Fans catch a glimpse of Sean Bean on his travels

04 June 2008 By Nick Ward

BEAN there done that. It seems wherever you go these days there's a chance of bumping into Sheffield actor Sean Bean.

First the Hollywood hunk turned up in Derry, Northern Ireland - then lo-and-behold he was spotted in York. Mr Bean was in Derry with Blades biographer and fan Dr Gary Armstrong to track down relatives of the former Sheffield United legend Billy Gillespie and while he was there he called in at the Brandywell to see the Derry City versus Cork City game.

The Lord of the Rings actor waved to fans at the ground before travelling to the local museum with Dr Armstrong where he handed over the shillelagh weapon he used in the 1990 film The Field.

Gillespie, from Kerrykeel in Donegal, played for United between 1913 and 1932 and was then Derry manager until 1940. During his time at Bramall Lane Gillespie helped the Blades win their last major honour - the 1925 FA Cup.

Dr Armstrong, a Brunel University lecturer, said: "There's only one link that we know of between Sheffield United and the Candystripes of Derry City. "Billy Gillespie, who was from Donegal, played for Sheffield United for 20 years and then went to Derry City as player-manager.

 "He took a Sheffield United kit with him, so you have the replication of Sheffield United in red and white and the red and white of Derry City."

Just days after Sean's Northern Ireland visit film fans in York spotted him walking alongside the River Ouse with American actor Sam Neill. The pair are in town as the filming gets underway for a £17 million TV series of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by US production company NBC.

The pair, who starred in blockbuster movies Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park respectively, were filming scenes in a boat on the Ouse and then later shot footage in the Guildhall.


Sean's Bean to the Brandywell!

By Laurence McClenaghan

Having helped save middle Earth as Boromir, defended England on the seven seas as the lead in 'Sharpe', tried to kill James Bond as 006 agent Alec Trevelyan, taken Harrison Forde to task in 'Patriot Games' and assaulted Troy as Odysseus, the only place left to visit for English actor, Sean Bean was obviously Derry's Brandywell Stadium.

The football-loving actor who sat in the stands for the Candystripes' game against Cork on Sunday evening was in town to promote the links between Derry City and his beloved Sheffield United. Sean took time out of his busy schedule to speak to the 'Derry Journal' prior to the match.

"Well, I love football, but to be honest, I don't really watch any other teams unless they are playing against us, so I don't know that much about Irish football," he said. "But I realised that this is a great story and it is good that football can bring people together. Sheffield's last FA Cup win was in 1925 and they were captained by a Donegal man, Billy Gillespie, who went on to manage Derry, so it is a very interesting story and I thought it was exciting to acknowledge and explore that especially as they now both play in red and white. It is very kind of Derry to invite us here to mark the links between the clubs."

While football is a recurring theme for Sean it is his acting which has made him a household name. Having shot no less than 80 movies since debuting in 1984's 'Winter Flight' I ask at which point did he realise acting would be his 9 to 5? "I suppose when I got accepted to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) I knew this is what I was going to do. I had wanted to be a musician or draw and paint as an artist but I stumbled across acting. I knew it was something I could channel my energy into. It always felt comfortable. After getting the letter of aceptance I was very lucky in that I had no doubts, getting that letter was an incredibly thrilling experience. I am very proud to have studied there and continue to be associated with RADA."

Sean returns to the theatre periodically, most recently as the lead in 'Hamlet'. "That is something I'd like to do more of this year or next. The thing about theatre is that it takes you out of the loop for six to nine months, so you miss other work, but we are always reading scripts and looking for the next project. It is all about the script really. "As an actor you want to work with directors who are intelligent and dynamic but it is all about great characters."

Intelligent and dynamic sums up the cast list from Sean's own career as he's worked with, among others, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Jodie Foster, Ken Russell, Peter Jackson, Nicolas Cage, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Eiljah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Brad Pitt, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris, Robert De Niro and Jean Reno.

"When you say it like that, it is an impressive list," reflects the affable Hollywood A-Lister, with an unassuming proud smile. "It is a great profession when you get the breaks," he says almost shyly, "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."

'The Field' Sean worked with Harris on the Irish classic, 'The Field' and the two men were commemorated on an Irish 32p stamp. "That was very flattering and totally unexpected, not too many actors can say they are on a stamp!"

