Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Bean
Interview with Sean Bean
by Marco Spagnoli
He's a very busy actor and most of the time he plays the baddie, above all Boromir in the Lord of the Rings, Alec Trevelyan in 007 Goldeneye. With North Country things seem to have changed, he's not playing a baddie anymore, but instead a very positive character at the centre of a story in which men are certainly not shining.
Born in Sheffield in the UK, Bean is also among the protagonists of Silent Hill, based on the favous videogame and directed by Christophe Gans (Le pacte des loups).
After Flightplan you've finally become good on screen: in this movie, despite a certain ambiguity, you bring to life a positive character...
He's a man who has evolved compared to his co-citizens. His sensitive and compassionate nature enabled him not to give in to the collective blackmailing of the whole community, and instead listen to his own conscience.
I think that North Country is an excellent chance for me to break with what I've done before and show another side of my acting. And it was very interesting to explore a true story in which the women become the victims of a series of harrassement and shame perpetrated by their male colleagues.
You have worked in the steeling factory of your father before becoming an actor. Did this movie bring you back to that time?
In a certain why yes. Sheffield was a city that heavily relied on the steel business. My father was a supplier and so - after school in the early 70s - I stopped by at his office to visit and work a bit to learn the job. It was a male environment: there weren't any women, and when a woman walked by there was a lot of whistling and calling, as if they'd never seen one before...but it was innocent. When I went to Minnesota for the movie I recognised many traces of behaviours I had experienced in my youth.
The difference is that - now - there are also women
Exactly. Something that thirty years ago would have been unthinkable in Great Britain. Obviously not because it was wrong, but simply because no one could have foreseen that women would have been able to do those jobs considered strictly for men, sometimes even better than them.
North Country is then also very intersting from a socio-historical point of view
In a certain way, although very dramatical, it's the story of a cultural innovation. And it's known that people are afraid of transformations and changes. And on top, this was happening in a very cold industrial region. But despite the fact that some of these people have commited grevious wrongs, I have a lot of respect on the human level for the people who live in those lands. They know what survival is - and most important - they have a great sense of humour. There's a great warmth there, similar to the one in my hometown.
What do you think of the discriminations?
What worried me most was the cynism of those who pretended to be protecting the women, when behind their back they would encourage the harrassment and the hostile atmosphere. These are shameful behavious, but it would be wrong to assume that they're limited to certain kinds of jobs. This kind of situation is not uncommon in our world. These are things that happen in Hollywood as well, but they are more sneaky and willingly hidden.
How much courage is needed to "break" the silence and stand up?
A lot. And it really depends on how much motivation one has. Of course life is much simpler if you keep your mouth shut, but the strength of the movie is exactly this. The most dramatic scene of the movie is the one when the women testify not in favour of their colleague, but against her. This gives a sense of a much deeper and intense drama than what first meets the eye, in which the victim - for fear and disperation - becomes the tormentor...it's the dramatical representation of the banality of evil