|By James Mullinger
He's tackled the Uruk-hai at Amon Hen, been dropped from a great height by Pierce Brosnan and had a close encounter with his own greatsword in the capital of the Seven Kingdoms - but Cleanskin could prove Sean Bean's toughest challenge yet. It's a gripping British thriller that follows Bean's counter terrorism agent and his efforts to capture Ash (played by a scene stealing Abhin Galeya), a home-grown terrorist and "cleanskin" - someone who has no previous criminal record and is therefore unknown to security services. Surprisingly this seemingly big-budget production was actually independently made by writer, director and producer Hadi Hajaig and edited and completed when Warner Brothers picked it up for distribution. GQ met with the two stars at London's Mayfair hotel where the film's opening shootout takes place.
GQ: What first attracted you to Cleanskin?
Sean Bean: If the story's good and the characters are deep, full and real, then I'm always interested. But also it's a very topical story, relevant to things that have happened in the last 12 years, with bombings and terrorism. The history of these events - from the Crusades to the Palestine/Israel conflict - is something that I've always been quite interested in. It's quite an unsettling film because it wants to provoke you to question, to engage, to reflect on your prejudices that swing backwards and forwards depending who the media are supporting on that particular day and what your political beliefs are. What got me was that you see this young man, this Ash character, who's very politically aware and a pretty intelligent guy and it makes you think: how does he become recruited and grow into this mass-murderer? That's how it happens, as you see in the film - it's not that difficult. You just fall into it. And it's happening now.
Here you're playing a counter-terrorism expert and in the past you played a terrorist in GoldenEye - which do you prefer?
In this situation there's not much between them! The horrific methods they use to gain information and achieve their ends is identical. That's the situation with most terrorist groups and anti-terrorist groups - they use the same methods. Ash totally believes in what he's doing politically and so does [Bean's character] Ewan. Both will use any means necessary.
How did you make the film look so expensive?
Abhin Galeya: When I read the script and saw some of the set pieces, I thought, "There are some big stunts, big fights and big explosions - how are they going to do this?" We were in central London, there were hundreds of extras and the stunt prep was quite big. I was as astounded as you. I think Hadi had a clear vision that this would look like an expensive film: he wanted it to look quite American, not low-budget.
Does the film have a message?
AG: The world that we live in and the wars we have, all the bad, all the good, there is no resolution. I guess if the film was two-dimensional you could think, "Oh, Ash was born bad and he's on a path towards evil and self-destruction." But as you watch the film you realise that there are so many other [factors], people and communities. You realise that the people who carry out the acts are just little puppets - even Sean Bean's character.
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