Sean Bean does a very good bad guy. He was the avenging terrorist hunting Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and the dastardly 006 pitted against Pierce Brosnans Bond in Goldeneye, while in The Lord of the Rings his character Boromir turned traitor.
In real life he looks the part too: his unshaven, jutting chin and that slightly wild look in his eyes are intimidating even before he speaks in a broad Sheffield accent. In short he is probably not a man you would buy a motor off, let alone nick one from. But two years ago that is what happened when thieves stole his new Range Rover from outside his London home using a fishing rod to retrieve the keys through his letterbox. He was furious and you get the impression that given the chance he would have taken the law into his own hands.
The criminal justice system seems to be failing us in this country and thugs are walking away from court even before their victims have fully recovered, he says. It is hardly surprising to find some people taking things into their own hands.
Bean has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly and, at 47, seems free from the luvvie mannerisms that afflict many in his trade. He has been divorced three times. His first marriage was to a hairdresser from his native town, the second to Melanie Hill, an actress he met at Rada, and the third to Abigail Cruttenden, who played his wife in the television series Sharpe.
From these marriages Bean acquired three daughters and, perhaps unfairly, a reputation for being something of an unreconstructed chauvinist. Hill was quoted as saying he watched too much football, was always at the pub and left his clothes on the ground where they fell.
All of that is now behind him, as is his flirtation with expensive cars. Ive just bought a new Ford Ranger pickup truck, he says. Ive had Porsches, BMWs and Jags in the past. I got a bit tired of driving expensive cars that get scratched or nicked. In London all I really need is a runaround something cheap and cheerful. Now when I look out my window and see the dustbin men go past Im not so worried.
I wanted something practical and Im happy with it. Its a 2 litre diesel and its got four front seats so I can still get the kids in. Its anonymous and easy if I drive something too expensive Im only going to get spotted. If you have a well known face and you drive a flashy car youre asking for trouble.
Despite his portrayal of honest working-class lads his first memory of cars is of gliding about in his fathers Rolls-Royce. My dad set up a foundry with a colleague. At its height it was employing 50 people and he drove a Silver Shadow. The family never moved from the council estate where he grew up, despite their wealth, because they wanted to stay close to their friends.
Bean worked at his fathers foundry as an apprentice welder and took a welding course at Rotherham College of Arts and Technology, where he was drawn instead to the fine arts department and then into drama. He later went to Rada, where his first car was an MGB roadster.
In those days I really did care about what car I drove, he says. It was a thrill to drive a sports car and I fancied the wide wheels of a British MGB. I sold it after a year and got another one, a red 1972 model, but that was really the last time I thought about the glamour and romance of having a car.
Even when I bought my Porsche five years ago I was never into racing or putting my foot down; it was never important to me to show off at traffic lights. I only took it out 12 times. I did just 150 miles in it over three years you have to lie on the floor to get into them.
Despite his homegrown success in Sharpe and his role as Andy McNab in the film version of Bravo Two Zero his big break in the movies came when he was cast in The Lord of the Rings. Flying out to film in New Zealand cured him of a lifelong fear of aeroplanes, but not his more general aversion to flying. Unfortunately, given the remote locations they were required to get to, that could hold things up.
In New Zealand I wouldnt even get into a copter with the rest of the cast, he says. They had to wait for me to walk up the mountain and join them before they could start filming. I cant understand people who willingly take their lives in their hands and I think things like bungee jumping are just mad.
Beans latest film Outlaw sees him back on familiar form as a slightly psychotic hardman. This time he plays a vigilante soldier who, sickened by the rising tide of violence he sees on his return to England, takes the law into his own hands. Nick Love, the director, and Bean have history: Love unceremoniously axed Bean from a previous film some years ago.
When we met to discuss this film the first thing Nick did was apologise for firing me last time, he laughs. He said it was nothing personal and that he wrote this one with me in mind. He was lucky I didnt bear a grudge and tell him to sod off.
Thanks to Frances.
On his CD changer
I like to listen to classical music, a bit of David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, right, and Kaiser Chiefs.