drama education to the next level and auditioned for a place at one of the most prestigious drama schools in the country, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Surprisingly, the college rejected Miss Clarke’s application; so she resolved to take a year out of education to travel the world, before applying to a different school. On her return, Emilia was awarded a place at The Drama Centre in London; an equally respectable performing arts college which lists Thomas Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Colin Firth among just a few of its successful graduates.
Emilia Clarke graduated from the Drama Centre in 2009, at which point she put her efforts into breaking into professional acting. For her first paid job she appeared on a suicide prevention advert for the Samaritans charity in late 2009; she also won a small role on British drama series Doctors and the lead in made-for-television sci-fi horror film, Triassic Attack. Unfortunately, these minor successes did not provide the aspiring actress with sufficient income and she was forced to work a number of day jobs to make ends meet. Clarke recalls that at one point she was working three different jobs to pay the rent, including waitressing and telesales. Despite being relatively unknown, Emilia was named as one of the UK’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ by Screen International Magazine – and how right they were.
Clarke’s big break came in 2010 when she received a phone call from her agent, asking if she was available to audition for the role of Daenerys Targaryen in HBO series, Game of Thrones. Left with only 24 hours to prepare for the audition, Emilia rang in sick to her catering job and threw herself into researching the Game of Thrones book series and her potential role. The Game of Thrones casting executives have spoken publically about watching Emilia’s audition tape and knowing immediately that they had found their actress. This was despite Clarke’s small, curvy, brunette appearance not even remotely fitting their specifications of “tall, wiry and blonde”. Emilia officially accepted the role of Daenerys Targaryen after meeting in person with HBO executives; she was cast in place of Tamzin Merchant, who had originally been chosen for the role but who backed out of the commitment for undisclosed reasons.
Miss Clarke has spoken in an interview with Vogue Magazine about how she sealed the deal by dancing the Funky Chicken and the Robot in front of the HBO bosses, when they joked that the only other thing they needed was for her to do a dance. Game of Thrones first aired in April 2011 and was given fantastic reviews. The role quickly propelled the previously unknown Emilia Clarke to international stardom. The show saw her win an Entertainment Weekly award in 2011 for Best Supporting Actress; she has also received three EMMY Award nominations for outstanding supporting actress in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
The show’s astounding success and record breaking viewership have seen it renewed for seven seasons so far, with the next season due to debut in summer 2017. Emilia has become one of the highest paid television actresses, set to rake in over $1.1 million per episode for seasons 7 and 8. Her new found fame put her in high-demand; she has tackled a number of other projects during the breaks from filming Game of Thrones, such as Indi drama film Spike Island in 2012 and Dom Hemmingway in 2013, where she worked alongside Jude Law.
In 2015, Clarke starred in Terminator Genisys as Sarah Connor, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jai Courtney; a film that received mixed reviews and was widely criticized for its casting choices. Despite the negative press surrounding Clarke’s role in Terminator Genisys, she went on to star as Louise Clarke in the film adaptation of international best seller, Me Before You in 2016. She was also offered the role of Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, but turned it down due to the level of nudity the role would require.
As far as future movie projects go, it has recently been revealed that Emilia will take a leading role in the as-yet-unnamed, Hans Solo Star Wars film which is due to hit the big screen in May 2018. Aside from her considerable acting skills, Clarke’s English Rose good looks have also won her acclaim; she was voted Most Desirable Woman in the World by Askmen readers in 2014, followed by Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire in 2015.
The multi-talented Emilia Clarke has not limited her career to film and television; in 2013 she took to Broadway, starring in the musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She has spoken of her particular passion for musical theatre, possibly due to her exposure to it as a child due to her father’s career. When asked about the future Miss Clarke stated that one of her ultimate goals is to return to London and perform in West End shows.
Emilia has always been widely praised for her portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen on hit TV show, Game of Thrones; however her role in Terminator Genisys has earned her some pretty negative press. One reviewer described her as “absolutely, one hundred percent terrible as Sarah Connor”, claiming that she wasn’t able to bring the same “hardness” to the role as Linda Hamilton, the original actress who played her. Her attempts at portraying a strong, battled-hardened woman were said to have come across as “shrill and unconvincing”. Emilia Clarke herself revealed during one interview that though her experience filming this movie was ultimately positive, it definitely pushed her to her limits as an actress, making her think twice about accepting such a role again.
Clarke has battled with being type-cast for nudity throughout her professional career, since appearing nude multiple times on Game of Thrones. She also had a nude scene in her 2013 Broadway performance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s; a career decision which she has since regretted as it transpired that audience members had taken photographs of her during the show, which were later leaked on social media. It was this scandal which prompted Clarke’s decision to turn down the part of Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey.
In all of her dealings with the press and public, Miss Clarke has come across as sweet, down to earth and unaffected by her super-stardom. One interviewer described her as having a ‘girl-next-door’ demeanour, while another wrote that she “could be your best friend’s little sister”. Emilia’s relationship with the public has been resoundingly positive; she is widely admired by fans both for her down-to-earth attitude and her stance on gender equality in show business. She has famously spoken out about there not being enough male nudity on Game of Thrones, while female nudity is common place. Clarke outlined the inequality, stating that women are being shown naked for sexual purposes, while men are shown naked for humour.
Speaking about her role in Game of Thrones, the actress shared that she loved having to play someone with such a powerful personality and was happy to be able “to fly the flag for young girls and women, to be more than just somebody’s wife and somebody’s girlfriend.”
Clarke has enjoyed relative anonymity in public, despite her international fame. She rarely gets recognised, largely due to the fact that she looks so different in real life to her Game of Thrones character Daenerys, who has long, white-blonde hair. People have even failed to recognise her when she’s out in public with co-star Kit Harington; Clarke recalls one occasion when they were stopped by a fan who did not realise who Emilia was and asked her to take a photograph.
Emilia keeps her love life fairly private, preferring to make jokes during interviews than answer personal questions. Despite this, she has been romantically linked to several Hollywood names, such as Terminator Genisys co-star Jai Courtney, James Franco and Cory Michael Smith – though these are rumours which have never been confirmed by the actress herself. Clarke’s longest relationship since becoming famous has been with Seth McFarlane, whom she dated for around six months in 2012. Their separation was amicable and the pair remain friends.
Since 2015, Emilia has primarily lived in Hampstead, London, where she purchased a grade-two listed property for over £8 million. It seems she is building herself an impressive property portfolio, adding a £3.8 million home in Venice Beach, LA to the list in 2016.
Miss Clarke enjoys visiting antique shops in her very limited spare time. Talking about her Hampstead home, she says “collecting art is a new, big passion of mine and I love finding different things for the house from different countries I visit.” She also enjoys singing and plays several instruments, including the flute, piano and guitar.
Written by: Laura Boyle