The Big Empty - Press Archive - Sean
Bean Fills Up the Big Empty
Source: Venice Magazine
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- SEAN BEAN FILLS UP THE BIG EMPTY
- by Alex Simon
- Sean Bean first gained attention in
Mike Figgis' sleeper hit Stormy
Monday (1988), playing a young lad from Newcastle who finds himself
caught in the middle of a battle between local businessmen and
hoods backing up a shady American businessman bent on buying
transforming the town. Since then, Bean has proven himself to
be one of
the cinema's most versatile actors, playing leading men, villains
character roles with equal aplomb.
- Sean Bean recently gained international
recognition in New Line's Lord
of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring (2001), and has been
non-stop even since. Bean's character also appeared in the second
Oscar-nominated installment, Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
Other recent projects include Dimension's sci-fi thriller, Equilibrium
(2002) with Christian Bale, and 20th Century Fox's Don't Say
(2000) with Michael Douglas and director Gary Fleder.
- Born April 17, 1959 and raised in Sheffield,
Yorkshire England, Sean
went to work for his father's welding company after high school,
realizing that being an artist was his true calling. After attending
local art college and discovering the drama department, Sean
by the acting bug, and was soon accepted into the prestigious
Academy of Dramatic Arts. After several years on the stage, Sean
his film debut in 1984 in Winter Flight.
- Sean is currently in production on Walt
Disney Co.'s National Treasure
for director John Turteltaub and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
centers around an expedition to uncover a treasure buried in
Sean plays Ian Howe, the financier of the expedition, alongside
Bartha and Nicolas Cage. The film shoots in Washington DC, Philadelphia
and Los Angeles.
- Sean just wrapped production on Wolfgang
Peterson's Troy for Warner
Bros. And Village Roadshow Pictures. He plays Odysseus alongside
Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom in this epic account of the
War based on Homer's The Iliad, scheduled for release in May,
- Sean recently starred in "MacBeth"
opposite Samantha Bond in London's
West End. He has received critical acclaim for his work as MacBeth,
making the play the fastest non-musical show to sell out in the
End. Sean also recently shot a cameo role in "Henry VIII"
opposite Ray Winstone and Helena Bonham Carter. Next up is this
indie The Big Empty with Jon Favreau. Kelsey Grammar, Daryl Hannah,
Rachel Leigh Cook and Joey Lauren Adams, premiering November
- Other noteworthy big screen appearances
include John Frankenheimer's
Ronin (1998), Philip Noyce's Patriot Games (1992), the James
Goldeneye (1995, as the villainous Alex Trevelyan), and Ken Russell's
production of "Lady Chatterley" (1994). Sean broke
bread with Venice to
discuss his remarkable body of work.
- Venice: Let's begin with The Big Empty.
- Sean Bean: I've not seen the film yet,
but I'd always wanted to play a
cowboy, so I had a good time with it, the whole get-up, the long
leather coat, hat, the holster.
- V: I loved the fact that you kept your
northern English accent for the
- SB: Yeah. I was going to do an American
accent, but the director asked me
to just speak the way I normally do, because he thought it would
more weird, so I did [laughs]. I actually only found out about
a few days before I started working. I got the call home in England,
flew over, and was filming the next day. Not a lot of time for
preparation on this one [laughs]. We were in the Mohave Desert
some great people. It was quite eerie, quite strange really.
most of our filming at night, and it's so quiet out there, so
were staying in this motel in Baker, California, which is famous
having the world's largest thermometer [laughs]. Lovely place,
- V: You've had many extremes as an actor:
Bond films, Lord of the Rings,
and then working in the metropolis of Baker, CA.
- SB: Yeah, but you know what's funny
is on a small film like this,
oftentimes the people making it are a lot more passionate about
they're doing. It can be more enjoyable. So it all tends to even
the end. But don't get me wrong, working on films like Bond and
epic-scale productions is blood marvelous! I just finished doing
with Brad Pitt and Wolfgang Peterson directing. That was amazing,
with the smaller films, you remember why you started acting in
- V: Troy has an amazing cast, from Brad
Pitt to people like Peter
O'Toole. Did you spend any time with O'Toole?
- SB: Oh, yeah, he was great. He's a real
raconteur. He'll sit at the bar
with you and astound you with these fascinating tales about Lawrence
Arabia. Richard Harris and all the other icons of the time. I
with Peter a couple of times, and we had a beer together down
San Lucas. We really clicked, which was a thrill because he's
been the biggest hero of mine. He is one of the people who really
inspired me to begin acting. Not to mention the fact that he
not far from where I did, and we're both big cricket fans.
- V: Let's talk about your background.
You were born and raised in
Yorkshire, which is in the north of England and is known for
primarily an industrial area.
- SB: I have some good memories of Yorkshire.
I lived there until I was about
21, until I went away to drama school. Sheffield was a good place
- V: Your father had a welding business.
- SB: Yeah, I worked with him for about
three years after (high) school as an
apprentice. But I had this longing to do something more artistic.
- V: When did you know you wanted to be
- SB: Initially, I was very good at drawing,
which is what I would have loved
to do: be a painter and make a living at it. I went to a few
schools in Sheffield and didn't get along very well at any of
Then I enrolled in an art college which had drama courses. I
watch these people acting, and just felt that I could do as well
them, or better. So I switched courses from art to acting, and
there, that was it. I got into RADA halfway through this course,
then left for London. Once you find something that you know is
there's no looking back, is there?
- V: What was RADA like?
- SB: It was great, although it took me
about six months to get used to it.
