Sunday Mirror 2
05 February 1996
Photographer: Alan Olley
IN HIS LATEST FILM, PREMIER HUNK SEAN BEAN FINALLY ACHIEVES HIS CHILDHOOD GOAL - TO PLAY FOR HIS BELOVED TEAM, SHEFFIELD UNITED
Sean Bean has played Mellors, the obliging gamekeeper in Lady Chatterley's Lover; the arrogant rapist Lovelace in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa; and got to grips with Elizabeth Hurley in his persona as Sharpe, the derring- do Napoleonic rifleman. And in his new film, When Saturday Comes, he scores again. But this time with a football.
Sean Bean says he isn't really acting in this movie. He says that ever since he was a little lad all he wanted to do was score a winning goal for Sheffield United - and in When Saturday Comes, he does.
Apart from Mellors and Sharpe, Bean, 37, is of course most
recently known as the baddie
Just as his dreams seem to be within his grasp, he blows it all by getting drunk the night before his trial with Sheffield United and letting down his pregnant girlfriend by sleeping with a stripper on the same night. It is now up to him to fight for a second chance with both football and romance.
Like Jimmy Muir, Bean was born in Sheffield. Like Jimmy, he didn't know what to do with his life. Where Jimmy finds his escape through football, Sean took to acting as a way out.
However, Bean keeps hisroots firmly planted in Sheffield soil. He still talks in the deep, rich accent of Sheffield and the slogan of Sheffield United, "100 per cent Blade", is tattooed across his shoulder.
His favourite Saturday is still spent at a United home game with his old mates, and then in the pub, celebrating or commiserating.
"It isn't just the football match, it's the whole day out, really," he says. "Getting up there, having a laugh on the train with the lads, meeting in the pub for a beer, going along to the match, and then coming out and going to the pub." Yes, Sean Bean can come across as the completely unreconstructed Northern bloke.
"Football is a man's game," he says. "Though women are getting more interested in it now, and they enjoy the matches just as much as we do, but it's a man's game for all that. I hope it stays that way - otherwise it will get like American football, where they bring their families and have hamburgers and everything, and that would spoil it for me."
Football has been as close to Bean as his skin. He knows the aspirations of Jimmy Muir as if they were his very own. He once got his mum to play the whole of a radio commentary on a United match through the phone to him in the Ukraine, where he was filming an episode of Sharpe.
"When I was little, I fancied myself as a professional footballer. It's every young lad's dream," he says. "But different things happen to you as you grow up, and I became more interested in acting and painting and drawing." At 16 he applied to and was accepted by RADA. He was in the same year as Kenneth Branagh.
"Football wouldn't have suited me, really. You have to be totally dedicated to the game. You have to train a lot and give up all those evenings during the week - and I was never very good at sticking with anything."
In fact, both Bean's family and his old mates were surprised when he did stick with acting. "They thought I was just messing about as usual when I told them that was what I wanted to do," he says. "But it suited me very well. The roles I got were very diverse, and I enjoy that more than anything."
Hence his delight at playing Jimmy Muir. It also gave him a chance to work with his wife, Melanie Hill, who played Adeline in Bread and Jimmy Nail's sister in Crocodile Shoes. She plays his sister, while his nephew, Daniel, plays a fan, and most of his Sheffield mates got together to join him in pub and nightclub scenes as extras, and cheer him on as United supporters in the football scenes.
"We spent the day filming drinking scenes in a pub - and then in the evening we all went out for a real pint in a real pub," he says.
Bean is uncomfortable with the image of showbusiness glitz and almost deliberately shuns it. He and Melanie recently moved to a larger home in north London with their two daughters, Lorna, eight, and Molly, four. Why? For the proximity to other superstars? For its glamorous design? Er, no. He particularly liked the house because it had enough space for a workshop in the garden.
Recently he gave his Jaguar car to his father - and his father gave him a welding outfit. Sean was delighted.
