Sean Bean: The Interview

Copyright © 2001 by Winona Kent

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09 March 2001

I'd met Sean Bean once before, on a canal-side Manchester street that was being used as a location for his four-part TV film, Extremely Dangerous.

At that time, I remember being told (by someone who knew him well), that he was "a man of few words". I'd spoken to Sean briefly before that explanation was offered to me, and I remember thinking, "It's not true." Sean had been at a bit of a loss for words when confronted by my surprise appearance on that Monday afternoon in June, but I put that down to a combination of being taken off-guard, and his not being quite certain what to say to me. After all, here I was, a fan, popping up out of nowhere, greeting him as if I'd known him for years, alternating between tongue-tied embarrassment and gushing enthusiasm. But I did remember thinking: "It's not true." Because Sean struck me then - as he still strikes me now - as a person who is wise enough to keep his own counsel when the conditions call for it - and confident enough in himself to be positively gregarious when he's comfortable, and in his own element.

Flash forward now, nearly two years, to a purpose-built set in a long, low building that was something else in a former life, but which is now Cine Space film studios on Toronto's waterfront. It's March, there's a bitter wind blowing, and it's been snowing off and on all day. In this long, low grey building, they are making a film. It's called Don't Say a Word, and it stars Michael Douglas and Famke Janssen. And Sean Bean.

In the novel, the bad guy's name is Sport. He's American. He does horrible things and consorts with horrible people. He and a very large nasty man kidnap a little girl and hold her to ransom.

In the movie, Sport has been renamed Patrick Koster. He's English. And blond. He's wearing a black, body-hugging pull-on top and slim-fitting black trousers. And as villains go, he's looking extremely attractive on the studio monitor, where they're playing back the video of the rehearsal which has just taken place.

The scene is a crucial one. Koster (played by Sean) and his cohort (played by Conrad Goode) - a convincingly intimidating character with long hair, a beard, tattoos on his biceps and a wardrobe that includes a black sleeveless muscle shirt and black leather trousers - have just grabbed the little girl and are spiriting her away, while she screams in protest and alerts her mother.

The scene is about 20 seconds long and Sean has one line to deliver - four words in total. For this one singular contribution to the day's filming, he has been standing by at his hotel since two o'clock this afternoon. At about six, he was collected by his driver and driven to the studio, where he changed into Patrick Koster's clothes and went into Makeup. It's now nearly half past seven. They've rehearsed the action several times and they're almost ready to do it for real. Bells ring and people fall silent.

Take One.

The action is taking place inside the apartment where Michael Douglas and Famke Janssen live with their little girl (played by Skye McCole Bartusiak). The apartment itself has been constructed, life-sized, in the studio space in front of us. It's a bit like looking at the outside of a house before its exterior cladding has been added: two-by-fours and sheets of plywood making up the walls...tall, old-fashioned windows, through which green curtains can be seen. The whole of the set has been raised up off the ground on scaffolding, so that the cast and crew must climb a number of steps to enter it. Against the far wall of the studio is a panoramic view of New York City - the view, one gathers, from one of those tall, curtained windows.

Take Two.

You can hear the action behind the wooden walls - people moving around, lines being delivered. You can watch it on the monitor down on the floor. Famke Janssen settles in one of the black directors' chairs, to observe.

Take Three.

Skye's mother, who is also in the studio, tells me how nice she thinks Conrad Goode is in real life - and how he does terrible things to her daughter over the course of the movie.

Take Four.

Director Gary Fleder, in jeans and a t-shirt, runs down from the apartment to have a look at the playback of the scene on the monitor. They reload the camera.

Take Five.

It's 7.45 pm. Skye's mother and one of the crew try to decide whether the finished film will carry a PG or an R rating.

Take Six.

They're done.

Sean descends from the set and stops momentarily to chat with the crew sitting around the monitor. He has a little painted plaster head in the pocket of his trousers. It's the mock-up for the toy based on his Boromir character from The Fellowship of the Ring. He was sent it only that morning, and for a few minutes all gather round to examine the plaster figure's facial features, beard and hair.

"Look fierce," one of the female crewmembers suggests, and Sean obliges with an expression of utmost fierceness. We're treated to the warrior Boromir, as portrayed by a clean-shaven and de-wigged Sean Bean, wearing Patrick Koster's clothes.

Boromir. Looking fierce.

Such is the unreal and sometimes disorienting world of showbusiness.

Sean collects a cup of tea, and we negotiate a path out of the studio, past the table of catered food...the electricians...the set the parking lot, and the motorhome which acts as Sean's portable dressing room.


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