I Went to Confront My Lover - With a Sword
in My Bag
Nov 23rd-29th, 1991
In the new BBC2 drama Clarissa, Sean Bean plays the wickedly obsessed lover Lovelace. And Sean knows just how his character feels.
Sean Bean handed over the money. "Wouldn't you like them wrapped, mate?" said the stallholder, awkwardly.
"No." Sean placed the two swords in his bag. "I might be using them soon."
Sean left the market and headed down the road. The argyment he'd had with his girlfriend Melanie ran over and over in his head. He knew where he would find her - and he was sure she wouldn't be alone.
The swords smashed together as he pushed open the door. "What are you doing here?" asked Melanie.
Sean looked around him. "You're alone," he said.
"What are you talking about...?" she asked, but her words were cut short as he pulled her close...
"We hadn't been together very long," recalls Sean. "Melanie and I had met at drama school. You know what it's like when you first fall in love. I was quite obsessive - and possessive.
"I was wandering down Kentish Town Road armed with these two swords. I thought I'd find her with someone else. Luckily, she was on her own, or I might not be here now. I might be at Her Majesty's pleasure."
That was more than 10 years ago and, after living together for several years, Sean married Melanie Hill - Aveline in the hit BBC sitcom Bread - in a quiet registry office ceremony two years ago, with their daughter Lorna, then two, as bridesmaid.
Melanie gave birth to another daughter, Molly, in August. "I'm delighted to be a father again," says Sean, 32. "Fatherhood is smashing. I really missed Lorna when I was away filming. I felt that I was missing a part of her growing up."
Sean's idea of a good time is relaxing with his kids, a pint of beer, or seeing his parents and his favourite football team at home in Sheffield. Yet, recently, his time away from Lorna and Melanie was spent on location at a grand mansion in Shropshire, playing the dastardly rapist Lovelace in the BBC drama Clarissa.
"Playing Lovelace wasn't too difficult," he grins. "We have all got an evil side. Through this part, I can do things that are nasty and devious, then stop at the end of the day."
This 18th-century upper-crust rogue, from the novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, has been described as "the most attractive villain in English literaure."
As Lovelace, Sean has maidens falling at his feet and into his bed - until he meets the beautiful but virtuous heiress Clarissa, played by Saskia Wickham. His lust for Clarissa leads to deception, and he imprisons her in a brothel where he drugs, then rapes her. It's a tragedy for them both.
"It's a fantastic story," says Sean. "Lovelace is obsessed with getting Clarissa into bed and deflowering her. Women usually just fall for him straightaway, but Clarissa doesn't and that's the big attraction for him.
"Gradually he finds himself falling in love with her. He genuinely wants to marry her. But, by then, it's too late. He's acted like an animal. He's messed it up. It's a frustrated love story and very sad - Clarissa admits towards the end that she could have loved him."
The role made a great impression on him. "I would love to have been a young blade then," he says, "but only if I was rich."
Sean is a welder's son from Sheffield. He drifted into acting after spells as a welding apprentice, labouring, cutting hedges - even manning the cheese counter at Marks & Spencer. "I lasted half a day," he laughs.
"I never considered I was going to be an actor. But I was always interested in art and painting, and eventually got into a college to study. It was there that I got into acting, and then passed an audition to go to RADA."
Before Clarissa, Sean was in two BBC Screen One dramas - Tell Me That You Love Me, as a man obsessed with his ex-lover, and Prince, as a man in love with his dog.
"It would be nice to do something a little lighter next time," he smiles.
"Lovelace is a nasty piece of work, but he's got charm and wit. He's a good schemer and I admire that. He may be an aristocrat, but he's got a taste for the low life: taverns and brothels.
"He's similar to me in that he's independent, he's got a sense of humour and a side of him you're not quite sure of. In my younger days, I suppose I was a little like Lovelace," Sean smiles. "I liked to go out with lots of girls ...well a few, anyway."
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