"When we finished the Battle of Waterloo it felt like the
natural conclusion for that particular group of Sharpe films,
but I always thought one day we would get together to make more."
After a hiatus of eight years, Sean
Bean was ready to pick up his sword and get back on a horse for
the role he immortalised on British TV. Sean felt the time was
right to return as Richard Sharpe, in the series that regularly
drew in audiences of more than nine million.
Sean explains: When we finished
the Battle of Waterloo it felt like the natural conclusion for
that particular group of Sharpe films, but I always thought one
day we would get together to make more. I needed a few years
to try different things, as did other members of cast and crew.
So thats what we did, we all went in different directions
- but I was always excited by the prospect of getting back together
again. Malcolm Craddock, the producer, Tom Clegg, the director,
and I started discussing doing another. We got a really good
script written by Russell Lewis and just thought - lets
go ahead and do it!
Sean admits it felt strange becoming
Richard Sharpe after so long. Its quite a bizarre
feeling bringing him back to life. Picking up a sword again and
putting on the green jacket. But I really enjoyed filming Sharpes
Challenge. I think its probably the best weve done,
because of the nature of the film and because we were so unrestrained
filming in India. You dont often see these kind of panoramas
on TV. Its got great scale to it, a big budget and some
And how has Sharpe changed over the
years? I think he has mellowed to some extent, says
Sean, and become a lot calmer. Hes been shot at more
times than most and hes very fortunate to still be walking
around alive. Hes reluctant to go back to soldiering. Hes
not lost any of his admirable qualities, but hes a reluctant
warrior when we find him at the beginning of the film. His loyalty
gets the better of him though, and he accepts his duty
he wants to get on with the mission, get in there and get again
out as quickly as possible.
Filming in India was a memorable experience
for Sean. India is definitely the best location weve
filmed Sharpe in. Its an extraordinary place, magical.
Ive filmed all over the world but Ive never experienced
anything like this before the people, the scenery, the
animals and architecture. Weve filmed at huge fortresses
set into hillsides, amazing palaces in the midst of squalor and
poverty, in the desert surrounded by mountains. Ive found
it all fascinating. And the Indian people have been so helpful
in every way. Considering they are people with so little of their
own they are so positive and optimistic with their outlook on
life. Theyve really got something going for them, some
sort of spirituality, a set of beliefs that enables them to be
so affable and cheerful.
But did filming in India for two months
pose any problems for Sean or the rest of the cast and crew?
I was sick for a couple of days. Everyone was. It was a
recurring thing but you just get over it. Then Fray Bentos sent
me over a box of meat pies which was great! Weve filmed
with elephants and camels with pigs and dogs and goats running
around, all the colours and noises and smells. None of this really
caused us any problems though. Everyone is so chilled over there.
I didnt get uptight about anything. You soon realise it
will take a while to get things done but you just learn to go
with the flow - its real chill out time.
And despite the lengthy gap between
Sharpe films, Sean naturally slipped back into swashbuckling
mode. Ive done quite a lot of sword fighting in the
meantime. On stage in Macbeth which featured a huge sword fight,
then in Troy which also had loads, and as Boromir in Lord of
the Rings. Luckily I really enjoy it.
In fact Sean does all his own stunts
in SHARPES CHALLENGE. Theres nothing in the
film I havent done myself and I think it suits the character.
I wouldnt want people thinking I didnt actually do
them, thats not very Richard Sharpe. Most of the stunts
arent dangerous, one or two could be potentially, but whereas
some people wont do anything I love all that running around,
duelling and scrapping.
And Sean was happy to find himself back
in the saddle. I hadnt really ridden for all that
time. In Lord of the Rings I did a bit of riding, but mostly
just plodding onto set. I hadnt cantered or galloped for
about eight years. I went to a farm for some practice and thought
Id fall off and be crap, but it is just like riding a bike,
as everyone says, I remembered where all the gears were
and the brakes! It felt comfortable, which I was really relieved
about as I have a lot of riding to do in this film. Mind you
we had polo ponies to ride this time, they are well bred and
very responsive. You had to do very little to get them to do
anything and they are gorgeous looking creatures.
Sean says: I didnt want
to do another series of Sharpe, I thought we would achieve the
best quality doing this two-parter. I wouldnt rule out
doing another Sharpe though, especially with Tom Clegg, hes
a great director for whom I have enormous admiration and faith
in. He has such stamina, he never stops a real live wire.