Northern Light


Source: Rotten Tomatoes
Interview by Joe Utichi, Rotten Tomatoes
Sean Bean Interview
Northern Light
Rotten Tomatoes UK sits down for a chat with one of Britain's finest actors:
Sean Bean.
Outlaw America's favourite bad-guy, Sean Bean, is without shadow of a doubt a
legend. From Sharpe to Lord of the Rings, Bean has been a dominating presence
in British film and television. Famed for his ability to pick challenging and
interesting projects - not to mention for being a favourite of the ladies - Bean
has carved one of the most successful acting careers of his generation.
So suffice to say Rotten Tomatoes UK leapt at the chance to have an extended
chat with Bean to talk about his career and his latest role, in Nick Love's new
film Outlaw, in which he plays the leader of a vigilante gang determined to
right what they see as the wrongs of society. With guns.
RT-UK: What do you think of the film?
Sean Bean: I saw it about two weeks ago with Nick actually. I really enjoyed it.
It's pretty hard-hitting and I was pretty quiet when I came out. I didn't really
know what to say when I first came out. Nick had obviously seen it a few
times so he was wondering why I was being so quiet! [laughs]
It's pretty relentless and there's a lot to take in. There are so many different
issues that it deals with and it just sort of rolls along and smashes you in the
face. It's certainly got a sort-of poetic feel to it. You can identify with these
guys, and I think that's the most important thing. People in this country and
this society today are going to be able to identify with them. There are things
happening in this country that people are getting very confused and isolated
by and the film deals with those issues.
RT-UK: What appealed about the script?
SB: I'd not really seen a script when I first met Nick; he had it all in his head![laughs]
I met with Nick and Allan Niblo, the producer, to talk about the project and he was
very excited about it; as I was by the prospect of working with him because I find
him a very exciting director. He does what he wants to do and he does pieces of
work that really mean something to him. He can put things across that people
find really relevant and are concerned about. I just find him a very exciting
individual; it excited me to have an opportunity to work with him.
What he had in mind for this project was also something that really intrigued me.
He took me through it for about an hour or two and said, "This'll all be down on
paper in three weeks." And I was sort-of blown-away by it, the idea and the way
he wanted to present it. From that moment on I said, "Yeah, I want to be involved
in this." Every actor wants to find a piece of work that's this innovative and powerful
and moving. The characters were original and well-drawn. This project, and his
enthusiasm and passion for it, were what really made me want to work with him.
I was initially interested and keen to make it work before I even saw the script,
because projects like this don't come by every day.
And then when I got the script it was everything he said it'd be. I didn't have a
single reservation about it; it was just pretty much up my street and I thought
a lot of actors would have jumped at the chance of playing any of those parts
because they're very well written. They're forced over the edge, really, and they
do have lives. Deep down they're decent people - which I think most people in
this country are - but they're tipped over the edge by a government and a
justice system that's not serving.
RT-UK: As you say, it deals with subject matter we can all relate to.
SB: It does. I could understand where he was coming from. You only have to pick
up a paper these days to see the sort of scams and injustices that are out there.
There's a sense that people don't belong and just aren't very happy. They're
outraged, in fact, and they're being shafted left, right and centre. I think this
guy actually draws that together and gets a group of people organised to
actually do something about it.
You've only got to walk into a pub or a café or anything and you'll find people
talking about these things; topics they're very unhappy with. You feel as though
things are being eroded and people don't know where they belong anymore. They
don't seem to know where they stand in society. At the same time people are
getting stabbed, beaten up. Things are just getting out of control.
In forming this gang, though, I think it's about concern for those people who
are being wronged by society - and it's made up of those people, really - as
opposed to a desire to be shamelessly violent. I think that's what makes the
film really stand up because I think most of us can understand feeling like that.
RT-UK: Was it exciting, too, to get back into British film? I guess this is your first
project back since the Lord of The Rings days...
SB: Yeah, I guess the last film I made over here was Essex Boys, which was
about six years ago. That was a good piece of work, I enjoyed that a lot.
Since then I've been working a lot in North America and South America.
To be back here working on something that was so related to this country
and to issues that really reflect Britain - that was incredibly exciting. Just
to be part of an independent film in the UK was something that was very
important to me after working on a lot of big American projects. And to do
it with someone like Nick, who is so passionate about this country, was a
very big thing for me.
RT-UK: You seem to be quite good choosing interesting projects from both
sides, Hollywood and independent; do you have any rules about the kinds of
films you'll do?