Coming from a small town, it was a big culture shock being in
used to want to get on the train and go down to Sheffield, but
began to feel at home there and realized that I belonged with
people there. Janet McTeer (Songcatcher) was one of my classmates.
- V: How did your mom and dad feel about
your leaving the family business
and becoming an actor?
- SB: They were a bit taken aback at first,
but I was always talking about
being a musician, or an artist or something "different,"
didn't understand right away, because Sheffield was a place where
chose a trade after you were done with school and then plied
think they thought it was a phase that would pass and then I
back to "normal" [laughs]. But of course I never did,
and they were
very supportive after that.
- V: It's interesting that most of the
major artists that have come out
of the UK since the 60s have been from the working class, starting
people like Michael Caine, the Beatles, and Joe Orton.
- SB: Yeah, that is interesting, isn't
it? I think it's probably due to the
fact that all those old films by people like Tony Richardson,
Loach, Mike Leigh, they all showed us that our stories mattered
that that was a path that was open to us now. And let's face
there's a lot more of us in the UK than there are upper class.
the minority. So it makes sense that we would "take over,"
so to speak,
once the door was opened. Did you ever see Kes (1971) by Ken
was blown away by that as a kid. It's so full of tragic-comic
that are so uncompromising. There's no neat, happy ending where
everything's resolved in a little package. It's like life, you
very cathartic. You look at the lead character in that film,
got such a beautiful spirit burning inside him, that you just
that due to the class that he was born into and the dysfunction
family situation that nobody's ever going to see it and recognize
- V: What's really tragic is that most
people are too fearful to ever let
that part of themselves come out.
- SB: Yeah, that's true. Being an actor
or an artist is a very brave thing,
really. It's pretty scary to put yourself into that situation.
don't know if you're going to succeed or fail, which is what
exciting in a way. You have to find a way to transform that fear
drive, into passion, into that adrenaline rush that will push
forward. But so many people just fix on the fear. You've got
yourself in a vulnerable situation to go forward, and if you
you'll just stay where you are, I suppose.
- V: Stormy Monday was the first film
I saw you in, and it's an
extraordinary piece of work by an extraordinary group: yourself,
Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith, Sting and Mike Figgis directing.
- SB: I think there was a writer's strike
in America at the time, so lots of
American actors were coming overseas to work. It was my first
film, so it was quite a high point to start out at. Mike was
passionate about the film, and that feeling rubbed off on everyone.
also captured how Newcastle was transformed into this sort of
cultural center. I remember that I had just finished my last
the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Romeo [laughs]. Then I
got to do
this film where Melanie Griffith played my girlfriend! Not bad,
- V: I love Patriot Games. You made a
- SB: That was a big break for me, really.
Great time. I loved working with
Philip Noyce and Harrison. I think if Philip had his way, he
made it even more macabre [laughs]. Harrison was very easygoing,
laid back. Very strong guy physically. We had a couple fights
film, and he really goes for it![laughs]. He brings a lot to
creatively, too. A good collaborator.
- V: I recently saw you in Ken Russell's
Lady Chatterley. How was working
with him and Natasha Richardson?
- SB: Ken's great. He was very passionate
about the film and really knew what
he wanted, and focused on the love story and the sociology of
story, rather than the sexual aspect. He was just very inspiring
very poetic in how he worked and communicated. He has a quality
I've never seen in another director; the way he brings out the
poetry in a scene or a piece. And Natasha was terrific as well.
gave a really brave, courageous performance. Particularly because
just had a baby before we started shooting.
- V: How was it being a James Bond villain?
- SB: That was great fun. It was great
working with Pierce, and that was his
first turn as Bond, and I think one of the better films in the
so we just had a blast. They do everything first class. Plus,
my character was a very interesting one. He had a lot of ambiguity
him. Also, the way he sort of rediscovered his Russian heritage
very interesting to me.
- V: You got to work with John Frankenheimer
on Ronin. Tell us about
- SB: John was like a big cowboy. He was
bigger than life, a real pro. And
the film was really underrated, I thought. It had a real specific
atmosphere to it and didn't pander to being a typical Hollywood
It was very dark, very French [laughs]. And that cast: DeNiro,
Skarsgard, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone. With all that talent,
my job easy. John was just spot-on and I'm sorry we never got
together again. He was an old school gentleman and he left us
soon. I remember the first day of shooting he introduced the
cast to each other and the crew, and I thought that was a really
way to begin. Plus all those car chases that he did. My God!
He got the
best drivers in Europe to really drive those cars that fast.
effects in that film, let me tell you. It was scary as hell and
exciting at the same time [laughs].
- V: Lord of the Rings must have been
another epic experience for you.
- SB: Oh, yeah, that was just fantastic.
We were all in New Zealand for
months on end and we really bonded like the Fellowship did. I
friendships on that which I know will last a lifetime. It was
perfect, a perfect place to film that script, and such a great
ensemble. We all got on very well. Viggo Mortensen and I hung
out a lot
together. He's a very interesting guy, writes poetry, loves music.
Peter Jackson was just a genius, that's all you can say about
was a lifelong passion for him, to bring this story to the screen.
could ask him about any character, at any particular time, and
tell you exactly what was going on. It's amazing that he could
such a gigantic thing together the way he did, but he did it
- V: I understand you also played the
title role in "MacBeth" on the West
- SB: Yeah, again that was one of those
experiences that reminded me why I
became an actor. Shakespeare's text is one of those things that's
constantly changing depending on where you are in your life at
time. Some nights I'd come off the stage and think about my
and I'd say to myself, "Ah, so that's what that bit meant"
Those are the times when I know I made the right choice not to
the family business!
- (Thanks to Cindy for typing