By Michael Deacon
As Sean Bean returns for a new series of Sharpe, he tells Michael Deacon
about getting old and filming action scenes in 120 degrees.
Guess what type of car Sean Bean drives. Bear in mind that he is a millionaire
Hollywood actor whos starred in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Troy and National
Treasure. A Porsche 911, perhaps, or a Ferrari Enzo, or a Rolls Royce Phantom.
In fact its none of those. Its a pick-up truck. I just think its handier, he says.
I like doing a bit of woodwork, DIY, making shelves, gardening. And you dont
have to worry about leaving it in the street. Ive had a couple of cars BMWs,
Range Rovers, but they just end up getting scratched and smashed.
Sean Bean returns to the familiar role of Richard Sharpe
Somehow, a pick-up is a fitting choice. Like his truck, the Sheffield-born Bean
is no-nonsense, tough, battered-looking. You could say much the same about
almost all the characters hes played especially the eponymous hero of Sharpe,
the battle-crammed historical adventure inspired by Bernard Cornwells novels.
It returns to ITV1 this week.
Bean has been playing Richard Sharpe a fictional 19th-century English soldier
who has fought at Waterloo, in the Crimea and in India since 1993. Bean
thinks Sharpes been so enduringly popular for simple reasons. At the heart
of it theyre very good stories and it appeals to a general audience: kids like it,
men like it, women, he says. It seems to have lasted without dating itself.
But even the most seasoned swashbuckler cant keep hurling himself recklessly
into battle forever. In the new adventure Sharpes Peril, which, like Sharpes
Challenge (2006), is set in India our hero will show himself to be
Sharpe cant just go on fighting like a machine or he could become a bit of a cliché,
he says. So my interest was to develop his character: how he feels about his child,
questioning after 25 years of soldiering what things are about. Youve still got
elements of the swashbuckling hero but at the same time youve got a war-weary
soldier whos looking for something more in life. It was the only way to go forward.
The swashbuckling parts this time revolve around an attack on a baggage train by
If Richard Sharpe is becoming weary of war, Sean Bean is becoming weary of heat.
Filming in India in March and April this year was gruelling, he says. It was about
120 degrees [Fahrenheit], he says. Wed be on set for seven in the morning to
try to get it done in the coolest part of the day, but by 7.30 itd be 90 degrees,
and Im running around in corduroy trousers and a woolly jacket. Every day thered
be a little breeze at about 10.30, which was a godsend everybody would be
saying, The winds here, the winds here But if theres one thing Bean
seems to struggle with more than the sun, its dietary variety. The last time
he filmed in India, he brought a crate of 70 steak pies to keep him going.
I was a bit more adventurous on the grub side this year, he says. Most days
I had chicken and chips. If that still sounds insufficiently nutritious, he adds
that his diet also included Hendersons Relish, a sauce from Sheffield: Like
Worcester Sauce but slightly tangier. Its remarkable that he stays in such
good shape he puts it down to a couple of gym visits a week and plenty of
He grew up on a council estate but his family wasnt poor his father
owned a fabrication shop, employing 50 people. He went to Rada on a
scholarship, graduating in 1983. At first he did a lot of theatre, but he made
his name in television, with Sharpe and the BBCs DH Lawrence adaptation
Lady Chatterleys Lover (Bean was, naturally, the virile gardener Mellors).
He was considered for the part of James Bond in the mid-Nineties (There
was some talk of me being in the frame for it, but I didnt audition, he says).
Pierce Brosnan got the job instead, but Bean ended up in 1995s GoldenEye
anyway, playing Bonds friend 006.
Hes been married four times, most recently in February this year, to Georgina
Sutcliffe. In July it was reported that Bean had spent the night in a police cell
following a claim of domestic assault, but he was released without charge.
Its all a bit of a misunderstanding and thats all Ive got to say on the matter,
he says. Unfortunately people get the wrong end of the stick so it turns into a
story based on nothing. Were very happy as it happens.
He says, a bit bashfully, that he and his wife watch the Australian soaps Home &
Away and Neighbours together. If its on in the background, I think, Oh, whats
happening to them has he started going out with her? he says.
Next year, Bean will be 50. Hes not exactly entering Harrison Ford territory
(this summer Ford returned to the cinema as all-action archaeologist Indiana
Jones at the age of 65). But you do wonder how many more daredevil romps
hes got left in him.
Quite a few, apparently. Its so enjoyable, the physical side of it: riding horses,
sword fights, dodging explosions, he says. When its 120 degrees, a fight
scene is the last thing you want to do, but the adrenalin pumps, and you can
do anything. But I dont want it to get to the point where it becomes absurd.
I dont want to be wobbling around as a 60-year-old, pretending I can still
slice everybody up.
Sharpes Peril is on ITV1 on Sunday at 9.00pm
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