Sean Bean was keen to show a deeper side to heroic soldier Richard Sharpe in this latest Sharpe escapade; a man weary of battle but resolved to do his duty.
"Sharpe is a man who has gone through 25 years of a military career. He has seen a lot; some good and some horrific things,"says Sean.
"My intention was that he was portrayed with meaning and thoughtfulness, and a sense of melancholy about the character. A man who wasn't as rash, bold or ambitious as he was before, rather, that he is a man who has found himself in these dangerous situations. I hope that it will be received as such."
"Remember Sharpe is a man who has seen so much injustice and bloodshed, and as it says in one scene, 'there's never been a good reason for war, it's just for money.' War is waged by governments and I think Sharpe has become disillusioned; he's done his bit and just wants to get home. There's a more thoughtful side to Sharpe, he thinks about his family and how he's going to live the rest of his life hopefully without the constant turmoil the life of a soldier brings."
Sean, who has starred in 15 Sharpe films before Sharpe's Peril , continues: "Sharpe is not in the strictest sense a truly accurate historic character but the films touch upon moments in history that did happen. This time around we were in agreement that we didn't want to repeat anything, even though the essence of Sharpe is his daring and swashbuckling, we wanted to establish a growth of Sharpe and the other characters. Not only to keep the audience interested but also to allow the characters which surround Sharpe to tell their story."
"An actor can feed on the actors around him and everybody just threw themselves into this project, and with the extensive research that went into the writing I think that it has evolved into a very interesting piece of work that perhaps differs from what we've seen before with Sharpe. No longer does he act rashly or with ambition, he just wants to get home alive."
"He thinks about how to tackle the situations that challenge him, his mortality comes to the forefront of his mindset, for the first time you really see a more vulnerable and sensitive side to Sharpe. He needs to live so he can find his daughter."
A star on both sides of the Atlantic, Sean is infinitely proud of Sharpe. Of this latest two-parter he explains: "We've achieved something that is rarely done on television these days: a period drama filled with action, with everything from the fights to the drama and all the costumes. I think it was ambitious, and that's what people like to see. All these shows about the police and forensics, personally they bore me stiff, I think people want to see this kind of thing without having to go see a feature film."
"The great thing about this was taking a whole cast and crew to film in India, in 120 degree heat. We'd be filming a scene and people would say their lines and then throw up! But what we were doing was so exciting, it got us through it. Fortunately I was fine this time, but that's India for you at the end of the day."
And Sean is a big fan of the country having grown to love it while filming the last Sharpe, Sharpe's Challenge, there two years ago.
"It's a different pace of life, you get there and it's such a change from the fast pace of say London or America. You've just got to accept that it's a slower way of life and once you do it is wonderful. There is a language barrier and it does have a different culture but I could film there every year. I love the country and think it's an extraordinary place to visit.
"The people we met and worked with had such a positive energy. I've never been anywhere like it. I've travelled extensively but I've never experienced the sense of good-will these people have in their lives. People have nothing, but they're genuine and happy. I'm not sure whether it's their religion or their culture but they have real pride in themselves and their lives."
"I'm going back there in January for a friend's wedding and I can't wait."
Singing the praises of his young co-star, Luke Ward Wilkinson, Sean says: "Luke's such a wonderful actor he knew exactly what he was doing. He's such a great young man as well... Working with someone like him, whose acting is so truthful and sincere, it can make you cry. He almost had me going every time we did a scene together! You'd be proud to have him as your son."
"If you're working with someone like Luke it really spurs you on. I think there were some fantastic performances in this film, which were enhanced by such a well written script by Russell Lewis."
But the old excitement of filming is always there with Sharpe. Sean admits to always doing his own stunts and this time was no different. From galloping along mountain tracks to being blown up; it's all in a day's work for the Sharpe cast.
Sean laughs: "Yeah, the director, Tom Clegg, says 'stand here', and I'm thinking 'hang on there's some bloody semtex about to go off' and he'll say 'you'll be alright'. It's not even tested, you don't rehearse it, and it just goes BANG!"
"We've always been like that on Sharpe, just chuck ourselves in. Daragh O'Malley (who plays Patrick Harper) will always say to me before we start filming a stunt 'God Bless' and I'll say 'you too' and the next thing you know there's guns going off, carriages and horses flying everywhere and you finish the scene and think; 'that wasn't really acting, that was real terror!'."
Daragh O'Malley is Patrick Harper
When severe weather conditions hit rural India during the filming of Sharpe's Peril Daragh O'Malley was in the line of fire.
"It was a seething hot day then out of the blue there was a mini tornado in the middle of the village where we were filming," he recalls.
"It wrecked part of the set and sent a tent pole flying into my face. Luckily my head is so thick it bounced off! I was taken to an amazing hospital – like one of those field hospitals in the TV show MASH."
"Here we are meeting a Sharpe in turmoil with his fighting career coming to an end wondering where to go from here. Harper has been back in Ireland running an oyster bar so I think he sees himself more as a mercenary soldier in this story. But this is the rough and tumble of battle and he is back with Sharpe where he belongs."
"In the story Harper has a very pertinent line, he tells Sharpe 'the likes of you and me were not born to die in bed…but rather in the field of battle clouds of glory trailing.' These two are junkies for this kind of action but it is coming to an end."
"The camaraderie is one of the main attractions of the Sharpe films and one of the main reasons it has been so successful. These guys have been through thick and thin together."
"We're not saying Sharpe and Harper are based on real-life soldiers but they are amalgams of the types who would have fought in the Napoleonic wars and who would - for that matter - have fought in a lot of wars."
"I received a letter from a lawyer in America, a Vietnam vet, who had made a major study of camaraderie in battle and he said Harper and Sharpe epitomised the friendship that develops between men when they come under fire."
Daragh himself was delighted to be back filming in India having shot Sharpe's Challenge there two years ago.
He explains: "It was a different experience this time around; knowing what to expect. It was very different terrain. One rural area we filmed in hadn't had rain for three years. The people are so welcoming though. They love watching us and are always smiling. If you look beyond the poverty they have a rich life and religion, a salvation they are wholly convinced by. Things we have lost sight of."
In this latest adventure Harper's life is threatened, but not in the usual way…
"He has kidney stones so is in agony for much of the time. But he struggles on and heroically does his best. In the end Indian magic cures him."
Daragh is one of the Sharpe veterans who have been in every film.
He says: "If somebody had suggested way back at the beginning of Sharpe that eventually 16 years down the line Sharpe and Harper would end up in India, I would have said absolutely no way. It has been fantastic."
"I know there have been people who have objected to the amorality of Harper, for example, the fact that he doesn't think too long and hard about killing men. But I'm sure I would enjoy his company. We'd probably find we shared some vices - smoking cigarettes, backing horses, for example - and got on famously together."
some official 'stills'
[click on thumbnails for larger pic]
and a manip I did with one of the BTS pics: