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BEAN THERE, DONE THAT
Glamour Magazine (UK)
by Deborah Joseph
After three marriages, you’d think Sean Bean would be over women. But in an unusally candid moment he tells Deborah Joseph there are at least three members of the opposite sex he can’t live without.
Sean’s in chilled mode, padding round his Dorchester hotel room in scuffed boots, shaking his head at the images of war on the TV.
“God, what’s going on in the world makes me so angry,” he says, narrowing his eyes. “We’re fed information and no one knows what’s true and what isn’t. We’re just expected to accept what the government tells us!” It’s an uncharacteristic outburst from a man who’s notoriously laid-back. “Do you think I’m laid-back? Oh that’s good – but believe me, there are definitely things that make me angry.”
Sean Bean is a man of contradictions. A true gent on the one hand, he orders, then pours me a beer. He chuckles politely, even when I ask questions he doesn’t want to answer (anything to do with women and his three ex-wives). Yet there’s something about the inscrutability of his eyes that hints at the darker side often reflected in his work.
He’s a performer of bad boys and heroes in equal measure. On the hero front, he became a national star as the uniform-clad soldier in the period drama Sharpe, and smouldered as lothario gardener Mellors in Lady Chatterley. But he’s also oozed evil as the disfigured turncoat who challenged 007 in Goldeneye, played a concinving IRA psycopath battling Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and a kidnapper in the upcoming Don’t Say a Word with Michael Douglas. And now, in the extraordinary Lord of the Rings, he plays hero Boromir alongside Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett.
The three spent a year together filming in New Zealand. “They’re great women,” he says. “Liv is very bright and funny. But mainly I hung around with Viggo [Mortensen, who plays Aragorn in the film]. We clicked straight away; we have a similar attitude to life.”
His choice od roles – often sexy and dangerous – have given him a sex-symbol status that’s made him the subject of tabloid gossip. You can see why. He looks much younger than his 42 years and his eyes have a sexy, lived-in appeal. However, with three failed marriages behind him, his love life has been tumultuous. The first was to his childhood sweetheart Debra James – rumour had it they split because she didn’t want to move to London. His second marriage to ex-bread actress MElanie Hill, who he met at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), ended acrimoniously in 1997 amid rumours of his laddish behaviour. They have two daughters, Lorna and Molly. And his third marriage was to another actress, Abigail Cruttenden, whom he met on the set of Sharpe. They split during his year away in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings and have a daughter, Evie.
Though he’s not willing to be drawn on his marriages, he does say, “It’s just about balancing the good and the bad. I’ve definitely been inspired by my wives and have taken away good things from my marriages.” Such as? “Abigail had a very different upbringing to me and I think we opened each other’s eyes to the way different people live.”
He’s single at the moment and lives alonf in Hampsted, northwest London – unless he has his daughters staying. Does he like being a bachelor? “Yeah, I don’t mind it.” Is he a dab hand with the cleaning? “Well, no one likes doing the cleaning, let’s face it!”
For Sean, though, washing up is especially problematic. If a knife falls on the floor, he can’t pick it up because of a strange supersition he’s inherited from his father. “I’m really weird about it,” he confesses. “The knife stays there until someone comes round and they have to pick it up for me.”
Does he still believe in marriage? “Not really. But I’ve never once thought, ‘God, I’m never getting married again; it’s been really awful’. I’ve got three great girls, so I wouldn’t say I’d never do it again.”
What does he look for in a woman? “It’s too obvious to say the physical. It needs to be something deeper.” He pauses, obviously finding this question difficult to answer. “I like femininity. And gentleness.”
It’s too much of a cliche to pass his off as a working class hero just because he’s northern. Sheffield born, he turned down the opportunity to work for his father’s welding business to train at RADA.
