But Was He Just Playing?

Source: The Times
7 April 1986

The Times
APRIL 7, 1986

Sean Bean, who opens as the RSC's latest Romeo at Stratford tomorrow, reached
the acting profession by a most improbable route: interview by Nicholas

With his leather jacket and earring, and the face of a young wildcat, the RSC's
new Romeo, Sean Bean, looks very capable of slinking off the moment he is bored.
He couples this untamed air, an air which means you are never quite sure which
way he will jump, with an unnerving shyness. "I don't make a fuss in real life",
he admits in his quiet Sheffield accent. "On stage I can have fights, go to bed
with women, do what I want." This month sees him running a fair gamut of such
activity. Apart from his Stratford debut tomorrow, Bean is also appearing later
in April as Ranuccio, the cocky apple of the painter's eye in Derek Jarman's
film Caravaggio.

Bean is a northerner surprisingly lacking in grit, despite the fact that he left
school at 16 to be a welder like his father. "It was a dirty, dangerous job", he
says. He preferred to draw chalk cartoons of his fellow workers on the steel
plates. On a day-release for a welding course at Rotherham Technical College, he
noticed an art class in progress. He decided to leave welding, but his
impatience meant that he did not last long at art school. He attended three. His
attendance at one only lasted until the lunch break. So he became a porter for
Marks and Spencer, shifting cheeses from the basement in a white paper cap. "I
left that at dinner time. Mum rang to say the smell made me sick." While cutting
hedges as a council gardener, he fell into acting. "Everybody thought I was just
playing", he says. "I probably did myself. I am surprised I have stuck at it so
long. If I didn't like it I'd leave it."

After appearing in "Cabaret" at Rotherham Civic Theatre, Bean was accepted by
RADA. "I just thought that's the thing to do, know what I mean?" Since then,
with amusement and with some exasperation, he has experienced the usual trials
of a raw young actor. At the Vanbrugh Theatre, he appeared on stage in a dark
suit with his flies undone. At one performance of "Deathwatch" in Herefordshire,
the lights went out. At another he was caught by a fit of giggling. Most
embarrassing of all was a performance of "The Country Wives" when, his attention
wandering, he ended a scene halfway through. "That's that, then, I said."

Three months ago, after several puzzling auditions, Bean was offered a contract
with the RSC. "I just thought of it as a job really. I didn't expect to get it."
For, what he has noticed about acting is, "the further south you get, the more
analyzing goes on. They try to find something intellectual in every single word.
They look for too many things. Shakespeare - he probably didn't bother so much.
If he was here he'd probably say Cut this line, cut that line, it doesn't make
sense anymore.." The reason he has enjoyed rehearsing the part of Romeo is less
for the analysis than the emotions. "You've got a big chance to do everything
from complete joy to despair. I always imagined Romeo to be wet and soppy. He is
not. He's got quite a lot of bottle - and it's a brilliant story", he adds with
disarming freshness. The reason Bean so enjoyed his work on "Caravaggio" was the
amount of physical acting required - "Which I find easy. I don't have to say

Off stage, Bean does not go to the theatre much. Until last month he had never
been to Stratford. "I don't like having to sit down, not being able to get up
for a beer." Instead, in his flat in Tuffnell Park, he paints, watches
"EastEnders", and reads books on great freaks of the world.

For the first time he drops his reticent front as he tells a horrible story
about a man of 67 stone who was so fat he exploded. "He was all water", breathes
Bean, shaking his blond head.


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