|FEBRUARY 21, 2011 12:52 PM
Sean Bean interview on the set of Cleanskin, Senate House, London Ė
December 18 2010, the height of the snow, and itís snowing particularly heavily this morning as I arrive at the location shoot for Cleanskin, the new feature from writer/director/producer Hadi Hajaig. Iíve arranged to meet James the PR guy outside Senate House, London, an enormous art-deco block now part of the University of London. Taking us inside the main hall (also used for the Batman Begins courthouse, and CIA lobby in Spy Game) we watch Hadi direct actor Abhin Galeya as the terrorist protagonist Ash, making his way around an upper balcony, gun in hand. Thereís a brief punch-up as numerous extras look on.
Later, as we wait for our 10 minutes with Sean Bean, he shoots a quick scene walking through the main hall and up the wide stairs, flanked by what look to be, two burly secret service suits. Heís looking fit and healthy, and a good few years shy of his age (51), and also sporting a nice line in 2 week beard.
Hadi eventually gets what he wants, and after a quick break for lunch we make our way to Sean Beanís trailer in the back courtyard/parking area. Iím with Duncan, a fellow journo from Den of Geek. Sean greets us with a friendly hello, cigarette in hand, and what sounds like footie on the radio. Time is a little tight as Sean had to read a script during his lunch break so Duncan and I agree to a time-saving, Obsessed With Film / Den of Geek superhero team-up and conduct the interview together.
Duncan Ė Den of Geek: Youíre here filming Cleanskin, which we know a little bit about, but can you tell us a little bit about your character, how you got involved?
Well I got involved through my agents, and this script by Hadi, and I thought it was a very thoughtful, very intelligent script that dealt with the kind of issues facing us today Ė terrorism Ė that affects everybodyís lives. The constant threat as it were, or so weíre told. I find that kind of thing very interesting, politically. I thought it was a well written piece, I liked the character; heís a bit of a loner, you donít know very much about him, and his mission is to stop these terrorists and stop them doing what theyíre doing. And thereís an edge to it in that thereís a personal vendetta to some extent.
D-DoG: One of the first big things I saw you in was Patriot Games. You were on the other side of the terrorist coin as it were; do you find in your roles that you tend to play both sides?
SB: Yeah, I suppose theyíre very similar in a sense. Police and criminals both use the same tactics to outwit each other, and itís similar with this Ė Iím trying to be one step ahead of the guys Iím after and theyíre trying to be one step ahead of my secret service division. So thereís not a great deal of difference between their aims. Itís not something they do half-heartedly; theyíre very passionate about what theyíre doing. Ash for instance is very passionate about what he believes in, how he feels his faith has been corrupted, abused by the West. Of course my character feels the opposite.
Mark Ė Obsessed With Film: So as opposed to the usual slam-bam action films, it apparently goes more into Ashís reasons behind what heís doing.
SB: Yeah itís very open ended I think at the end, when hopefully you view the whole thing youíll be able to make up your own mind about the conclusions, the subjects that it raises. It does give you an insight into how and why Ashís character, and Islamists, are doing what theyíre doing. And you can also understand my point of view, our point of view. What Iím trying to say is itís quite impartial. Itís not saying this is right, this is wrong. Itís, this is whatís happening and what do we do about it.
D-DoG: One thing Iíve noticed in your career is youíve got this fantastic Hollywood career but you find the time for the smaller British films.
SB: I mean I find something like this very interesting, very rewarding, fulfilling, because itís a small crew, itís not a massive budget so thereís a certain amount of intimacy which is always conducive to doing good work, and you donít get lost in the machine. You can do big Hollywood blockbusters, and theyíre great fund to do, and they give you great exposure, but sometimes the characters are not as deep, as profound as the one in Cleanskin.
M-OWF: Like you say, itís not equivalent budget-wise to ĎHollywoodí films but do you think films like this, the thriller concept, should be made more here as opposed to the usual kitchen-sink or costume dramas?
