THE MIGHTY BEAN

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Daily Mail October 31

  

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A very nice net review : contains spoilers though !

http://british-tv.suite101.com/article.cfm/tv_preview_sharpes_peril_itv_1

 

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A Collection of Magazine Scans for Sharpe's Challenge

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Sharpe's back to add spice to India.(News)

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England); 4/22/2006

Sean Bean stars in Sharpe's Challenge on ITV1 tomorrow and Monday

Nearly a decade after Sean Bean's big break as rugged swashbuckler Sharpe, the star says he was delighted to dust off his sword and get back in the saddle to reprise the role that kick-started his Hollywood career.

"Just doing the role and getting the opportunity to play that kind of leading character has always been something that has stayed with me because it made such a huge impact on my life and my career. Sharpe was something that never really went away," says the 47-year-old.

"When we finished filming it was the end of that era, culminating in the Battle Of Waterloo, and I think we all felt that we had gone as far as we could at the time.

"But I think we always believed that there was a lot of potential still there and many more stories to be told ( it was just a matter of when and how we were going to present that," he explains, absentmindedly stroking the crew-cut he's sporting for his role in new US horror film Silent Hill.

"When we started talking about Sharpe's Challenge I immediately felt thrilled and excited again. I had a gut feeling and I wanted to be back in the game as it were, especially with the same team. It was just like coming home," he beams.

Picking up where Richard Sharpe's story left off in the wake of Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo, Sharpe's Challenge begins with frightening tales of of a bloodthirsty Maharaja who is threatening British interests in India.

There is only ever one man for the job of course, and as the life of a general's daughter and the fate of the British Empire hangs in the balance, a nervous Wellington dispatches Sharpe to investigate what turns out to be his most dangerous mission to date.

"It was strange on the first day. I think, if you've played a character for a few years, you always think that you'll just drop back into it but it took me a few days to acclimatise to the part," says the Sheffield-born actor.

"It's quite a bizarre feeling bringing him back to life, but I really enjoyed filming. I think it's probably the best we've done because we were so unrestrained in India," he explains, adding that making both feature-length episodes in majestic Rajasthan inspired the whole cast.

"The backdrop of India is really quite magical and it just gave it a whole new feel. Historically what happened with the East India Company in 1815 and the various rebellions at the time is true, so it all made sense.

"I think we captured the scale, light and grandeur of it all, and it's not very often that you see this kind of look on television these days. We had hundreds and hundreds of extras, camels, elephants and ox carts so it certainly had a film scale to it.

"We worked hard, but had such a great cast and crew that we really enjoyed ourselves when we finished work ( as you can imagine," he laughs.

It wasn't all fun and games, though. Being a Northern lad at heart, Sean makes no bones about the fact that he sometimes really missed traditional British grub.

"We ate at least 15,000 curries during filming ( I mean, I like curries but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then Fray Bentos sent me over a box of meat pies which was great," he says. "But the local people looked after us really well and I'd love to go back again because everybody is so welcoming and so positive. It was a real breath of fresh air."

Although he performed all of his own stunts in Sharpe's Challenge, the closest he'd been to horse-riding in recent years was jumping out of a wooden one in Troy. He admits that he had to brush up on his equestrian skills.

"We did quite a bit of sword work before we went out to India and I'd done some for Lord Of The Rings and Troy as well ( it's something that I've kept in with ( but the horse-riding I hadn't done for ages.

Sean confesses he has a soft spot for Sharpe's famous green jacket, even going as far as to keep the original jacket in his wardrobe.

"It was a great feeling putting the uniform back on, and the one that I originally had I'd kept in my wardrobe, along with my sword. I wore it a few times, but had another one made as well. I don't usually go around dressed like that by the way," he insists.

Much as the thrice-divorced actor loves his work, he says he has always found it hard to be away from his three daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 15, and seven-year-old Evie.

And of course his beloved Sheffield United FC, which he has been devoted to since he was in short trousers, also guarantees he will never be away from the UK for too long.

"Everyone knows I love The Blades, but I don't just go up there for that ( I do see my family as well!" he laughs.

COPYRIGHT 2006 MGN Ltd.

