|17 April 1994
Bean’s Mean Scenes
Sean shows off his brawn on the battlefield
Sean Bean, the hottest male on television, is back on our screens next month in
three new adventures. Sharpe’s Enemy, Sharpe’s Honour and Sharpe’s Company are
set to repeat last year’s success of the daring exploits of 19th-century army
officer (Richard Sharpe – the British hero who self-determinedly rose up from
the ranks to be a leader of men.
The series, based on the Bernard Cornwell best-sellers about the Napoleonic
wars, was filmed over 18 weeks in location in the Ukraine.
“In one way, it’s like every boy’s dream,” says Sean. “You get up in the
morning, go off and sword fence, kill a few Frenchies and then come back and get
drunk at the bar with the rest of the lads.”
But conditions were harsh, with physically demanding scenes in the bitter cold
of the Russian mid-winter.
“The reality is that it’s bloody hard work, filming all through the night and
doing battle scenes with hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers at temperatures below
freezing. And it was extremely tiring.”
One scene called for the 34-year old actor to ride his beast of a horse across a
remote, valley stream. It was – 5C, and as he crossed the icy cold water for
about the 10th take, Sean lost his grip. He slid slowly down the horse’s back
and into the freezing stream. The Sheffield-born former welder dragged his
bruised and battered body out of the water – only to give the concerned
production team a huge grin.
For despite the rigours of shooting the series, the man who has often been
described as “the middle-class woman’s bit of rough” was born to the role of the
Napoleonic war daredevil. “I love Sharpe, he’s very much like me and I can
identify with him,” says Sean about the TV soldier there may be plans to make a
full-length film about.
“He’s an ordinary guy who’s had to drag himself up through the system so he can
make himself a success.
“I love all the action scenes, the sword fighting and, believe it or not, I can
ride a horse. And, like Sharpe, I won’t run from a fight. I will stand my ground
for something I believe in. But I won’t go looking for a fight – it’s a lot less
painful that way.” He may love the role but it’s when the cameras stop rolling
that the grimness of the conditions hits Sean. He feels more than a little
homesick for his 31-year-old wife Melanie Hill, who shot to fame as Aveline in
Bread, and his two daughters, six-year-old Lorna and Molly, two.
“I don’t think it’s the right place to bring the family to, nothing here works.
So I have to keep in touch with them as best as I can by phone. But when I did
manage to get home for a while, I was right choked when Molly walked to me. I’d
missed her taking her first steps. It hit me hard.” He also longs for good old
English cooking and British beer. So much so that wife Melanie arranged a
special food lift for her husband from their home in Muswell Hill, North London.
His sparse hotel room was stacked high with culinary reminders of home – cans of
beans, microwave curries and pre-packed meals for one.
The basic, no-frills accommodation is a far cry from the luxurious bedrooms
we’ve seen him in on our screens, usually spread-eagled naked across a bed.
But he explains in his broad South Yorkshire accent, “I’d much rather play
Sharpe than I would all those sexy roles, it doesn’t matter who I’m doing them
with. Of course, I’ll still do them when the parts come along, if they’re good,
but I squirm when I see some of my nude scenes. Sometimes they can be very
difficult to put up with.”
Last November, in Sean’s bedroom romps with Theresa Russell in A Woman’s Guide
To Adultery, viewers were treated to several lingering shots of his naked
Now he reveals, “I don’t really like showing my bum all over the place. Sure,
it sounds like fun getting to bed all these glamorous women, but it’s not all
that great. I don’t get turned on by it at all. It’s nice to be thought of as
a sex symbol, but I don’t think I am – I’m just doing a job. At times, doing
bedroom scenes can get quite embarrassing.”
Before that, last June, came his raunchy role as gamekeeper Mellors in Ken
Russell’s controversial BBC series Lady Chatterley, which costarred Joely
Richardson. “I remember how stupid I felt when Ken asked me to run through a
field naked. The corn just covered my naughty bits and there were two bloody big
speakers blasting out music at either end of the field. I thought, ‘What the
bloody hell is this about?’ and laughed.”
One of Sean’s most embarrassing moments was when he settled down to watch Lady
Chatterley at home with Melanie. “She hadn’t seen the raunchy bits. So when the
scenes with Joely were about to come on, I had to get up and say to her, ‘Do
you fancy a cuppa?’ just to get out of the room.
“Mel had no idea the scenes were that bad. I must admit, there was a silence
afterwards. It was the same when we were lying in bed reading the papers one
Sunday morning before Chatterley was screened. Suddenly, she saw some photos
from the series with me and Joely in the nude. Mel was surprised but she knows
it’s my job.”
The couple married in February 1990 after having lived together for eight years.
Sean popped the question as they sat watching a TV programme about marriage. “I
just turned to Mel and said, ‘How do yer fancy a bit of that then?”‘ It seems
all the more unromantic in the light of Sean’s role in Scarlett, the 27 million pound
TV sequel to Gone With The Wind. As Luke Fenton, he is a lover of the heroine
played by Joanne Whalley-Kilmer.
Melanie’s and Sean’s first date they met as students at the drama school RADA –
wasn’t the stuff of Mills & Boon, either. It was a trip to the cinema to see the
grim war movie Gallipoli. Says Sean, “I think our marriage works because we’re
very ordinary people. We’ll pop down to the local takeaway rather than go to a
fancy restaurant. At drama school, I wasn’t sure what to expect from actors. I
thought they all talked like Sir John Gielgud. But my lecturer told me not to
change or lose my Sheffield accent. And I’m glad I haven’t. I’d much rather be a
Part of being a normal bloke is standing on the terraces at Bramall Lane
watching Sheffield United with his mates. “I’ll go and see the lads any day.
Supporting the Blades means everything,” says Sean, who even has a bench seat
from the soccer ground inside his home. On his arm, his tattoo reads, 100%
Blade. “Not bad for two quid, is it?
“Now I’ve been made president of the balloons at the ground, the ones that are
blown up and released during matches. That’s what I call living. You know you’ve
made it when they make you president of the balloons.”