“I was always a rebel,” he admits. “I must’ve been to just leave everything and move to London to study acting and ballet. I always felt there was more out there. I’d wanted to be a footballer, and a pop star. I used to play guitar in a band with a few mates. I was a big fan of Lou Reed and David Bowie. I dyed my hair red and used eyeliner… but I never wore lipstick. Ever.”
Unlike many of his peers; he has no issue with where he came from, and although he doesn’t ooze money or flashiness, nor is he ashamed of where he is now. “I’m just lucky I’m paid well for doing what I
love,” he explains.
“But that doesn’t mean I want to show it off.” So what’s been his biggest extravagance? “When I first made a bit of money about 15 years ago I went out and bought myself a Jaguar. My dad drives it now, but I got my BMW nicked the other day so he’s lent it to me until I get a new car. It feels weird driving it again.”
Sean may have left Sheffield a long time ago, but he once said the experience of scoring for his team Sheffield United, in the drama When Saturday Comes was better than sex. When I ask him if he had to choose between football and sex, which would lose out, I finally get a real insight into what makes him tick. “Football. Definitely football.” He snorts, as though me thinking he’d really give up sex for anything is the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. Forget the speculation about his love life; the one headline he couldn’t live with is ‘Sean Bean would give up sex for football’.
(Note: The pic of Sean with two of his daughters incorrectly identifies them – It’s actually Molly (left) and Evie (in the middle). Lorna isn’t pictured. Evie’s mother is Abigail Cruttenden.)
Sean Bean: A death scene to die for
By Bruce Kirkland
NEW YORK — Yorkshire Englishman Sean Bean has one of the great heroic death scenes in recent movie history in the first instalment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Bean, 42, plays Boromir, one of two human members of the Fellowship and readers of the Tolkien book already know he is doomed, although in the book, this takes place in the second part of the trilogy. Filmmaker Peter Jackson changed the timing “for dramatic purposes,” he tells The Sun.
Bean was impressed with the manner Jackson staged his demise in battle because most movie death scenes “are messy and violent — which is not very nice.” Boromir dies as he regains his nobility in a scene shared with co-star and fellow human character Viggo Mortensen.
“It is good I suppose to go with some kind of dignity and knowing that you’ve learnt something on the way. He’s a better man for it, I suppose. He’s in good shape (emotionally) and he leaves in peace.”
The moment is not schmaltzy. “It’s how it was shot,” says Bean, best known for playing hero Richard Sharpe in the English TV series named for the character.
“It was great doing that scene with Viggo because he is such a generous, truthful actor and I’m glad he was there with me at the end, as it were, and he brought a sort of peacefulness to it and a spirituality to it, which I think he naturally has as a person. So that was of great help to me.”
BEAN THERE, DONE THAT
by Neil Norman
Sean Bean doesn’t come out to play with the press much. Despite his being a card-carrying Brit movie star who commands extraordinary fidelity among his legions of female fans, he doesn’t give a lot of interviews. He’s been hyped as the strong, silent type, an unreconstructed male with roots of Sheffield steel and a no-nonsense attitude to work, women and football.
This is the guy who has ‘100% Blade’ tattooed on his shoulder in honour of his football team, Sheffield United; the man who has been quoted as saying that a woman’s place is at home in the kitchen (barefoot and pregnant) while the man goes out to work. He’s a 21st-century Hunter/Gatherer, a Bloke of Blokes, a Northern Lad as opposed to a Southern Geezer. A thrice-married rogue and a scallywag with the ladies. He’s certainly everybody’s favourite bit of rough on screen – Mellors in Lady Chatterley, the archetypal James Bond villain, Sharpe, the hero of the Napoleonic Wars.
Some have suggested that he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but this is a cheap shot. The trouble is – due largely to his own reticence – very few people have actually talked to him at any great length.