 

Looking Sharpe Sean

Sunday Mercury

04-23-2006

Looking Sharpe Sean
Byline: ROZ LAWS
Edition: FIRST
Section: Features

HE may be approaching 50, but Sean Bean can still cut it as an action hero.

Eight years after he fought his last battle, the actor has been persuaded to revive the character of swashbuckling soldier Richard Sharpe.

One of the attractions of Sharpe's Challenge (ITV1, Sunday and Monday) was filming in India, although the food made him ill. After eating hundreds of curries, he was delighted when Fray Bentos sent him a Red Cross parcel of a box of meat pies.

He was able to don Sharpe's original dark green jacket, which he'd kept in his wardrobe at home - just another reminder of the series which shot him to fame.

"Sharpe has always stayed with me because it had such a huge impact on my life and my career," says Sean, 47, who has been divorced three times and has three daughters.

"When we finished filming, I think we all felt that we had gone as far as we could at the time. But we always believed there were more stories to be told. When we started talking about Sharpe's Challenge I immediately felt thrilled and excited again. It was just like coming home."

The action picks up in 1817, two years after Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo. Sharpe is retired but takes up his sword again at Wellington's request.

He's off to India to save his old friend Pat Harper and to quell a rebellion led by renegade soldier William Dodd (Toby Stephens as a great pantomime villain).

He also has to take on a bloodthirsty Maharaja who is threatening British interests and rescue the inevitable damsel in distress.

The feature-length episodes boast hundreds of extras and even elephants and camels.

"It's quite a bizarre feeling bringing Sharpe back to life, but I really enjoyed filming," says Sean.

"The backdrop of India is really quite magical and gave it a whole new feel."


(Copyright 2006 Birmingham Post and Mail Ltd.)

 

Life at the Sharpe end
Published on 25/04/2006

IN THE past few years British actor Sean Bean has barely stopped working.

He’s starred in one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and in the past year alone he’s made four back-to-back movies.

But far from being driven by fame and fortune, the 46-year-old says his workaholic tendencies stem from a fear of being unemployed.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that long ago that the offers dried up for the talented actor after a stint playing TV swashbuckler Sharpe.

“It was only back in 1999. I’d finished Sharpe and it was really hard to get work after that,” he recalls. “I was out of work for almost a year. Basically I’d been typecast, people only saw me as him.

“It was a very difficult time in my life and it really got me down.”

In the end the Sheffield born star was forced to leave Britain and head for Hollywood – a result which more than paid off.

Almost immediately, he landed himself a starring role as Boromir in the phenomenally successful The Lord Of The Rings, and has worked solidly ever since and with some of the biggest names in the business, such as Jodie Foster in Flightplan, Ewan McGregor in The Island, and Charlize Theron in the recent Oscar-nominated North Country.

But despite settling in sunny LA, the down-to-earth star remains patriotically committed to his Sheffield roots. The northern accent is broader than ever without even the merest hint of a transatlantic twang.

And recently he proved his passion for his beloved Sheffield United football team by becoming a director of the club. He even has the team’s logo tattooed on his shoulder.

Though he admits his first goal was always to play for the football club, Sean eventually set his heart on becoming an actor – a decision which clashed with his working class background.

“Where I come from it was regarded as a bit fairy-ish, sort of poncy thing,” he says laughing. “I worked at the same steel works as my Dad and was a pretty average sort of welder. I just felt there was something else, but the reaction was quite strange when I told him I wanted to be an actor. I think he was quite confused by it.

“But I didn’t really care, I felt so secure with it. And it was good-humoured as well. I can still go back home and they take the piss, you know. I’d rather have it like that than people be too reverential. I can go home and I can just be with my friends and mates and I can relax with them. It’s like I’ve kind of gone full circle really.”

After a spell in the theatre, Sean landed parts in hit movies, such as Patriot Games and The Field and became a huge sex symbol with his starring role in the TV drama Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Despite being naturally shy, he’s become one of our favourite baddies, with villainous roles in movies including Goldeneye, Ronin and Essex Boys.

Recently, though, the star says he prefers to play characters who are a little less psychotic, such as his latest movie The Dark.

Although the film is a horror flick, Sean’s character James is a normal down-to-earth guy and the actor couldn’t be more relieved.

