"Three plays a night...tiny dressing
by John Hind
Asked which video-nugget he would slip in the machine to impress a visiting hack, Sean Bean plumps for a scene - which I've already seen - of himself as an RAF thug forcing the male romantic lead to drink a bucket of bitter, phlegm and urine, in the C4 'First Love' film Winter Flight. I admit I could not stomach a repeat screening, and neither could he. "There's something fairly obscene," he ponders, "about watching yourself over and over again beating on someone else." Having said that, he offers, "...it is my mother's favourite tape of me."
An ex-Sheffield steelworker, who talks of most of his employment since being "dead fun" and "real greeeet", Bean is barely like the "hard Northerner" he has often portrayed since leaving RADA five years ago. A gentle doting father living in a Muswell Hill council house, he is currently researching the running condition of a "naturalistic", unemployed, drunken wife-beater for a role - in a TV play called Small Zones - which he won without an audition, but with the aid of the "hard photo" of himself currently on view in Spotlight. "The only way to make the role believable is to feel sympathy there," Bean explains. "Despite the fact that he puts his wife's hand in a bacon-and-egg pan, I have to consider and understand the times when they really loved each other."
Meanwhile, completing work on his second film with Derek Jarman, Bean is currently enjoying the director's preference for enthusiasm over research. As the throat-severed gay lover Rannucio, he had almost no documentation to refer to, but found satisfaction and expression through "entering the studio completely cold and becoming like a little kid, welled up by Derek's obsessions." This time, as the Enemy in War Requiem, he is taking a "symbolic" and "atmospheric" approach to what is a non-speaking operatic journey into hell (where we meet Wildred Owen). "Derek visualises as he goes along," explains Bean. "He makes suggestions and just about lets anyone into a scene who wants to be in it."
Since RADA (where he won two fencing medals), Bean has (text missing) with director Simon Curtis in the Young' Writers (text missing) festival at the Royal Court Theatre, ("doing three plays in an evening...tiny dressing rooms... really greeet!"); spent 18 months as Romeo in Bogdanov's Romeo and Juliet at the RSC ("we got a lot of complaints about the suicide-by-syringe"); and has done a fair number of window-breaking louts and hards in The Bill and so on.
This month he tops the bill (if not the poster) in Mike Figgis' cinema release Stormy Monday, playing Brendan, a Newcastle toilet-cleaner embroiled in the gangsteresque activities of Tommy Lee Jones and Sting. A very strange concoction indeed, Stormy Monday takes in everything from Polish jazz to Northern upward-mobility, and has Melanie Griffith ("We got on really well, but she's a bit mad") as Brendan's lover and femme fatale. Unfortunately Alison Steadman steals the show in a two-and-a-half-minute appearance as a Tory councillor, but Bean carries the film effectively with a display of quiet sincerity, Northern individualism and a pair of Levi's jeans.
"I had to drive a Jag inches behind a rain machine," he notes. "That was a greeet scene to do, that."
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