I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to the variety of characters played by Sean Bean over the years, there’s a certain nursery rhyme that can be paraphrased to embody his career: “When he is good, he is very, very good and when he is bad, he is horrid.”
Despite his heroic role as Sharpe on television, and his recent appearance as the noble and conflicted Eddard Stark in Game Of Thrones, when it comes to the big screen, there’s no certainty as to his motives. More often than not, he shouldn’t be trusted.
In real life, of course, Sean Bean could not have been lovelier when we had the pleasure of interviewing him; softly spoken, shy, very accommodating and full of enthusiasm when talking about his friend and Lord Of The Rings co-star, Viggo Mortensen. This still means nothing to fellow DoG writer, Sarah Dobbs, who has been known to emblazon doors with signs reading ‘No Sean Beans allowed’ while maintaining that “He’s terrifying, and he’s definitely not allowed in my house.”
The spoilers start here, so if there are any Sean Bean movies you haven’t seen yet, now’s the time to look away, as the following will contain some of his most devious plots, betrayals and moments of downright meanness. We still love him though.
Don’t think he’s your friend – he really isn’t
When a movie starts and the headlined hero is seen to be in a close and trusting friendship with Sean Bean, it’s time to panic.
GoldenEye starts with the glorious sight of Pierce Brosnan fighting side by side with Bean’s 006, tempting the audience with prospect of a secret agent super team. Yet within mere minutes of appearing, 006 appears to have been shot and blown up, which as we all know is a fairly common practice for Bean. However, Bond’s chum has soon returned from the dead as Alec Trevelyan, with a disfigured face, a rather large grudge against queen and country, as well as a need to blow 007 to pieces and hit on the woman he’s trying to protect, whether she wants his advances or not.
Nicolas Cage also made the mistake of taking Bean with him on one of his loot seeking adventures in National Treasure, entrusting him not to want to steal everything for himself and certainly not leaving him in the middle of the arctic to die a fiery death. A mistake which also nicely ties into…
Don’t have something he wants – he will take it for himself
If there’s something shiny and precious, you’re probably best off just handing it over from the get go, or else things tend to get a little nasty. Poor Frodo Baggins is the obvious example in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring when Sean Bean, the hero of Gondor, attempted to take the one ring to use as a weapon in the fight against Sauron. I do love the character of Boromir, so thankfully for the most part he remains a hero and certainly fights to the end as one, but there’s something utterly tragic about seeing him lose control and pathetically fallen and dirty after he after he gives in to temptation. So naturally I blame Frodo.
Certainly Boromir had been warned that using the ring wasn’t a viable option, but who’s really to say that an empowered, invisible, sword wielding Sean wouldn’t have ended the war sooner? Plus if you’re going to flaunt something shiny in front of him and even drop it in the snow, what’s he supposed to do?
His determination to attain what he needs doesn’t just stop at threatening little hobbits either, he’s not above kidnapping children, while forcing codes out of the mind of a post traumatic stress sufferer locked in a sanatorium, as Michael Douglas found out in Don’t Say A Word.
Don’t let him lead a gang – he won’t do the right thing
If he can’t be trusted not to try and snatch a ring of power, then why would anyone let Sean Bean reach a level of authority and leadership? Not long into the quest in Christopher Smith’s bleak and brutal Black Death, where paranoia and religious fervour are rife, the ragtag band of miscreants led by Bean encounter a woman being accused of witchcraft by rowdy villagers. Bean’s Ulrich strides towards them with every intention of rescuing the damsel in distress, but his actual solution? Kill her. There’s an element of compassion and to be fair he is described as ‘more dangerous than pestilence’ but it’s certainly not the heroic resolution that’s expected.
There’s also the small matter that being a religious zealot and leading a spiritual war against suspected supernatural forces, aren’t necessarily the best qualities when it comes to making the right decision, even when other peoples’ lives are at stake. If you let Bean lead your gang, you really are taking your life into your own hands, as if you cross him, or take a second to think about his own mortality rate, the outcome will still be the same.