“It really is nice to play just an ordinary guy,” he smiles. “I do like playing villains but it’s nice to have a break from that. James is a very free-spirited sort of guy. He’s a sculptor and interested in very artistic things. He loves to be on his own in the wilderness.”

Filmed in the Isle of Man and based on a Welsh novel, called Sheep, by writer Simon Maginn, the movie stars Sean as a recently separated man who moves to Wales to find solace.

But when his wife Adele (Maria Bello) turns up with their 12-year-old daughter the family are suddenly plunged into a nightmare world of evil and demented sheep!

“Yes, it’s true,” laughs Sean, “Weird things happen with the sheep, it’s all very strange.”

Despite the bonkers flock, the actor admits he was so freaked out by the script he didn’t dare read it at night.

“I started reading the script at 6pm and it got towards the end and I was going to read it in bed but thought I better read the next bit tomorrow morning,” he says looking a little sheepish himself.

“It was getting very scary and weird and I thought, I don’t want to go to sleep with those images in my head. It’s a very strange story and that’s why I like it.”

Another reason he was drawn to the role was it gave him a chance to film in the UK and be near his children.

The devoted dad has three daughters, Lorna, 18 and Molly, 14, by his second marriage to actress Melanie Hill, as well as seven-year-old Evie by his third wife Abigail Cruttenden, and says the hardest part of his job is being apart from his kids.

“My only real regret in life is being away from them as much as I have been,” he says. “My children come across to the States as much as possible and when I get home I spend a lot of time with them. But I miss them.”

It looks like the busy star will be continuing the jetsetting lifestyle for some time to come. He’s more in demand than ever and back on our screens again in a one-off TV film of Sharpe followed by another horror movie, later in the year, Silent Hill.

And then of course, there’s the football fixtures.

“Football is a constant in my life,” he grins. “It’s always there for me.”

Vital statistics: Sean Bean

Real name: Shaun Mark Bean

Birthdate: April 17, 1959

Significant other: The three times divorced actor is now dating actress Georgina Sutcliffe

Career high: The emotionally torn but rather lovely Boromir in Lord Of The Rings

Career low: A year-long spell out of work after Sharpe ended in 1999

Famous for: His one true love – Sheffield United. Sorry girls...

Words of wisdom: “When I started acting, I got called a bit of a fairy now and again. But I suppose that’s just to be expected, you know.”

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/nightlife/viewarticle.aspx?id=359150

 

Sharpe still cuts it

On a sweltering set in India, Sean Bean tell Karen Hockney why he decided to revive the role that made his name

It is 80 degrees in the Samode Valley, in Northern Rajasthan, and Sean Bean is leading a tired column of soldiers across the desert towards an isolated fort. Inside, dozens of extras dressed as villagers and soldiers mill about beside small fires, while horses, camels and goats stand tethered at open stalls.

The camp is taken by surprise when a renegade regiment arrives and opens fire without warning. As the shots ring out and bloodied bodies fall in the sand, Bean springs into action, rifle-butting and shooting enemy soldiers before being shot and wounded himself. So begins Sharpe's Challenge, the 15th television adventure based on Bernard Cornwell's bestselling historical novels, the cornerstone of which is his portrayal of Richard Sharpe.

Filming in India means 4.30am starts for the 46-year-old Bean who, despite the early call, is looking his rough-and-ready best in a scarlet military jacket, dusty white breeches and black boots. His take on Sharpe's appeal is simple: "All the guys on this love the action stuff because you can't do it in real life."

His screen roles have tended to be rough diamonds and anti-heroes. His Mellors in the BBC adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover caused Middle-England outrage at the graphic sex scenes with Joely Richardson, and he held his own as the avenging terrorist hunting Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and as 006, the rogue agent who battled Pierce Brosnan's Bond, in Goldeneye.

Sharpe is no exception: a soldier who is loyal and unwavering in his duty but also prepared to bend the rules to cut a better deal for himself and his troops. In short, an officer who inspires respect from men, and the desire to tame him from women.

An intensely shy man, Bean, too, has a reputation as a loner, something the actor feels he doesn't really deserve: "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."

His bluff northern exterior, fanatical devotion to Sheffield United Football Club (he sports a Blades tattoo and confides: "I'm still passionate about them. I've been listening to their games on the internet,") and broad Yorkshire accent shore up his public image as one of Britain's most famous working-class outsiders.

