Roger Moore | Sentinel Movie Critic
Posted October 21, 2005
TORONTO -- You see Sean Bean in a movie, your first thought is "bad guy."
"My first job, I played Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet, the ultimate villain," he says, chuckling. "I went on to play Romeo, which is less interesting.
"When I moved to movies, I got Patriot Games and GoldenEye, and the villains were really good characters to play."
"I guess I'm just a bit frightening," he says, laughing through that gruff growl, the one polished by "years and years of these horrible, horrible Marlboros."
The heavy from National Treasure, the Fellowship member who cracked under the pressure and coveted the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, "creates this expectation, whenever you see him," says his Flightplan co-star Jodie Foster.
Bean, 47, knows he has been typecast. Which is why we saw him in Flightplan, and why he's in North Country. He gets to defy expectations in both films.
"I get a lot of satisfaction from playing villains," he says. "But I'm trying to diversify. So I've had this nice little run away from that villainous streak. Flightplan, North Country and before that, Troy. That one was the key."
Sure, National Treasure made millions and launched a new action franchise. It also put Bean in that niche Hollywood has carved for him. He's that rare stage-trained Brit with the menace and the build to play a guy who looks as if he could kick any leading man's behind, be he Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage or Pierce Brosnan.
But Troy gave Bean a chance to stand out in a movie with Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Peter O'Toole and a slew of screen heavyweights. And he didn't play a baddie.
"It was an OK part, you know, Odysseus, the 'teller of the tale,' " Bean says. "But then we went back and recorded, at the last minute, that wonderful voiceover narration," he says. "And that transformed my part and the movie, I hope."
He remembers the narration's lines.
" 'Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?' "
That signaled to Hollywood that Bean could carry a different share of the load in the movies. In Britain and on cable in the U.S., he could be the heroic Napoleonic soldier, adventurer and lover, Sharpe, a role he played on British TV (and American cable and public TV) for five years.
But movie-land knows nothing of British TV. It took Troy to get Bean to North Country, a movie in which he plays a crippled Minnesota Iron Range miner named Kyle, stuck at home while his union-rep wife (Frances McDormand) brings home the money from the pit where he used to work.
"Where I'm from, Sheffield, in Yorkshire, is known for its steel," he says. "I spent a few weeks, before shooting, around to the iron mines in Minnesota, seeing how the ore was produced from these massive boulders turned into these small pellets of iron.
"I hung around bars, talked to people on the Iron Range, you get a feel for the place doing that. Like nowhere I've ever been.
"You can see Kyle molded by this part of Minnesota, and this industry that everyone there lives for. Sheffield is the same way, with the steel factories closing and the coal mines laying off. It's exactly the same sort of limited world for the people who live in this place where things are starting to fall apart. It's what they do, and they've lost it."
Up next, he plays a father trying to find his missing wife and daughter in the thriller Silent Hill. And then a return to Sharpe, in Sharpe's Challenge, "which takes me to India, and should be great fun. It's been years."
But if the right villain came along?
"A good bad guy is a joy to play," he says, laughing. "National Treasure made a lot of money, right? I like to think at least some of that was because it had a good villain!"
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