One thing is 100 per cent certain: he doesn’t play the showbiz game. One gets the impression he would rather sit in a fridge and stick lollysticks in his eyes than sit down and talk to a journalist. This is something he is trying to change. ‘I haven’t courted publicity in the past,’ he says. ‘I suppose you could put it down to a natural reticence. The more you put yourself in the spotlight, the more you get examined. Not that I’ve got anything to be ashamed of. I’m not really putting myself on chat shows just to raise my profile. I find it a little strange talking about myself all the time. I’m getting better at it because now it’s so much a part of the job.’
Acting is a job for Bean, but it’s not just any job. It’s The Job, and he treats it with respect. He’s done a number of other, lesser jobs in the past – he’s been an apprentice welder, a snow shoveller and a cheese porter in Marks & Spencer – a job that famously lasted one entire morning.
But this job has sent him to some far-flung worlds, from the Ukraine for Sharpe, to Paris for Ronin and most recently, into Middle-earth for Lord of the Rings. Bean plays Boromir, one of the few human characters in Tolkien’s fantastical saga of hobbits and orcs, elves and a miscellany of mythical creatures. Was Bean a Tolkien fan before he was cast in the role? ‘I read it about 15 or 16 years ago,’ he says. ‘I’ve always been interested in mythology, but it is quite a dense read. It’s one of those books that you have to keep referring back to in order to find out who’s who and who is related to who. But you don’t get a great deal from Boromir in the book; [director Peter] Jackson’s imagination is quite off-kilter, he brings something quite fresh to the story.’
Lord of the Rings marks a departure for Bean in more ways than one; it is the first time in a career typified by realistic characters (from an IRA terrorist in Patriot Games to SAS man in Bravo Two Zero) that he has played in a full-blown fantasy. The fact that Boromir is not himself a fantastical character clearly helped him with the characterisation. ‘He is a valiant warrior,’ Bean explains. ‘A very practical man whose family has been deteriorating as a result of the war, but he also has a vulnerable quality. It was quite good fun for me playing Boromir because he is a practical man, and you’d see these elves and weird people walking around and you’d think, “F***ing hell, where does he fit in?” That reaction definitely helped with my character.’
Working on a movie involving special effects on a grand scale brought additional problems. Quite apart from the daily chore of having to run from the main set to the second unit and then trot over to an empty space for blue-screen work, Bean’s sense of unreality was heightened in other ways. ‘There were some funny times,’ he recalls with a crooked smile. ‘These little guys standing in for Frodo and the hobbits had to wear a blue sock with yellow balls on their faces. The actor’s face would then be superimposed on it afterwards. But you’d be talking to a blue sock.’
This is not the sort of thing they warn you about at drama school, I’d imagine. Especially at RADA, where Bean spent three years learning his craft.
Sitting in a photographic studio in jeans, boots and a fairly horrible tan fleece jacket, Bean still looks like a working-class drama student. Now 42, he exhibits few of the pretensions or egocentricities typical of many of his contemporaries. He is a reluctant interviewee, a cautious talker whose reticence appears 100 per cent genuine. He thinks long and hard before answering each question, leading some interrogators to assume that he is inarticulate, even dumb. While it’s true that he sometimes shows signs of an unusually unreliable memory (on a recent television appearance he forgot the name of the character he was playing in Lord of the Rings), I suspect this is due more to a vague sense of panic that grips him on such occasions, than to a lack of brain cells. He is simply not used to playing the publicity game and therefore does not have the ready ammunition of soundbites to deliver with glib precision.
Bean grew up in Handsworth, a working-class suburb of Sheffield. His mother was a secretary and his father a steelworker. He left school at 16 with two O levels (Art and English) and a vague idea that he wanted to be an artist, before he drifted into work as an apprentice to his father. In between work and football, playing the piano and guitar, he kept painting, and exhibited his work in a Sheffield art-shop window.
‘Drawing or painting was what I really wanted to do. I thought I’d become a commercial artist and then move on. I went to a few art schools but couldn’t really hack it. I worked for my dad for about three or four years and then went to technical college in Rotherham where I learned about steel and composites. Right next to it was an art and drama college, and I enrolled on the art course.’