"I've always envied Fred Dibnah, that steeplejack who had the TV series," he says. "He has this workshop full of tools and machinery. There's nothing I like better than locking myself away in my workshop and making something. Welding a little horse for the kids or making something for the house.
"It's just nice to relax, to do something I can concentrate on that isn't acting. The trouble with me is that once I'm in there, I don't want to come out. Melanie comes and shouts that I'm wanted on the phone, and I say: 'Is it my agent? Tell him I'm busy.'"
Surprisingly, for a man who seems so firmly rooted in the present day, Sean's favourite roles have been historical ones.
"I really enjoyed playing Lovelace in Clarissa," he says, almost sheepishly. "And I love doing Sharpe. We did three more episodes last autumn, and we're planning a full-length film this year, in which we see Sharpe first meet Hakeswill, his greatest enemy, in a dungeon in India.
"The role I've always wanted to play is Horatio Hornblower. I love sea stories but I don't suppose I'll ever get to do this one. The expense of filming it at sea would be too much. He's a great character, though. Those sea stories are full of wonderful characters."
Sean Bean sounds wistful. Perhaps when he's playing all those hard men, he is not entirely acting. As he says: "You have to have it inside you before you can bring it out and show it on screen."
Source: The Compleat Sean Bean
Source: The Compleat Sean Bean
THE LAD'S DONE WELL
He's already made his name as a Hollywood player but with his new film, When Saturday Comes, Yorkshire heart-throb Sean Bean has returned to his native town and his first love - Sheffield United FC. Here, he shows a clear pair of heels to Craig Fitzsimons.
Sheffield lad Sean Bean, the man whose name means "old woman" in Irish, might seem to have everything in his favour - he's one of the most accomplished and respected British actors in Tinseltown, his career shows no sign of slowing down, and it has to be said that he's a fairly handsome swine. But unbeknownst to his American audiences, he hides a deep, dark secret.
It is this. Are you ready?
He is a lifelong Sheffield United supporter.
Why? How come? What has he got to say for himself?
"I've supported them a long time," he confesses, "well, since ah were about seven years old, y'know, me dad supported them, and so did me grandad. I didn't really have much choice in the matter."
With a background like that, Bean's latest role is quite literally a dream come true. In Maria Giese's new football feature, When Saturday Comes, Bean plays a part which might easily have been written for him - as Jimmy Muir, a working class Sheffield youngster with a passion for pints, birds and nights out with the lads, whose overwhelming ambition in life is to play for Sheffield United. In a finale so formulaic Roy of the Rovers would have rejected it, Jimmy realises his dream, pulling on the red-and-white-stripes and coming on at
half-time to overhaul a two-goal deficit and propel Sheffield to a last-minute victory over Manchester United.
"Aye, it were fuckin' brilliant," he smiles, "A great feeling. It was shot at half-time during the actual game, we played United in the Cup last January. Ah were supposed to be workin' on the James Bond thing (Goldeneye, opposite Pierce Brosnan) but it didn't start early enough, so ah managed to get up to Sheffield at half-time to take penalties in front of 25,000 people. It was amazing."
So does he get back to Sheffield much?
"Yeah, a fair bit, when I can...obviously I can't w0hen I'm working, but whenever I'm between jobs, I get back there quite a bit. I only go up for the weekends, really, and usually by Monday and Tuesday I'm off back down to London again, so I do quite a bit of boozing. It';s my perfect weekend, really, goin' out on Sunday and havin' a few pints, goin' to see the match and then havin' a few more pints, then Sunday dinner, then goin' out and havin' a few more pints (laughs)."
Coming from a blue-collar town that, for all its charm, has become something of an industrial wasteland, did Bean ever worry that he'd share the fate of WSC's Jimmy and end up working in a factory?
