Sean Bean actually gained the role of
Richard Sharpe thanks to Paul
McGann injuring his knee just before
Now, he claims not to remember pushing through a high pay demand
become the internationally famous all-action hero of TV.
STEVE PRATT reports
IT was never meant to be. Paul McGann
was supposed to be
swashbuckling hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Richard Sharpe. When
filming began on the TV series in August 1992, he'd been cast
role. Then, two days into shooting, he fell over during a friendly
game of football and tore a ligament in his knee.
Doctors said it would be six months
before he was strong enough
for all the riding, running and fighting
that a hero did.
The film was abandoned and everyone
returned home from the Ukraine.
One week later, cast and crew were on
their way back - with the addition
of Sheffield-born actor Sean Bean, newly
recruited to fill Sharpe's breeches.
He hadn't even screen-tested originally
with McGann, his
brother Mark and Rufus Sewell. Now, fresh from fighting Hollywood
star Harrison Ford in the movie Patriot Games, Bean was the star.
The story is recalled by writer Linda
Blandford in Sharpe Cut, a
behind-thescenes look at the making of the new ITV1 two-part
Sharpe's Challenge. This isn't the usual free plug for the
a warts-and-all account of filming the latest adventure in India.
the TV series is as good as the book, we're in for a treat.
The story goes that Bean, perhaps sensing
the producers were desperate to
find a replacement for McGann, demanded twice as much as the
choice was getting. The actor himself can't remember anything
No matter how much, or how little, he
was paid the role made
him an international star and helped him get decent movie roles
both sides of the Atlantic.
Fourteen Sharpe films were made over
five years after Central Television
prised the film options away from the
BBC who'd been sitting on them
for years. In those days, filming took place in the newly-independent
Actors and crew were told to take their
own toilet rolls, bath plugs and
warned that the food wasn't great (or
more importantly, there wasn't much of
it as most Ukranians were starving).
Some actors refused to return for a
second year. Bean
himself preferred to return home by train rather than fly Aeroflot.
He got his own trailer by the third year. Those who've appeared
Sharpe over the years include the new James Bond, Daniel Craig,
Liz Hurley, during her attempts to be taken seriously as an actress.
Former Royal Shakespeare Company actor Toby Stephens plays the
in the latest adventure.
The Battle of Waterloo provided the
finale for the series, back in 1997.
It is taken from Bernard Crowell's books
and attracted 10- 12 million
viewers an episode and sold half a million
boxed DVD sets. But you
can't keep a good - and potentially
money-spinning - series down and
accounts for Sharpe's Challenge, filmed
in India rather than the Ukraine,
with Tom Clegg in the director's chair.
It finds Sharpe investigating
stories that a local maharaja is threatening British interests
that country. "The fate of an Empire and the life of a general's
daughter lie in one man's hands. . ." as the press blurb
The drama, reports Blandford, is "a
big screen film for the small
screen" which, translated, means not enough money, not enough
not enough anything. "It's ambitious film-making on a locked
limited budget. , " she states.
During 41 shooting days, three major
battles, seven skirmishes and
five major fight sequences had to be
staged along with all the
human emotion and turmoil.
Other statistics reveal that Bean and
fellow actor Peter Hugo-Daly
polished off the hotel's entire month's supply of Guinness.
Bean is returning to the role of Richard
Sharpe for the first time in eight
years, joined once more by Daragh O'Malley as Sharpe's best
friend Sgt Patrick Harper. The actor admits - in the press
not Blandford's book - that it felt strange becoming Sharpe again
after an eight year break. "It's quite a bizarre feeling
back to life. Picking up a sword again and putting on the green
jacket, " he says. "But I really enjoyed filming
Challenge. I think it's probably the best we've done because
nature of the film and because we were so unrestrained filming
India. You don't often see these kind of panoramas on TV. It's
great scale to it, a big budget and some fantastic characters.
"Sharpe has mellowed to some extent
and become a lot calmer. He's a
farmer now and that's how he wants to live his life. He's reluctant
to go back to soldiering.
"He's not lost any of his admirable
qualities, his beliefs or values, or
fighting ability. But he is a reluctant
warrior when we find him at the
beginning of the film. His loyalty gets
the better of him though and he
accepts his duty."
India worked its magic on him, causing
him to call it "an
extraordinary place, magical". He adds: "I've filmed
all over the
world but I've never experienced anything like this before -
people, the scenery, the animals and architecture.
"We've filmed at huge fortresses
set into hillsides, amazing palaces
in the midst of squalor and poverty,
in the desert surrounded by mountains."
Sharpe's Challenge is on ITV1 on Sunday
and Monday at 9pm. Sharpe
Cut by Linda Blandford is published by Harper Collins, 17.99.
2006 Northern Echo.