NICE GUY BEHIND MR. NASTY
31 August 1991
Sean Bean is television's flavour of the month. Rob Driscoll talks to the actor who always seems to play the bad guy. Wife-beater, philanderer, crook, thug: Sean Bean has a penchant for odd-ball roles. His latest remains faithful to the pattern - he plays a creepy maniac in a new BBC film.
"Yes, he's a nutter, he goes too far, but I usually find a quality I like in a role I play," he says.
In the Screen One thriller "Tell Me That You Love Me", to be screened next Sunday, the Sheffield-born actor plays a yuppie lawyer, so obsessively in love with his new girlfriend that he refuses to take no for an answer. When she does say no, he retaliates by taking a knife to her.
"I like him," says 32-year-old Bean. "This guy is screwed up, but he's not deliberately nasty - he's not a villain; he's a bit sad. I played a wife-beater in "Small Zones", a BBC2 film last year, and I even had some sympathy for that character too.
"You've got to look at the circumstances, and that man was driven to violence by awful poverty and surroundings; but it doesn't mean I condone what he did."
Bean, best known for his starring role in Tyne Tees's Catherine Cookson epic "The Fifteen Streets", recently became father to his second daughter, four-week-old Molly, and in private enjoys the role of family man, living in London's Muswell Hill with his wife, "Bread" star Melanie Hill (she plays Aveline), Molly and four-year-old Lorna.
On screen, however, he relishes playing the oddball. "Everyone's got an obsessive, manic streak in them somewhere, and it just depends on how virulent it is," he says. "The man I play in "Tell Me That You Love Me" is just more manic than most of us."
The scenes played with the film's heroine, Judith Scott, ranged from candid bedroom shots to a terrifying knife- fight in the dark. "The love scenes with Judith were no problem," says Bean. "Although it's quite an intense story, the atmosphere on set was very easy-going, and although we had to take our clothes off, we managed to keep it all quite jokey."
The climactic, violent set-to was not quite so easy, however. As part of the special effects for the bloody denouement, Sean had to wear a bag of pig's blood hidden under his shirt, attached to a pipe down his trouser leg. "We had to get it right the first time too; there was no room for second takes with such an involved bit of trickery - not only that, but the scene takes place in the dark."
Bean is undeniably flavour of the autumn TV season. In October he will be seen in another Screen One film, the more lighthearted "Prince", which concerns a man's relationship with his all-important dog.
Once again the clothes are off, this time with purer motives. He experiences an on-screen bath with an Alsatian in the film-writing debut of the novelist, Julie Burchill.
He also stars in BBC2's big costume drama-serial "Clarissa", playing a periwigged philanderer in the sexy 18th century romp.
It all marks an impressive advance. Raised in the Handsworth area of Sheffield, he retains his broad if discardable Yorkshire accent. It is replaced by southern tones for the lawyer Gabriel Lewis in next Sunday's film, or the Geordie whine of "The Fifteen Streets". And he remains refreshingly unaffected and direct in a profession not unknown for pretentiousness.
His first love, in fact, was not the theatre but art. "I was never really going to be an actor at all - I was mad on drawing, and still am, and I was set on a career as an artist," he says. He went to Rotherham Art College to further his painting skills, and it was the college's drama section that alerted him to his own gifts.
He landed a place at London's RADA, and never looked back. His earliest professional work saw him at the Royal Shakespeare Company where, among other roles, he played Romeo. Feature films have included Derek Jarman's "Caravaggio" and "War Requiem", "Stormy Monday", "Lorna Doone" and most recently he starred alongside Richard Harris in "The Field."
TV work includes John Godber's "My Kingdom for a Horse" and the BBC2 Screenplay "Wedded."
Bean is now filming a new episode of "Inspector Morse" - where, not unexpectedly, he plays another bad guy, this one a corrupt businessman who has been conning old age pensioners in a timeshare.
Meanwhile he regards his current run of TV roles as merely a matter of luck. "There is no master plan in the way these things work out. I've had long periods with no work at all; these jobs all happened to come along one after the other. I just hope people don't get fed up with my face."
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