"I went to work with me father just after I left school, in a factory...a steel factory. I once worked at Marks & Spencers, cutting the cheese in the delicatessen, and I lasted about four hours. I think I came home at lunchtime, cause I just couldn't stand the smell, it were absolutely disgusting. I worked for the council, cutting hedges, laying paving-stones and stuff like that. And I had some good times there, but I didn't really want to do it for the rest of me life, so I got into Art College and it had this acting course attached to it, and from then on I just stuck at it." Did this lead to much of a slagging from your mates? "Yeah, occasionally, especially when I started acting. I got called a bit of a fairy now an' again, but I suppose that's just to be expected, y'know, it was a bit of an unusual thing to want to do. If it had been the other way round, I probably woulda done the same meself."
Having established acting as his passion, Bean enrolled at the world-famous RADA school in London and never looked back. Does he remember his time there fondly?
"Aye, I had a great time there, y'know, it taught me how to get on with other people from different walks of life - well, you have to get on with them, seeing them day in and day out. I also learnt a lot there, with living away from home - which I'd never done before, I'd never left Sheffield really for longer than a weekend - so being down in London for two years was obviously a bit of a wrench."
One of the striking things (no pun intended) about Bean's performance in WSC is this. He looks like a very handy footballer. Is it something he would have aspired to as a kid?
"Aye, ah played when ah were a lad, an' I used to love it. An' then after school it sort of wore off a bit, what with doin' other things, goin' out, meetin' girls, goin' to pubs an' stuff like that. I have played since for pub
teams now an' again, but it were never something I were good enough to pursue as a career. I sussed that out pretty early on."
At this point, producer James Daly (another Sheffield lad), whose brain conceived the whole project and whose wife Maria Giese directed the movie, points out: "Sean was perfect, 'cause it's hard to get an actor who can play football, especially in Hollywood. That was why it was difficult to get the film off the ground."
Sean continues: "It was difficult for us to do, cause we'd only got so much time, we were workin' on a low budget, it were startin' to get dark early what with being the winter, and so everyone was rushing. We had to get the moves and passes and everything right the first time, which is pretty difficult. It felt really strange sliding on me arse in a muddy pitch in the middle of a Yorkshire winter, which is probably as far removed from Hollywood as you can get. But it was refreshing too, y'know, just to be back in my hometown doin' something about a kid from Sheffield. I'd always wanted to do something up there, specially a feature film, so that was really the perfect opportunity."
Bean speaks glowingly of most of his co-stars, from The Field's Richard Harris ("very passionate about his work, I learnt quite a bit from him") to new 007 Pierce Brosnan ("great to work with, a real nice fella"). He becomes more cautious on the subject of Emily Lloyd, who plays his Irish girlfriend in When Saturday Comes.
"I think we both had different approaches, but...eh...I think our love affair had quite a warm feeling to it, y'know. In the midst of all this masculinity and boozing, it were a nice sensitive side, it came across quite well. (pause) She'd been in Hollywood ten years, I think this was her first British film comin' back, and it was difficult for her. I think it was quite a big jolt, like you said earlier, finding herself in a Sheffield industrial estate in midwinter. It's a very bad place, Hollywood, or it can be. It does funny things to your head if you're there too long, if you're not careful."
Daly, a Hollywood resident, elaborates. "I've lived in Hollywood for twelve years, so I know it inside out. There's a lot of backbiting and petty rivalries. Too many egos. I mean, Sean's above all that - it stands out in his acting, he's straight-on, down-to-earth, no bullshit. Whereas over in America it's 15, 20, 30 takes, they spend two hours in make-up (long pause)...just all this bullshit you have to go through."
Nice bloke as he is, Bean is no stranger to playing the bad guy: he was the implausibly evil psychopath IRA "terrorist" in Patriot Games, and the compelling villain in Goldeneye. Would he be interested in doing any more Bond movies?"I would be, but I dunno if I can, they'll probably have to bring me back to life. (affects a sad look) Ah don't think they shoulda killed me off really, they shoulda left it in the balance so I could return. (pause) Maybe I will."
And has he got his schedule for this year mapped out?
