And I Quote

On growing up in Yorkshire

“I wore similar outfits to Bowie. The truth is, I was a clone. I dyed my hair red, wore jumpsuits and big stack heels decorated with stars.”

“People in Sheffield thought I was a poof. A weirdo. Which encouraged me to do it even more. I risked getting my head kicked in for a while, but then glam rock became more mainstream and dyeing your hair, wearing make-up and dressing up became more acceptable.”

“I got a proper licence for it, trained it, let it fly free. Like Billy Casper in Kes, I wanted to be with the bird all the time. I used to pretend I was in the film…”

“My family thought the fascination with acting was just another fad.”

On Life

“I’m still an ordinary Yorkshire lad and like to do ordinary things like shopping in Sainsbury’s. I’ve never forgotten my roots. I still have a taste for Newcastle Brown Ale. I still like to go to the pub.”

“I put quite a few trees in last autumn. A lot of silver birch and a couple of native trees – just generally doing gardening, putting plants in and hedges in. It takes quite a lot of time and I love it.”

“I’m usually catching up on things I should have been doing while I was filming – a pile of mail and bills. I like reading. I like watching a lot of sports on TV – football, boxing. I like cricket a lot. I try to get down to Lords to watch Yorkshire if they’re playing down there.”

“I bought a Jaguar when I was 28. I’d always wanted one. I had it for years, then my friend had it, then my dad had it. It was a good workhorse. I got my money’s worth from it and gave it a respray.”

“I’m not really a suit man. I only wear them for important occasions, such as
being in the directors’ box at Sheffield United or presenting an award at the Brits.”

“I like my own company and I like time on my own, but I’m not a hermit. I do like other people’s company, too.”

“I might go to my local for a pint, but I’m not the kind of guy who is out every night partying. It’s too knackering. I love losing myself in books and an early night.”

“I’m still Sean that me mates went to school with, not Sean the film star. And that’s the way I prefer to be.”

“No. (Laughs) I saw it in the shop the other day with one of my daughters and I went, ‘Wow, there’s that game.’ She said, ‘Yeah, everybody’s heard of that.’ I’m not very good with stuff like that, computers and games… Just something I’m not very good at. My daughters, they know all about it, which is quite good [for] our audience.”

“A common misperception of me is… that I am a tough, rough northerner, which I suppose I am really. But I’m pretty mild-mannered most of the time. It’s the parts that you play I guess. I don’t mind it. I’m not a tough guy. I’d like to act as a fair, easy-going, kind man at some point.”

On keeping up with family

“I go to see my kids in school plays, … I watched Lorna in a concert at the Westminster College of Music the other day and it was amazing. I felt very proud and surprised. I don’t know why I was surprised, because I’ve known her for 17 years, but I’ve never seen her do anything like that in front of an audience. It’s brave, it’s uplifting.”

“Kids are a great leveler. They put things into perspective. I’m
pretty easygoing as a dad. You have to give people a bit of leeway and
let them make their own way through life.”

On turning Fifty

“I’m not really thinking about my birthday as a big event. I’m OK about it. Does it make much of a difference? It’s what’s going on in your head that reflects on your outer appearance. And I look OK, don’t I? I’m still a natural blond, no sign of grey hair…”

On Acting

“I had no intention of being an actor. I was quite good at it. I was pretty capable at other things but never any good at anything.”

“It is a great profession when you get the breaks, but it is about the stories we tell more than the cast who tells them.

“I suppose that of all of them the chance to work with Peter O’Toole is the one I’m most grateful for. He has always been a hero of mine, such a powerful actor full of exuberance. He was just fascinating to watch, he uses every part of his talented body to dredge every ounce of truth to a performance with seemingly minimal effort. It was great that he lived up to the expectations I had of him, and that we got on together. I really enjoyed working with O’Toole, John Hurt and Richard Harris.”

“I think everybody’s got different methods of working which suit the particular individual. Mine is to sort of play the part, and give 100%, to concentrate and focus on it while I’m actually working, but then leave it behind until the next day.”

“I think that you always have something left, that you take something of the character with you.”

“Oblivion is something unique, an entertainment experience unlike anything I had seen before. I decided this was a project I really wanted to work on creatively, and I hope fans of the game enjoy the results.”

“I sort of leave the character at the end of the day. I don’t carry anything around with me – no excess baggage or unnecessary thoughts. I think it’s too exhausting to do that. To put things into perspective – your work is your work, and your leisure time is something else.”

“I sometimes find that playing the bad guy, or villains, or psychopaths tend to be much more psychologically rewarding. And you can really push it, you can push the limits, and get away with it.”

“That’s the thing about Brits; they have the grounding in the classics and theatre, … That’s why we’re good. We go to America and people respect that because we’ve been through the theatre, we’ve made discoveries and also made our mistakes there, and that’s a wonderful environment to be in. By the time you start to make television and films you’ve got some experience behind you, an anchor. All those things, when you put them together, give you a certain amount of confidence and a certain belief in yourself, and the ability to adapt and change to some of the different roles you play. You need to be a good actor to play a villain, and we’re always getting cast as villains because we play them well.”

“If you have a very good concept of your character, you can snap into it.”

“I don’t think I’d be very good in a Richard Curtis film. I’ve always been drawn to characters that are a bit strange and weird.”

“When I was doing Macbeth, I missed a huge chunk of a soliloquy. I came offstage saying: ‘That’s the best it’s ever gone’ and was told I missed three-quarters of the speech out. Corpsing is also a terrifying feeling – I did that in Macbeth, too. When something is so horrific it can turn into hysteria, which turns into uncontrollable laughter.”