SB: Well thereís plenty of stories to be told but I think the unfortunate thing is once something works now it becomes a franchise, itís repeated over and over again, youíre not really seeing anything new or learning anything new. Much of them are fantasies, much of them are for entertainment, which is fine in itís own way, but there are so many stories to be told by so many good writers. But itís a matter of funding to get a British film off the ground and to get its exposure and distribution. Thatís why Iím interested in doing work like this, mix it up a bit, do a bit of work in America, but then get back more to my roots as it were by doing something more intense and more character-based.
D-DoG: Speaking of that I saw Black Death earlier in the year; how was that to film, was it quite intense?
SB: Yeah on occasions when we were all in the water at the end, and they took us prisoners. Ulric was a very intense character, very devout, very religious, unshakeable. He meant well, but he used tactics that were often brutal; as does this Ewan character in Cleanskin. Fortunately with British crews, and cast, you can have a laugh.
M-OWF: Whatís Hadi been like as a director?
SB: heís great, heís very relaxed. I mean itís all based on research, but itís all come from his head. Heís very competent, very confident about what heís doing.
M-OWF: He wrote the screenplay as wellÖ
SB: Yeah; heís been a real joy to work with actually.
M-OWF: And whatís it been like filming in London? Londonís not always film-friendly compared to North America.
SB: No, but weíve been quite lucky really, weíve been filming in nice hotels etc. I think itís very difficult when you get out on the streets, in cars and stuff like that, but weíve not got a lot of footage of that kind of thing. You go out of London and you shoot a scene, but it doesnít look, hasnít got that kind of flair, that edge that London has. That danger. But itís great filming in London; it is difficult, but it looks good. Itís got itís own identity.
M-OWF: Have you had problems with the snow?
SB: Not really no, weíve been quite lucky. We were outside yesterday and we just got inside before it started snowing. Itís looks great but not when youíre filming.
M-OWF: I have to ask, now that itís 99.9% a go down in New Zealand, is there any chance of you getting involved in the Hobbit films? Iím not sure as whatÖ
SB: Iím not sure at all about that, whatís happening with it. But having played Boromir, I donít think he was around at that timeÖ
M-OWF: Yeah, maybe have you in a cameoÖ
SB: Boromir as a young lad. (Laughter)
D-DoG: Is Boromir a character that stands out for you?
SB: For all of us it opened doors, Viggo, and the young guys, the Hobbits. It was something we didnít expect. I knew about the book, but I didnít realise the scale of it. How big and epic it would be. You went round workshops, and you saw the drawings and the studios, and you thought wow, this looks like itís gonna be a big film. But we still didnít realise even when we were filming. I donít think it was until it was released that we realised what weíd done. We were totally committed to it, we lived there for almost a year in New Zealand so we became very close. Peter had been studying it and visualising it for years and years so he knew exactly what he wanted. Itís done just good things for us all.
M-OWF: Are you still in touch with the Fellowship?
SB: Yeah, we did a photo shoot a few weeks ago, with Orlando, and Bernard Hill, and Andy Serkis and a few others. I canít remember what is was for, some kind of magazine celebrating 100 years of film, or 100 best films. We do bump into each other now and again. I bump into Viggo occasionally; we got on quite well because of similar age.
D-DoG: And you had the photoshoot for Empire; you gave him an award.
SB: Yeah I went on stage, and he made that speech holding a bottle of whisky in his hand (laughter). In that speech he referred to Russell Crowe. Heíd just been on before and he made a few remarks about that, because heís a complete flip side of the coin, Viggo. Russell Crowe went in and out, did his speech, went off to his entourage, whereas Viggo is much more personable and heís much more funny and quite bizarre. I just stood there watching what he was doing. Heís a good guy, a very talented guy; heís an artist, very off the wall.
M-OWF: Well, thanks for talking to us, itís been fantastic.
SB: No, thank you, itís a pleasure.
We managed to take a couple of snaps, grab an autograph or two and then left Sean to his snow-covered trailer.
Cleanskin will be at Cannes in May.
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