Fame, fortune and fatherhood - tough guy actor Sean Bean has got it all...
Sean Bean could never be accused of playing it safe as an actor. His lean, chiselled good looks and reined-in passion give him a dangerous appeal that lends itself perfectly to playing both good guys and baddies. Yet whether he's a predatory villain, an obsessed lover or an all-action hero, Sean always seems to be a man on the edge of ordinary society, a man who breaks the rules...
The forty-one year old actor's reputation for playing men-not-to-be-messed-with, is about to receive a further boost. Sean's latest role sees him as a convicted murderer on the run, in the ITV drama, Extremely Dangerous. And that's just the way Sean likes it! "It's easy to play something that you know you're good at, and play it over and over again," he says. "It's an easy option but not an exciting one. It's better to go out on a limb and take a challenge, even if you flop."
Sean hasn't flopped so far. After making his mark on British telly as swashbuckling maverick Richard Sharpe, he's also become one of the rare English actors to do well in Hollywood. He played a mad IRA terrorist in Patriot Games and a vindictive Bond villain in GoldenEye. Recently, he shared the screen with Robert De Niro in the thriller, Ronin.
"There are not many parts written for English actors in America, so you tend to find the parts you are usually offered are the baddies or sadists because we do that so well," smiles Sheffield-born Sean. Back over here, he's also become pretty adept at getting his kit off for the cameras. Roles such as earthy gamekeeper Mellors, in Ken Russell's steamy TV version of Lady Chatterley's Lover, have involved many a naked love scene.
"I do seem to have had a lot of roles like that," admits Sean, "but I don't think, 'Oh God, I can't wait to take my clothes off again!' It's a bit strange being naked in front of other people - it's not that enjoyable."
Sean actually faces an unusual problem when he strips off for the cameras - how to hide the proclamation tattooed on his arm: '100% Blade'! A reference to his passion for Sheffield United, Sean's tattoo is usually covered with flesh-tone make-up. When he played a gangster in Essex Boys, though, he had to hide it with a fake West Ham tattoo - a move more painful than getting the real one done originally!
Although Sean now lives in a £1.5 million house in well-heeled Hampstead, north London, he insists success hasn't really changed him and he still keeps up with all his old friends in the north. "Of course, we all know that things are completely different from when we were kids, but it's no big deal to them really. I am an actor, I still hang around with my mates. So what?" he says.
As well as his treasured socialising, three-times married Sean has a hectic family life. This month, he and wife Abigail Cruttenden - whom he met on the set of Sharpe - will be celebrating the first birthday of their daughter, Evie. "I was there when Evie was born," Sean will proudly tell you. "It was a very moving experience, stunning." He also has two other children from his previous marriage to Playing the Field actress Melanie Hill. "Although I have been through it before with my two elder girls, you forget how wonderful it is," he enthuses.
Perhaps our Sean's not such a hardman after all!
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