Nottingham Post (January 2, 1999)
Testing fitness regime was vital to play SAS Gulf War Hero
Sean's Battle to Act Tough
Sean Bean endured intense military training for his latest TV role, starring as Andy McNab in Bravo Two Zero (BBC-1, tomorrow, 9pm and Monday, 10pm), the story of the SAS soldier's capture and torture by Iraqi troops during the Gulf War. Showbiz Editor John Brunton reports.
It was a gruelling crash-course in military fitness - but there was no way out for Sean Bean, who plays Andy McNab in the 4m two-part TV adaptation of McNab's best-selling book about the Gulf War, Bravo Two Zero.
The actor, star of the hugely popular Napoleonic War dramas Sharpe, knew he'd have to be in tip-top shape if he was to play McNab convincingly.
So he agreed to train with the South African army for a week.
"You can't be cast in a role like that and expect to run around with all the military kit on. You have to build up your stamina and endurance levels," says Bean, 40.
A lot of it involved desert runs in full kit, which was tough and physically exhausting at times.
"But it was good to have someone kicking you, metaphorically, along, otherwise you wouldn't do it.
"It was also good because all the other actors were as committed as I was to making the production as authentic as we could."
Despite being injured during the shooting of Patriot Games, when Hollywood star Harrison Ford accidentally cut him above the eye, Bean insisted on doing his own stunts for Bravo Two Zero.
"You're working in a controlled environment with very safety-conscious people, but there's always a risk that something goes wrong.
"I put great trust in the expertise of the armourers and special effects people but you do sometimes wonder what will happen when a bomb goes off.
"You're conscious that even blanks can do a lot of damage."
McNab and three of his men were captured early in 1991 during a secret mission behind Iraqi lines, which went badly wrong. Three more of his patrol were killed, and one escaped across the Iraqi border and into Syria.
McNab survived brutal interrogation at the hands of Iraqi torturers and was handed over to the Red Cross when the war ended.
Throughout his ordeal the thought of his young daughter kept him going.
McNab co-wrote the script of Bravo Two Zero, adapting it from his best-selling book, and worked closely with Bean throughout the filming, including the torture scenes.
"I spent a lot of time talking to him. I just listened and let what he had to say sink in," says Sean.
"Those scenes are quite harrowing, and especially so if you know the man it happened to.
"You couldn't take a normal individual and place them in the situation that Andy was in and expect them not to crack.
"It also depends on what you're holding out for.
"Andy and his men trained together, relied on each other and trusted each other, so they formed a very strong bond.
"I think that's what carries you through, because you're holding out for your mates, not just yourself.
"That was Andy's strength and resolve.
"His loyalty was first and foremost to his mates, and then to other soldiers in the Gulf who could be put in danger. And, of course, the thought of his daughter kept him going."
Sheffield-born Sean dismisses any notion that this is anything like a modern-day Sharpe.
"There are no similarities. They are totally different methods of warfare," he explains.
"Sharpe is fictional, and, if anything, the more glamorous figure. Bravo Two Zero doesn't give a glamorous view of war at all."
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