Yet the truth is more complex. Bean is the son of a Sheffield steelworker, but his father also owned the local factory where Sean was an apprentice welder for a while. "I suppose we were working class, but we drove to work in a Silver Shadow," he recalls. "We'd get in the Rolls-Royce. I'd put me steel-capped boots on, stop at the top of the road, get the Daily Mirror and jump back in the Rolls. It was quite bizarre."

On leaving RADA in the early 1980s, he built a solid career with roles in the big-screen thrillers Ronin, Don't Say a Word and Bravo Two Zero, in which he played the SAS hero Andy McNab. But it was the troubled warrior Boromir in The Lord of the Rings that propelled him into Hollywood's inner sanctum. Now he gets first look at films such as North Country opposite Charlize Theron, Troy with the likes of Brad Pitt, Flightplan alongside Jodie Foster and the thriller Silent Hill, released on Friday.

"I've been really busy in the past two years and I've managed to diversify," he says as he sips at a pint of beer that he's somehow acquired as protection against the Indian heat. "Before that, there was a point when I wasn't really doing anything, I was just playing bad guys every now and then. The trouble is, I play them well so you keep getting asked to play them again! Then things started changing with The Lord of the Rings."

That he should return to the small screen for ITV1's Sharpe's Challenge after an eight-year break is perhaps surprising, but it's indicative of his down-to-earth attitude that he holds the television series that made his name in such high regard.

In another echo of Sharpe, Bean's loner status extends to his romantic life, too. He has been married three times, to childhood sweetheart Debra James, the actress Melanie Hill and his Sharpe co-star Abigail Cruttenden, but is currently living a nomadic life between his home in Hampstead, North London, and Los Angeles. It clearly suits him, although he tries to spend as much time as he can with his three daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 14, and Evie, 7.

"I have been on the road for 18 months of the past two and a half years," he says. "It is hard on family life. It would be nice to take a break because I've been working non-stop and I feel a bit weary."

He has been dating Georgina Sutcliffe, a 27-year-old bar worker, since last summer and, from the way he talks, guardedly yet faintly embarrassed at the idea of sounding offish, there's no indication that he is planning to settle down again.

"I see Georgina from time to time but we don't live together," he mumbles self-consciously. "It's hard when I'm away, but I think she and my kids understand that. It's part of my job."

His pursuits away from work also point to a more sensitive side. He is at his happiest pottering about in his Hampstead garden, or reading Oscar Wilde. "I might go to my local for a pint, but I'm not the kind of guy who is out every night partying," he says. "It's too knackering. I love losing myself in books and an early night."

Sharpe's Challenge, Sunday & Monday, ITV1, 9pm.

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22877-2139473.html

 

He is quite possibly the greatest swashbuckler Blighty has produced, and now Sharpe’s back. But a lot has been going on with Sean Bean since he last donned the famous outfit.

What made you come back to Sharpe after all these years?

It’s always been something that has been with me because it made such an impact on my life and my career.

When we finished Sharpe’s Waterloo, it was the end of that era and I think that we all felt that we had gone as far as we could to make sense at the time. It seemed a natural conclusion to round it off there. But I think we always thought that there was a lot of life still there and a lot of potential and it was a matter of when and how we would present that.

So when we started talking about it again, immediately I felt very excited – I had a gut feeling that it was right and it was something still within me.

Was it difficult getting back into the saddle, as it were?

Me and Toby did quite a bit of sword work before we went out to India but I’ve done quite a bit over the years what with Lord of The Rings and stuff so it’s something that I’ve kept in with.

I hadn’t really done any horse riding. I did a bit on Troy but only really trotted down and then got off and I jumped out of a wooden horse. I suppose I did a bit on Lord of The Rings but that was only a trot, so the last time I did any was about ten years ago.

I don’t know if you ride, but you don’t tend to forget it and I really enjoyed it.

I think you always think that when you’ve played a character for a few years you can just drop back into it, but it took me a few days to acclimatise.

Did you ever worry about being type-cast as Sharpe?

