According to Winter is Coming there is a rumor that Sean Bean has been cast as Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones.
Personally, I think that is great news. I love Sean Bean as an actor, and while he was relatively marginalized in Lord of the Rings, if you watch the extended editions he has some great scenes that ended up cut dealing with his brother and father, of course he has done well in many other roles. I did however think he was too old for the part, but makeup artists can fix that I’m sure. I actually thought Clive Owen would have been the best choice, darker coloring, younger, and able to provide the sort of lordly gravitas needed. Sean Bean can do all that too of course.
I’ve seen some people worry about casting a big name in such a role, but remember, Ned is not actually a big role. He is vastly important to the series, but, he’d be a regular only in one season and then only appear in a flashback as a guest star. Because of the relatively shorter time commitment Ned has always been a role that could attract a bigger name actor. Also, many actors who command millions for movies don’t demand the same price for all their work. Many go and do broadway for a huge paycut, or they do independent films for far less. An HBO production always has the feel of an independent film, and actors may wish to participate for a nice shot at an emmy or other award. It isn’t always about the money. So I wouldn’t worry about the Sean Bean rumor, if it is true, busting the budget.
Edit: Yes, it has been confirmed.