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VILLAIN of the year SEAN BEAN
A Square-jawed Bond baddie with an aitch-free Sheffield
accent. What could be more sinister?
There I was, breaking spring rolls in a modest Chinese restaurant
Bond baddie, a biblical villain, an IRA terrorist, a Napoleonic
I waited for him to draw a chopstick from its paper scabbard
and stab a
Szechuan prawn through the heart, as if it had just insulted
his sister. But
Sean Bean in the flesh is nothing like Sean Bean on the screen.
He is shy,
inoffensive, inarticulate, unremarkable. Far from looking like
a sex symbol, he
has lank hair, sly eyes, a dodgy complexion and smoker's teeth.
And yet the camera adores him. It makes him taller, hunkier,
squarer of jaw,
a broad Bean. It gives him the charisma he lacks in person. In
the latest James
Bond film, Goldeneye, he is splendidly sinister as suave Alex
agent 006. However, if you listen carefully to Bean's mean lines,
understand why he was ruled out of the running to play James
Bond himself, even
though he was once the favoured contender of the film's producer,
Broccoli's daughter Barbara. When Trevelyan talks, he sounds
dead posh. But when
he shouts - 'Finish the job, James! Blow them all to 'ell!' -
there is a
definite hint of Yorkshire.
Bean is a working-class lad from Sheffield. When he refused to
assume a cut-
glass accent off screen, Barbara Broccoli had to concede reluctantly
could never be 007, that it wouldn't do for the actor playing
smooth-talking hero to tell the world's press that he were 'reet
He is happiest playing characters from lowly stock, and has just
filming the fourth series of Sharpe, in which he again plays
infantry officer raised from the ranks for saving the life of
Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. As Sharpe, he can keep
accent and let them working-class roots show through. 'Me mother
were an 'ore, I
were born in a brothel and raised in an orphanage.' That's Sharpe,
not Bean. 'Me
dad's a welder, he runs his own steel fabrication shop. Him and
me mum bought
their council house before the deadline.' That's Bean, not Sharpe.
Brian and Rita Bean, his mum and dad, live on an estate in Handsworth,
Sheffield. 'It's lovely,' says Bean. 'A right nice community.
have tried to make out it's rundown, a sort of ghetto, like.
But it's not.' All
the same, it's light years from the enormous home in Totteridge,
the family Jag, the stretch limo treatment. That's why he paid
ú2 to have his
shoulder tattooed with '100% Blade', pledging his devotion to
FC, 'so I'd never forget where I'm from, like.'
As if he, or we, could ever forget. For a split second in Goldeneye,
Bond's tank gets in the way of Trevelyan's train, he sounds like
joyrider. 'Ram 'im!' he yells. And most of his scraps in Sharpe
city centre of a drunken Saturday night - 'Geddup and fight,
yer soft bastard!'
While filming the series, in the Ukraine, he once ran up the
mother of all
telephone bills, getting his mum to put the phone next to the
radio so he could
follow the entire commentary of a derby match between Sheffield
Sheffield Wednesday. 'I were worried sick that one of me sister's
knock the radio over,' he says. 'At the end I had this red ring
round me ear.'
At Brooke School, Bean (he was Shaun Bean in those days) was
leader of a
gang called The Union. The rival gang was called The Firm. 'Sean
enjoyed being a
glory boy,' says his former teacher, Ian Footitt. 'He was popular
girls, he loved to chase a ball but he didn't work. I am still
stunned as to how
this lad in my class got to be a famous actor. He never did plays.'
Bean, now 36, doesn't appear to regret his misspent youth. 'We
used to go
'edge-'oppin', steaming down through all the garden 'edges at
about 10 o'clock
at night,' he says. For the first time since the won ton soup,
his eyes dance
with enthusiasm. 'And cat-creepin', we did that too, where you
sneak through all
the back gardens. I never really knew what I wanted to do for
a living. I
suppose in the back of my mind was summut like what I'm doin'
now. I left school
at 16, with two O-levels. I did some welding with me dad, but
for three years. Then I went to art college. I got a bit of stick
from me mates,
like, but it didn't bother me.'
In 1981, having discovered acting at Rotherham College of Art
Technology, Bean applied to RADA, the most prestigious of drama
didn't even know there were any others,' he says. 'I just thought
there were one
big acting school everybody went to.' He got in, but his memories
of RADA differ
from the usual actorish reminiscences of starting out on the
road to luvviedom.
'I were done for ABH (actual bodily harm) when I were a student
there. Me and a
mate were looking for a party one Friday night.
Someone tried to shut the door on me and I ended up whacking
'im a couple of
times. I got fined UKL50.'
