The Talented Mr. Bean
The Talented Mr. Bean
Say the name Sean Bean to most Americans and youre likely to get a blank
stare. Say the name Boromir, and youll get a flicker of recognition (FYI: the
conflicted warrior in LOTR who tried to swipe the ring from Frodo). Odysseus?
Think warrior/narrator in Troy. How about the suave and savage villains in
GoldenEye, Patriot Games, Dont Say a Word, National Treasure and The
Island? Well, theres your mana versatile 20-year veteran of British stage,
screen and television. Now that Bean is appearing in Flightplan and this
months North Country, perhaps U.S. audiences will appreciate just how
versatileand begin to take notice. Here, a few thoughts on these roles and
MORE MR. BEAN
SKY: Tell us about North Country.
Sean Bean: [The film] is basically a true story about these
women who brought a class-action [suit] against the steel
company because of the abuse they suffered. Its a very
moving story. Its a very gritty, very sort of hard-hitting,
but very poignant tale. Such good characters. Its almost
like a play. A really good piece of theater.
SKY: And you play a sympathetic characterfor once?
SB: Yes. Hes the boyfriend of the Frances McDormand
character. Hes quite an easygoing guy, and hes had to
retire from an injury from work.
SKY: Now youve also got Flightplan, in which you play the
SB: Yeah. Im the captain and sort of trying to keep things together. Calm in
this sort of very intense situation, which starts getting out of hand very
SKY: You had the rare opportunity to work with Jodie Foster. She doesnt
make as many films as she used to.
SB: No. But shes really good in this. Shes very intense. Very focused on
what shes doing. And its really good working alongside her, because she
raises your game as well.
SKY: Youve worked with some heavy hitters in this business. Is there any
one person youve learned more from than others?
SB: John Hurt. Just watching him and seeing how he reacted. Pete
Postlethwaite. Hes a brilliant actor. And recently, Ive worked with Peter
OToole [in Troy], whom Id always wanted to work with, and whom I admire.
Hes very much his own man and quite incredible. Mesmerizing. Hes always
been a hero of mine, and its good to work with him.
SKY: Well, we have to ask about Lord of the Rings and Boromir.
SB: It was quite a long time before I got the part. And eventually, I got the
offer, and I was so overjoyed, of course. I didnt realize at the timeI dont
think any of us realized at the timehow big it was going to be. Monumental.
SKY: In less capable hands than Peter Jacksons, a movie like that would
have been a disaster.
SB: Hes a very shrewd guy. Very funny, very easygoing, very imaginative.
He knows what he wants with each shot.
SKY: There isnt as much screen time for Boromir as there is for some of the
other characters, and yet its a crucial role, because he establishes whats to
come in the rest of the trilogy.
SB: They did sort of tend to be very dramatic moments, when I sort of lost
control, and I think it was a benchmark for how powerful this ring was,
especially for humans, who were highly susceptible to its powers. And I
enjoyed playing the torturedthe tortuous, troubled man that Boromir was.
SKY: Tortured, troubled . . . do you ever want to play comedy?!
SB: [Laughs] Id love to! Something lighthearted.
SKY: It would be nice to flex some different acting muscles.
SB: Yeah. It would be. Smiling a little.
SKY: Well, you got to flex some different muscles after Lord of the Rings,
some stage muscles, if you will. I understand you played Macbeth on the
SB: Yeah. That was quite an experience.
SKY: Why did you choose Macbeth?
SB: It was just something Id always wanted to do. I saw Ian McKellan and
Judi Dench play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth when I was about 17, 18. And
that was the reason that inspired me to act.
SKY: And then you ended up working with Ian McKellan.
SB: Yeah. And it was great. Just to talk to him about Macbeth. And I talked
to Peter OToole and exchanged stories, because its such a fathomless piece,
and its a fathomless character. And you never feel that you can get to the
bottom of it. No matter what you do, theres always something off there to
be discovered. But that was a big reason why I started acting, and thats
why I wanted to do a Macbeth. I was in New York, and I went out and got
the play from the bookshop. I just happened to think, Im going to go get it
and read it again. And then I rang my agent, and I said, Do you think any
chance of getting this together and doing it on the London stage? And then
she got in touch with Sonia Friedman, whos a producer in the West End.
And we got it together and did it about two years ago, and fulfilled my
biggest ambitions, really.
SKY: How did you see the character?
SB: I think hes a man that is very successful, and he has everything.
Theyre like David Beckham and Posh Spice in the beginning. Everybody loves
them. Theyre good-looking. Theyre young. Theyve got everything. I think its
just a power, you know, that theyre just chipping away, and then just a little
bit more. And the imagination, especially for Macbethits a wonderful thing,
imagination, but in his case it became, you know, he became paranoid. It
was, you know . . .
SKY: Too potent.
SB: Yeah. And you just take it a little bit further and a little bit further, and
[hes] being egged on by his wife, who then loses her mind. And then he just
loses all respect for her. And in the end he just dwells in the evil of it, being
disturbed and paranoid, and he embraces that in the end and believes hes
invincible, because he thinks theres just nothing left: I dont care, I dont
SKY: So I imagine, after Lord of the Rings, there mustve been a bit of a
letdown; how nice for you to have something to sink your teeth into.
SB: Yeah. It was. It was good to go ahead and plunge into something. Which
I did, because I had not done any theater for about 13 years. So I was sort of
jumping in the deep end, and I knew it. It was very consuming. It just takes
over your life for a few months, really. Its one of those parts that you just
live with. But it was great. And [I] talked to Ian McKellan about his version of
things. Everybodys a bit protective, I think.
SKY: Trade secrets, huh?
SB: [Laughs]. Yeah. I dont know why. [Even] myself, a bit, you know. I think
its because it has such an impact on the actors that play it. They almost dont
want to talk about it too much.
SKY: Afraid of anything bad happening?
SB: [Laughs]. Maybe.
SKY: Do you think, since youve done this, that youll return to the stage more
SB: I hope so. Maybe in the next year or two, Id like to do it again, because
its so refreshing and so different, and its enjoyable: You get your days off,
you work nights, you get to lay in bed the next morning. [Laughs] And apart
from that, its good for you.
SKY: Theres nothing like that connection to a live audience.
SB: There is something quite magical about it, in that its quite stirring. So
well see how that goes. Id like to do it again. Not Macbeth, but Id like to do
Macbeth on film.
SKY: Unless Kenneth Branagh beats you to it, so youd better hurry.
SB: Yeah. Yeah. Dont mention. [Laughs] I think there are a few people trying
to get it together at the moment. I think there are a couple of scripts
knocking around. A couple of friends and myself, weve got a good script at
the moment. Itd be great to take another crack at it.
SKY: Is there anything else in particular that youd like to take a crack aton
stage, on film, on TV?
SB: At the moment I just want to stay at home and watch television on the
settee. [Laughs] But Ive not got any particular role I have in mind; I like
getting surprised by things that come up and challenges that come up. I think
Macbeth was the one, the one I always wanted to play, and I did it. I was
very proud of that. And very gratified.
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