"No, I just hope it continues like it has been for the last couple of years, I've been doing stuff that I wanna do, which is quite exciting. I don't try and plan ahead too much, cause plans always go to pieces in this game, so there's no point making any. I just try an' take it day by day, week by week."
And what about his beloved Blades, mired at the wrong end of the Endsleigh League First Division? Does he see any escape route? "Well, they've just bought somebody from Celtic, Andy Walker. They're
playing good football, y'know, they just can't seem to be able to score. It might be quite close, but I think we'll stay up, meself. (pause) We're too big to go down."
Jimmy Muir, the character you play in When Saturday Comes, is typically gritty northern footballer. Is that you?
I've not done some of the things that he's done - like play for Sheffield United - but for the part, I didn't have to do much research, because I know what it's like spending a lot of time in boozers up north.
What's the most you've drunk in one session?
I don't know, maybe 16 plus.
What do you drink?
Mostly lager. I like Stone's and Ward's though.
In the film you say, "They're a right bunch of posers in London." Do you think that's right?
Yes. (Laughs). No, I've lived down here about 13 years, although I do think that it's a healthy attitude to have - you know, you've got your lines like "dirty northern bastards" and "sheep-shaggers" and stuff, so we've got ours.
What's so good about up north?
What isn't good? The beer's better - you get more head on it. And I always find it more laid-back. I feel comfortable and relaxed, and I enjoy the humour. There's humour everywhere, but like anybody, you grow up with that humour when you're a little kid, and it stays with you.
So you wouldn't consider moving to Hollywood or anything like that?
No, I've never even thought about it. You'd end up sending your dog to a psychiatrist, as well as yourself. And I'd miss my family, my football - everything. I'd miss the matches when it's a frosty Saturday afternoon, and there's a low mist on the pitch, and the lights are crackling, and everybody's freezing...
Do you have a flat cap or a whippet?
Nah, I'm not old enough. You've got to be about 65 to qualify for them. But I'm looking forward to it. And a ferret, down me trousers.
You have to do a love scene with Emily Lloyd. What was it like with all the crew watching?
Well, Emily banished most people from the set actually. It was all right though, quite enjoyable.
What happens if you get a stiffy?
You just make sure of where you're putting it. Be aware of it. It's not happened to me that many times, but I have had a bit of a semi.
With Emily or someone else?
A selection. It depends what they're like, y'know.
Is the scene in the communal bath a bit gay?
Do you think so? It never occurred to me. I think that it should be seen as sporting, as something that footballers do. It's one for the ladies.
There's one scene where you seem to know how to do an excellent head-butt. Have you ever given someone a Glasgow kiss?
Once, a long time ago. There was a bit of a scuffle in a nightclub in Sheffield and I ended up sticking one on somebody. I've also had it done to me, although I try to avoid those kind of situations nowadays.
Did you enjoy shooting the stripper scene?
That were one of the highlights of the film for a lot of the people involved. We were in a nightclub at ten o'clock in the morning, with suits on, and there were all these gorgeous birds dancing about with nowt on in front of us. It were a good day.
You went to RADA. Is it a bit poncy?
No, I don't know where that reputation came from. A lot of the people that I was there with were from Liverpool, Leeds, Ireland, Scotland, etc. There was a really good mix of people. They weren't affected in any way.
Do Americans have trouble with your accent?
When I went there a few years ago, they all seemed to think I was an Aussie. I went into a shop once and the man in there said to me, "Australian?" And I said, "No, I'm from Sheffield." It's weird. Then you say "Sheffield in Yorkshire" and they go "York- shire?" in that American way. It's fucking Yorkshire! Older than the place you're in. You've only been going for 200 years."
In the final scene of the film, are most of the lads real footballers?
A lot of them were semi-professional. We used a lot of players from Boston United. And Mel Sterland (ex-Sheffield Wednesday) were involved in a lot of the choreography. He's the captain.
Can footballers act?
He were pretty good, Mel, but all the footballers said to me, "Stick to acting." They should stick to fucking football.
