Sharpe's Challenge - Interviews

Last Update: 06 April 2006

 
 
Interview - Sean Bean is Richard Sharpe

"When we finished the Battle of Waterloo it felt like the natural conclusion for that particular group of Sharpe films, but I always thought one day we would get together to make more."
 
After a hiatus of eight years, Sean Bean was ready to pick up his sword and get back on a horse for the role he immortalised on British TV. Sean felt the time was right to return as Richard Sharpe, in the series that regularly drew in audiences of more than nine million.
 
Sean explains: “When we finished the Battle of Waterloo it felt like the natural conclusion for that particular group of Sharpe films, but I always thought one day we would get together to make more. I needed a few years to try different things, as did other members of cast and crew. So that’s what we did, we all went in different directions - but I was always excited by the prospect of getting back together again. Malcolm Craddock, the producer, Tom Clegg, the director, and I started discussing doing another. We got a really good script written by Russell Lewis and just thought - let’s go ahead and do it!”
 
Sean admits it felt strange becoming Richard Sharpe after so long. “It’s quite a bizarre feeling bringing him back to life. Picking up a sword again and putting on the green jacket. But I really enjoyed filming Sharpe’s Challenge. I think it’s probably the best we’ve done, because of the nature of the film and because we were so unrestrained filming in India. You don’t often see these kind of panoramas on TV. It’s got great scale to it, a big budget and some fantastic characters.”
 
And how has Sharpe changed over the years? “I think he has mellowed to some extent,” says Sean, “and become a lot calmer. He’s been shot at more times than most and he’s very fortunate to still be walking around alive. He’s reluctant to go back to soldiering. He’s not lost any of his admirable qualities, but he’s a reluctant warrior when we find him at the beginning of the film. His loyalty gets the better of him though, and he accepts his duty – he wants to get on with the mission, get in there and get again out as quickly as possible.”
 
Filming in India was a memorable experience for Sean. “India is definitely the best location we’ve filmed Sharpe in. It’s an extraordinary place, magical. I’ve filmed all over the world but I’ve never experienced anything like this before – the people, the scenery, the animals and architecture. We’ve filmed at huge fortresses set into hillsides, amazing palaces in the midst of squalor and poverty, in the desert surrounded by mountains. I’ve found it all fascinating. And the Indian people have been so helpful in every way. Considering they are people with so little of their own they are so positive and optimistic with their outlook on life. They’ve really got something going for them, some sort of spirituality, a set of beliefs that enables them to be so affable and cheerful.”
 
But did filming in India for two months pose any problems for Sean or the rest of the cast and crew? “I was sick for a couple of days. Everyone was. It was a recurring thing but you just get over it. Then Fray Bentos sent me over a box of meat pies which was great! We’ve filmed with elephants and camels with pigs and dogs and goats running around, all the colours and noises and smells. None of this really caused us any problems though. Everyone is so chilled over there. I didn’t get uptight about anything. You soon realise it will take a while to get things done but you just learn to go with the flow - it’s real chill out time.”
 
And despite the lengthy gap between Sharpe films, Sean naturally slipped back into swashbuckling mode. “I’ve done quite a lot of sword fighting in the meantime. On stage in Macbeth which featured a huge sword fight, then in Troy which also had loads, and as Boromir in Lord of the Rings. Luckily I really enjoy it.”
 
In fact Sean does all his own stunts in SHARPE’S CHALLENGE. “There’s nothing in the film I haven’t done myself and I think it suits the character. I wouldn’t want people thinking I didn’t actually do them, that’s not very Richard Sharpe. Most of the stunts aren’t dangerous, one or two could be potentially, but whereas some people won’t do anything I love all that running around, duelling and scrapping.”
 
And Sean was happy to find himself back in the saddle. “I hadn’t really ridden for all that time. In Lord of the Rings I did a bit of riding, but mostly just plodding onto set. I hadn’t cantered or galloped for about eight years. I went to a farm for some practice and thought I’d fall off and be crap, but it is just like riding a bike, as everyone says, I remembered where all the gears were – and the brakes! It felt comfortable, which I was really relieved about as I have a lot of riding to do in this film. Mind you we had polo ponies to ride this time, they are well bred and very responsive. You had to do very little to get them to do anything and they are gorgeous looking creatures.”
 
Sean says: “I didn’t want to do another series of Sharpe, I thought we would achieve the best quality doing this two-parter. I wouldn’t rule out doing another Sharpe though, especially with Tom Clegg, he’s a great director for whom I have enormous admiration and faith in. He has such stamina, he never stops – a real live wire.”
 

Production Notes (click on the links):
 
Sean Bean is Richard Sharpe
Padma Lakshmi is Madhuvanthi
Toby Stephens is William Dodd
Daragh O’Malley is Patrick Harper
 
Behind-the-Camera Fact File
The Producer: Malcolm Craddock
The Producer: Muir Sutherland
The Creator: Bernard Cornwell
The Writer: Russell Lewis
The Sword Master: Richard Bonehill
 

x

Return to Sharpe's Challenge

Return to Films & TV

Return to The Compleat Sean Bean Main Page