Gwendoline Christie's Path To Hollywood Stardom

Gwendoline Christie made a name for herself with her role as Brienne of Tarth on "Game of Thrones." Though most fans became familiar with the actor through the hit fantasy drama series, her career had been in the works years prior to landing the iconic role. According to The Guardian, Christie knew she wanted to be an actor early on and even attended acting school in her 20s. However, she didn't land her career-defining role on "Game of Thrones" until age 33.

The actor's unconventional journey to fame might not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with her passion for the unusual. "Why something isn't the norm is interesting to me," Christie told The Guardian. "How does something or someone not conform? Why? What is seen as wrong with not conforming? I've always been interested in that — I suppose from a very dull perspective of my own physicality." This mindset has likely helped the gorgeous "Game of Thrones" actor embrace her remarkable height of 6 feet, 3 inches. In October 2022, Deadline reported that Christie would join the Season 2 cast of Apple TV's "Severance." The actor's role on the award-winning sci-fi thriller is only one of many on her lengthy resume.

Let's explore Gwendoline Christie's path to Hollywood stardom.

She was a 'semi-professional' gymnast as a child

As you might imagine, Gwendoline Christie's physically demanding role as Brienne of Tarth on "Game of Thrones" required her to put in a lot of work. In 2012, the actor told Access that she had to start regularly going to the gym to exercise, which she hadn't done in some time. Of her role on the show, Christie shared, "So, I just committed to it entirely. I mean, going to the gym is something I haven't done regularly since I was a child." 

The actor went on to reveal that she was actually quite the gymnast as a youngster. "I was a semi-professional gymnast as a child," she continued. "I did rhythmic gymnastics, but I sustained an injury and strained all the muscles in my spine." In a separate interview with Stylist, the star shared that she was also a dancer at the time.

This injury was likely bittersweet for Christie because she went on to tell Access that it led her to discover a different passion. "When that happened, and I was told that I wouldn't be able to dance again at that level, I decided ... I'd become an actress instead." The star's parents were on board with the unplanned career change after they saw her act as Lady Macbeth in a production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" at only 15 years old.

Gwendoline Christie became confident after years of bullying

Although Gwendoline Christie seems to radiate confidence these days, she revealed to The Guardian that this wasn't always the case. Many of Christie's peers didn't share her unique interests (she loved foreign films and performance art). As a result, the star was bullied in elementary school. According to the Mirror, she was also bullied for her height. "I probably wanted to just fit in," she admitted, per The Guardian. "Schools are funny things. Any young person's experience tends to be about trying to find some comfort in fitting in." 

The actor learned to care less about the opinions of others by the time she reached high school. "I was incredibly lucky that there was something inside me that just decided, 'Fine. If I'm outside the party, then I'm going to have a party of my own,'" she told The Guardian. "Because what else was I going to do? If you're shut on the outside then you might as well enjoy yourself on the outside. Make the best of it."

She got her start in acting school

Gwendoline Christie honed her craft in acting school in her early 20s, per The Guardian. She attended Drama Centre London. Christie met British actor and director Simon Callow during her time at the school, and he later became her mentor. So, how did the then-aspiring actor meet Callow? She opened up about the journey during an interview with V Magazine in 2015. Christie told a school administrator that she was skilled in filing paperwork in an attempt to avoid helping disassemble a stage, which was an expectation of underclassmen at her school.

The administrator then connected her with Callow, who was looking for an assistant at the time. He set up an interview with Christie, and she was initially a nervous wreck. "How do you go into that situation not feeling intimidated?" she told The Guardian. "Maybe people do now, maybe millennials feel confident, I don't know. Anyway, he answered the door and this kindness poured out of him." Luckily, Callow took a liking to Christie, and she began working as his dog walker and research assistant.

Callow went on to guide the star as she tried to make a name for herself. "I suppose he coaxed me out of my shell when it came to being an actor," she told The Guardian. He would shout at me about my lazy and disorganized mind, throw books." Yikes! Well, maybe Callow's tough love pushed Christie to remain motivated.