In between lessons, he used to peer through the door of the drama classes, and found himself drawn towards the discipline. After a while, he switched courses from art to drama, and knew he had finally discovered his vocation. ‘I felt really secure and comfortable in it. It seemed to combine everything I was interested in from music to art.’
After a year on the drama course he applied to RADA and was accepted. ‘I felt like an outsider for about six months, but that was more to do with London than RADA,’ he says. ‘It was quite a shock to the system. Until then I’d used to come down with me mates for Bowie concerts, then go straight back up.’
Bean was at RADA at exactly the right time for his particular style of acting. Standard English was being taught for classic texts but not at the expense of regional accents. He was encouraged to maintain his Sheffield accent and can now shift gamely between the regions of the United Kingdom, or deliver an acceptable received pronunciation if the occasion demands.
His cites Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Tom Courtenay as role models. ‘They were my sort of heroes. And it’s come back to that, thank God. Look at Russell Crowe in Gladiator. And I loved Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. These guys are real men and probably politically incorrect, but they were totally the truth. I watched Richard Harris in This Sporting Life and when I worked with him [in The Field] he didn’t disappoint me. I used to remember watching these films growing up in Sheffield. They were real to me. Finney shooting that fat woman up the arse with an air rifle in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. It was like life. When I went to drama school, these were the images I carried with me.’
Given his rough-hewn machismo and the robustness of his role models, it is supremely ironic that his first movie should have been Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio, in which he played the painter’s male lover. Bean can laugh at the irony of his situation in retrospect, though he admits to shutting his eyes at the time.
‘Yeah, it was quite weird,’ he laughs. ‘You couldn’t make a film with Derek and not feel weird. He was so extraordinary. I was very new to the business and my first film was with Derek Jarman – a real artist making a film about a real artist. He just let you do what you want. I went to meet him in his flat in Charing Cross Road and he asked me about my home life and football and stuff like that. He was interested in the reality of my background in Sheffield. I was playing Caravaggio’s loverÉ but I didn’t really think about that too much. I just wanted to work with great people and he was a great person.’
Bean’s defining moment came in 1992 when he was cast as the Peninsular War hero Richard Sharpe, after first choice Paul McGann suffered a leg injury and had to drop out. Flukes don’t get much luckier and Bean took the opportunity and the role and bent it to his will. The result was a hugely popular historical swashbuckling telly drama that lasted for five seasons.
‘There’s still talk about a feature film,’ he says with caution. ‘I love the Napoleonic Wars. I remember having a big board and spraying it green and putting little trees and Airfix men on to make massive armies to play with. The Battle of Waterloo capped the series but we could go back a bit. There is plenty of material to explore.’
There are stories about Bean’s past – including a punch-up for which he was fined £50 for actual bodily harm, and a somewhat unreconstructed way with women – but no real scandals. He has been married three times and has three daughters, two by his second wife Melanie Hill and one by his third, Abigail Cruttenden, from whom he is now divorced.
At the time of his break-up with Hill, in particular, Bean came under some heavy flak for his attitude to women. Does he have any regrets about that? ‘It was crazy, really,’ he says, fidgeting slightly. ‘It was blown out of all proportion. Then again you should be able to say what you feel. You have to be yourself and say what you are and I’d rather take that risk than pander to people.’
He maintains a complicated but solid relationship with his daughters, in spite of the fact that he is away from home a lot. ‘It’s a matter of time. When you do have the time at home, you have to make it as good as possible. My family and my kids understand that. I think it’s important to keep a strong link. You might spend three months away but then you follow it with three months at home, so it balances out.’
Given the fact that he has maintained his status as a British heart-throb and yet is clearly a bloke who likes family life with all that it entails, I wonder whether he might marry again. He pauses, lights a cigarette, fidgets some more.
‘At the present moment in time, no,’ he eventually says. ‘But I wouldn’t say I’d never get married again. I could, yeah. I don’t look back on those experiences with any bitterness. I think of the good times.’