“When we met to discuss this film the first thing Nick did was apologize
for firing me last time. He said it was nothing personal
and that he wrote this one with me in mind. He was lucky I didn’t
bear a grudge and tell him to sod off.”

“006 was such an interesting character and the film really explored his friendship with Bond and how it all went wrong, so it was a very personal journey for both characters.”

“I’d been trying for a while to get parts that weren’t just the English bad guy, so it was quite refreshing to be playing someone who was a compassionate, decent guy.”

“There’s a wealth of literature out there which, hopefully, will be, you know, exploded in the future, and I personally find it very rewarding to be involved with classic storytelling, and sort of legendary characters.”

On filming in the Arctic

“The Arctic is one of those places you see on television but you can only really appreciate when you get there.”

“The novelty is OK for a week, but when it gets to week three and the isolation is still the same then that is when you really have to dig deep and find out what you’re all about.”

On Lord of the Rings

“I’m proud of Lord of the Rings. I think it’s a once in a lifetime role, and a once in a lifetime film. It was made with so much care and passion and meticulous detail and everybody was so behind it.”

“Everyone was very deeply involved in the world of “The Lord of the Rings”. From the wardrobe department to lighting, all were fascinated with the story. This is something that does not happen usually.”

“Lord of the Rings was something I always wanted to do. I read the book when I was about 25, and I was always hoping if it was ever made into a feature film that I would be involved in some way. And then I finally got it, and I was over the moon. It was fantastic news.”

“I think I was the only one in The Lord Of The Rings who stayed in hotels for a year. Everyone else had houses or apartments. You just don’t have to do anything, do you? You just do what you want and they come and clean it up.”

“Lord of the Rings was just so much enjoyment. It was over about the space of a year that I was filming. It’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done, so emotional.”

On Sharpe

“Sharpe is my favorite role of all that I’ve played. He’s a very complex character. He knows that he’s a good soldier, but he will always have to fight the prejudice of aristocratic officers because of his rough working-class upbringing. On the battlefield, he’s full of confidence – but off it, he is unsure, a bit shy and ill at ease.”

“I had three days to prepare, then I was flown out to somewhere in the South of Russia and we started. I haven’t really looked back since. I’m happy to continue to do it when the material is so good. Once I got into the role, that was it. It really is one I’ve grown into after I found my feet. “I never thought it would run as long as it has though.”

“Yeah, the director, Tom Clegg, says ‘stand here’, and I’m thinking ‘hang on there’s some bloody semtex about to go off’ and he’ll say ‘you’ll be alright’. It’s not even tested, you don’t rehearse it, and it just goes BANG!”

“When I first finished Sharpe, it was hard to get work, because people only saw me as him,” he says. “It was the same with Catherine Zeta Jones after The Darling Buds of May. In Britain, people can be so snobbish; they have favourites. I had to go to Hollywood to recharge my career. There they give you a chance.”

“I still have to crack the French market, though that isn’t entirely surprising considering that the Sharpe novels are endless tales of French defeat.”

On playing The Hitcher

“But because I was doing such wicked and horrible things to people it was nice to
have a bit of a joke about in between, otherwise you would go absolutely mad.”

“At the end of the day I’d have a few beers, play some music and smash up me
hotel room.”

On Red Riding’s John Dawson

“I got to drive a Jensen Interceptor, which is a very cool car. The only problem was that it was quite old so it leaked when it rained. And it seemed to pour with rain every scene I was in the car. I got constantly drenched.”

“The scripts were dark and perverse. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s oppressive from the very start. It’s one of the most horrible stories I’ve ever been involved with. But very rewarding. We didn’t get paid much because the money went on the screen, but nobody was bothered.”

“It was a very sociable set. Normally I keep to myself the night before a big scene, but it was hard to stay off the booze on Red Riding because of all the northern actors. Peter Mullan, Warren Clarke and I – we all like to drink. And sometimes it’s good to have had a few because it takes the edge away if there’s a difficult scene the next day.”

“I find playing the bad guys very interesting. But it depends how it’s written – I’ve played bad guys in the past who are one-dimensional but in this case he’s a very complex, troubled soul and that’s what I find exciting.”

“He has humour and charm but is a very troubled man underneath with a lot of guilt and anxiety.”

“It’s difficult to sympathise with him, but you’ve got to like him in order to play him otherwise he’d just be a monster. He is a monster but I’ve got to like that monster.”

About his costars

“There was good chemistry between us and I think we formed a good partnership together, with her being the gutsy, working woman and me being the sort of guy who stays at home mending watches and evolving into another level of man, as it were.” (on Frances McDormand, North Country)

“I’ve always admired the way she approaches her work. She seems to underplay things in such a believable way, and she’s also a wonderful person, very realistic, down to earth and genuine, and I thought she played the part beautifully.” (on Frances McDormand, North Country)

“The idea is that Jodie Foster is with her child and she’s going back to New York from Germany with her husband’s body. She loses her child on a plane, and you think, ‘How can that happen?’ There’s no record of her having brought a child onto the plane, and the captain is left wondering about whether she’s telling the truth. You never really know if she’s telling the truth or not.” (on Jodie Foster, Flightplan)

About the female sex

“You never understand them and you never really know how things are going to turn out, you have to live day by day. I just like the fact that I’m fortunate to be in a situation where my life changes quite a lot. Sometimes they might not be great changes, sometimes they are but at least it’s never unexciting. There’s always something happening.”

“Thank God men and women are so different. That’s the excitement. That’s what make’s them so irresistible.”