Carice Van Houten is a Dutch actress who is best known for her role as Melisandre on the HBO show Game of Thrones.
She entered the world on September 5th, 1976, and enjoyed an early life with her Dutch TV personality mother, Margje Stasse, and her journalist and broadcaster father, Theodore van Houten.
That life was soon joined by a sibling in the form of sister Jelka Van Houten, and both girls shared a love of acting from an early age.
Her father exposed Carice to silent films at a very early age (around 5), and this had an indelible impact on her. She is particularly fond of Laurel and Hardy to this day, and typically finds herself drawn to others who share a love for the comedic actors.
In Utrecht, she performed on stage for the first time to Hugo Claus’s “Tijl Uilenspieghel” while attending high school at “St. Bonifatius College,” then extended her drama studies with university coursework at both the “Maastricht Academy of Dramatic Arts” and Amsterdam’s “Kleinkunstacademie.”
Carice is best known for her roles in feature films Valkyrie, Repo Men, and Black Death, and most famously as the “Red Witch,” the sorceress Melisandre in the blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones.
Cutting her teeth with a few minor roles in Dutch television beginning in 1997, it was only two years later that she would score her first leading role, in a TV movie called Suzy Q, in which she played titular character “Suzy.”
The film was based on the turbulent childhood of one of the film’s primary writers, involving childhood abuse in an unsafe environment during the 1960s. It performed very well (earning seven nominations and winning six of them), as did Carice, as she was the recipient of a Golden Calf award for “Best Actress in a TV drama.”
When she co-starred in AmnesiA alongside actor Fedja van Huet, the film had a limited release in the U.S., providing her first exposure in the country during 2001.
The same year, she starred as a kitty cat that could assume the shape of a woman in the Dutch children’s film Miss Minoes, which earned her a second Golden Calf award.
It would not be her last.
For the next few years, she continued to perform in several Dutch television shows and films, notably starring in 2005’s steamy drama Zwarte Zwanen, when she earned the lead in the film Black Book, which set the stage for her powerful roles to come.
Truly coming into her own as an actress due to her previous success, Black Book served as an opportunity to truly shine, and shine she did. Carice played the role of “Rachel Stein,” a singer living in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II who experiences an unpleasant encounter with Nazi soldiers and later becomes a spy for resistance forces.
It garnered wide international fame, earning a BAFTA nomination for “Best Film Not in the English Language,” and a significant number of other nominations, for which it won 13.
There was also considerable international attention, particularly with the performance of a certain actress – Carice van Houten.
After Black Book, Carice continued to take center stage, dipping into the RomCom scene with 2007’s relationship-centered comedy Love Is All, co-starring as “Kiki Jollema,” a jewelry saleswoman dreaming of meeting the perfect man.
She then shifted gears to star in the psychological thriller Dorothy as psychiatrist “Jane von Dopp,” who is assigned a patient named Dorothy, accused of attempted murder on a baby while babysitting the child. She soon discovers that the unusual girl exhibits multiple personalities and must uncover the truth about her condition.
During 2008, she filmed a part in Body of Lies opposite Leonardo Di Caprio as his character Roger’s wife, “Gretchen Farris,” but her parts were edited out of the film entirely.
She had more fortune with her return to World War II inValkyrie that same year, co-starring with Tom Cruise and Bill Nighy. The film is based on real-life events as a group of German officers attempt to eliminate Hitler. Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, triggerman for the plot.
Carice plays his wife, “Nina Schenk Grafin Von Stauffenberg,” and was reportedly chosen for the role because the producers found her role in Black Book riveting and felt like she could craft a strong performance with minimal dialogue, which Carice, as a fan of the old silent films, rather enjoys.
They were correct as she won a Saturn Award for “Best Supporting Actress.”
Carice then performed in a few other productions, including a starring role in the romantic drama Love Life (2009) as “Carmen” and science fiction action thriller Repo Men (2010) as “Carol,” the wife of main protagonist Remy (Jude Law).
She then found herself in a role that perhaps set the stage for her most famous role, yet to come. In it, she serves as the village necromancer named “Langiva,” the film’s antagonist, suspected of potentially murdering and resurrecting the monk Osmund’s (Sean Bean) secret lover Averill (Kimberly Nixon) in the medieval action horror film Black Death.
Always the consummate actress, Carice earned yet another “Best Supporting Actress” award for her work on the film.
Game of Thrones
When HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones burst on the scene in 2011, it became an immediate blockbuster sensation. That season alone earned 13 Emmy nominations and won two of them.
2012’s second season would introduce a host of new characters, one of which was Carice’s powerful sorceress character “Melisandre,” often referred to as the “Red Woman” or “Red Witch.”
She revealed that she was originally asked to audition for the role of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headley), but was unable to do so due to scheduling conflicts.
Nonetheless, she played the mysterious and sultry red-haired temptress so convincingly that many of her fans were shocked to learn that in reality, Carice’s demeanor is quite the opposite.
Melisandre, a Red Priestess of the R’hllor, the Lord of Light, remained a mainstay throughout the rest of the show’s eight seasons, appearing in 26 episodes from 2012 through 2019, first assisting Stannis Baratheon in his pursuit of the Iron Throne, and later serving the bastard Nightwatchman Jon Snow as his advisor.
Her final performance as the priestess earned her an Emmy nomination for “Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series,” although there was considerable controversy because it was widely believed that she (along with a few other actors from the show) paid for their own nominations when HBO would not.
She denied these allegations, however, stating that she was not overly concerned with the awards ceremony and did not even know when it would air.
The show itself featured what is widely considered to be gratuitous nudity, especially in its early seasons, leading to the coining of the term “sexposition” to describe prolonged narrative exposition while the viewer is entertained by nudity or acts of a sexual nature.
Carice appeared nude in several scenes herself, which at the time did not really concern her, as she stated that her parents often walked about the house nude and she was desensitized to nudity early in life.
However, after the “Me, Too” movement gained traction, it caused her to view the situation differently. She realized that many of her scenes included what she believed was unnecessary nudity.
While she has no problem with nudity that serves a narrative purpose, these gratuitous scenes became distasteful to her. She has since claimed that she has no intention of appearing nude in any other works.
After the last season aired, many fans were disgruntled at what they deemed an unsatisfying ending, and Carice stated that this was evidence that the seasons before were stellar, leading to unrealistically high expectations.
She felt that those fans were being “ungrateful” because the show had brought such joy throughout its run.
What is Carice Van Houten doing now?
While Game of Thrones is a tough act to follow, Carice continued to perform at the elite level that she has since a child actress.
She landed starring roles in recent films such as Czech drama film The Affair (2019) and the Dutch drama Instinct (2019).
She has also served as a main cast member in two recent television series, playing “Anna Willems” in medical crime drama Temple (2019) and “Sylvia Steenhuyzen” in drama Red Light (2020).
Carice also plays “Jacqueline de Montrachet” in the new 2022 series Dangerous Liaisons and will star in an upcoming film entitled Poor Boy.
Recently, she stated that she would be open to returning to her popular role as the ageless sorceress Melisandre in HBO’s new Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, if the opportunity arises.
In other news, when she is not acting, she is enjoying the company of her long-time boyfriend, actor Guy Pierce, who she met while filming the action western film Brimstone in 2015, during her Game of Thrones years.
They welcomed their first child, Monte Pierce, in 2016.
You can follow Carice on Instagram where she regularly posts about her projects and her personal life.