A positive attitude to life. A solid career. And the admiration of thousands of women. A working-class hero is something to be.
‘Lord of the Rings’ actor Sean Bean took big leap into performing
By LUAINE LEE, Scripps Howard News Service
NEW YORK (December 11, 2001 02:06 p.m. EST
When he was working as a welder in his hometown of Sheffield, England, Sean Bean got a crazy idea. He was already studying at an art college and had gotten pretty good at painting and drawing. But when he casually enrolled in a drama class, oops, everything changed.
“It was a big leap of profession from being a welder fabricator to being an actor,” admits Bean, who sits at the mahogany dining room table of his hotel suite and stubs out his cigarette in a saucer.
“That wasn’t something I was familiar with in my family. Sheffield was a very industrial city at that time – since then it’s lost a lot of work up there and things have disappeared. But that’s what my city was famous for, the steel industry. So that was a natural progression.”
His parents were puzzled by his choice, he says. “I was into all sorts of things: I wanted to be in a band, I wanted to be an artist, a scriptwriter and actor. So I don’t think they were that shocked. I’d gone into so many different phases, this is the one that consolidated everything.”
Bean is probably best known in the United States for his portrayal as the brave Napoleonic officer of “The Sharpe Series” on television or as the weapons expert in “Ronin,” the terrorist in “Patriot Games,” or the betraying villain of “GoldenEye.”
But it is his role as the good-guy, noble human Boromir – who champions the cause of the Hobbit, Frodo Baggins, in the new “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” – that people ultimately will remember.
Investing a full year in faraway New Zealand for the role wasn’t easy for Bean, who is the father of three daughters, ages 3, 10 and 14. “I don’t think I would’ve spent that much time from home unless it was something like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I wouldn’t really like to spend that time away again. They grow up fast, don’t they?”
Bean, 42, says he was gripped by the breadth of his character, who does battle with a variety of fearsome monsters in the classic mythological tale. “He was a complicated and complex man. I found that really interesting to get to grips with. He’s very mixed up, trying to do what’s best for his people – a gentleman really, but he’s in an environment where he’s been on the forefront of war so he’s had to be strong. But within there is a gentleman of very good quality.”
Although he still speaks with the elongated vowels of working-class Northern England, within Bean there is a gentleman of good quality, too.
Married and divorced twice, he thinks an acting career can make marriage both easier and more difficult. “Sometimes absence can make the heart grow stronger but sometimes it can be too long, and it’s very precarious, very unpredictable. But I think it’s possible. Lots of actors and actresses have been happily married for many years.”
Bean, who is soft-spoken and, one suspects, quite shy, admits that one of the major reasons he likes acting is because it affords him the opportunity to learn. “I wasn’t very good at comprehensive school and didn’t really learn that much,” he says, his gray T-shirt wrinkling at the neck.
“I think I learned to get on with people and make friends. I had a good time in that way, but didn’t learn very much from the lessons. And when I left school I just had this real hunger for reading and catching up on things I’d missed at school. I just wanted to read and read – read theater books, plays, novels, history. And when I went to drama school I really applied myself. I really wanted to learn this time around and took to it quite easily.”
Part of the learning is exploring faraway places, from the grimy streets of Dublin to the mystic land of Middle Earth. “Acting educates you a lot,” he says, leaning his chin on both hands.
“It gives you the chance to go into different worlds to study history when you’re playing characters. I played Count Vronsky in ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy and therefore you research that particular period, and it’s interesting. At the same time it’s educating you. You’re finding out more about history,” he says.
“It takes you all over the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to great places: Africa, New Zealand, Russia, America. And that’s a life-enhancing experience to me. You find out about different cultures and different people, and you learn to respect them more. When you get home and watch on television all this bloodshed and war and hatred of other people, maybe if they traveled a bit more and got to know each other a bit more, maybe we could avoid all this.”