SB: To be honest, you have to do a big Hollywood film to get enough money to
do a good independent film! [laughs] I'd love to be working on films like
Outlaw for a long, long time to come but unfortunately we haven't got the
sort of set up in this country that they have in Los Angeles for instance
and the money's not as great and the exposure, but it's much more gratifying
and rewarding as an actor to work on something like this. I did a film called
The Hitcher just after I did Outlaw and before that I did another independent
film called True North. I kind-of try and balance it up for a bit, get some money
in the bank and think, "I can do what I want now for the next few months.
I can do some proper stuff!" [laughs]
Bean (right) in Outlaw with co-star Danny Dyer.
RT-UK: Who is Bryant?
SB: He's a former Army officer who's spent a lot of time in different parts of the
world - Afghanistan, Serbia, Iraq... - and he's just returned to the UK from his
latest tour in Iraq. And he's generally disillusioned. We don't actually know what
happened to him there, but he's kind-of borne of the general impressions of the
current conflict. He's disillusioned by what he was doing out there and by the
state of the country he's come back to, which I suppose many people are these
days. He feels alone and very cut-off from the rest of society. There's a general
sense of uneasiness about him and disappointment.
I think he's seen so much in his life. He's seen the injustices of war and he's
returned home to witness injustice in this country; people being abused by the
system and people getting away with great injustices. He decides he's going to
take it into take it into his own hands, as it were. I don't think that's intentional
right from the beginning, but it's certainly something that grows within him and
eventually evolves into something substantial; which is the idea of forming a
group of people to actually do something about it. And so he does; he brings
these people together to right these wrongs. He's kind-of the leader of this
band of outlaws.
RT-UK: The characters all seem to be pulled from different backgrounds
and I get the impression the same is true of the actors playing them - how
have you been getting on with them?
SB: You're right. Though I suppose we're all actors so we do have things in
common to talk about! [laughs] The characters do come from very different
backgrounds, though. Rupert Friend, for instance, who plays Sandy Mardell;
he plays a character in the film who goes to public school and was attacked
by a gang and has never looked the same again - they pull his face
apart, basically.
We've been getting on really well. With some of Nick's other work, we've seen
characters from a similar background and how their relationships work, whereas
here we're seeing lots of people from very different backgrounds and the film
explores how they mix.
I suppose Bryant is closest to Danny Dyer's character, Dekker, in that we're
from a quite working-class background. But then you've got Lennie [James],
who plays a barrister, and the posh one, Sandy. Not to forget Sean Harris who
plays the nutter! [laughs] Well, he's not a nutter; he's a lonely man who's had
too much time to spend reading football hooligan magazines and war magazines.
They're very much a motley crew but I think they get on very well because of
their different backgrounds and because they're very disparate. They have
genuine reasons for what they do, and it's not about them trying to outdo
each other. The violence comes from their situations and they're good people.
You look at my character, he's a good man, he's a strong man and he's done
everything he was supposed to be doing all his life. The same with Bob Hoskins'
character, he's done everything he's supposed to be doing all his life and he's
got f*ck all to show for it, really. These are people who are completely
disillusioned and bitter and they decide to turn to other forms of justice.
Bean in Outlaw with co-stars Danny Dyer and Sean Harris.
RT-UK: How have you been enjoying the Nick Love experience so far?
SB: It's been great! Quite... unusual - I've never experienced anything quite
like this before! [laughs]
He is very hands on and very, you know, passionate and very raw. It's really
exciting to be with someone like that who wrote the thing and knows the
script like the back of his hand. He can quote the lines; he knows every
character's lines. He sort-of lives and breathes this film. It's very heartfelt,
what he's put down on paper, and I think we're all finding it very inspiring
and very exhilarating to get that across. Every scene comes off the page so
beautifully and so brilliantly; it comes alive. I've never quite experienced
that before. Usually you're struggling with a scene; perhaps it's not quite
written right and you're just struggling to bring it to life. With this, the
job has been done for you. It's quite extraordinary.
RT-UK: So it's making it easier for you to involve with your character just
by being around a director so involved with the film?
SB: It does; you can immerse yourself in the part and in the feel of the piece.
He's also cast it so well; all these people have histories and back-stories and
they're not just written to sort-of supplement me or support me. There's a sense
that the characters have all got a story. There's no need to invent anything
because they're written so well that you're immediately clear who these people
are. When they all come together it's really quite explosive. And because
everyone knows what they're doing there's a really strong chemistry; things
evolve and develop that you never expected. Nick's so hands-on and excited;
that's infectious.
RT-UK: Has this experience made you want to work with him again?
SB: Yeah, I'd love to work with him again because I get on with him really well.
