Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke revealed on 21 March that she has had two life-threatening aneurysms, and two brain surgeries, since the show began.
An unknown actress before landing the role, Clarke had just finished filming her first season as Daenerys Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons,” on the HBO fantasy series when she had the first aneurysm in 2011 at age 24 while working out at a London gym.
“Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life,” Clarke writes in a first-person story in The New Yorker . “I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.”
Clarke said she had been healthy all her life, but was suffering from serious stress when the artery burst in her brain. Much of it came from constant press questions about the nudity of her character, a conquering queen, in the show’s first episode.
“I always got the same question: some variation of ‘You play such a strong woman, and yet you take off your clothes. Why?’” Clarke writes. “In my head, I’d respond, ‘How many men do I need to kill to prove myself?’”
She said she suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which can very easily be fatal. She was unable to speak her full name even weeks later.
The second surgery, which was more invasive and involved opening her skull, came after Clarke finished shooting the third season.
“I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced,” Clarke writes. “I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium. These days, you can’t see the scar that curves from my scalp to my ear, but I didn’t know at first that it wouldn’t be visible.”
And, she adds, there was “the constant worry about cognitive or sensory losses.”
She recovered fully, however, and was able to keep the problems from the media with one exception.
“Six weeks after the surgery, the National Enquirer ran a short story,” Clarke writes. “A reporter asked me about it and I denied it.”