Terrorist Sean turns to crime as Hollywood beckons
SEAN BEAN makes little concession to success. Home is a council
house in a
London suburb, his best friends are the mates he grew up with
on a council
estate in Sheffield and he returns there as often as possible.
He starred in one of the hits of 1992, playing the terrorist
Harrison Ford in Patriot Games, has just finished portraying
the gamekeeper in
Ken Russell's ú4million film of Lady Chatterley's Lover
and is now snowed under
with offers from a very keen Hollywood.
His one extravagance, a Jaguar, is the kind of car that would
get you noticed on a council estate but Sean is happy to let
wife Melanie Hill,
the second Aveline in TV's Bread, be the star accepting the recognition
whenever they step out with daughters Lorna, five, and Molly,
'It's usually my wife who gets noticed on the street which is
fine by me
although I'm not a recluse in sunglasses. Fame has been a gradual
thing for me.
It did not happen with any one thing. It was an accumulation
of roles,' he says.
'It was hard when I started. I've had periods of unemployment.
Mel and I
lived in a bedsit. I've toured the provinces staying in dingy
'I've felt I've really taken off in the last three years. I'm
prudent with money. We don't go out partying or to restaurants,
although we do
buy our food at M & S now.
'We moved into our three-bedroom council house in Muswell Hill
before Lorna was born. I don't take particular pride in living
in a council
house but there's nothing wrong in it. I like it round here.
It's quiet. We're
thinking about buying a house now for the kids' sake.
'My only extravagance is my Jaguar. I've wanted one ever since
I was a
kid. It's light green to match my eyes,' says 33-year-old Sean
with a grin. He
has kept the soft Northern accent of his childhood: 'I like the
way I talk. I
don't see why I should change it except when I need to for a
He needed to for Fool's Gold, a film-length dramatisation of
Mat gold bullion robbery, which is screened on ITV tomorrow evening
and in which
he plays London gang boss Mike McAvoy. While preparing the role,
he made a
point of not visiting McAvoy, who was jailed for 25 years in
1984, and is in a
secure unit at Whitemore Prison in Cambridgeshire.
'I would rather just do what was set out in the script. It's
made up of
different pieces of information including evidence given in Court.
Most of the
things in it are true,' says Sean.
THE FILM shows McAvoy planning the theft from a security warehouse
Heathrow, using an inside man, and expecting to pull ú1million
in cash. When the
raid was carried out on November 23, 1983, the gang got away
worth of gold bars en route to Asia.
The police later recovered UKL20million in cash and goods but
only 11 of the
6,800 gold bars were recovered. It is said that anyone who bought
Britain after 1984 may be wearing Brinks-Mat gold.
Despite the brutality of the armed raid, Sean has some sympathy
McAvoy, who refused to say who his accomplices were, even though
it would have
meant a reduction in his sentence.
'McAvoy is stuck in prison with years and years to go,' says
get people raping and killing kids and they get out much sooner
and, to me, that
is a complete injustice.
'McAvoy was very determined. I suppose once you've made up your
do it 100 per cent, there's no point in shrinking back.
'He was a hard man but everyone has got a soft side. He obviously
'I don't usually take my work home with me but with this part
talking a bit different, a bit Cockney. It was so intensive.
'The most chilling moment was when I saw myself in the mirror
'There's an environment McAvoy grew up in, which is South London,
could identify with that having grown up in a close community
'When I was growing up, I had to assert myself and find my place
hierarchy. It was hard and it was sometimes violent but not with
things you get now. There was no drugs-related violence.
'My family live in the same house where I was brought up. We
were given a
good grounding in life. We had fist fights, we used to play football,
trees, spend time sitting about in fields, making dens.'
Although Sean squirms a bit when talking about emotions, he reveals
romantic side when he says of his childhood: 'It was like that
film Kes in a
He didn't enjoy school - 'although I was popular, a tearaway'
- leaving at
16 with two O levels, and joining his father's welding business.
'All the time I was thinking about things I really wanted to
do. I had to
get out, to do something myself. As a teenager there was a bit
between me and my family but I'm close to them now. My father
came from nothing and he keeps his old values.
'I don't want to interfere in my parents' lives and I don't want
patronise them but if I could ever help, maybe financially, and
they needed it,
then I'd like to.
'I still go back and everyone knows me. My old friends there
tradesmen, builders, carpenters, welders.'
Sean made the leap into a different kind of life by giving up
going to art school where he became interested in acting, and
at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he met Melanie.
Along the way his first marriage split up. 'I got married to
young, about 20, because that was the thing to do. Maybe down
in London it's the
trendy thing not to get married until later but all my pals in
When Sean went to RADA, Deborah remained in Sheffield and the
quietly disintegrated. He married Melanie in February 1990. She
wore white, he
wore a ring in his left ear and their eldest daughter was their
'With Mel, I eventually got married just because I wanted to.
It was a
BEING MARRIED to an actress means that his wife understands the
the job, such as love scenes with beautiful actresses. When he
the gamekeeper opposite Joely Richardson as Lady Chatterley (the
film will be shown next year) all the seduction scenes were filmed
over a five-
day period. Was that a difficult week for his wife?
'She didn't get worried or jealous. She understands. Mind you,
mates pulled my leg. I don't get embarrassed because lovemaking
is a very
natural act. For a while it felt odd to be stark naked, then
I got used to it.
'The most important thing is to treat it as a job. It's a mistake
actors to fall for their leading lady. I wouldn't want to bring
my working life
into my personal life like that.'
Exposure of a different kind was guaranteed with the release
of the film
Patriot Games two months ago. It has been a huge box office success
Having often watched Harrison Ford on screen, Sean admits it
was an 'eye-
opener' to work with him, even if their first conversation was
'We met in a basement in London where part of the film was shot.
about haircuts and how he was going to have his hair for the
film. I wasn't in
awe of him. He was good to work with, intelligent.'
Sean has come a long way since he was a rebellious schoolboy,
hate was Shakespeare. He learned to enjoy the Bard at RADA and
later was a
leading player for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Sean may be proud of the distance he has travelled, but he's
of his roots. As he says: 'I never felt I had to prove anything.'