Bean was in the same year at RADA as Kenneth Branagh and James
for the first time felt a little insecure about his South Yorkshire
was willing to soften it, maybe even flirt with a few aitches,
but a lecturer
told him to stick with the regional imprint. It was sound advice
for the green
Bean. For a few years he cornered the market in rough Northern
crumpet, and when
Ken Russell wanted a Mellors for his BBC drama Lady Chatterley,
there was no
other contender. 'Along came this boy with grotty skin and grotty
Russell, with customary hyperbole. 'But the camera transformed
him. I think he's
a marvellous actor.'
For the humping sequences with Joely Richardson in Lady Chatterley,
used a casual fern to obscure the Bean tattoo. It was one of
the few parts of
his anatomy that was covered, in scenes that confirmed his status
as a sex
symbol. 'I read all this 'sex symbol' stuff,' says Bean. 'And
I sometimes get
sent Polaroids, like. But it doesn't change me opinion of meself.
takes his shirt off on TV becomes an 'eart-throb.' Of course,
Bean has taken
more off on TV than his shirt. And he insists that having your
bottom filmed in
close-up is not, pardon the pun, all it's cracked up to be.
'It's not very nice having a camera up yer bum,' he says. 'And
when me and
Joely were running through this field with nowt on, with loudspeakers
bloody Elgar, a double-decker bus went past. There's a difference,
people seeing it on telly and from the top deck of a bus.'
According to Joely Richardson, 'Sean wanted to be as extreme
with those love-making scenes. I wanted to be more under control.
But we got on
really well. He's very relaxed, he has a wonderful, wry sense
of humour. He
adores his family. And he's a fantastic actor. He has a special
Marlon Brando had. When you meet him in real life you don't see
it, but it's
there on the monitors. I loved him in Stormy Monday.'
Stormy Monday, in 1988, was Bean's first biggish film role, alongside
Melanie Griffith. He quite fancied her, he says. 'That squeaky
voice of 'ers is
just the same in real life. I think it's quite sexy. She's got
a good face and
that, but she's also big and buxom, which I like. I don't like
Bean is not a New Man. He believes that a woman belongs in the
bringing up the children, and that the man 'should be the provider,
He married his first proper girlfriend at 20, 'because that were
to do in Sheffield', but his acting ambitions put the marriage
pressure. Now he is married to the actress Melanie Hill - who
played Aveline in
Bread, and Jimmy Nail's sister in Crocodile Shoes - and strongly
her doing raunchy scenes. It is rumoured that this marriage too
Bean met his wife at RADA - he admits that he was attracted to
first - and they had a small daughter, Lorna, by the time he
proposed in 1989.
'We were watching a TV programme about marriage, and I said 'How
d'yer fancy a
bit of that, then?' ' They now have a second daughter, Molly,
but Bean craves a
boy. 'Taking a son to watch Sheffield United, I imagine that
would be close to
bliss on earth.'
If going to watch Sheffield United seems like an unlikely definition
bliss on earth, I know women who claim to reach it simply by
putting their feet
up and watching Bean. A female former colleague once poured a
glass of water
over me when I dared to criticise him. Plenty of women have seen
drool over Bean, scarred cheek and all, rather than the more
dishy Pierce Brosnan. And for some, he even out-dished Harrison
Ford in Patriot
Games, Bean's first Hollywood film, in which he established himself
as a top-
notch screen villain, playing an IRA terrorist. 'I got on right
Harrison Ford,' he says. Although Ford accidentally smashed him
in the face
during rehearsals, the black-eyed Bean was eager for more Hollywood
may be inarticulate, but he's far from unambitious.
He is the first to admit that he's had his flops. 'I were crap
in A Woman's
Guide To Adultery,' he says. Nevertheless, everyone who's worked
underlines the way he seems to grow the instant the camera is
pointed at him.
And if one fears a little for his career when the Bean bottom
tautness, he has nothing to worry about at the moment. Even the
Sir Peter Hall cast him in his biblical epic Jacob - 'a camel
and loincloth sort
of thing,' says Bean - which was shown on Sky on Boxing Day.
As Jacob's nasty,
philandering brother Esau, Bean was required to speak in an American
usual, the Sheffield vowels poked through in moments of rage,
but otherwise, he
again made a fine baddie. And the Bible says that Esau was covered
in hair, so
the Blades tattoo presented no problem.
We are coming to the end of our Chinese lunch. 'I'll 'ave some
tells the waiter. He is extremely disconcerted to find that it's
not PG Tips,
and doesn't come with milk. I wait for him for push the table
over, or at least
to snap at the waiter, but the villain of the year asks for a
glass of water