|he northern terrier muses on fare-dodging, Choppers and the delights of Crimean vodka
Interview by Grub Smith
FHM: You're currently filming a TV show called Extremely Dangerous. Not exactly a gentle romantic comedy by the sound of it...
SB: No, it's a four-part crime thriller about a guy who's been falsely accused of murdering his wife and kid. He gets banged up for it, so he jumps off a train when he's being transferred to jail, and tries to prove his innocence while he's on the run.
FHM: Sounds very like The Fugitive...
SB: It's similar, I suppose, but this is much grittier. It was written by a guy who was in the SAS, so the action is pretty hardcore and realistic.
FHM: Were you polite to him on set?
SB: Oh yes. I'm not stupid.
FHM: Have you ever jumped off a train yourself?
SB: No, but I used to jump off those old open-backed buses when I were a kid.
FHM: To avoid paying the fare?
SB: No, for a dare, like. Mind you, I didn't need much encouragement, because we used to have this kid called Eggy who would spit on us. He'd sit at the back of the bus and cough up some green, and he'd flick it on our blazers. It took ages for my mum to scrub it off. He was a right dirty bastard, but he was a nutter so no-one ever took him up on it.
FHM: Do you ever see him when you go back home to Sheffield? Presumably, like most school bullies, he's now a fat alcoholic who cleans lavatories for a living...
SB: I hope he fucking is. The tosser.
FHM: Did you ever victimise anyone yourself?
SB: I used to go boxing at a place called Croft House, and I took it quite seriously. But I can only really remember hurting myself, especially on the punchball. I kept hitting the metal ring that holds the bag in place. It were agony.
FHM: Any other comical injuries?
SB: I used to have a Chopper, and I guess I fell off that a few times. And I had a Chipper too. You know, that was the smaller model.
FHM: Yeah, it was the girl's version...
SB: Was it? Oh well then, I never had one. Say it were my sister's.
FHM: Your dad was a welder. Did you ever put on his mask and pretend to be Darth Vader?
SB: No, I'm 40, so it were probably Dr Who enemies in my day, and none of them had faces like that.
FHM: You tend to be cast in action-packed, physical roles, but do you ever long to be cast as, say, a sensitive poet?
SB: I can never understand actors who do one thing then say, 'I want to do the opposite to prove how vast my range is.' I think, why? Just do what you want to do. I like villains, because they're interesting pyschologically. I've just done a film called Essex Boys, which is based on those three blokes who were shot in a Range Rover. You know, the drug dealers who got taken out in a lane.
FHM: Talking of violence, have you ever been thumped in the face during a fight scene?
SB: Yeah, I did a fight scene with this girl once, and she were that fast that she actually clocked me on the chin. I said to the crew, 'Did you see that? It must have looked brilliant,' but it were that quick that the camera never got it.
FHM: Now that you're famous, presumably there's some bloke who stands in for you and gets the crap kicked out of him...
SB: Um, there is one stunt double, but he always seems to go on holiday when I'm doing a film. Perhaps he knows what he's in for.
FHM: You played Andy McNab in Bravo Two Zero, which included some harrowing scenes of torture. What would make you talk if you were captured by the enemy?
SB: I don't like rats. They might do it.
FHM: How about the threat of anal sex?
SB: Hmm.. ooh... yeah, that would probably do it too, to be honest.
FHM: The last time you spoke to FHM, you said you'd eaten a dragonfly for a bet...
SB: Actually, I were going to ring you about that when the article came out. See, it wasn't a dragonfly, it was a daddy-long-legs.
FHM: .... and you also mentioned seeing Elizabeth Hurley's tits while filming Sharpe. Describe them for us using just three adjectives.
SB: Oh, no, I'm a married man now. I'd get into trouble for that.
FHM: You had a run-in for ABH in your hot youth. When you went up before the beak, did you wear a smart suit and beg for mercy, or did you front it out like a proper rebel?
SB: I wore a suit and tie. I was quite nervous at the time because I'd just got into RADA and I didn't want to mess up my big break. Mind you, the fellow I'd whacked didn't turn up in court. I think that helped my case.
FHM: Are you still nervously looking over your shoulder in case he tries for revenge?
SB: No, but I do get all these letters from a bloke who says, 'I remember you. You called me a twat in a pub. You and your mates thought that was really funny, didn't you?'. He even sends them recorded delivery. Very weird.
FHM: What holidays did you have as a kid?
SB: We used to get the coach to Spain every year.....
FHM: The coach? From Sheffield?
SB: Yeah, because my dad hated flying. He was terrified of it. It took about three days to drive, and we did it year after year. All you ever saw out of the windows was service stations and foreign motorways. I remember driving past Paris at five in the morning, and the driver woke us up on the tannoy to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, the Eiffel Tower is on your left.' I looked out all bleary-eyed and there was this tiny shape about eight miles away.
FHM: You spent six months in St Petersburg, a city which you subsequently described as 'pretty flat'. Are we to take it from this that you don't write very good postcards?
SB: Well, it was flat. Anyway, who wants to hear someone else bang on about their holidays? That's boring, that is.
FHM: What's the strongest liquor you've drunk?
SB: We filmed Sharpe in the Crimea, and some of the local vodka was very poor quality. If you drank it you'd just black out. One minute you'd be normally pissed, having a nice time, and then suddenly you'd find yourself waking up in the street the next afternoon. Bang, like that.
FHM: As an actor, you must spend a lot of time in hotel bedrooms. Ever been tempted to turn on the adult channel?
SB: No, not since I saw that Alan Partridge episode, anyway. The worst thing is when you think you've put the porn channel on accidentally. I mean you can't ring down and say I pressed the button by mistake, because they'll just laugh at you. And if you only have it on for a few seconds, they'll think you're a
premature ejaculator. It's a dilemma, that.
FHM: Are you ever tempted to 'play' your roles when in bed with the missus. And I refer here in particular to the gamekeeper in Lady Chatterley's Lover....
SB: Yeah, I know, all that 'We come off together that time, m'lady.' Hmm, maybe I have, because it's such an apt line. Well, occasionally it is.
FHM: You were present at the birth of your baby. Do you recommend the experience?
SB: Well, I can't watch those medical documentaries, the one where the camera goes up inside some poor bastard's guts, but it's different when it's your own kid. It's very moving. That said, I can't understand these blokes who video the whole event. I mean, when are they going to show it? You can imagine the child years later, sitting in front of the telly and thinking, 'Oh, there's mum's bits naked, and that's my head coming out of her.'
FHM: Apparently, your party trick is stubbing a fag out on your tongue. What's the secret?
SB: There's an area on your tongue that's quite numb, near the back-middle, and you swill a pool of saliva onto it before stubbing. It hurts like a bugger if you miss, mind.