I think people saw me as Sharpe because it was successful and good. I think there was an element of type-casting because people weren’t offering me stuff that wasn’t about soldiers. So I spent quite a bit of time off – I did bits and pieces – but it wasn’t for a bout a year that I started working properly.

After Lord of the Rings I went to America. I think I had to get away from England really. That sometimes happens with actors over here – not many people know who you are but they give you a chance. Over here, you get people doing things like Four Wedding and a Funeral and that sort of stuff, and they say ‘we’re not seeing Sean Bean – he played Sharpe’. So you get that kind of snobbish attitude.

Did the old costume still fit?

Yeah. The one that I had originally I kept in my wardrobe – along with the sword – and I wore it a couple of times. But the boots still fit and everything so I could have literally gone out of my house and turned up in India and started work. I don’t usually go around dressed like that.

It’s a good feeling putting the uniform on and getting the sword. We had a really good time out there – socially as well as working. India is a fantastic place to be – it was magical.

How long were you out in India for?

I don’t know – fifty or sixty days? But we worked hard – six days a week. We had such a great cast and crew that we enjoyed ourselves when we finished work as well.

Did you get a dodgy belly while you were out there?

No, they do good curries out there – we ate a lot of curry! And I like curries; I just don’t like them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think I ended up getting chicken and chips by special order.

But they looked after us very well and I would love to go back there again. But there were a lot of curries.

Is it hard being away from your family while you’re working?

Yeah, it can be. It’s always difficult being away from family for a long period of time. But they’ve got quite used to it now because I’ve been doing it ever since they were little.

When we started doing Sharpe I’d go over to the Crimea in August when it was nice and sunny and then wouldn’t see them until Christmas Eve. That was pretty tough. But it does balance itself off – I go away for a few months and am then around for a while.

Have your daughters shown any interest in acting?

A little bit. My middle daughter has done a lot of work with a theatre company. I think she’s got a certain level on interest. The eldest one is interested in music and the youngest one is just…young.

How would you feel if they did go into acting? Would you be nervous?

Not really. I think it’s quite a good thing to go into. I think the people in it are good and they care about what they do and care about each other.

The disappointments aren’t good and the let-downs aren’t good, but that just depends on how hard you take it. I think generally there’s a lot to be gained from it.

What kind of characters do you like to play best?

I don’t mind, really. I like playing villains – I find them very rewarding and you can push the boundaries a bit and get away with a lot of stuff.

But it’s good to play the opposite of that. When I did North Country it was a good diversion for me and it was very refreshing to play someone with more compassion. But he was still quite a hard guy!

Is that what you’re like in real life?

A hard guy? Not really. I can be I suppose, but I’ve got a soft underbelly. I’m fiercely loyal to the things I believe in if that equates to being hard. But I’m not the sort of person who goes around thumping people by any means…unless they’re Leeds United fans!!

---
Sharpe's Challenge is on Sunday and Monday on ITV1 at 9.00pm

http://www.itv.com/page.asp?partid=5670&pos=2

 

April 22, 2006
 

Blades fan Sean sharpens his bayonet

(Coventry Evening Telegraph Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)PLAYING rugged swashbuckler Sharpe kickstarted Sean Bean's Hollywood career nearly a decade ago.

Now he is dusting off his sword and getting back in the saddle for Sharpe's Challenge on ITV tomorrow and Monday.

"Just doing the role and getting the opportunity to play that kind of leading character has always been something that has stayed with me because it made such a huge impact on my life and my career. Sharpe was something that never really went away," says the 47-year-old.

"When we finished filming it was the end of that era, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo, and I think we all felt that we had gone as far as we could at the time.

"But I think we always believed that there was a lot of potential still there and many more stories to be told - it was just a matter of when and how we were going to present that."

He beams: "When we started talking about Sharpe's Challenge I immediately felt thrilled and excited again. I had a gut feeling and I wanted to be back in the game as it were, especially with the same team. It was just like coming home."

Sharpe's Challenge picks up the story of the adventure in the wake of Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo. It sees Richard Sharpe in India on his most dangerous mssion to date.

"It was strange on the first day. I think, if you've played a character for a few years, you always think that you'll just drop back into it but it took me a few days to acclimatise to the part," says the Sheffield-born actor.