What about Escape to Victory?
I enjoyed it. I like films about football. It's notoriously hard to shoot and a lot of directors won't touch it, they just think that you can't capture it. But I think we did to an extent, because we didn't concentrate on any fancy moves. We just got the spirit of the game. You know, the thuds and the lugs and the like.
What's your record at keepy-uppy?
I used to be able to do about 160 when I were about 14. I once had a bet outside a boozer with a mate of mine, Neil Barnes, and he said, "Go on, Beany, I bet you can't keep this fucking ball up for longer than ten times." I took the bet, even though I had a few pints on board, and I managed to do 12. It were quite satisfying."
Why do you support Sheffield United as opposed to Wednesday? How is the city split?
I suppose a few years back there were more of a division as to where you grew up and lived. I think people move around a lot more now, but still you'll find that one end of the city supports United, and the other supports Wednesday. I've always been a United-ite because my great-grandad and my grandad and my dad all were. I've never really known anything else."
Do you have a party trick?
I once ate a dragonfly.
Somebody said, "I bet you daren't eat that dragonfly." So I said, "I will - and I'll chew it." And I swallowed it. I don't know what came over me - I mean, I quite like dragonflies an' all."
What are you most afraid of?
I'm scared of cockroaches, I've had some bad experiences with them in Russia. Every time you opened the fridge, you'd see thousands of them.
You wouldn't eat one, then?
No. I know Nicholas Cage ate a live cockroach once, but I can't say I would. I might eat a woodlouse, at a pinch.
If Hugh Grant suggested the two of you go for a night on the tiles, would you go?
Yes, but I'd take a camera.
There was a scene in Sharpe where Liz Hurley shows you her tits. How many times did you have to shoot it?
Many, many times. We did it about 35, 40 times. Long shot, medium shot, close up.
Hugh Grant says they're the best tits in England. Is that true?
He's not far wrong. No, they are. Well, it was a couple of years ago, but they were a fine pair.
If you could murder someone and get away with it, who would it be?
The bloke who did the re-wiring in my house. He made a right mess of it, so if I could find out where he lives, I'd probably do him.
And if you ended up on Death Row, how would you decorate your cell?
Probably put up some unobtrusive wallpaper, with a few nice pictures. You know, birds and clouds and happy days.
Women love you. What's the secret?
It's the sideboards... I dunno, I've had a lot of parts where I've played a bad lad, and they seem to like that.
Have you been a bastard in some of your real-life relationships?
Sometimes I've been a bit of a twat. I've always gone along life in the way I want to, and I think that has caused a couple of problems. It's better than trying to please everybody all the time.
My friend wants to know if you'll shag her...
Oh yeah? What's she like?
She's fucking nice, actually.
Yeah? Er...I can't really, to tell you the truth.
Interview by confirmed southerner Ivor Baddiel.
When Saturday Comes is released on March 1.
WHEN NUDITY IS PART OF THE CONTRACT
by Jan Moir
The Daily Telegraph
Monday February 26, 1996
Not many film stars live in Totteridge, but Sean Bean likes it there. "It's a bit more green, a bit more peaceful, and it's close to the M1 so I can get to Sheffield that bit quicker." He speeds up there regularly - to see United play and visit his parents - in the pale green Jag he bought because it matched his eyes. It is the only bit of flash he is willing to admit to.
He turns up for our lunch date in his local country club dressed down in red track pants, squashy trainers and a sweatshirt. His blond hair, darkened by a thick cap of gel, is scraped back over his head and reveals an alarming amount of pink scalp.
A chunky metal watch rattles on his thin wrist and he wears three gold rings; his wedding band, one he's had "for ages" and a pinky ring of yellow gold which he brought back from a filming trip to Russia: "Nice colour, but I don't like the quality."
He also brought back lots of caviar, for which he has developed a passion. "I could eat pots of that, me. I like that Beluga caviar, that's the best, isn't it? With chopped egg and onion and toast. Yes please."
