Personal detailsName: Sean Bean
Born: 17 April 1959 (Age: 55)
Where: Sheffield, England
Height: 5' 11"
Awards: No Major Awards
All about this star
One of the strangest and most frightening things we can do is stop and consider how we got where we are. How far our lives are from what we expected, and from what was expected for us. Imagine what it must be like for Sean Bean. How did this confused Sheffield welder, a tattooed tough nut from the football terraces, become one of the most sought-after narrators in the land, a stalwart of period dramas and, for God's sake, even a super-sophisticated adversary of James Bond? He and his family must live in a constant state of astonishment. And that's even disregarding the fact that, as the noble warrior Boromir in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy, he's also one of the biggest film stars alive.
He was born Shawn Mark Bean on the 17th of April, 1959, in Sheffield. His dad, Brian, was a steel plater with his own business. His mother, Rita, was a secretary, so the family was not particularly poor. There would be a younger sister, Lorraine. Young Sean was a headstrong type, set on getting his own way and sometimes letting his anger and disappointment get the better of him. One story sees him as a youngster, making paper shapes with his cousin. When his playmate wouldn't give him the scissors, an enraged young Sean smashed a glass door, a long shard of glass embedding itself in his leg. There was blood everywhere, he was raced to hospital. They saved the leg, but he still carries a savage scar, which he jokingly claims was caused by a shark.
For a while after the accident, Sean couldn't walk properly - a very bad thing as all he wanted was to play football for his local heroes Sheffield United (not that having one leg necessarily disqualifies you from their First Team, you understand). Throughout his years at Brook Comprehensive, and growing up in Handsworth, football was his obsession, his life. He played inside right for the school team. But, as he came to realise how hard the training would become if he really took the sport seriously, he gradually became more a supporter than a player. So keen he was that in 1990, on the day Sheffield United won promotion, he had 100% Blade tattooed on his left shoulder (United's nickname being The Blades - the town being a stainless steel provider, and all).
Sometimes there would be trouble. Sean had led a local gang called The Union who were in a perpetual war with neighbours The Firm. There was the occasional scrap, but no weapons. At the football too there were confrontations, a bit of argy-bargy, and Sean was not one for backing down. Sometimes the police would keep him and his friends away from rival factions, but there were never any charges. Indeed, Sean was only ever charged once, with ABH (plus a '50 fine), and that was later when he punched out a fellow who tried to stop him gatecrashing a party.
At 15, Sean made a decision to channel his aggression more positively. His dad had won a couple of awards for boxing while in the Army, and now Sean took up the noble art of fisticuffs, at the Croft House club. For two years he worked out here, cleaning up considerably. From a young age, he'd been a smoker and a drinker. Now he (temporarily) quit the weed and drank only milkshakes.
Meanwhile, in 1975 and aged 16, he left school, armed with only two O-Levels (in Art and English - subjects in which, for some reason, he naturally excelled, and which would both serve him well). His footballing future now a no-no, he had no idea what to do, his indecision and continual mind-changing getting him a family rep for flightiness. He sold cheese in a supermarket, shovelled snow in the winter, eventually all he could do was go weld for his dad. It was a safe option. No chance of hearing the crowds baying his name, but he'd be OK.
But something in Sean rebelled against this easy progress. While on a day release welding course at Rotherham College of Arts and Technology, he came across an arts class in progress and felt his earlier creative fires immediately rekindled. He enrolled at Granville College but left at lunchtime on Day One, horrified by the place, or maybe just not sure of what it was he really wanted.
Sean was sure his future lay somewhere in the arts and, in September 1979, began a Fine Arts foundation course back at Rotherham College. And, near-instantly, he stumbled upon his vocation by coming across a drama class. THIS was it. His family believed it to be another fad, his friends began to question his sexuality, but Sean was undeterred. For the first time outside of football, he had found something to which he could truly devote himself.
Sean's acting tutor at Rotherham recalls being "astounded at the quality and pace of his development" and, with his stubborn determination here matched by a natural aptitude, his progress WAS incredible. At college he played in Arsenic And Old Lace and The Owl And The Pussycat, also facing the public by performing in Cabaret and A Murder Has Been Arranged at Rotherham's Civic Theatre. Within six short months, he had auditioned for and won a scholarship to RADA, where he began his formal training in the spring of 1981. On April 11th, he also finally married his childhood sweetheart, hairdresser, Debra James (the girl to whom he'd lost his virginity). Things were looking good.
At RADA, Sean enjoyed an all-round stage education. He debuted in Fear And Miseries Of The Third Reich, then moved through King Lear, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and The Merry Wives Of Windsor to The Pajama Game and Three Sisters. He was Agamemnon on The House Of Atreus and McMurphy (Jack Nicholson's character) in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. An outstanding student, he won a silver medal for his performance as Pozzo in his graduation play, Waiting For Godot.
1983 saw Sean on his way. He performed at RADA and Glasgow's Citizens Theatre, and in May made his professional debut, as Tybalt in a production of Romeo And Juliet at Newbury's Watermill Theatre (as Shaun Behan). There was also a TV debut, in an advert for Barbican no-alcohol lager (ugh!). The next year brought sporadic work. He had a small part in the TV drama Punters, about Seventies Yorkshire, and a short movie, Samson And Delilah. Then he appeared in The Bill and in his first TV movie proper, the airforce drama Winter Flight.
1985 saw a real change in fortune. Performing in Deathwatch at the Young Vic, then various roles at the Young Writers' Festival at the Theatre Upstairs, Sean's abilities were noted by The Theatrical Powers That Be, and he was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company for their 1986-87 season. He remained with the company till early 1988, playing at Stratford, London and Newcastle in productions of Romeo And Juliet, Fair Maid Of The West, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Weirdly, for an ex-semi-hooligan, he also found himself in Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, as Ranuccio, a streetwise gambler the artist Caravaggio obsesses over, hires as a model then murders. He'd also turn up in Jarman's War Requiem.
Great things were afoot. His marriage with Debra had not worked out (though Debra still visits Sean's mum), but he was now in a relationship with Melanie Hill, also an alumnus of RADA. Hill, having appeared in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, would find fame as Aveline Boswell in the Liverpool-set sitcom Bread, then move on to Shopping and When Saturday Comes (both with Sean), Cardiac Arrest and, later, Hot Money with Caroline Quentin, and Johnny Depp's From Hell. She would bear Sean two daughters, Lorna and Molly. Sean also secured his first big screen role, in the Newcastle-set thriller Stormy Monday. Here he played a janitor at a nightclub owned by Sting.