Since 2012, Van Houten has received international recognition for her role as Melisandre on the HBO fantasy drama television series Game of Thrones (2012–present), for which she has been nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. After meeting Australian actor and musician Guy Pearce on the set of Brimstone in 2015, she gave birth to their first child the following year.
Van Houten was born on 5 September 1976 in Leiderdorp, the Netherlands. Her mother, Margje Stasse, is on the board of Dutch educational TV, and her father, Theodore van Houten (9 August 1952 – 7 April 2016), was a writer and broadcaster. He raised Carice watching many silent movies, and during a Dutch interview she professed to prefer playing scenes without dialogue. She has a younger sister, Jelka van Houten, who is also an actress. Her paternal grandmother was Scottish. Van Houten went to the St. Bonifatiuscollege (high school) in Utrecht, where she played the leading role in Hugo Claus' Tijl Uilenspieghel, directed by Ad Migchielsen. Van Houten studied briefly at the Maastricht Academy of Dramatic Arts but continued her professional education after one year at the Kleinkunstacademie in Amsterdam.
Van Houten played her first leading role in Martin Koolhoven's TV film Suzy Q. She won a Golden Calf for her part as Suzy. She also won the Pisuisse Award and the Top Naeff Award for her stage acting and another Golden Calf for her part as the kitten that becomes a girl in Undercover Kitty (2001). The first time she could be seen in cinemas in the USA was when Martin Koolhoven's AmnesiA (2001) got a small theatrical release.
Van Houten won a Golden Calf for her performance as Rachel Stein in the 2006 film Black Book at the Netherlands Film Festival. Black Book's director Paul Verhoeven says about her in a television interview: "Never in my life I have worked with an actress this talented", and when asked to compare her with Sharon Stone he said "Carice can really act". The international press was also enthusiastic about her role in Black Book. Dick Schümer wrote in his review of the film in the Frankfurter Allgemeine that Carice van Houten is "not only more beautiful, but also a better actress than Scarlett Johansson".
In December 2006, Van Houten withdrew from a theatre production of Alex van Warmerdam due to personal reasons. According to a theatre spokesman it was because of a work overload.
Carice's first English spoken movie was Dorothy from French director Agnès Merlet.
In 2008 she starred in the non-commercial short movie Zingen in het donker (English: Singing in the dark), a drama on domestic violence. She appeared in the magazine Vanity Fair in the issue for March 2008, photographed by Wayne Maser.
In 2008, Van Houten had a role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies but her scenes did not make the final cut of the movie.
On 4 October 2008 filming began on From Time To Time directed by Julian Fellowes. It is based on the children's literature classic The Chimneys of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston. Van Houten is attached to star as Maria Oldknow.
In April 2009, it was announced that Van Houten would star in Black Death by UK director Christopher Smith and in the highly anticipated Dutch film Komt een vrouw bij de dokter (English title: Stricken), based on the celebrated novel of the same name by Ray Kluun. She also starred in the Science-Fiction thriller Repo Men.
In July 2011, Van Houten was cast as the priestess Melisandre in the second season of HBO's fantasy TV series Game of Thrones.
In 2012, Van Houten appeared in Antony and the Johnsons' "Cut the world" video, which was directed by Nabil and also starred Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramović.
In late November 2012, the video for "Particle of Light", the second single from her album, "See You on the Ice", debuted on YouTube. This song was written by Howe Gelb of Giant Sand.
In May 2015, she played Annika Van Houten (Milhouse's cousin) in The Simpsons episode, "Let's Go Fly A Coot". She was cast specifically because of her last name.
In 2016, she played the role of Leni Riefenstahl in Race.
In 2016 she acts in Brimstone, her fourth collaboration with director Martin Koolhoven. Other cast members are Dakota Fanning, Kit Harington and Guy Pearce, who after meeting during filming she is now dating.
Van Houten is friends with fellow Dutch actress Halina Reijn, whom she has known since 1994. They worked together in the movies Black Book and Valkyrie. In 2013, the two published a book together called Anti Glamour, a (mock) style guide and a celebration of their friendship, as well as a candid look into the unglamourous back-stage side of their lives. Although the two occasionally kiss on camera, and have joked about being lesbians, there is no actual romantic involvement.
Van Houten has stated that Hollywood makes her unhappy: "I have seen Hollywood, and although I have nothing against it, it's not my kind of life. My agent is shocked that I want to stay in Europe," adding, "If Hollywood offers me a great part, of course I'll take it, but I just don't want to live there".
In March 2016 she announced she was expecting her first child with Guy Pearce in late 2016. On 29 August 2016, Van Houten and Pearce announced the birth of their child, Monte Pearce.
She is a lifelong fan of Laurel and Hardy and in June 2016 she called in to The Ross Owen Show on Black Sky Radio to talk about her love of Stan and Ollie.Black Book (soundtrack) (2007) – vocals in four songs
See You on the Ice (2012)
"Fear Not" (2015) – featuring Michael Prins