31 December 2001

With two big budget films out this month, Sean Bean will finally prove whether he can hack it in Hollywood...

Sean Bean may be a big star in the UK, but over in Hollywood he feels like a beginner. The rugged types like Mellors the gamekeeper in Lady Chatterly'sLover, or rile-toting soldier Sharpe, that he's played on the small screen have had the British girls swooing over him for quite some time.

But it's only recently that Hollywood has got wise to his appeal. And this months we'll be able to see Sean in two big Hollywood movies - the budget - busting The Lord Of The Rings and Don't Say A Word, a psychological thriller starring Michael Douglas.

So does he feel he can now make himself hom in Tinsel Town?

"Not at all," he says with a laugh. "In fact, it's still a bit strange sometimes. There's such a big gulf between my background and my career i can seem quite weird. Like, I was watching Sheffield United play football, then I was in LA working with Michael."

The 43-year-old Sheffield-born actors is still as down to earth as they come.

"It's a strange sort of feeling, like having a foot in two different worlds and that's probably hard for a lot of Hollywood actors to understand. But I enjoy that and I can use it. I can draw from my working-class background for the roles I play."

Dressed casually in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, Bean does not have the cover-boy good looks that bless the likes of Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck. But his cheekbones are chinselled to perfection, his sandy-coloured hair cut short, and his eyes deep blue.

He's also handsome enough to get up on the big screen, but not quite swoon-inducing enough to play the romantic Hollywood lead - yet.

Instead, he keeps getting offered the part of the baddie.

In Don't Say A Word he plays Patrick Koster, the mastermind behind a back robbert that's gone wrong, determined to find the information he needs at all costs. And in the Bond movie GoldenEye he played traitorous double-agent Alec Trevelyan.

Though Sean Bean might not have a Hollywood-style CV, he does have a Hollywood-style relationship history. With three ex-wives to his name, he's once again free and single, and willing to try the dating game. And he certainly doesn't rule out romance with actresses.

"It's difficult to meet someone in my job with all the travelling involved, but dating an actress does have its plus side!"

In truth, Sean already has some firsthand experience of this. Though his first wife, Debra Anderson, was his childhood sweetheart, he met his second wife, actress Melanie Hillat RADA. Then, when they split up he married his Sharpe co-star Abigail Cruttenden.

Sadly, their marriage failed too. So perhaps it's not surprising that he reckons the biggest downside to being famous is becoming public property.

"You know, with your private life being written up in the press you can't be as discreet about things as you would like to be. I'm not exactly doing anything I shouldn't, mind you, but if I wanted to I'd probablybe looking over my shoulder all the time!"

He quickly adds with a warm smile, "I can hardly complain about my job because I'm doing something I really want to do. I'm playing roles I want to play. This isn't something I could have imagined when I started working as a welder."

He grew up in a semi-detatched house on a council estate in Handsworth, Sheffield. At 16 he dropped out of school with two O-levels to his name and joined his father's business.

"I worked for my dad for about three years and I shovelled snow for the council for awhile, and it was then I realised I didn't want to be doing that for the rest of my life

"One minute I wanted to be in a band, the next an artist. Acting seemed to combine all of those things. Welding is like the opposite of acting really!"

Sea was accepted at the prestigous Royal Academt of Dramatic Art when he was 20. The day after he left, he made his theatrical debut as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, in Glasgow.

"I never really lost faith in what I was doing. My family were always very supportive." He adds.

He now has his own family and three daughters - Lorna, 14 and Molly, 10, from his marriage to Melanie and Evie, three from his last, brief marriage. And like any working parent, he finds it difficult to juggle family and his job.

He's just spent over a year filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand, in which he plays Boromir.

And he admits that the jet-setting world of a movie star means he misses his daugters - whom he jokingly refers to as his "netball team".

He also revels that being a father has affected his choice of film roles.

"I've plated villains in films, which they won't be able to see, so I'm trying to focus on branching out into less threatening roles so they can watch my work one day," he says. "I'm trying to find more humorous parts.

His roled as Boromir was quite a challenging one. "It was physically demanding because there was a lot of fighting - we seemed to be in combat all the time.

"Also I was in New Zealand for about a year. The cast and crew living in Wellington and became a close-knit group. We pulled together and created a world of our own but it's still a long way from home!"

He well remembers the say he recieved a call from his agent telling him he had won a coveted role in The Lord of the Rings.

"I was driving down the M1 with my kids at the time, and I sort of speeded up because i was so excited! This was a part I had really campaigned for."

If things did go to plan he hopes that bigger parts in bigger movies will keep coming his way. And if they do, will he settle down in LA, home of the stars?

"Not at all likely," he laughs. "I would miss my Henderson's relish on my fish and ships too much. It's a Sheffield delicacy and there's nothing likeit. I keep a few bottles in my suitcase and give them out to my co-stars as Christmas presents."

So you see, you can take the man out of Sheffield, but you can't take Sheffield out of the man!

The Lord of the Rigs is on general release and Don't Say a Word opens nationwide on January 4, 2002.

Sean on.. his twogreat passions.

I wish I could have done both acting and football like Vinnie Jones. He's done it right, although I don't think I'd have been good enough.

Sexual Politics

I believe a woman's place is at home, so I guess that means I am not a New Man.

Talking about Sean...

He may be a working class lad from the North, but underneath he's very sensitive and shy.
Debra Anderson, Sean's childhood sweetheart and his first wife.

After the initial stages of the break-up it's possible to be friends again. After 15years iwth someone, you always have a bond. We've got a friendship and we've also got our kids in common, which is a very important link.
Melanie Hill, Sean's second wife on building bridges after their divorce.

When I told peole I was going to work with Sean they said, "My God! You're so luck. He has such a huge appeal to women." And I think he's lovely - a very attractive bloke.
Abigail Cruttenden, wife number three, talking about meeting Sean. The couple are now divorced.
Woman's Own UK