Just ask Luke Goss in Death Race 2 – he thinks Sean Bean is his friend and is a part of his team, which is a double no-no. One botched bank job later and you’ll find yourself in prison, fighting for survival in a futuristic and deadly TV show, and Bean will still try to kill you on top of everything else you’re facing. He’ll swear too, like a sailor, and probably smash things.
Oh and if he does let you into his gang, for goodness’ sake don’t sleep with his wife. (Essex Boys)
Don’t forget to do a background check
If you let Sean Bean into your gang/group/fellowship he will ruin it for everyone, that much is guaranteed, but at least make sure you do the background check first. In Ronin, a greatly underappreciated action thriller (which features one of the greatest car chases this side of Bullitt) Bean is recruited into rather fine group of guns for hire, that include Robert De Niro and Jean Reno. Surrounded by such manly man, SB has no choice but to talk himself up at any opportunity to try and assume the alpha male role, but his insecure peacocking turns out to be entirely unfounded.
After rubbing De Niro up the wrong way and trying to assume control, Bean’s true character is revealed after the shit hits the fan and the bravura gives way to vomiting, which is swiftly followed up by a swift kick to ego and dismissal.
Always check his references.
Never pick up strangers, especially if they’re Sean Bean
Obvious really, I shouldn’t have to tell you that.
If he says he’s a doctor, he means a doctor of death
Poor, innocent Ewan McGregor in Michael ‘Boom’ Bay’s The Island. Faced with so many questions about his life, he unwittingly bestows his thoughts and questions to Dr Sean Bean right from the start. That Bean is wearing glasses should be enough to make McGregor suspicious, but his sheltered life from the outside world means that Bean has little choice in his role as confident and doctor, than to have Ewan chopped up for spare parts.
Yes, sure enough, when Bean is given a doctorship in the medical profession, it’s in slicing up people for their organs. I bet he doesn’t even know if they’re clones or not. The real moral issue that The Island raises isn’t about the advancement of science, the transfer of the soul, or the nature of individuality, it’s about how many clones they made of Sean Bean and whether they’re all as evil, or more evil than the original.
Don’t kill his brother, obviously, even if you’re both Indiana Jones and Han Solo
Now Harrison Ford might have thought that, after playing the two of the greatest cinematic heroes the world has even known, he was absolutely in the right to open fire and come to the rescue of the Royal Family. The problem is that sometimes heroic behaviour will result in angering The Bean and that’s never going to end well.
In Patriot Games, Sean Bean/Miller (they didn’t even bother to change his first name) is more than a little upset after his little brother is blasted by the meddlesome Ford and sets about trying to murder him and his family, even crashing the car that Ford’s wife and daughter are in – no one is safe from the rage of Bean. Rather foolishly his gang then decide to question his rampage, so he kills them too, because as we’re more than aware by now, that’s how he rolls.
Don’t be sassy. Or a prostitute. Or a sassy prostitute
He will punch you in the spine. (see: Cleanskin)
Don’t trust that he will always be evil
By far the most cunning of all his traits, just when you think you know every aspect of his evil ways and spend the entirety of Flightplan shouting at the screen that Sean Bean obviously kidnapped Jodie Foster’s daughter (he has form after all), it turns out he is just a pilot. Even as the final credits were rolling, I still refused to believe that Bean had been nothing more than a red herring, and to this day I’m still waiting for the sequel so that his real plan can be revealed.
Certainly, he played one of my favourite heroes of all time in Troy, but was underused and then after many rumours of a big screen adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, in which he would star, nothing happened. Which is just plain mean.
Curiously, his role in the original Silent Hill was only added after the studio requested a male presence in the film, though I’d always assumed that he would play the lead role if it was an adaptation of the first game, but the parent seeking a missing daughter was of course played by Radha Mitchell. Here’s hoping that Bean has a more substantial role in the forthcoming Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, which under the directorial control of Brit Michael J Bassett, could be something quite special, as I have always championed his last movie, Solomon Kane. Bean’s involvement in the demonic doings remains to be seen.
Still, you can’t really blame Bean for his darkness and unique brand of evil. Just look at his fate in Equilibrium – he discovers poetry and feelings, and is rewarded by being shot in the face by Christian Bale…
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is released on 31st October.
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