Today, he wants only coffee, no food, thanks. He is going for a jog afterwards, an attempt to keep in shape for his next film role as the smitten, lovelorn soldier in Anna Karenina. It will be another opportunity for Bean - our hottest male sex symbol - to do what he does best: give good brood.
But, in much the same way that supermodels can look like pasty shopgirls on their days off, Bean in the flesh does not look like a love god - in fact, he looks like a runty wee guy from Sheffield. The camera doesn't just love him; it wants to marry him, settle down and have his babies.
However, he has excellent bones and a rather winning smile. But are those gleaming teeth his own? Well, no. As a child, he says, he was given five shillings pocket money a week, which he spent on sweets. "There wasn't anything else to spend your money on in those days. That's why my teeth fell out and I had to get all of them replaced."
"No. No. Heh. Um. Yes. I'm kidding. I've had a couple crowned because they got a bit damaged. I got one knocked out in a fight, but that was years ago."
He obligingly taps a tooth with a nicotine-toasted finger, and lights up the first of many Silk Cuts. He smokes heavily, and often gnaws the skin around his fingernails like a particularly anxious squirrel. However, he looks startled when I ask is he is a nervous person. "Me? Nah. I have a problem controlling me temper, like, but I've learned to be calmer over the years. Emotional, yes. But you have to be, to be an actor."
If Sean Bean is the thinking girl's bit of unbuttered crumpet, then what exactly is that girl thinking? Possibly she is remembering him in tight breeches and a cropped jacket as Sharpe, the brave rifleman in the successful BBC series. Or perhaps as the priapic Mellors, who romped naked through Ken Russell's Lady Chatterley and somehow managed to keep a straight face when he told Joely Richardson: "We came off together that time, m'lady."
He was a rapist in Clarissa, a madman in The Field, an IRA terrorist in Patriot Games and in Caravaggio had his throat slit. In GoldenEye, he played a curdled 006 to Pierce Brosnan's milky Bond. It is an impressive range of roles, each cherry-picked to make the most of his wolfish features and the villainous jut of that jaw, which just begs to be walloped - or kissed. His greatest talent on screen is that he always looks like he could do some serious damage - to your heart if he liked you, to your skull if he didn't. He also has a reputation for stripping, and handling his love scenes with gusto - relish, even.
In his latest film, When Saturday Comes, he is Jimmy Muir, a factory worker who dreams of playing for Sheffield United, and who scores with Emily Lloyd.
As usual, we see more of his body than anyone else's, and although I'm all for gratuitous nudity when applied to male actors, I do feel that - human physiognomy being what it is - I am now more familiar with Sean Bean's bottom than I am with my own.
"I get it written into every contract now. I've got to get me bum in. Didn't you like it?" he says, guffawing. And then, to make things exceptionally clear: "Look. I never know how many times my a-- is in shot. I've got my back to the camera, remember."
He handles the domestic scenes with sensitivity, showing a deeper range than his swashbuckling roles normally allow. However, as a 36-year-old - and a pretty battered one at that - he is not very convincing playing someone 11 years his junior. Jogging on to the pitch with his mates in the pub team, he looked at times more like the schoolboy imposter Brandon Lee pitching up to play for Bearsden Academy's First XI.
In another scene, he is called upon to weep copiously after a bereavement - a task he found difficult: "I suppose you just think about all the things that are sad in you. Or experiences that you have been in before that have upset you and made you cry."
So when was the last time he cried for real? "I got a snowball right in the bollocks when I worked at me dad's welding shop. I cried at that, all right."
He does not like having to explain himself, hiding behind either a brazen South Yorkshire bluff - which seems coarser in print than it does in conversation - or a string of cliches of quite dizzying banality. In Bean's world, things are taken "with a pinch of salt", situations are seldom "the be all and end-all" and even if they are, well, "that's just the way the cookie crumbles."
