Sunday, July 15, 2007
Sean Bean - Bad Guy roles with good guy rules
Sean Bean is sleepy. Having just arrived in LA from London the day before this interview, Bean spent most of the day finishing work on one of his two upcoming films, Flightplan, a thriller with Jodie Foster. After returning to his room at the Four Seasons Hotel, Bean caught a few hours of sleep and is just now having breakfast. He’s trying to figure out just what time it really is.
“I left England yesterday and I think it’s about 11 o’clock here in LA,” says Bean with his thick British accent.“It’s been a busy couple of days.”
Such is life for one of Hollywood’s busiest men. Flightplan is scheduled for release in the fall, while The Island with Ewan McGregor is slated for July. Both projects are exciting, according to Bean, but he admits that his part as Captain Rich, the pilot of a jumbo jet in Flightplan, is more ironic.
“I really hate to fly,” Bean admits. “It scares the hell out of me.”
His fear of flying led to one of his more harrowing real-life adventures. While shooting The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in New Zealand, Bean decided to drive from one location to another in order to avoid flying. He talked co-star Orlando Bloom into accompanying him on what should have been a peaceful drive through the countryside. Things did not go as planned.
“It had been raining for several weeks and there was a massive mudslide, which blocked the road we were driving on,” Bean recounts.“So we decided to go back, but sure enough there was another mudslide so we were sort of trapped in the middle of nowhere.”
Bean and Bloom spent the next three days in the home of an elderly woman who was kind enough to take in the stranded movie stars.
“She was a lovely older woman,” Bean says. “She took good care of, fed us, made sure we were comfortable. She was a true blessing.”
Bean and Bloom realized the roads would not be cleared for several more days, so they accepted a ride from a medical helicopter transporting a little girl in need of medical attention. Bean was thankful, but not thrilled.
“It was terrible,” Bean says. “The damn chopper bounced all over the place. I begged the pilot to land so we could get out, but he said no and we eventually made it to our location. I’ve never been so scared in my life!”
Bean has no problem sharing his weaknesses as a human being. What people see on the big screen is, after all, a story being told, and Bean only portrays a character. But Bean admits his numerous “bad guy” roles have made for an interesting life.
“People look at me and they may not know exactly where they know me from but they just have something in the back of their mind that says,‘he’s a bad man,’” Bean says.“It’s especially difficult trying to get through airport security here in the States. The security people seem to just think I’m a bad guy.”
This does make sense, though. Bean may be best known as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he’s also remembered for trying to kill Harrison Ford and Anne Archer in Patriot Games, Michael Douglas and Brittany Murphy in Don’t Say a Word, and Pierce Bronson in Golden Eye. Most recently, he played the villain in National Treasure with Nicholas Cage. With that rap sheet, it’s no wonder Bean gets harassed by law enforcement officials.
“I guess those things stick with people,” Bean says. “But in Patriot Games, it was Ford who got the better of me in the film and in reality.” Bean shows off the scar on his head that came courtesy of Mr. Ford while shooting the last scene of Patriot Games.
“We were fighting on a motor boat that was being thrown around in a water tank in the studio,” Bean recounts. “Harrison’s character had to hit my character with a metal rod and with all of the chaos of the moment he actually hit me in the face and knocked me over and split my head open.”
Bean received stitches, caked on the makeup and continued shooting. “Not many people can say they have a scar from Harrison Ford,” he says.
Neither can many people say they have worked with as many superstars as Bean. In addition to the aforementioned big names, Bean worked with Brad Pitt in Troy and Liv Tyler and Sean Astin in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Hollywood’s top directors, including Wolfgang Peterson and Brian Grazer, have also sought after Bean. Not bad for the kid who grew up in the blue-collar home of his welder father, dreaming of becoming an artist. “The acting was not something I planned on,” Bean says. “It just sort of fell into my lap.”
Upon graduating from the Royal Academy of the Arts in London, Bean joined the Royal Shakespeare Company because of his love for the Bard. Still a relative unknown, Bean exploded onto the scene in 1990’s The Field, starring opposite Richard Harris.
Soon after came Patriot Games. Bean has been working steadily ever since.
“Art is really my first love. That’s how I wanted to make my living,” Bean says.“Now art is my way to relax.”
As 2005 winds down, Bean’s career cranks upward. Already planned for next year is Silent Hill, a horror/thriller with Radha Mitchell and an as-yet-untitled Niki Caro project loosely based on the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the U.S., the successful Jenson v. Eveleth Mines.
“I’m excited about these next four films,” Bean says. “I think people will be able to get a better look at my talent. I’m not going to be just playing a bad guy.”
That should help him get through airport security.
Sean was a great interview. I have always enjoyed his work and he is just a great person to talk to. I was impressed about his love and devotion for his family. He really is a family man. I remember watching him several years ago in Patriot Games with Harrison Ford and thinking that he was the perfect bad guy. His character scared me, even though I knew Harrison Ford would kick his butt at the end. When I told Sean that my younger son, Doug, was a big Lord of the Rings fan, Sean found time to call back and leave a message for Doug on my answering machine. See, he's not such a bad guy, after all.