Sean Bean - A Greek Odysseus

Source: Film Review
Special #51

A Greek Odysseus
It's all Greek to Sean Bean
He's no stranger to swords having swashed buckles in Sharpe, fought Orcs
in The Lord of the Rings and been on the receiving end of Harrison Ford's
fist in Patriot Games. Even so, Sean Bean tells John Millar how Troy is
unlike any experience to date.
Sean Bean's first taste of playing the warrior took place when he was a
schoolboy acting out war games in the garden of his family home in Sheffield.
Then the youngster let his imagination run wild as he carved handmade
bows and arrows.
"There were poplar trees in the garden which were perfect for the bow," says
smiling Bean when he meets Film Review at London's Covent Garden Hotel.
"Now 30 years on I'm doing that and getting paid."
Now of course the war games are on a gargantuan scale as Bean portrays
Odysseus in Wolfgang Petersen's star-studded multi-million dollar epic, Troy.
The star's eyes widen as he talks of the sets that were built to recreate the
majesty of the city of Troy which found itself under siege from the Greek
armies after Trojan prince Paris had run off with Helen. "It was a massive set
and those walls of Troy that you see in the film were real. There were people
walking on top and huge gates. As much as possible Wolfgang wanted the real
thing and he built some of the ships as well. Then there were hundreds of
extras. So you get a real sense of being there."
Making the film was a marathon. Bean was in Malta for six weeks and then
in Mexico for four months and he says that it was an experience that he
found fulfilling simply because he reckons it was a dream job.
As a youngster Bean had discovered the ancient Greek myths and legends
and pored over books on the subject.
"It's something that I find very interesting," he says, sipping coffee. "As a
kid when I read the Greek legends it was great escapism. The only trouble
was getting your tongue round some of the names."
"That's when I first read the Iliad, and it's a tough read because you have to
keep going back to check who is related to whom. But it is one of the greatest
stories ever told and it's three thousand years old."
"So just to be part of this kind of film about that time in history is exactly what
I wanted to do."
Bean reckons he was cast alongside Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and
Peter O'Toole because of his portrayal of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings.
"I think that The Lord of the Rings was such a phenomenon that we all seem
to have benefited from it," he says. "It was good to go on to something that
was historic and on that epic scale."
For research Bean re-read the Iliad and some other books that were mainly
about Odysseus.
"That's because I like to have some sort of background when I start a role but
then it changes when you get on set and adapt. But the research is always
there," he says.
"It is also very enjoyable to do all that sort of preparation because it's not as
though you are researching something that is tedious or laborious. It is fulfilling
and I like reading about history, fables and myths. So it is work but you have
a good time reading the material."
The soft-spoken actor is full of praise for the manner in which Wolfgang
Petersen achieved his vision of this legendary saga. "It's great. I think he
has given a faithful replication of what this book was all about," says Bean.
"About 60 per cent of the book is just the description of battles and brutality.
There is a lot of horror and blood but the characters are such that you
sympathise with them and identify with them and the price that they pay
for their beliefs."
The cast of Troy had to be in tip-top physical condition for all the battle scenes
that were filmed in the heat of Mexico and Malta. Luckily Bean was already fit
and well versed in the art of sword fighting.
"There was some sword fighting in each of the last four jobs that I've done -
Macbeth, Henry VIII, The Lord of the Rings and Troy. I think everyone enjoys
the chance to do a bit of swordplay," he says.
The most sabre rattling that he had to do, or course, was on the small screen
when he starred in Sharpe, the hit television series about rollicking adventures
during the Napoleonic Wars.
"I still have my sword from Sharpe - that was an original 1814 sabre," he
says, flashing a delighted grin. Inevitably, filming full-scale battles for Troy
meant that Bean got a few knocks. "But nothing too serious," he says with a
shrug. Certainly the star was never on the receiving end of anything like the
punch he took during the filming of Patriot Games that left him with a scar
over one eye.
"Yeah, Harrison Ford gave me a thump there," says Bean, rubbing his
forehead. "Afterwards he was quite cool about it and just said 'Sorry man'.
He didn't make a fuss - I liked that."
Recalling Rings
Sean Bean admits that he had a flutter of butterflies in his stomach when
he first saw The Lord of the Rings. "I was quite daunted by the prospect of
seeing something that I had worked on for such a length of time. I was in
New Zealand for a year," he says. "Just to see it as a complete feature was
quite overwhelming for me.
"When we filmed there were moments when we were fighting thin air and to
see that come alive in a very seamless way was very satisfying."
Not surprisingly Bean reckons that with the phenomenon created by director
Peter Jackson he was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in a film
that succeeds on so many different levels.
"I just think there are some great moments and great battle sequences.
What I found most moving were the times when the characters have moments
of intimacy; where you can see people's souls, their weaknesses and their
strengths. It's not very often that you work on a film of such magnitude and
get such well developed characters and there is time and space to express
Film Review #51. Epics Special Interview: John Millar
(Thanks to Kathryn for the text)


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