How Sharpe cut out the curry and ate all the pies . . .
SWASHBUCKLING Sharpe actor Sean Bean has revealed what kept him going during a gruelling filming schedule in India - tinned British pies.
Nearly a decade after the Sheffield actor's big break as rugged Sharpe, the star says he was delighted to dust off his sword and get back in the saddle to reprise the role that kick-started his Hollywood career.
Picking up where Richard Sharpe's story left off in the wake of Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo, Sharpe's Challenge begins with frightening tales of a blood-thirsty Maharaja who is threatening British interests in India.
But Sean confessed he sometimes really missed traditional British grub while filming the new show.
The 47-year-old actor, from Handsworth, said: "We ate at least 15,000 curries during filming - I mean, I like curries but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then Fray Bentos sent me over a box of meat pies which was great.
"But the local people looked after us really well and I'd love to go back again because everybody is so welcoming and so positive about their life and work. It was a real breath of fresh air."
Much as the thrice-divorced actor loves his work, he says he has always found it hard to be away from his three daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 15, and seven-year-old Evie.
"They've got quite used to it now because I've been doing it ever since they've been little," he says.
"Starting with the very first episodes of Sharpe, I used to go over to the Crimea in August and then I wouldn't see the girls again until Christmas Eve. It was 16 weeks on the trot for three years so that was pretty tough.
"But it sort of balances itself out now - I get back and I'm usually off for a few weeks and we spend a lot of time together. Now, I try to get them to fly over to LA or I get back and have breaks in between so they don't miss me and they can see me every so often."
And of course his beloved Sheffield United FC, which he has been devoted to since he was in short trousers, also guarantees he will never be away from the UK for too long.
"Everyone knows I love The Blades, but I don't just go up there for that - I do see my family as well!" he laughs.
Sean says filming in India was hard work - but the cast did have time to let their hair down.
"We worked hard, but had such a great cast and crew that we really enjoyed ourselves when we finished work - as you can imagine," he laughs.
Although he performed all of his own stunts in Sharpe's Challenge, the closest he'd been to horse-riding in recent years was jumping out of a wooden one in Troy. He admits that he had to brush up on his equestrian skills.
"We did quite a bit of sword work before we went out to India and I'd done some for Lord Of The Rings and Troy as well - it's something that I've kept in with - but the horse-riding I hadn't done for ages.
"In Lord Of The Rings I did a bit of riding, but mostly just plodding on to set. I hadn't cantered or galloped for about eight years.
"I went to a farm for some practice and thought I'd fall off, but it is just like riding a bike, as everyone says. I remembered where the all the gears were - and the brakes," he grins.
Sean also confessed he has a soft spot for Sharpe's famous green jacket, even going as far as to keep the original jacket in his wardrobe at home.
For more on Sharpe's Challenge, which is on ITV1 on Sunday and Monday, see The Star Weekeneder on Saturday.
Life and times of actor Bean
Real name: Shaun Mark Bean
Birthday: April 17, 1959
Significant other: Dating actress Georgina Sutcliffe
Career high: Landing his big break as Sharpe in 1992
Career low: While filming the final fight sequence for Patriot Games, Harrison Ford accidentally hit Sean in the head with a boat-hook. He still bears the scar.
Famous for: Breaking into Hollywood as Boromir in Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Early Life: Left school with two O-levels. His first job was working for his father's welding firm.
Career: Bean worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company before making his TV debut in a 1984 episode of The Bill. Roles in The Fifteen Streets, Stormy Monday and Patriot Games followed before Lady Chatterley.
Love Life: First married childhood sweetheart Debra Anderson in 1980, then Bread star Melanie Hill (pictured). After their 16-year marriage ended he wed Sharpe co-star Abigail Cruttenden. That ended in 2000 after three years.
20 April 2006