On a sweltering set in India, Sean Bean tell Karen Hockney why
decided to revive the role that made his name
It is 80 degrees in the Samode Valley,
in Northern Rajasthan, and Sean
Bean is leading a tired column of soldiers across the desert
isolated fort. Inside, dozens of extras dressed as villagers
soldiers mill about beside small fires, while horses, camels
stand tethered at open stalls.
The camp is taken by surprise when a
renegade regiment arrives and
opens fire without warning. As the shots ring out and bloodied
fall in the sand, Bean springs into action, rifle-butting and
enemy soldiers before being shot and wounded himself. So begins
Sharpes Challenge, the 15th television adventure based
Cornwells bestselling historical novels, the cornerstone
of which is
his portrayal of Richard Sharpe.
Filming in India means 4.30am starts
for the 46-year-old Bean who,
despite the early call, is looking his rough-and-ready best in
scarlet military jacket, dusty white breeches and black boots.
on Sharpes appeal is simple: All the guys on this
love the action
stuff because you cant do it in real life.
His screen roles have tended to be rough
diamonds and anti-heroes. His
Mellors in the BBC adaptation of D. H. Lawrences Lady Chatterleys
Lover caused Middle-England outrage at the graphic sex scenes
Joely Richardson, and he held his own as the avenging terrorist
Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and as 006, the rogue agent who
Pierce Brosnans Bond, in Goldeneye.
Sharpe is no exception: a soldier who
is loyal and unwavering in his
duty but also prepared to bend the rules to cut a better deal
himself and his troops. In short, an officer who inspires respect
men, and the desire to tame him from women.
An intensely shy man, Bean, too, has
a reputation as a loner, something
the actor feels he doesnt really deserve: I like
my own company and I
like time on my own, but Im not a hermit. I do like other
His bluff northern exterior, fanatical
devotion to Sheffield United
Football Club (he sports a Blades tattoo and confides: Im
passionate about them. Ive been listening to their games
internet,) and broad Yorkshire accent shore up his public
image as one
of Britains most famous working-class outsiders.
Yet the truth is more complex. Bean
is the son of a Sheffield
steelworker, but his father also owned the local factory where
an apprentice welder for a while. I suppose we were working
we drove to work in a Silver Shadow, he recalls. Wed
get in the
Rolls-Royce. Id put me steel-capped boots on, stop at the
top of the
road, get the Daily Mirror and jump back in the Rolls. It was
On leaving RADA in the early 1980s,
he built a solid career with roles
in the big-screen thrillers Ronin, Dont Say a Word and
Bravo Two Zero,
in which he played the SAS hero Andy McNab. But it was the troubled
warrior Boromir in The Lord of the Rings that propelled him into
Hollywoods inner sanctum. Now he gets first look at films
North Country opposite Charlize Theron, Troy with the likes of
Pitt, Flightplan alongside Jodie Foster and the thriller Silent
released on Friday.
Ive been really busy in
the past two years and Ive managed to
diversify, he says as he sips at a pint of beer that hes
acquired as protection against the Indian heat. Before
that, there was
a point when I wasnt really doing anything, I was just
guys every now and then. The trouble is, I play them well so
getting asked to play them again! Then things started changing
Lord of the Rings.
That he should return to the small screen
for ITV1s Sharpes Challenge
after an eight-year break is perhaps surprising, but its
his down-to-earth attitude that he holds the television series
made his name in such high regard.
In another echo of Sharpe, Beans
loner status extends to his romantic
life, too. He has been married three times, to childhood sweetheart
Debra James, the actress Melanie Hill and his Sharpe co-star
Cruttenden, but is currently living a nomadic life between his
Hampstead, North London, and Los Angeles. It clearly suits him,
although he tries to spend as much time as he can with his three
daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 14, and Evie, 7.
I have been on the road for 18
months of the past two and a half
years, he says. It is hard on family life. It would
be nice to take a
break because Ive been working non-stop and I feel a bit
He has been dating Georgina Sutcliffe,
a 27-year-old bar worker, since
last summer and, from the way he talks, guardedly yet faintly
embarrassed at the idea of sounding offish, theres no indication
he is planning to settle down again.
I see Georgina from time to time
but we dont live together, he
mumbles self-consciously. Its hard when Im
away, but I think she and
my kids understand that. Its part of my job.
His pursuits away from work also point
to a more sensitive side. He is
at his happiest pottering about in his Hampstead garden, or reading
Oscar Wilde. I might go to my local for a pint, but Im
not the kind
of guy who is out every night partying, he says. Its
I love losing myself in books and an early night.