The Talented Mr. Bean


The Talented Mr. Bean
Delta-Sky Magazine
October 2005

Say the name “Sean Bean” to most Americans and you’re likely to get a blank
stare. Say the name “Boromir,” and you’ll get a flicker of recognition (FYI: the
conflicted warrior in LOTR who tried to swipe the ring from Frodo). Odysseus?
Think warrior/narrator in Troy. How about the suave and savage villains in
GoldenEye, Patriot Games, Don’t Say a Word, National Treasure and The
Island? Well, there’s your man—a versatile 20-year veteran of British stage,
screen and television. Now that Bean is appearing in Flightplan and this
month’s North Country, perhaps U.S. audiences will appreciate just how
versatile—and begin to take notice. Here, a few thoughts on these roles and
SKY: Tell us about North Country.
Sean Bean: [The film] is basically a true story about these
women who brought a class-action [suit] against the steel
company because of the abuse they suffered. It’s a very
moving story. It’s a very gritty, very sort of hard-hitting,
but very poignant tale. Such good characters. It’s almost
like a play. A really good piece of theater.

SKY: And you play a sympathetic character—for once?
SB: Yes. He’s the boyfriend of the Frances McDormand
character. He’s quite an easygoing guy, and he’s had to
retire from an injury from work.

SKY: Now you’ve also got Flightplan, in which you play the
SB: Yeah. I’m the captain and sort of trying to keep things together. Calm in
this sort of very intense situation, which starts getting out of hand very

SKY: You had the rare opportunity to work with Jodie Foster. She doesn’t
make as many films as she used to.
SB: No. But she’s really good in this. She’s very intense. Very focused on
what she’s doing. And it’s really good working alongside her, because she
raises your game as well.

SKY: You’ve worked with some heavy hitters in this business. Is there any
one person you’ve learned more from than others?
SB: John Hurt. Just watching him and seeing how he reacted. Pete
Postlethwaite. He’s a brilliant actor. And recently, I’ve worked with Peter
O’Toole [in Troy], whom I’d always wanted to work with, and whom I admire.
He’s very much his own man and quite incredible. Mesmerizing. He’s always
been a hero of mine, and it’s good to work with him.

SKY: Well, we have to ask about Lord of the Rings and Boromir.
SB: It was quite a long time before I got the part. And eventually, I got the
offer, and I was so overjoyed, of course. I didn’t realize at the time—I don’t
think any of us realized at the time—how big it was going to be. Monumental.

SKY: In less capable hands than Peter Jackson’s, a movie like that would
have been a disaster.
SB: He’s a very shrewd guy. Very funny, very easygoing, very imaginative.
He knows what he wants with each shot.

SKY: There isn’t as much screen time for Boromir as there is for some of the
other characters, and yet it’s a crucial role, because he establishes what’s to
come in the rest of the trilogy.
SB: They did sort of tend to be very dramatic moments, when I sort of lost
control, and I think it was a benchmark for how powerful this ring was,
especially for humans, who were highly susceptible to its powers. And I
enjoyed playing the tortured—the tortuous, troubled man that Boromir was.

SKY: Tortured, troubled . . . do you ever want to play comedy?!
SB: [Laughs] I’d love to! Something lighthearted.

SKY: It would be nice to flex some different acting muscles.
SB: Yeah. It would be. Smiling a little.

SKY: Well, you got to flex some different muscles after Lord of the Rings,
some stage muscles, if you will. I understand you played Macbeth on the
London stage?
SB: Yeah. That was quite an experience.

SKY: Why did you choose Macbeth?
SB: It was just something I’d always wanted to do. I saw Ian McKellan and
Judi Dench play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth when I was about 17, 18. And
that was the reason that inspired me to act.

SKY: And then you ended up working with Ian McKellan.
SB: Yeah. And it was great. Just to talk to him about Macbeth. And I talked
to Peter O’Toole and exchanged stories, because it’s such a fathomless piece,
and it’s a fathomless character. And you never feel that you can get to the
bottom of it. No matter what you do, there’s always something off there to
be discovered. But that was a big reason why I started acting, and that’s
why I wanted to do a Macbeth. I was in New York, and I went out and got
the play from the bookshop. I just happened to think, “I’m going to go get it
and read it again.” And then I rang my agent, and I said, “Do you think any
chance of getting this together and doing it on the London stage?” And then
she got in touch with Sonia Friedman, who’s a producer in the West End.
And we got it together and did it about two years ago, and fulfilled my
biggest ambitions, really.

SKY: How did you see the character?
SB: I think he’s a man that is very successful, and he has everything.
They’re like David Beckham and Posh Spice in the beginning. Everybody loves
them. They’re good-looking. They’re young. They’ve got everything. I think it’s
just a power, you know, that they’re just chipping away, and then just a little
bit more. And the imagination, especially for Macbeth—it’s a wonderful thing,
imagination, but in his case it became, you know, he became paranoid. It
was, you know . . .

SKY: Too potent.
SB: Yeah. And you just take it a little bit further and a little bit further, and
[he’s] being egged on by his wife, who then loses her mind. And then he just
loses all respect for her. And in the end he just dwells in the evil of it, being
disturbed and paranoid, and he embraces that in the end and believes he’s
invincible, because he thinks there’s just nothing left: “I don’t care, I don’t
fear anything.”

SKY: So I imagine, after Lord of the Rings, there must’ve been a bit of a
letdown; how nice for you to have something to sink your teeth into.
SB: Yeah. It was. It was good to go ahead and plunge into something. Which
I did, because I had not done any theater for about 13 years. So I was sort of
jumping in the deep end, and I knew it. It was very consuming. It just takes
over your life for a few months, really. It’s one of those parts that you just
live with. But it was great. And [I] talked to Ian McKellan about his version of
things. Everybody’s a bit protective, I think.

SKY: Trade secrets, huh?
SB: [Laughs]. Yeah. I don’t know why. [Even] myself, a bit, you know. I think
it’s because it has such an impact on the actors that play it. They almost don’t
want to talk about it too much.

SKY: Afraid of anything bad happening?
SB: [Laughs]. Maybe.

SKY: Do you think, since you’ve done this, that you’ll return to the stage more
SB: I hope so. Maybe in the next year or two, I’d like to do it again, because
it’s so refreshing and so different, and it’s enjoyable: You get your days off,
you work nights, you get to lay in bed the next morning. [Laughs] And apart
from that, it’s good for you.

SKY: There’s nothing like that connection to a live audience.
SB: There is something quite magical about it, in that it’s quite stirring. So
we’ll see how that goes. I’d like to do it again. Not Macbeth, but I’d like to do
Macbeth on film.

SKY: Unless Kenneth Branagh beats you to it, so you’d better hurry.
SB: Yeah. Yeah. Don’t mention. [Laughs] I think there are a few people trying
to get it together at the moment. I think there are a couple of scripts
knocking around. A couple of friends and myself, we’ve got a good script at
the moment. It’d be great to take another crack at it.

SKY: Is there anything else in particular that you’d like to take a crack at—on
stage, on film, on TV?
SB: At the moment I just want to stay at home and watch television on the
settee. [Laughs] But I’ve not got any particular role I have in mind; I like
getting surprised by things that come up and challenges that come up. I think
Macbeth was the one, the one I always wanted to play, and I did it. I was
very proud of that. And very gratified.
—Nancy Oakley


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