by Neil Norman
Evening Standard Magazine
February 16, 1996

Soon to star in a film about one of his great passions, football, professional 
bad boy Sean Bean is now an adopted Londoner. Neil Norman discovers whether 
softie southerners have managed to blunt his actor’s edge of hardened Sheffield 

Of all the spotty young British actors currently working, Sean Bean is the one 
most likely to bowl a maiden over. And he is as comfortable in the cloak of 
heroism as he is handling the daggers of villainy.

As Richard Sharpe, the small-screen hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Sean Bean is a 
rough diamond, a gent whose stern moral character lies buried beneath the 
tattered frogging and devil-may-care patriotic spirit of the fusilier major. His 
success in the role has guaranteed his return in a new series in the spring.

All manner of classy women, from colonels’ wives to Spanish countesses, have 
melted into the arms of the unshaven, hawkish Sharpe, particularly in times of 
crisis. And so dextrous is your man that he can catch a swooning damsel in one 
arm while discharging his rifle with the other. It’s a tough act to follow and 
perhaps only Daniel Day-Lewis possesses a similar combination of bruising 
masculinity and deep-seated chivalry.

But to watch the cruelty creep into his eyes as the Regency cad Lovelace in the 
BBC adaptation of Clarissa, or as the IRA terrorist in Patriot Games, or the 
half-Tartar turncoat in GoldenEye, is to watch a subtly dangerous actor at work. 
It comes as little surprise that Bean is the British actor most female casting 
directors first think of when selecting hot male talent. Such is the reaction of 
the ladies in his presence, one might be forgiven for thinking that he had been 
allotted more than his rightful share of testosterone. He can touch the wanton 
in the most demure of women.

It helps that he is blond. In this he has little competition as most leading men 
of his generation tend to be dark,. Newcomer Jason Lee Miller may be coming up 
on the inside as the sexiest blond male on screen (see Trainspotting and Hackers 
for details) but as yet he’s still burdened with boyishness. Bean’s trick is to 
appear young and experienced at the same time – wise beyond his years. At 36, he 
can play a 25-year old in his forthcoming film, When Saturday Comes, without 
straining audience credibility or the resources of the make-up department.

There is something endearingly unreconstructed about him; he’ll not be doing 
with this New Mannishness lark. Born in Sheffield, he grew up in the school of 
hard knocks, leading school at 16 to become a welder in his father’s firm before 
heading down to the Smoke and RADA. In spite of a dramatic training that 
discourages such traits, there remains a laddish quality about him which is far 
removed from the effete, pseudo-manhood of many of his contemporaries. He shares 
something of the raffish qualities of the older screen stars: Stewart Granger, 
Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Sean Connery.

Of course, football has to come into it somewhere. Bean supports his home team 
of Sheffield United with an enthusiasm bordering on obsession. He even had “100% 
Blades” tattooed on his left shoulder in 1990 when the team were doing 
particularly well. So it’s appropriate that his latest role in When Saturday 
Comes is a character whose goal in life is to become a professional footballer.

Bean plays young brewery worker Jimmy Muir, who has to fight against the odds to 
realise his dream. The film is set in Sheffield and the part could have been 
written with him in mind. He is clearly delighted at the prospect of playing a 
role so close to himself.

“If you could think of a part that you’d like to play, could write yourself and 
do all the things you want to in a film, this is it!” he says.

A family man now living in London, he has two daughters by his second wife, 
Melanie Hill (Aveline in TV’s Bread), whom he met at RADA. All of which means 
that there is just one thing still missing in Bean’s life. He wants a son to 
take to football matches. Like most things in his life, he will doubtless stick 
at it till he succeeds.

With Thanks to The Compleat Sean Bean

Evening Standard Magazine