"It's quite a bizarre feeling bringing him back to life, but I really enjoyed filming. I think it's probably the best we've done because we were so unrestrained in India." It wasn't all fun and games, though. Being a Northern lad at heart, Sean makes no bones about the fact that he sometimes really missed traditional British grub.

"We ate at least 15,000 curries during filming - I mean, I like curries but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then Fray Bentos sent me over a box of meat pies which was great," he says.

"But the local people looked after us really well and I'd love to go back again because everybody is so welcoming and so positive about their life and work. It was a real breath of fresh air."

Although he performed all of his own stunts in Sharpe's Challenge, the closest he'd been to horse riding in recent years was jumping out of a wooden one in Troy. He admits that he had to brush up on his equestrian skills.

"We did quite a bit of sword work before we went out to India and I'd done some for Lord of the Rings and Troy as well - it's something that I've kept in with - but the horse riding I hadn't done for ages.

"In Lord of the Rings I did a bit of riding, but mostly just plodding on to set. I hadn't cantered or galloped for about eight years.

"I went to a farm for some practice and thought I'd fall off, but it is just like riding a bike, as everyone says. I remembered where the all the gears were - and the brakes," he grins.

Sean confesses he has a soft spot for Sharpe's famous green jacket, even going as far as to keep the original jacket in his wardrobe at home.

"It was a great feeling putting the uniform back on, and the one that I originally had I'd kept in my wardrobe, along with my sword. I wore it a few times, but had another one made as well. I don't usually go around dressed like that by the way," he insists.

Much as the thrice-divorced actor loves his work, he says he has always found it hard to be away from his three daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 15, and seven-year-old Evie.

"They've got quite used to it now because I've been doing it ever since they've been little," he says.

"Starting with the very first episodes of Sharpe, I used to go over to to the Crimea in August and then I wouldn't see the girls again until Christmas Eve. It was 16 weeks on the trot for three years so that was pretty tough.

"But it sort of balances itself out now - I get back and I'm usually off for a few weeks and we spend a lot of time together.

"Now, I try to get them to fly over to LA or I get back and have breaks in between so they don't miss me and they can see me every so often."

And, of course, his beloved Sheffield United FC, which he has been devoted to since he was in short trousers, also guarantees he will never be away from the UK for too long.

"Everyone knows I love the Blades, but I don't just go up there for that - I do see my family as well," he laughs.

http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2006/04/22/1597441.htm

 

Source : The Yorkshiretoday.com

As Sharpe returns to our TV screens this weekend,

Chris Bond talks to novelist Bernard Cornwell about his most famous creation.

WITHOUT wishing to incur the wrath of the lifestyle police, it's true to say there were only two things that would keep me out of the pub on an evening during my student days.

One was illness and the other was watching Sharpe – Sunday evenings on ITV, if my memory serves me correctly.

Essay deadlines could be extended with a bit of know-how, and a spot of cramming usually took care of exams.

But if you missed an episode of Sharpe that was it, hardly anyone had a video recorder and 10 years ago freeview boxes, and repeat viewings on digital channels, were little more than a twinkle in father technology's eye.

Of course, it wasn't just students who found themselves hooked on Sharpe's swashbuckling adventures.

The TV series gripped the nation and at its peak more than 10 million viewers tuned in to see Sean Bean performing heroics against the French.

Such was its popularity that last year, nearly a decade after the last episode was made, Sharpe was among the top 10 favourite ITV characters chosen by viewers over the last 50 years.

Like all good programmes it had authentic settings, a sublime cast and, above all, great storylines.

But long before he made it on to our TV screens, Sharpe had gained a huge following through Bernard Cornwell's best-selling books.

It is more than 25 years since Cornwell sat down and began writing about an English soldier called Richard Sharpe who rises through the ranks during the Napoleonic wars.

Since then he has written more than 20 books chronicling the heroics of rifleman Sharpe.

It has proved to be the highlight of a prolific career that includes The Starbuck Chronicles, set during the American Civil War, and his Grailquest trilogy.

It is for Sharpe, though, for which he is most renowned, and his fascination with history dates back to childhood.

"I was an avid consumer of historical novels, going back to my school days, and I couldn't imagine writing anything else," he says, speaking from his home in the United States.

