Life at the Sharpe end
Published on 25/04/2006
IN THE past few years British actor Sean Bean has barely stopped working.
He’s starred in one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and in the past year alone he’s made four back-to-back movies.
But far from being driven by fame and fortune, the 46-year-old says his workaholic tendencies stem from a fear of being unemployed.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that long ago that the offers dried up for the talented actor after a stint playing TV swashbuckler Sharpe.
“It was only back in 1999. I’d finished Sharpe and it was really hard to get work after that,” he recalls. “I was out of work for almost a year. Basically I’d been typecast, people only saw me as him.
“It was a very difficult time in my life and it really got me down.”
In the end the Sheffield born star was forced to leave Britain and head for Hollywood – a result which more than paid off.
Almost immediately, he landed himself a starring role as Boromir in the phenomenally successful The Lord Of The Rings, and has worked solidly ever since and with some of the biggest names in the business, such as Jodie Foster in Flightplan, Ewan McGregor in The Island, and Charlize Theron in the recent Oscar-nominated North Country.
But despite settling in sunny LA, the down-to-earth star remains patriotically committed to his Sheffield roots. The northern accent is broader than ever without even the merest hint of a transatlantic twang.
And recently he proved his passion for his beloved Sheffield United football team by becoming a director of the club. He even has the team’s logo tattooed on his shoulder.
Though he admits his first goal was always to play for the football club, Sean eventually set his heart on becoming an actor – a decision which clashed with his working class background.
“Where I come from it was regarded as a bit fairy-ish, sort of poncy thing,” he says laughing. “I worked at the same steel works as my Dad and was a pretty average sort of welder. I just felt there was something else, but the reaction was quite strange when I told him I wanted to be an actor. I think he was quite confused by it.
“But I didn’t really care, I felt so secure with it. And it was good-humoured as well. I can still go back home and they take the piss, you know. I’d rather have it like that than people be too reverential. I can go home and I can just be with my friends and mates and I can relax with them. It’s like I’ve kind of gone full circle really.”
After a spell in the theatre, Sean landed parts in hit movies, such as Patriot Games and The Field and became a huge sex symbol with his starring role in the TV drama Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Despite being naturally shy, he’s become one of our favourite baddies, with villainous roles in movies including Goldeneye, Ronin and Essex Boys.
Recently, though, the star says he prefers to play characters who are a little less psychotic, such as his latest movie The Dark.
Although the film is a horror flick, Sean’s character James is a normal down-to-earth guy and the actor couldn’t be more relieved.
“It really is nice to play just an ordinary guy,” he smiles. “I do like playing villains but it’s nice to have a break from that. James is a very free-spirited sort of guy. He’s a sculptor and interested in very artistic things. He loves to be on his own in the wilderness.”
Filmed in the Isle of Man and based on a Welsh novel, called Sheep, by writer Simon Maginn, the movie stars Sean as a recently separated man who moves to Wales to find solace.
But when his wife Adele (Maria Bello) turns up with their 12-year-old daughter the family are suddenly plunged into a nightmare world of evil and demented sheep!
“Yes, it’s true,” laughs Sean, “Weird things happen with the sheep, it’s all very strange.”
Despite the bonkers flock, the actor admits he was so freaked out by the script he didn’t dare read it at night.
“I started reading the script at 6pm and it got towards the end and I was going to read it in bed but thought I better read the next bit tomorrow morning,” he says looking a little sheepish himself.
“It was getting very scary and weird and I thought, I don’t want to go to sleep with those images in my head. It’s a very strange story and that’s why I like it.”
Another reason he was drawn to the role was it gave him a chance to film in the UK and be near his children.
The devoted dad has three daughters, Lorna, 18 and Molly, 14, by his second marriage to actress Melanie Hill, as well as seven-year-old Evie by his third wife Abigail Cruttenden, and says the hardest part of his job is being apart from his kids.
“My only real regret in life is being away from them as much as I have been,” he says. “My children come across to the States as much as possible and when I get home I spend a lot of time with them. But I miss them.”
It looks like the busy star will be continuing the jetsetting lifestyle for some time to come. He’s more in demand than ever and back on our screens again in a one-off TV film of Sharpe followed by another horror movie, later in the year, Silent Hill.
And then of course, there’s the football fixtures.
“Football is a constant in my life,” he grins. “It’s always there for me.”
Vital statistics: Sean Bean
Real name: Shaun Mark Bean
Birthdate: April 17, 1959
Significant other: The three times divorced actor is now dating actress Georgina Sutcliffe
Career high: The emotionally torn but rather lovely Boromir in Lord Of The Rings
Career low: A year-long spell out of work after Sharpe ended in 1999
Famous for: His one true love – Sheffield United. Sorry girls...
Words of wisdom: “When I started acting, I got called a bit of a fairy now and again. But I suppose that’s just to be expected, you know.”