It is not that he is inarticulate or stupid. Rather, he has the mien of someone who has come to learning late in life, who has culled his knowledge voraciously from books and rarely been given the opportunity to discuss what he has discovered. I expect he has a wonderful and rich vocabulary, but it is all locked inside his head. He will speak someone else's words and lines with knowledge, understanding and fluency, but will flounder helplessly without a script.
"At school, I just had a good time and a laugh. I wasn't ready for education, but afterwards I made up for it. I just got this massive appetite to read literature; Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, all the classics. I would do that in my spare time. I suppose it was an odd thing for a welder from Sheffield to want to do."
He had a typical, working-class northern upbringing: cherished by his parents - his dad drove a concrete mixer before starting up his own company, his mum was a secretary in the steelworks - and adored by his childhood sweetheart, hairdresser Debra Anderson. He married Debra at 19 and worked, as expected, for Darwin & Bean, his father's small welding and fabrication firm. He could, he says, still use a welding rod and an acetylene torch, should the occasion arise, but his heart was never in it.
So he left after three years to enrol at Rotherham Art College - "I always wanted to do something different, to be different" - but didn't like that either. "Everyone else was so posey and pretentious, the work seemed so secondary to them. I wanted to learn."
Luckily, the college had a drama course, which he joined. "I had never really stuck at anything, but from the first second, I thought, this is me. And since that day, I haven't looked back."
His first role was in a production of The Owl and the Pussycat. "I was a jumbly, wrapped up in a five pound note, and then I was a kind of monster in a play called Arsenic and Old Lace. People seemed to think I was good. That was about the time I applied for Rada."
He passed his audition and came to London in 1981, the same year he got married. If he hadn't got in, he thinks he would just have gone back to his dad's welding shop. His wife did not want to move south, and the marriage quickly disintegrated. In one newspaper interview, she explained that they were just too young, never even had a proper home of their own. She talks of him fondly and wishes him well, which is a great credit to them both. She even thinks that it is quite funny that she was there when he first met Melanie Hill - the actress who played the second Aveline in Bread - who is now his wife and the mother of his two small daughters.
Recently, there have been persistent rumours of discord in the Bean household, which seemed to start when Melanie attended the London premiere of GoldenEye with another man (a family friend, as it happens). "I was in the Ukraine filming Sharpe," complains Bean. "Still, you've got to take it all with a pinch of salt.
"I can't complain about my situation. I've got two lovely children, a lovely wife and a nice place to live in. Things seem to be going okay; I've got no gripes. We have our ups and downs like every other married couple. It is not a Stepford Wives situation. And it is not a marriage made in heaven, by any means."
Are you faithful?
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am. I've got everything I want, in a way. I'm faithful to my wife. I'm faithful to my friends as well."
Over the past three years, Bean has edged his way to centre-stage, and there is no indication that his success will wane. He has been a professional actor for 13 years and done his time in the trenches, sometimes a Royal Shakespeare Company regular, sometimes out of work. "I never thought about giving it up. What else could I do? There isn't really anything."
Now he is in the happy position of picking and choosing his roles. "I wouldn't like to play a mass murderer," he says. "I don't think that is something which should be glamorised or sensationalised. I would never play someone like Peter Sutcliffe, because it could be very upsetting for people's families. Too awful to even consider."
But you played an IRA terrorist...
"I looked at that as a personal vendetta between two people rather than a political situation. That's how I saw it. I wouldn't play an ordinary terrorist. Do you know what I mean?"
Well, um, not exactly...
He knows it is unusual for a welder from Sheffield to become a successful actor, but still gets prickly when someone else suggests this might be the case.
"What's so strange about that?" he will snort. "Why shouldn't someone from my background do this? People like me are a breath of fresh air in this business."
He is different, but not in the way that he thinks. He has a compelling screen presence and is that rare creature; a natural, instinctive actor who cannot explain what it is that he does. "But I know when I'm crap in a scene," he says. He stubs out his fag and goes off for a jog around Totteridge. What a star.
When Saturday Comes opens on Friday, March 1.