April 17, 2006 p. 8&9
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Sean's back in the saddle
[Woman magazine April 2006]
Up close, Sean Bean has the most amazing blue-green eyes and chiselled jaw. Women can't help staring at him. But despite his looks, and a string of Hollywood movies like Flightplan, Lord Of The Rings and National Treasure, the 46-year-old British actor hates all the fuss that goes with being a major star.
Drinking a lager in the bar of his hotel in Jaipur, India, where he's filming ITV's swashbuckling drama Sharpe's Challenge, he insists he never expects the kind of pampering that most actors demand.
'I think the most important thing is the work. If you do that properly, it's all that matters,' he says.
In Sharpe's Challenge, he once gain plays Bernard Cornwell's heroic captain Richard Sharpe, after a break of eight years. This time, Sharpe tries to save a young woman kidnapped by an Indian warlord, but also has to hold off the scheming Madhuvanthi, played by Salman Rushdie's wife Padma Lakshmi, who is out to seduce him.
He relishes the role, especially the horse-riding and playing with big boys' toys like cannons and swords.
'I get to ride horses, I get to fence and I get to kiss beautiful women. It's not such a bad job,' he says.
He might not like the star treatment, but he still had two demands before he signed up for the 16th Sharpe film. The first was that he had a traditional British fry-up wherever he worked.
'It's in my contract that I get Western food, not just curry at every meal. I make sure there are eggs, chips, bacon and beans available.'
The second was that his three daughters - Lorna, 17, and Molly, 14, by actress Melanie Hill, and six-year-old Evie, by actress Abigail Cruttenden - must be able to visit him. 'It's also in the contract that flights are arranged for them to come and see me.'
Sean has been married three times. His first wife was hairdresser Debra James, who lived on the Sheffield council estate where he grew up. Their marriage ended months later.
His longest relationship was with Melanie Hill, who played Aveline in the TV series Bread. They dated for eight years before they married in 1990. He proposed while they were watching a wedding on TV, with the romantic line, 'Fancy a bit of that, then?'
His third wife was Abigail Cruttenden, his co-star in Sharpe. They were married in 1997 but the relationship ended when their daughter Evie was a year old.
More recently he's been spotted out and about with actress Georgina Sutcliffe, though he seems keen to quash any speculation about a fourth Mrs. Bean. 'I haven't thought about marriage for a long time,' he stresses.
Asked if he's on good terms with ex-wives, he screws up his eyes and forces a 'Yeah, all right,' then laughs as if that's not the whole story.
However, he's keen to be a part of his children's lives. He says, 'I miss them and they miss me, but I try to minimize the time I'm away now, or I get them out to where I'm working.'
'They've grown up with my job and they don't resent it. When we do get time together I make sure we have fun.'
The son of a Sheffield steel worker, Sean recalls his own childhood as idyllic. He says, 'We had a lot of good times. My dad and my uncle Tom did a lot of boxing, so I joined a club too and boxed as an amateur for three years. I still do a bit to keep fit.'
'I didn't learn a great deal at school. I left with two O-Levels in art and English and I was lucky to get those.'
'But after I left, I got a huge appetite for literature. I bought loads of plays and went to the library to read scripts, and got to know a lot of writers. I came to realize that I wanted to act.'
'In those days, it was rare thing in Sheffield to say you wanted to be an actor. My parents thought the notion of acting was just a strange fad. But once they realized I was serious, they got behind me and were very supportive.'
He adds, 'I think I might have got my creative streak from my mother. She could always tell a really good story. She's also very steadfast and passionate about her family. My dad is practical - he gets things done. I like to think I'm a mixture of both of them.'
'They still live in Sheffield, as does my younger sister Lorraine, and I go and stay with them whenever I can.'
He moved to London in 1983, when he won a place at the drama school RADA. He recalls, 'It was scary moving to this metropolis, but then I got to know people at RADA and I started to enjoy myself.'
He got his break in 1990, playing Richard Harris's son in the film The Field.
'It was intimidating to work with someone I'd admired for so long. I was pleased we got on so well.'
Since then, Sean has worked at a hectic pace. In the next few months, as well as Sharpe's Challenge, he stars in two new films - the thriller Silent Hill, in which he plays a father of a girl who goes missing with her mother, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a fantasy in which he's the voice of The Lost Heir.
Between filming, home is Belsize Park, north London.
Despite inevitable rumours about his private life, Sean appears happy to maintain his independence. 'I love company but I think it's important to have your own space. Who knows what will happen in the future, but I like my life as it is.'
* Sharpe's Challenge will be shown on ITV1 on April 23 and 24.
words by Paula Kerr
transcription by §fyre
again many many many thanks to Sue!