And Bean scores again

Sunday Mirror 2
05 February 1996
Christopher Kenworthy

Photographer: Alan Olley


Sean Bean has played Mellors, the obliging gamekeeper in Lady Chatterley's Lover; the arrogant rapist Lovelace in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa; and got to grips with Elizabeth Hurley in his persona as Sharpe, the derring- do Napoleonic rifleman. And in his new film, When Saturday Comes, he scores again. But this time with a football.

Sean Bean says he isn't really acting in this movie. He says that ever since he was a little lad all he wanted to do was score a winning goal for Sheffield United - and in When Saturday Comes, he does.

Apart from Mellors and Sharpe, Bean, 37, is of course most recently known as the baddie 006 in the latest James Bond film, GoldenEye. But you sense that When Saturday Comes is closer to the Bean heart. Here he plays Jimmy Muir, a beer-drinking, Saturday-night-out-with-the-lads hellraiser heading fast down a road to nowhere, who is suddenly faced simultaneously with the chance to make it into professional football and find happiness with a decent, intelligent girl, played by Emily Lloyd.

Just as his dreams seem to be within his grasp, he blows it all by getting drunk the night before his trial with Sheffield United and letting down his pregnant girlfriend by sleeping with a stripper on the same night. It is now up to him to fight for a second chance with both football and romance.

Like Jimmy Muir, Bean was born in Sheffield. Like Jimmy, he didn't know what to do with his life. Where Jimmy finds his escape through football, Sean took to acting as a way out.

However, Bean keeps hisroots firmly planted in Sheffield soil. He still talks in the deep, rich accent of Sheffield and the slogan of Sheffield United, "100 per cent Blade", is tattooed across his shoulder.

His favourite Saturday is still spent at a United home game with his old mates, and then in the pub, celebrating or commiserating.

"It isn't just the football match, it's the whole day out, really," he says. "Getting up there, having a laugh on the train with the lads, meeting in the pub for a beer, going along to the match, and then coming out and going to the pub." Yes, Sean Bean can come across as the completely unreconstructed Northern bloke.

ootball is a man's game," he says. "Though women are getting more interested in it now, and they enjoy the matches just as much as we do, but it's a man's game for all that. I hope it stays that way - otherwise it will get like American football, where they bring their families and have hamburgers and everything, and that would spoil it for me."

Football has been as close to Bean as his skin. He knows the aspirations of Jimmy Muir as if they were his very own. He once got his mum to play the whole of a radio commentary on a United match through the phone to him in the Ukraine, where he was filming an episode of Sharpe.

"When I was little, I fancied myself as a professional footballer. It's every young lad's dream," he says. "But different things happen to you as you grow up, and I became more interested in acting and painting and drawing." At 16 he applied to and was accepted by RADA. He was in the same year as Kenneth Branagh.

"Football wouldn't have suited me, really. You have to be totally dedicated to the game. You have to train a lot and give up all those evenings during the week - and I was never very good at sticking with anything."

In fact, both Bean's family and his old mates were surprised when he did stick with acting. "They thought I was just messing about as usual when I told them that was what I wanted to do," he says. "But it suited me very well. The roles I got were very diverse, and I enjoy that more than anything."

Hence his delight at playing Jimmy Muir. It also gave him a chance to work with his wife, Melanie Hill, who played Adeline in Bread and Jimmy Nail's sister in Crocodile Shoes. She plays his sister, while his nephew, Daniel, plays a fan, and most of his Sheffield mates got together to join him in pub and nightclub scenes as extras, and cheer him on as United supporters in the football scenes.

"We spent the day filming drinking scenes in a pub - and then in the evening we all went out for a real pint in a real pub," he says.

Bean is uncomfortable with the image of showbusiness glitz and almost deliberately shuns it. He and Melanie recently moved to a larger home in north London with their two daughters, Lorna, eight, and Molly, four. Why? For the proximity to other superstars? For its glamorous design? Er, no. He particularly liked the house because it had enough space for a workshop in the garden.

Recently he gave his Jaguar car to his father - and his father gave him a welding outfit. Sean was delighted.

"I've always envied Fred Dibnah, that steeplejack who had the TV series," he says. "He has this workshop full of tools and machinery. There's nothing I like better than locking myself away in my workshop and making something. Welding a little horse for the kids or making something for the house.

"It's just nice to relax, to do something I can concentrate on that isn't acting. The trouble with me is that once I'm in there, I don't want to come out. Melanie comes and shouts that I'm wanted on the phone, and I say: 'Is it my agent? Tell him I'm busy.'"

Surprisingly, for a man who seems so firmly rooted in the present day, Sean's favourite roles have been historical ones.

"I really enjoyed playing Lovelace in Clarissa," he says, almost sheepishly. "And I love doing Sharpe. We did three more episodes last autumn, and we're planning a full-length film this year, in which we see Sharpe first meet Hakeswill, his greatest enemy, in a dungeon in India.

"The role I've always wanted to play is Horatio Hornblower. I love sea stories but I don't suppose I'll ever get to do this one. The expense of filming it at sea would be too much. He's a great character, though. Those sea stories are full of wonderful characters."

Sean Bean sounds wistful. Perhaps when he's playing all those hard men, he is not entirely acting. As he says: "You have to have it inside you before you can bring it out and show it on screen."

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