Having starred in James Bond's 'Golden Eye', and in 'Lord of the Rings' the part which continually challenges Mr. Bean is the role of Richard Sharpe. Paul McGann had originally been cast in the role before an injury ruled him out of the project.

"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." With the new latest instalment, 'Sharpe's Peril', due on our screens this autumn what can fans expect? "This one is more melancholic than the others. Sharpe has retired and is travelling across India when they come across a group of people who need help.

The producers didn't want to do the same thing again so he is more of a reluctant hero in this one. Add to that the fact Sharpe is thinking more and more about his daughter and you see the complexities he faces." Finally I ask the Blade-loving English man, who'll he be cheering on this summer since his country have failed to qualify for Euro 2008? "Good question," he remarks and much debate between Gary and Sean is concluded by agreeing to cheer on Portugal.

"There are a lot of Portugese where we live so, that is where the most crack will be." Sean returns to our screens as Sharpe and as Robinson Crusoe's father in 'Crusoe' this autumn.


Actor celebrates Derry City link

There were 2,000 fans at Derry City's Brandywell ground for the match on Sunday evening but, the game aside, all the attention was on one man.

Actor Sean Bean - the star of the Sharpe television series - was there to celebrate the club's little-known links with a team close to his heart. A lifelong Sheffield United fan, Bean said he had always wanted to see Derry City play because of the Candystripes' unique connection with his own team.

"Billy Gillespie, who played for Sheffield United for 20 years, then went on to manage Derry City in 1932. "It was quite unusual, bucause as part of the deal, Billy Gillespie, who was from Donegal, had to bring a kit with him. "So it's by virtue of his presence at Sheffield that the red and white colours were adopted for Derry City, and that's the link between the two," he said. Bean said the link between the two clubs meant he had always taken an interest in Derry City

"I find it very flattering for the sake of Sheffield United, and I suppose something catches your eye with the red and white stripes. "When I was at the match I was thinking I was at Bramall Lane for a bit."

But it wasn't just the hometown connection that made his visit to the Brandywell so memorable. "Football is immensely important to me. "I remember my Dad took me along when I was six or seven - it was winter, the floodlights were on, and there was a great atmosphere, and as a boy you're quite knocked out by that.

"What I can see about Derry City is that it's grounded in community, and it's something that people are very proud of. "You hear so much now about the trouble in football, about the financial situation, the power and sometimes perhaps the greed, and it's good to see friendship in football. "Coming here, it takes me back to what it's all about."

'True supporter' Bean said that, for him, his trip to Derry City had been a real stroll down memory lane. "This is what football's all about. "It's nice to have a big ground and glass windows and director's boxes, but it's when you get down to the grass roots and the nitty-gritty, that's when it gets you in your heart. "That's where you find if you're a true football supporter or not," he said.


Sean Bean visits the Brandywell Monday, June 02, 2008

Hollywood actor Sean Bean was today set to present a piece of movie memorabilia to the Tower Museum after witnessing Derry City's shock Eircom League defeat against Cork City at the Brandywell.

Bean has been staying in Londonderry in a bid to track down relatives of a former footballer at his beloved Sheffield United with friend Dr Gary Armstrong. The Lord of the Rings actor waved to fans at the ground, only to see Cork leave the Candystripes stunned after fighting back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2.

Sharpe star Bean will today hand over the shillelagh he used in the 1990 film The Field to Mayor Drew Thompson, on his last day in office. Dr Armstrong is the author of 'Sheffield United: The Biography' and the pair are coming to see the home of one of the Blades' legendary players, and to see if they can track down any surviving relatives. Billy Gillespie, from Kerrykeel in Donegal, played for United between 1913 and 1932 and is credited with giving Derry their candystripes.

Gillespie was Derry manager from 1932 to 1940, but before he was part of the team that won the Blades' last major honour — the 1925 FA Cup. Dr Armstrong, a Brunel University lecturer, said: "There's only one link that we know of between Sheffield United and the Candystripes of Derry City. "Billy Gillespie who was from Donegal played for Sheffield United for 20 years and then went to Derry City as player/manager. "He took a Sheffield United kit with him, so you have the replication of Sheffield United in red and white and the red and white of Derry City."

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