The disarmingly mild-mannered British actor discusses his new film, Silent Hill: Revelation, acting tough and resisting the temptations of fame.
Whether he's playing a fictional warrior, a misc Hollywood villain or a period-drama love interest, Sean Bean is a routinely formidable screen presence. Which makes his off-screen shyness and modest demeanour all the more disarming. With his new film Silent Hill: Revelation out this week, we sat Sheffield's most famous acting son down to find out what makes him tick.
LWLies: How was it returning for another Silent Hill film? Your characters generally don't live long enough to make it to the sequel.
Bean: It was good, I enjoyed it the first time around which I think was about eight years ago. It came out of the blue but I really enjoyed it. The story progresses and it offers something different to the first film. I saw it the other week and I'm really happy with it. I mean, visually it's absolutely brilliant, it really lends itself to the 3D which wasn't the case for the first one.
You've been in a fair few horror films over the years. Is that something you particularly enjoy?
Yeah I suppose I have, it's not something I ever think about but you're right. I like watching horror films but you never really know you're in one because you're on set and it's laid back and it's not what you might think it would be like. It can be dark and gloomy on set when you're filming but you tend not to pay attention to that, you just try to relax.
How do you relax on set?
There's a lot of hanging around so I just try to get used to that really. It's important to save your energy, you don't want to be bouncing all over the place wasting your energy. It's important to switch off.
A lot of your roles are very physical, do you relish that side of the job?
It depends what the part is; if you're a warrior or a solider then there's obviously a certain level of training required of you. It's always good fun but you can injure yourself so I'm always careful and I always make sure I'm warmed up if I'm shooting physical scenes. You'll usually find me doing stretches in between takes. I don't enjoy it that much but if it's for a purpose then I'm always game. When I did Red Riding I had to put quite a lot of weight on and that was harder than doing physical training in some ways. You get to a point where you're thinking, 'Is this really necessary, is it worth it?' Someone like Tom Hardy obviously makes it a part of his performance, but that's always for a purpose. But it's not really life-like, the way he looks.
You've spent a significant chunk of your career in Hollywood. Did that experience change you in any way?
Not that I notice. I suppose it's the same thing in the UK as in the US, but there's certainly more opportunities over there. It's much more geared towards filmmaking than it is over here; in Los Angeles everything is geared towards film and it's good to be around that if you're working. If you're not working it's a different story. It can be quite depressing. But if you're working and you're aware that you're only there for a brief spell then it can be very rewarding.
Was it always the plan to go over there for a few years and then come back?
Yes, I knew I was coming home. I spent quite a lot of time out there, you know, I spent almost a year living in a hotel doing various films. I'm glad I came home when I did and I've since travelled around Europe and seen a bit of the world. But it's always nice to go back because as I say there's more opportunity and it's bigger and there's more money available. That's what attracts people but it's important to keep your head screwed on.
How do you stay grounded?
I do a lot around the house, I'm always keeping myself busy with that and doing a bit of gardening here and there. And I've got three daughters, you know, so I'm pretty busy when I'm not working. I don't just sit around waiting for the phone to ring, I get on with stuff.
Going back to your time in Hollywood, was there ever a time when you were tempted to stay longer than you had planned?
Yeah, that happened once actually. I did a film called Troy and I was down in a place called Los Cabos in Mexico, and I went straight from that to National Treasure. So I was in Los Angeles for almost a year and I only came home on a few occasions during that time. That was good, I enjoyed it because we travelled around quite a bit for both those films. Like I say, as long as you're working and you've got friends around you it's okay. If you're not working then it's a lonely existence.
Was there ever a point where that was the case for you?
I suppose a few years ago. I was in my mid-twenties and I'd just gone over there after film I did called Stormy Monday and I thought I was going to get loads of jobs and everyone said they'd call and they didn't. Nothing happened. It was such a massive thing but I learned to take it with a pinch of salt, you can only believe you've got a job when you're on set doing it. You can't believe everything everybody says [in Hollywood] because there's a lot of waffle and claptrap. You've got to keep focused and keep to yourself.
What do you love about movies?
I suppose just that visually they engage you and bring you in, especially on the big screen. And I love working on them because you can work on something for months and then when it's done you've got a finished product and you can move on. I love the lifecycle of a movie, building up the picture in your head and getting to know your character. When it's finished it's always great to see the end product, when it's there and it's set for good that's an amazing feeling. Especially with something like Lord of the Rings, you know, you've created this character from a book and that's very satisfying.