He's already made his name as a Hollywood player but with his
new film, When
Saturday Comes, Yorkshire heart-throb Sean Bean has returned
to his native town
and his first love - Sheffield United FC. Here, he shows a clear
pair of heels
to Craig Fitzsimons.
Sheffield lad Sean Bean, the man whose name means "old woman"
in Irish, might
seem to have everything in his favour - he's one of the most
respected British actors in Tinseltown, his career shows no sign
down, and it has to be said that he's a fairly handsome swine.
to his American audiences, he hides a deep, dark secret.
It is this. Are you ready?
He is a lifelong Sheffield United supporter.
Why? How come? What has he got to say for himself?
"I've supported them a long time," he confesses, "well,
since ah were about
seven years old, y'know, me dad supported them, and so did me
grandad. I didn't
really have much choice in the matter."
With a background like that, Bean's latest role is quite literally
come true. In Maria Giese's new football feature, When Saturday
plays a part which might easily have been written for him - as
Jimmy Muir, a
working class Sheffield youngster with a passion for pints, birds
and nights out
with the lads, whose overwhelming ambition in life is to play
United. In a finale so formulaic Roy of the Rovers would have
Jimmy realises his dream, pulling on the red-and-white-stripes
and coming on at
half-time to overhaul a two-goal deficit and propel Sheffield
to a last-minute
victory over Manchester United.
"Aye, it were fuckin' brilliant," he smiles, "A
great feeling. It was shot
at half-time during the actual game, we played United in the
Cup last January.
Ah were supposed to be workin' on the James Bond thing (Goldeneye,
Pierce Brosnan) but it didn't start early enough, so ah managed
to get up to
Sheffield at half-time to take penalties in front of 25,000 people.
So does he get back to Sheffield much?
"Yeah, a fair bit, when I can...obviously I can't when I'm
whenever I'm between jobs, I get back there quite a bit. I only
go up for the
weekends, really, and usually by Monday and Tuesday I'm off back
down to London
again, so I do quite a bit of boozing. It';s my perfect weekend,
out on Sunday and havin' a few pints, goin' to see the match
and then havin' a
few more pints, then Sunday dinner, then goin' out and havin'
a few more pints
Coming from a blue-collar town that, for all its charm, has become
of an industrial wasteland, did Bean ever worry that he'd share
the fate of
WSC's Jimmy and end up working in a factory?
"I went to work with me father just after I left school,
in a factory...a
steel factory. I once worked at Marks & Spencers, cutting
the cheese in the
delicatessen, and I lasted about four hours. I think I came home
cause I just couldn't stand the smell, it were absolutely disgusting.
for the council, cutting hedges, laying paving-stones and stuff
like that. And
I had some good times there, but I didn't really want to do it
for the rest of
me life, so I got into Art College and it had this acting course
attached to it,
and from then on I just stuck at it."
Did this lead to much of a slagging from your mates?
"Yeah, occasionally, especially when I started acting. I
got called a bit of
a fairy now an' again, but I suppose that's just to be expected,
y'know, it was
a bit of an unusual thing to want to do. If it had been the other
way round, I
probably woulda done the same meself."
Having established acting as his passion, Bean enrolled at the
RADA school in London and never looked back. Does he remember
his time there
"Aye, I had a great time there, y'know, it taught me how
to get on with other
people from different walks of life - well, you have to get on
with them, seeing
them day in and day out. I also learnt a lot there, with living
away from home
- which I'd never done before, I'd never left Sheffield really
for longer than a
weekend - so being down in London for two years was obviously
a bit of a
One of the striking things (no pun intended) about Bean's performance
is this. He looks like a very handy footballer. Is it something
he would have
aspired to as a kid?
"Aye, ah played when ah were a lad, an' I used to love it.
An' then after
school it sort of wore off a bit, what with doin' other things,
meetin' girls, goin' to pubs an' stuff like that. I have played
since for pub
teams now an' again, but it were never something I were good
enough to pursue as
a career. I sussed that out pretty early on."
At this point, producer James Daly (another Sheffield lad), whose
conceived the whole project and whose wife Maria Giese directed
points out: "Sean was perfect, 'cause it's hard to get an
actor who can play
football, especially in Hollywood. That was why it was difficult
to get the
film off the ground."
Sean continues: "It was difficult for us to do, cause we'd
only got so much
time, we were workin' on a low budget, it were startin' to get
dark early what
with being the winter, and so everyone was rushing. We had to
get the moves and
passes and everything right the first time, which is pretty difficult.
really strange sliding on me arse in a muddy pitch in the middle
of a Yorkshire
winter, which is probably as far removed from Hollywood as you
can get. But it
was refreshing too, y'know, just to be back in my hometown doin'
a kid from Sheffield. I'd always wanted to do something up there,
feature film, so that was really the perfect opportunity."
Bean speaks glowingly of most of his co-stars, from The Field's
Harris ("very passionate about his work, I learnt quite
a bit from him") to new
007 Pierce Brosnan ("great to work with, a real nice fella").
He becomes more
cautious on the subject of Emily Lloyd, who plays his Irish girlfriend
"I think we both had different approaches, but...eh...I
think our love affair
had quite a warm feeling to it, y'know. In the midst of all this
and boozing, it were a nice sensitive side, it came across quite
She'd been in Hollywood ten years, I think this was her first
comin' back, and it was difficult for her. I think it was quite
a big jolt,
like you said earlier, finding herself in a Sheffield industrial
midwinter. It's a very bad place, Hollywood, or it can be. It
things to your head if you're there too long, if you're not careful."
Daly, a Hollywood resident, elaborates. "I've lived in Hollywood
years, so I know it inside out. There's a lot of backbiting and
rivalries. Too many egos. I mean, Sean's above all that - it
stands out in his
acting, he's straight-on, down-to-earth, no bullshit. Whereas
over in America
it's 15, 20, 30 takes, they spend two hours in make-up (long
this bullshit you have to go through."
Nice bloke as he is, Bean is no stranger to playing the bad guy:
he was the
implausibly evil psychopath IRA "terrorist" in Patriot
Games, and the compelling
villain in Goldeneye. Would he be interested in doing any more
"I would be, but I dunno if I can, they'll probably have
to bring me back to
life. (affects a sad look) Ah don't think they shoulda killed
me off really,
they shoulda left it in the balance so I could return. (pause)
Maybe I will."
And has he got his schedule for this year mapped out?
"No, I just hope it continues like it has been for the last
couple of years,
I've been doing stuff that I wanna do, which is quite exciting.
I don't try and
plan ahead too much, cause plans always go to pieces in this
game, so there's no
point making any. I just try an' take it day by day, week by
And what about his beloved Blades, mired at the wrong end of
League First Division? Does he see any escape route?
"Well, they've just bought somebody from Celtic, Andy Walker.
playing good football, y'know, they just can't seem to be able
to score. It
might be quite close, but I think we'll stay up, meself. (pause)
We're too big
to go down."