And I mean it when I say I've never worked with a director like him before by the
way! [laughs] He's the sort of guy that I enjoyed very much working with and for
and we had a great working relationship; he's brilliant with actors and he creates
a fantastic feeling on set. He made everyone welcome on the crew; you can
have a laugh with him. You know what he's like, he doesn't give a sh*t, does
he, and he makes the films he wants to make which is brilliant these days. He
just says, "This is what I want to do and that's it. I'm not going to f*cking
pander to what the studios want or what's PC or what's not." And I admire that
passion, that fire. He's also a very intelligent guy and he's not just doing this
kind of thing for effect; it's something he feels very deeply down inside. There
are reasons for the things that he writes about; they're relevant and important.
I'd much rather be working with something like this with a director like him than
working on something that's very-much plot based with cardboard characters. He
more or less lets you do what you want, he's very open to ideas and he's just an
exciting guy to be around.
RT-UK: In terms of next steps for you, I understand you're about to play
SB: This is something that's been talked about for a while now. I think they're
still trying to get it together. Friends of mine called Nick Saunders and Vincent
Regan - who's an actor who was in Troy with me - they put the thing together.
It's a great script but it's just about getting the financing for it, like anything
else. Tilda Swinton wanted to play Lady Macbeth which I was very excited
about having worked with her on Caravaggio many years ago. Everything's set
up for it but it's still in the producer's hands right now. It's something I'd very
much like to be involved with but it's difficult to get these things off the ground.
If you're given a chance you can show just how exciting Shakespeare can be
and certainly, in this case, how dark it can be. Trying to convince people to
finance a film that's dark, gritty and independent; that's the challenge. It's
quite a hard sell.
I'm also doing an Oscar Wilde adaptation, A Woman of No Importance, which
should be starting in about four weeks. That'll be a change for me, anyway.
It's with Annette Bening and Jessica Biel; I'm playing a guy called Lord
Illingworth who's a bit of a charmer - a bit of a lad, really, in the late
nineteenth century. [laughs] It's definitely an independent project and the
director is a guy called Bruce Beresford. It's probably as opposite as you can
get to Outlaw!
RT-UK: Back to the period piece? Was Sharpe the last period piece you did?
SB: Yeah. I did a lot of stuff when I was younger when the BBC was doing a lot of
period pieces. I did a film called Clarissa and Anna Karenina and, of course, Sharpe.
It's been probably eight or nine years since I've done anything like this. I'm looking
forward to it. I've played pretty contemporary figures over the past year or so and
they've tended to be quite psychotic! [laughs] I'm quite looking forward to a
change, this guy's very urbane, very dapper, and very humorous. It's just something
that's a bit of a challenge for me - trying to get my head around that - and
it'll be nice to do something different. Especially Oscar Wilde, I've always
been interested in his material. The film's been on and off for about a year
and it's finally got the green light so I'm pretty pleased about that now.
Bean in Outlaw with co-stars Lennie James and Danny Dyer.
RT-UK: Oblivion has become a very popular game - have you seen it? Did
you realise how well received the game would be?
SB: I've seen it but when I was actually recording it there was no picture, I was
just using a script. That was quite interesting; it's good to do stuff like that.
I do quite a lot of voiceovers anyway which are just pretty straight-forward
voiceovers but with something like Oblivion there was more of a story and an
adventure; it was really quite exciting. I find that kind of thing quite
interesting and it just turned up out of the blue.
I do this character who's part of this group called The Blades which made it
quite interesting for me [laughs] These group of fine warriors called The Blades!
I actually mentioned that when I was reading it to one of the producers and he
said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's kind-of funny." I said, "No, you don't get it, like,
'cause I'm a Blade!" He said, "You're what?" I said, "It's my football club! Never
mind, let's just get on with it!" [laughs] Probably just a little too much for him
to take in at that point!
RT-UK: Actors seem to be appearing in videogames more often now - I know
Andy Serkis is doing a game for the PlayStation 3 - are videogames the new
medium for actors?
SB: It's good because you don't have to show your face, you know. You can turn
up in the morning looking a right mess and it doesn't matter! [laughs] You don't
have to go to makeup or do anything! The more cigarettes you smoke the better
you sound!
It is a different medium but it's one that I wanted to get into. I don't really
have any hard and set rules about what I want to do and what I don't want to
do; something like this comes along and it's worth giving a go. Andy Serkis is
doing one and he understands the performance involved in characters like this;
that's why he's so good in Lord of the Rings and all the other stuff he's done. I
think people are clamouring to do this kind of work because it's just fun; it's a
RT-UK: Would you be up for doing a sequel?
SB: Yeah, considering it's been so successful. And I thought it was a really good
story anyway. It had Patrick Stewart involved with it. You get some good actors
involved and, yeah, I think it was a good, stylish and successful piece of work
and if a sequel came by I'd definitely be up for that!
Outlaw is out in UK cinemas on Friday 9th March.


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