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Photo by Steve Wood.
STRAIGHT AS STEEL
Sean Bean came late to acting, and maybe that's why he makes
it seem so easy.
Can he act? Does he need to? What you see in the down-to-earth,
Sharpe is, it seems, the real thing.
by Sally Staples
Sunday Express Classic Magazine, July 8, 1995
Ever since he was cast as Mellors the gamekeeper and seen tumbling
Chatterley in the woods, Sean Bean's seductive style has sent
Best known as the swashbuckling Lieutenant Richard Sharpe in
television drama set in the Napoleonic Wars - the fourth Sharpe
series will be
made this summer - Bean will no doubt expand his international
fan club when he
appears with Pierce Brosnan in the new James Bond film GoldenEye,
which opens in
Where the appeal of many young English actors lies in clean-cut
Bean suggests a self-contained, almost brooding presence. Rather
champagne in sophisticated restaurants, you imagine him with
a pint of bitter in
a working men's club in his native Yorkshire. For all the fame
capricious world of show business has bestowed, he remains very
close to his
The Sheffield-born actor was no academic star, preferring to
mess about with
his mates rather than settle down to study. He loved boxing -
which he still
describes as the "pinnacle of masculinity" - but left
school at 16 with just two
His PE teacher, Dave Aizlewood, remembers the young Bean cultivating
reputation as a "Jack the lad": "Sean wasn't particularly
interested in the
academic side. He was one of four young rogues in his year who
seemed to try to
get away with everything they could. They would be the ones having
a quick cig
behind the cycle sheds or turning up late for school trips.
"He was really just interested in football and clowning
about. I don't think
he was into drama or anything like that. He played for the school
but he wasn't outstanding."
Bean was 19 before he began to read seriously, and found his
triggered by studying the text of Macbeth. He became fascinated
with the story
of how power and ambition can go so disastrously wrong.
School was followed by a spell at his father's steel parts factory.
decided to enrol at an art school. He left at lunchtime, tried
left at the end of the week. Finally he opted for Rotherham College
of Art and
Technology, and it was there that a drama course caught his eye.
"I never had any burning desire to be an actor," he
said later. "I just
enrolled on the course at Rotherham because it sounded interesting.
didn't turn out to be what I expected, so I left after three
days. Luckily I
decided to give the course another go and this time I really
enjoyed it and
became more and more interested."
After the course he was one of only 30 out of 11,000 applicants
to win a
scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But he was
going to London, where initially he felt alienated. He has never
tried to hide
his distinctive accent except in some acting roles.
Now 35, he is still very much a Yorkshireman. "You can drive
Sheffield and in 10 minutes you're in the country," he says.
"I know there's
Hampstead Heath in London, but it's not quite the same thing,
"The thing about the north is that people aren't bothered
about what you do.
I was in this pub one day and this lad was reading a newspaper.
I could see he
was looking at photographs of me. I carried on drinking my pint
and then he
noticed me and said: 'Hey, that's you, isn't it?' And he held
up the paper and
showed it around to everyone. It was all good-hearted and a bit
of fun and we
had a laugh but then they let me get on with my drink.
"I was brought up in that kind of atmosphere where you can't
put on airs and
graces," he says. The greatest influence on him in childhood
was his mother,
Rita, a secretary who gave up her job to look after him and his
"She's a good woman who has a good heart, a sense of fairness,
the ability to
laugh at herself, compassion and love. She neither encouraged
me from acting."
Bean's father, Brian, ran his own steel fabrication shop, making
and plant machinery and young Sean enjoyed his time working there.
"I grew up a
lot. I've always been very proud of how my father built up the
some ways I wish I'd followed him. It would have been good to
have carried on
working with him but I always felt I wanted to do something else."
Brian says he would still give his son a job if his acting career
"When Sean comes home I still remind him he could have been
a good welder and he
has a laugh," he says at the modest semi in Sheffield's
where Sean stays when he returns for weekends.
"He had a few odd jobs before he went to RADA and I was
a bit worried about
his future, but it's all worked out well. He has been working
hard for a long
time - it's paid off for him and I'm delighted.
"He comes home whenever he can with Melanie and the kids.
He enjoys a pint
and his football. He might be a star on screen, but when he comes
just one of the lads."
Sean had a short-lived marriage to a teenage sweetheart before
he met the
actress Melanie Hill at RADA in 1981. They married six years
ago, after the
birth of their daughter Lorna, and now have a second child, Molly,
who is three.
At heart, Sean believes that mothers should look after their
practice, he and Melanie try to avoid taking work at the same
time so that one
of them can stay at home.
"It's not easy leaving the children," he says. "I
had to go away for four
months to the Ukraine filming Sharpe, and when I looked out of
the car and saw
them with Melanie and realised I wouldn't see them for all that
time, it was
Such a family-based man is a long way from the image that has
been thrust on
Bean. He has a knack of landing parts that display rather more
of him than just
his rakishly handsome face and glittering eyes.
He finds the sex symbol tag embarrassing, but takes a matter-of-fact
stripping off to play parts such as Mellors. The fact that he
Richardson - who played Lady Chatterley - had been at drama school
it a lot easier.
"We'd have been in trouble if the sex scenes hadn't lived
up to what the
audience wanted. I would much prefer it to be over-sexy than
not sexy enough.
After all, it is about sex. It's a great love story, and people
switch off if they didn't like it.
"I do laugh at this image of myself as some sort of sex
machine. I am not
thinking of sex all the time. I'm like everyone else. I'm not
saying sex isn't
an important part of a relationship - most would flounder without
it. It's a
perfectly natural thing and that's why I don't worry when I have
to act it."
As well as Sharpe, Bean has enjoyed success in several feature
including Scarlett (the sequel to Gone With the Wind), Patriot
Games, and Black
Beauty, soon to be out on video.
Apart from his family and his career, Bean's other abiding passion
local football team. Whenever he phones his wife from abroad
his first question
is whether Sheffield United have won. He bought both daughters
the club strip
and even has a football tattoo on his shoulder - which had to
be camouflaged for
his nude scenes in Lady Chatterley. He has a key to the United
dressing room so that he can chat to the team he hero-worships,
and he postponed
his honeymoon to see them play at home.
"The great thing about Sean," says United's commercial
manager Andy Daykin,
"is that when he is at Bramall Lane he really is just one
of the lads. No airs
and graces. It sounds corny, but he knows where his roots are.
arrive as Sean Bean, film star: he is Sean Bean, supporter. The
players are the
stars as far as he's concerned."
"My greatest wish," says Bean, "would be to score
a last-minute winner in the
FA Cup Final for Sheffield United. And I'd like a son so I could
take him to
matches. That would be bliss on earth."