From Sheffield to Middle Earth
Call me crazy but when I walked into the room to interview Sean Bean, I expected to find a serious, imposing man sitting in front of me. Obviously, I've been brainwashed by his convincing baddie roles in box office blockbusters like 'Patriot Games' and 'GoldenEye.' I could not have been further off the mark. Washed out in a sea of hot lights, Bean looked quite relaxed even a bit worn out from doing publicity for his most recent release 'Don't Say a Word' co-starring Michael Douglas.
Comfortably dressed down in a pair of khaki trousers and a trekking shirt, Sean had done several interviews before I got to him. There's no doubt the poor soul had been asked and had answered the same questions repeatedly as one does during a press junket. Ah, but such is the life of an actor. Being caught in the publicity mill is just one of the liabilities that comes with success in show business.
That aside, the soft spoken, unassuming father of three from Sheffield was on good form. After all, he's come a long way from his days as an aspiring artist, to a possible welder in his dad's steel fabrication company up north, to movie stardom, fame and fortune. He's grateful for the opportunities he's had to play unforgettable parts like 'Richard Sharpe,' in the British TV series set during the Napoleonic Wars...and, of course there is this Christmas' release of "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first installment of Peter Jackson's trilogy in which Bean appears as 'Boromir' the warrior.
Off screen Bean is the kind of guy that doesn't like to take his work home. He says it's enough to give 100% on the set and too exhausting to bring excess baggage home. In fact, when he's with his family in north London, Sean's obsessions are gardening and watching his home boys, Sheffield United, play footie.
On screen Mr. Bean seems to be obsessed with playing villains. In Gary Fleder's "Don't Say a Word," Bean plays a man on a mission. He's a criminal who feels he's been cheated out of his rightful bounty. He's waited 10 years in prison for the big payback and he's willing to be as ruthless as he wants to be to get his prize. All right already! Will Sean ever give up his nasty characters?
RIPE: I must say you do make a brilliant villain but is it fun playing the bad guy?
BEAN: Yeah, it's good! I suppose you can go a little further sometimes than you would be able to do with other roles. They're very rewarding; you can sink your teeth into them. I've always found it good playing villains but I try to balance it out with the things I've done more recently. It was great to work with Gary Fleder, the director who gave "Don't Say a Word" such an edgy quality. And with Michael you know, he was a really nice guy to work with.
RIPE: How do you get into the head space of a criminal?
BEAN: I like to read the script a few times so I can find out what I'm doing and get into the sequence of events. And then I just start talking to the director, he's got ideas then I bring my ideas on board discussing his mannerism, how he may dress, how he might confront certain situations...just fleshing it out really and giving it some life. Then when you're working with other actors their reactions determines your response. It all really evolves that way. I don't try to impress things on a character that don't feel right.
RIPE: Tell me about your character 'Patrick Koster'. Was he a different kind of challenge for you?
BEAN: I suppose the circumstances were different. "Don't Say a Word" is a very good thriller. It's quite conventional in that it's a thriller but it's all in how people approach it like myself, Mike and Gary and all the other actors. I just think Gary lights it very well. He sets the tone with this dark golden feel and he makes it very edgy, very creepy. And you feel when it's lit like you're on stage because it's very theatrically lit in some ways. I guess all those things add up to what a thriller is.
RIPE: You've got children of your own don't you?
BEAN: Yeah, I've got three girls.
RIPE: Obviously, this movie revolves around the kidnapping of a child. But, did it make you think about the some of the perils and pitfalls that can accompany stardom?
BEAN: I do my work and I don't really associate my kids with my work. I try and keep some kind of separation between my work and my private life. So, they're not overly impressed with what I do. They have sort of come to terms with it over the years, what it entails, what sort of job it is and that I have to go away to do certain things. But, you do think about those sort of things and the prospect of that happening is horrific. This man I play is horrendous and I don't have any sympathy for him. I have an understanding of what he does but I wouldn't justify what he does. Like you said it's your own worst nightmare.
RIPE: I must say I was happy to see him bite the dust! Now you're coming up in one of the most anticipated films in recent history, "The Fellowship of the Rings", the first of director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. And, you're playing a very different kind of character - "Boromir" the warrior.
BEAN: Yes! I suppose a much more sympathetic character, a very different world. That was very special. That was a fantastic piece of work to work on with all the people involved. It was just a very unusual project to be in New Zealand and part of this small world that had been created literally on the sets in Wellington. To be there for a year, I was there for about a year. Some people were there for a year and a half shooting three films back to back and everybody made good friends and supported each other. It was very much like what we were doing in the film. We were going on an adventure. We didn't know where we were going.
RIPE: That's exciting!
BEAN: It was a bit like that when we got to New Zealand. It's 36 hours of travel to get there and when you arrive you don't know where you're going! You get there at 5am in the morning and you stand there in the hotel room not knowing what to do with yourself, go out for a drink or go to bed! But, it was the start of a big adventure for me. It was very special.
Well, bring it on mate! We're ready and waiting. "The Fellowship of the Rings" is now playing nationwide. "Don't Say A Word" opens in the UK February 22, 2002. Also, stay tuned "Tom & Thomas" a children's story where Sean Bean plays a struggling artist who's a stepfather to a 10 year old boy.
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