|In the space of one week, Sean Bean was beheaded and stabbed. Luckily for him, one of those traumas was fake ó even if it did mean the shocking end of his character Ned Stark on Game of Thrones. (Well, shocking for those who hadnít read the books.) Vulture talked to Bean about losing his head, fans losing their heads, and what heís doing next. (His bar-fight wound, however, was strictly off limits.)
What do you think about the reaction to your swan-song episode? Theyíre calling it a game-changer, and itís already being submitted for the Emmy Ö
Thatís good news! It really sets the standard, which is high already, for what you would expect from HBO. This was a courageous venture to take on in the first place, with such a vast, big-scale production, and this very bold, daring narrative structure. Thatís what people admire about it. I think people who werenít as familiar with the books were shocked. I know I was, when I read the script; then I read the book. Itís a good thing about George R.R. Martin: Heís prepared to kill off the main guys. You donít get the feeling that the good guy is going to last forever, like James Bond.
Some people are really upset.
I saw this video, these two black guys from L.A., and the older one tells him I died, and the young one is really pissed off that Iím dead! He keeps going, ďThat canít be fucking true. He killed off my man!Ē Itís fantastic. Itís so funny. I canít stop laughing at that. Theyíre the last people you would expect to be so pissed off!
What was it like shooting the actual scene where they cut off your head? Obviously, itís a dummy Ö
Itís a dummy of my head. I was holding it at one point, which was a really creepy feeling, to hold my head and look at it. It was very heavy, just like a proper head!
Do you think Nedís death is akin to, say, Gandalfís or Dumbledoreís? Wizardry aside, the father figure dies off so someone smaller can go on a heroís journey? In this case, the Stark kids?
Yeah! You start with Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, whoís strong when heís introduced and gets weaker and weaker as he goes along, physically and psychologically, because heís in this corrupt environment, in this real den of snakes, which gets him in the end, and someone else is going to have to take his place. Once heís imprisoned, for instance, his son Robb has to take control. Ned was very much needed, and heís the last person you want to see disappear. Heís a voice of reason.
Why do you think Ned lied, claiming he was planning to steal the throne for his own, when he confessed?
I think it was demanded by the queen. He had to humiliate himself, so there was no doubt left as to his betrayal, which wasnít really a betrayal. Itís so Draconian ó lie, and weíll let you live on the Wall. And he trusted them for the sake of his children, so even heís shocked when Joffreyís going, ďThe man is a traitor, off with his head!Ē The deal didnít pay off. It would have helped if Ned had a little more guile, a little more cynicism, was a little more calculating.
But he is calculating, in at least one matter: Jon Snowís parentage. When it comes to Jon Snowís mother, Ned is extremely tight-lipped, save for his one terse comment to King Robert. The fandom is teeming with theories that Jon isnít Nedís bastard at all.
Thatís another twist [to come]. Itís a great conundrum. Who do you think it is?
My moneyís on the mother being Nedís dead sister and the father being Rhaegar Targaryen. If Ned swore to protect his dead sisterís son from his own best friend, the best way of doing that would have been to claim him as his own and take him in.
Ned really knows who [Jonís parents are], but he canít let on. Thatís why itís such a moving moment, those poignant scenes I have with Kit Harington [who plays Jon], because I couldnít say what I really thought. There are so many things I could have said, because there is a love there between the two of them, but I canít express it as overtly as I can with the other children, who I can hold and kiss. Even if I were his true father, I canít talk about it for fear of offending my wife, whoís really bitter about this. So itís really a cruel situation. Through no fault of his own, Ned took on a lot by taking Jon in.
What was it like to reteam with Kit for Silent Hill: Revelation?
We just finished that a couple weeks ago. It was so strange, seeing him dressed in jeans and a T-shirt on! No beard, no sword! Weíre in contemporary times, and weíre both playing Americans, so itís a total shift from Game of Thrones. Heís a good guy, a lovely guy, and we can look forward to big things from him.
A couple of Thrones folk who die come back to life in various ways, as weíve seen with the reanimated corpses and other characters to come who manage to defy death. There are fan theories that Ned might as well.
Maybe thereís hope for Ned yet! They can do anything. Anything can happen. Itís a very complex show. Very multilayered. And even the most absurd thing is believable. Theyíre about to start up again, and Iím feeling a twinge of envy, because the saga gets to go on without me. Iím doing something else now, but sometimes I go, ďAw, shit, bring me back.Ē
At least they canít kill you off unexpectedly on Missing [his upcoming ABC mid-season show]. Your characterís already dead!
Um, yeah. [Laughs.] Itís got a lot of twists and turns, and people are not like what you think they are. I guess itís a contemporary Game of Thrones!
Did you sneak anything off the Thrones set to remember the show by?
I didnít, really. I should have asked for my sword, because I try to keep all my swords ó the Sharpe series in the U.K., Macbeth ó because itís always nice to have something as a token. We got tattoos for Lord of the Rings: the number nine, in Elvish. Mineís on my shoulder. Maybe I should get a Game of Thrones tattoo! A direwolf, across my back!
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