One of Gwendoline Christie's early gigs was a bizarre photography project

Gwendoline Christie worked a number of odd jobs at the start of her career, according to The Guardian. These early gigs included a photography project by Australian portrait photographer Polly Borland. The three-year-long project included photos of Christie dressed as various animals. The actor also posed nude in some of the photos.

Borland and Christie spoke about their collaboration in an interview with The Independent in 2008. "The idea behind the photos I took of her was about taking the notion of a pin-up and turning it into more representational forms of the female, such as the Playboy Bunny," Barland said of the project. "Then we thought of other things, such as a cat and a horse and other animals that are linked to female identity."

The photographer also recalled why she thought Christie would be the perfect subject of these images. "I had seen Gwendoline walking in Brighton and was drawn to her. She's over 6'5" in heels and very striking," she said. Borland shared that when she asked the actor if she'd be interested in posing for the photos, Christie, who was showing friends photos of herself at a party, replied, "As you can see, I'm an exhibitionist, so I'd love that." 

This duo remained friends after they completed the lengthy photography project. "We talk about everything, and I never feel judged by her," Christie said of Borland.

She landed her role in Game of Thrones at age 33

As previously mentioned, Gwendoline Christie got her big break on "Game of Thrones" at age 33. While speaking with The Guardian, the actor revealed that she wasn't expecting the show to become so successful. "No one had heard of it," she said of the series. Christie didn't even quit her day job upon landing her role as Brienne of Tarth — she continued working as Simon Callow's dog walker. Of course, "Game of Thrones" ended up doing amazing things for the actor's career.

Not only did the series introduce Christie to an audience of millions, but it also allowed her to play a character she loved. "I will never stop being grateful for the opportunity to play her," the actor said of her role as Brienne of Tarth during an interview with Collider. "I really won't. That was really the opportunity of a lifetime. It was incredible." She went on to reveal that she was drawn to Brienne because she could relate to her experience as an outcast. "I adored the character," Christie continued, "and it came about at a time in my life as my development of what I wanted to do artistically was to express something about the experience that I'd had in life that felt quite niche, but simultaneously was about the very human and relatable experience of being an outsider."

The actor starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Gwendoline Christie displayed her range of talent when she starred in the film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in 2015, followed by "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" in 2017, alongside Hollywood veterans like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Christie may have felt at home while preparing for the action-packed film because she worked with the same stuntman who trained her for "Game of Thrones," C.C. Smiff. "What I can tell you is that I was reunited with C.C. Smiff," she said during a 2017 interview for "Good Morning America." "He was the man who gave me the confidence and the skills and worked with me for months beforehand and taught me to fight and sword fight."

She also shared that her role as Captain Phasma was a childhood dream come true. Christie explained that, as a child, she spoke to her mother about the possibility of starring in a "Star Wars" film. At the time, her mother explained that the franchise wasn't releasing any more films. Luckily, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" gave Christie the opportunity to land a role she once thought was unattainable. During a 2022 interview with Empire, Christie expressed her enthusiasm for Captain Phasma once again when she shared that she would be willing to revive the character in a spin-off or sequel film.

She balances her modeling career with acting

Although Gwendoline Christie has a successful career as an actor, she also finds time to walk the runway as a model. In fact, Christie's modeling agent is none other than iconic supermodel Kate Moss, as she revealed to Elle in 2019. The actor has been spotted sporting looks for high-end designers like Vivienne Westwood and Miu Miu. As previously mentioned, Christie dabbled in modeling before her acting career took off, such as in Polly Borland's photography project. However, her newfound fame amid starring in "Game of Thrones" may have helped elevate her modeling portfolio.

It is possible that modeling for high-end designers was also a childhood dream of Christie's because she told The Evening Standard that she's been interested in the world of fashion since a young age. "It was a combination of wanting to escape the unpleasant narrative that was being applied to me at school, where I was bullied terribly and loving the transportative nature of the arts," she said of why she was drawn to the fashion industry as a child. "It was about not wanting to live a prescriptive life."