He moved to the US with his American-born wife and it was there that he began writing the Sharpe books.

"They are a rip-off of Hornblower really. There were a lot of people writing historical novels at the time but I was amazed that no one was writing about the army," he says.

Although he admits he isn't sure exactly how the character came about.

"There were just two things I knew about him," he claims. "I knew he had come up through the ranks, as I felt that made him a more interesting character, and I knew he was a rifleman.

"I laboured under the misapprehension that this would give him more room to manoeuvre, when I probably should have made him a redcoat."

Cornwell is equally vague about why he gave him a Yorkshire connection – Sharpe flees from London at the age of 13 after murdering a man.

"It was a terrific choice, because then Sean Bean came along," he says.

Although Bean doesn't quite fit Cornwell's description, the author says he couldn't imagine another actor playing him.

"I think he is terrific. Okay, he doesn't have black hair but that doesn't matter and I think the highest compliment I can pay him is that when I'm writing Sharpe now, I hear Sean's voice, I don't hear the voice I originally heard," he says.

Cornwell has nothing but admiration for the TV series which returns with a two-part special, Sharpe's Challenge, this weekend.

"The TV series was excellent, it really was, and Pete Postlethwaite playing Hakeswill, he was much better than my Hakeswill," he says.

The 62-year-old author isn't the only one pleased to see Sharpe back on our screens.

Nearly a decade after Sean Bean last played the character who helped to kick-start his Hollywood career, the Sheffield-born actor says he was delighted to dust off his sword and get back in the saddle.

"Just doing the role and getting the opportunity to play that kind of leading character has always been something that has stayed with me, because it made such a huge impact on my life and my career.

"Sharpe was something that never really went away," says the 47-year-old.

"When we finished filming, it was the end of that era, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo, and I think we all felt that we had gone as far as we could at the time.

"But I think we always believed that there was a lot of potential still there and many more stories to be told – it was just a matter of when and how we were going to present that," he explains.

"When we started talking about Sharpe's Challenge I immediately felt thrilled and excited again. I had a gut feeling and I wanted to be back in the game as it were, especially with the same team. It was just like coming home."

Picking up where the story left off, in the wake of Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo, Sharpe's Challenge begins with frightening tales of a blood-thirsty maharaja who is threatening British interests in India.

There is only ever one man for the job, of course, and as the life of a general's daughter and the fate of the British Empire hang in the balance, a nervous Wellington dispatches Sharpe to investigate, on what turns out to be his most dangerous mission to date.

"It was strange on the first day," says Bean. "I think, if you've played a character for a few years, you always think that you'll just drop back into it, but it took me a few days to acclimatise to the part."

For Cornwell, too, Sharpe is never far away from his thoughts, even when he's working on other books.

The key to the books' success, he believes, is in the storytelling, and he doesn't harbour any literary pretensions.

"I think there is a divide, even if it's blurred at the edges. Literature tells you something about the human condition but if you're writing a story, that's it. I don't think Sharpe has any insight into the human condition," he says.

He has nearly finished his latest Sharpe book, Sharpe's Fury, which is due to be published in October.

But he admits he has no idea how many more there will be.

"When I finished my 11th, I said 'that's it', but since then I've written another 10, so I have no idea how many more I'll do."

He has made his name writing historical novels, so is there a period of history he hasn't tackled yet that he would like to?

"I was incredibly struck by Juliet Barker's Agincourt, and I think something could come out of that," he says.

In the meantime, he's got the world's most famous rifleman to think about.

 

Egg, chips and Bean is the perfect menu

13-April '06 Daily Express

None of that foreign muck for Sheffield lad Sean Bean. When the rugged actor, 46, filmed the latest Sharpe drama in Jaipur, India, he insisted on being provided with traditional British grub rather than sampling the local spicy cuisine. "It's in my contract that I get Western food, not just curry at every meal," he says. "I make sure there are eggs, chips, bacon and beans available."

After a break of eight years Sean is reprising his role as the heroic captain. In this installment Sharpe must fend off the advances of a scheming femme fatale played by Padma Lakshmi, Salman Rushdie's sultry wife.

"I get to ride horses, I get to fence and I get to kiss beautiful women," he says. "It's not such a bad job." All that and chips with everything, too.

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