Bit of Tough

Last Update: 13 November 2002

Source: Tatler
December 2002

Blonde Date
Bit of Tough
Sean Bean likes to get Physical
It's always the quiet ones, says Nicola Formby

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Remember Sharpe, Sean Bean's smouldering, rugged, romantic hero who made girls weak? Well, it was around about then, in the mid Nineties, that Sean Bean tried to pick me up in the handbag department of Liberty. He obviously doesn't recognise me when he arrives at Artigiano, his favourite local Italian restaurant. I barely recognise him. His previously tousled blond hair is cropped short and spiky. Hunched up, hands in pockets and looking scruffy but clean, he doesn't radiate his on-screen charm and sex appeal. He looks like a Sheffield United supporter who'd rather be in the pub than dining with a blonde. He shakes my hand and shrugs 'Yeah, hi' in such a quiet Yorkshire accent that I have to ask the waiter to turn the music down. He can't be that bad at dates. He has been married three times.

Sean fixes me with his eagle-like, hooded blue eyes. Above the left one is a scar where Harrison Ford hit him with a boat-hook during the filming of Patriot Games. 'I've wanted to do it for years,' he says, referring to Edward Hall's Macbeth, where he plays opposite Samantha Bond.

'Macbeth is a sexually charged play that deals with power.' Sean hasn't done theatre for at least 14 years, concentrating instead on movies and television. Most recently, he played Boromir in Lord of the Rings. He finds it somewhat daunting to be on stage again. 'I'm quite reserved as a person but now I have more confidence to throw myself into things. Sooner or later, you've got to let go, lose your inhibitions. I find it embarrassing at first but I know how fantastic it can feel when you take the plunge and think, "Fucking hell, this is brilliant.'" He's reading Nietzsche 'because it is full of hedonistic, power-based things I can apply to Macbeth'. Sean smokes intensely and orders another beer. I can't help noticing how elegantly he uses his hands. 'Yeah, I might take my clothes off. I like using my body in various ways.' He says it so seriously I have to bite my lip. 'My body is pretty good. I play football, go to the gym and do a bit of gardening. I keep moving. I like physicality.'

Sean also likes dressing up, especially in Armani suits, which make him feel good. 'I didn't know what to wear for you tonight,' he admits. He decided to 'chuck on' faded Paul Smith jeans, a grey T-shirt, Armani jeans jacket, sneakers and a squirt of 'Givenchy something'. He smokes almost an entire cigarette and drinks at least half another beer while he ponders whether he is attractive. 'I don't have much time to think about it. I'm aware of the energy I present on stage and screen but I'm not really bothered about how I look.' What about his teeth? 'Well, they are not really mine. They were a bit craggy. I had toothache in one and then the dentist just went down the line and now they are all perfect.' A bit vaIn, perhaps? 'Yeah.' Silence. I can't quite tell whether he is cross or coy. Does he have a very short temper? 'So short it surprises even me.'

We pick at artichoke salad, soft-boiled duck eggs with asparagus, and fat, grilled scallops. I can't drink anymore beer - I'll get drunk. 'Oh, go on.' Sean is keen on baroque music and surrealist art but doesn't collect anything. Wives, I suggest cautiously? He chuckles. Might he be difficult to live with? 'Actors get very involved with their work. I try to exist as a normal functioning individual but reality is not that interesting.' Can he imagine getting married again? 'Sometimes I want to have stability but the buzz you get from acting is addictive, so who knows? Relationships can be wonderful but they are distracting.' Sean speaks so quietly that I often have to lean close to hear him. It's not a technique - he just is brooding. I find his gentleness, combined with the sense that he would punch someone to protect you, very attractive. 'You need to bring a vulnerable side to tough characters,' he says, adding that I have 'caught him at a funny time' and that he prefers a solitary existence at the moment.

As we're leaving, I mention the Liberty incident to him. 'Yeah, I thought I recognised you.' What were you doing in the handbag department anyway? 'Probably prowling,'he says.

Artigiano, 12a Belsize Terrace,
NW3 (tel: 020 77944288).

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