by Deborah Joseph
After three marriages, you'd think Sean Bean would be over women. But in an unusally candid moment he tells Deborah Joseph there are at least three members of the opposite sex he can't live without.
Sean's in chilled mode, padding round his Dorchester hotel room in scuffed boots, shaking his head at the images of war on the TV.
"God, what's going on in the world makes me so angry," he says, narrowing his eyes. "We're fed information and no one knows what's true and what isn't. We're just expected to accept what the government tells us!" It's an uncharacteristic outburst from a man who's notoriously laid-back. "Do you think I'm laid-back? Oh that's good - but believe me, there are definitely things that make me angry."
Sean Bean is a man of contradictions. A true gent on the one hand, he orders, then pours me a beer. He chuckles politely, even when I ask questions he doesn't want to answer (anything to do with women and his three ex-wives). Yet there's something about the inscrutability of his eyes that hints at the darker side often reflected in his work.
He's a performer of bad boys and heroes in equal measure. On the hero front, he became a national star as the uniform-clad soldier in the period drama Sharpe, and smouldered as lothario gardener Mellors in Lady Chatterley. But he's also oozed evil as the disfigured turncoat who challenged 007 in Goldeneye, played a concinving IRA psycopath battling Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and a kidnapper in the upcoming Don't Say a Word with Michael Douglas. And now, in the extraordinary Lord of the Rings, he plays hero Boromir alongside Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett.
The three spent a year together filming in New Zealand. "They're great women," he says. "Liv is very bright and funny. But mainly I hung around with Viggo [Mortensen, who plays Aragorn in the film]. We clicked straight away; we have a similar attitude to life."
His choice od roles - often sexy and dangerous - have given him a sex-symbol status that's made him the subject of tabloid gossip. You can see why. He looks much younger than his 42 years and his eyes have a sexy, lived-in appeal. However, with three failed marriages behind him, his love life has been tumultuous. The first was to his childhood sweetheart Debra James - rumour had it they split because she didn't want to move to London. His second marriage to ex-bread actress MElanie Hill, who he met at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), ended acrimoniously in 1997 amid rumours of his laddish behaviour. They have two daughters, Lorna and Molly. And his third marriage was to another actress, Abigail Cruttenden, whom he met on the set of Sharpe. They split during his year away in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings and have a daughter, Evie.
Though he's not willing to be drawn on his marriages, he does say, "It's just about balancing the good and the bad. I've definitely been inspired by my wives and have taken away good things from my marriages." Such as? "Abigail had a very different upbringing to me and I think we opened each other's eyes to the way different people live."
He's single at the moment and lives alonf in Hampsted, northwest London - unless he has his daughters staying. Does he like being a bachelor? "Yeah, I don't mind it." Is he a dab hand with the cleaning? "Well, no one likes doing the cleaning, let's face it!"
For Sean, though, washing up is especially problematic. If a knife falls on the floor, he can't pick it up because of a strange supersition he's inherited from his father. "I'm really weird about it," he confesses. "The knife stays there until someone comes round and they have to pick it up for me."
Does he still believe in marriage? "Not really. But I've never once thought, 'God, I'm never getting married again; it's been really awful'. I've got three great girls, so I wouldn't say I'd never do it again."
What does he look for in a woman? "It's too obvious to say the physical. It needs to be something deeper." He pauses, obviously finding this question difficult to answer. "I like femininity. And gentleness."
It's too much of a cliche to pass his off as a working class hero just because he's northern. Sheffield born, he turned down the opportunity to work for his father's welding business to train at RADA.
"I was always a rebel," he admits. "I must've been to just leave everything and move to London to study acting and ballet. I always felt there was more out there. I'd wanted to be a footballer, and a pop star. I used to play guitar in a band with a few mates. I was a big fan of Lou Reed and David Bowie. I dyed my hair red and used eyeliner... but I never wore lipstick. Ever."
Unlike many of his peers; he has no issue with where he came from, and although he doesn't ooze money or flashiness, nor is he ashamed of where he is now. "I'm just lucky I'm paid well for doing what I
love," he explains.
"But that doesn't mean I want to show it off." So what's been his biggest extravagance? "When I first made a bit of money about 15 years ago I went out and bought myself a Jaguar. My dad drives it now, but I got my BMW nicked the other day so he's lent it to me until I get a new car. It feels weird driving it again."
Sean may have left Sheffield a long time ago, but he once said the experience of scoring for his team Sheffield United, in the drama When Saturday Comes was better than sex. When I ask him if he had to choose between football and sex, which would lose out, I finally get a real insight into what makes him tick. "Football. Definitely football." He snorts, as though me thinking he'd really give up sex for anything is the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard. Forget the speculation about his love life; the one headline he couldn't live with is 'Sean Bean would give up sex for football'
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