If you’ve gone to the movies and seen an English actor lose his life onscreen, there’s a good chance that the actor was Sean Bean. While he’s become known for being the man who always passed on in his films, the truth is a bit more complex than that. Unlike the cliché of his playing rugged warriors in historical films, Bean is a diverse actor who has proven his talents countless times on stage and on screen. Here are 43 facts about everyone’s favorite actor from the North.
Sean Bean Facts
1. A Star is Born
Sean Bean was born in the city of Sheffield in northern England on April 17, 1959. His full name is actually Shaun Mark Bean—he changed the spelling of his first name when he got into acting.
2. Oh, I am Slain
Bean’s acting debut came in 1983 at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. He portrayed the ill-fated character Tybalt in the classic play Romeo and Juliet. Considering Tybalt is just one of the many casualties in the play, he set his reputation for playing characters who pass on right away!
3. It’s an Interpretation, Darnit!
If that wasn’t enough, Bean also played the title character Romeo in another version of Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Instead of period clothing, however, Bean portrayed the star-crossed lover while wearing biker’s leather. Doesn’t sound that far off from the Baz Luhrman adaptation from the 90s!
4. Viral Bean
Anyone who uses the Internet will know that Bean has achieved a lot of attention thanks to his being turned into a meme. The meme makes use of his line from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Boromir states “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” It’s become so common that it’s hard to even open Twitter without seeing it.
5. Win Some, Lose Some
Like so many British actors before him, Sean Bean chased after the opportunity to play the famous secret agent known as James Bond. To be more specific, Bean auditioned to play Bond for the 1987 film The Living Daylights, but lost out to Timothy Dalton. He did get a conciliatory prize a few years later when he was cast as the villainous Alec Trevelyan in the 1995 Bond film Goldeneye.
6. Forever Blades
Like many people from Sheffield, Bean is a diehard supporter of the Sheffield United Football Club. Known by their nickname “the Blades,” Bean actually has a tattoo on his left shoulder which reads “100% BLADE.” We’re suddenly curious if any Marvel fans have seen the tattoo and been confused by what Bean meant.
7. Nine for the Mortal Men
Speaking of tattoos, Bean also got a second one out of his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In an act of solidarity, Bean and the other actors who portrayed the nine members of the Fellowship got a tattoo depicting the number “9.” Granted, only eight of the nine actors got the tattoos, while John Rhys-Davies (Gimli the dwarf) bowed out and offered his tattoo to his stunt double instead. In case you’re curious, Bean’s “9” tattoo is on his shoulder.
8. Never Forget Your Roots
Bean’s father, Brian, owned a fabrication company, while Bean’s mother, Rita, worked there as a secretary. Bean himself worked in his father’s company as a welder before he became an actor.
9. Shooting into Stardom
Bean’s fame as an actor, at least in the UK, truly kicked off in the 1990s with the series of made-for-TV movies based on the popular historical fiction Richard Sharpe book series by Bernard Cornwell. Beginning with Sharpe’s Rifles in 1993, Bean acted in 16 films in the beloved series.
10. The Start of Something Epic
We all want to enjoy ourselves on our birthdays and some of us like to get a nice present or two as well. In the case of Bean, he got a rather interesting present in 2011, when the premiere of Game of Thrones aired on his birthday.
11. And I Survived Both Times!
Sean Bean is one of those rare actors who has played both a mortal hero and a god from Ancient Greek mythology. He portrayed Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and he portrayed Odysseus in Troy.
12. A True Thespian
Bean has never forgotten his theatre roots despite being famous as a film and TV actor. He is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford Upon Avon. He has performed such plays as Macbeth, King Richard II, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with this acting troupe.
13. Over Before It Began
Long before he ever wanted to be an actor, Bean had a dream more befitting a young lad from Sheffield. He had his heart set on becoming a professional soccer player when he grew up. Unfortunately, an accident during his childhood put an end to this ambition. During an altercation, Bean broke a glass door, causing a large piece of glass to find itself stuck in Bean’s leg.
Bean developed a limp for a considerable amount of time after that, which led him to think up another aspiration for his life.
14. Hometown Hero
While Sean Bean has yet to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he has been given an equivalent honor by his home city of Sheffield. Bean is an inaugural member of the walk of fame known as “Sheffield Legends” and he has a plaque with his name on it in front of Sheffield Town Hall.
15. You Seem Familiar
Before working on Game of Thrones together, Bean appeared in the sword-and-sandal epic Troy alongside co-stars Julian Glover and James Cosmo. Not only that, GoT showrunner David Benioff was also a screenwriter on Troy.
16. One out of Three Ain’t Bad
As of 2019, Bean has appeared in three films which were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. These films are The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and The Martian. Of those three, Return of the King actually won the Best Picture Oscar.
17. Started from the Bottom
Bean’s first job was in a supermarket in Sheffield. He also had another job working for the local council where he grew up.
18. So Much for That Reunion…
One year before Game of Thrones first premiered, Sean Bean acted in the medieval horror film Black Death alongside actors Emun Elliott, Tim McInnerny, and Carice Van Houten. All four would later work on Game of Thrones, but Bean wouldn’t have any screen time with any of them.
19. Everyone Needs Hobbies
Given his background, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that Sean Bean continues to weld as a hobby in between his acting career. Bean is also enthusiastic about gardening. But one thing that you might not expect of Bean is that he is also an experienced pianist.
20. From Bad to Good
Up until the 21st century, Bean was best known to American audiences for playing villainous characters in such films as Goldeneye or Patriot Games. As a result, Bean was eager to stop being typecast, which led to his being cast as the sympathetic characters Boromir in the The Lord of the Rings films, Odysseus in Troy, and Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones.
21. Sean from the Block
Going back to the fabrication business owned by Bean’s father, the family became very well off financially. However, they continued to stay in their neighborhood out of a desire to stay with their friends and family.
22. Skyrim is Coming
Gamers might recognize Bean’s voice from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. We’re sure his character has ended up dying countless times in that video game!
23. Try, Try Again
As of June 2019, Bean has been married five times and divorced four times. The women whom he has married are his high school sweetheart Debra James, actress Melanie Hill, actress Abigail Cruttenden, actress Georgina Sutcliffe, and his current wife Ashley Moore.
24. Is That What “Coincidence” Means?
Speaking of Bean’s marriage to Abigail Cruttenden, the two of them met on the set of the Sharpe series for the BBC. Coincidentally, the two of them portrayed a couple onscreen whose relationship quickly ended in great bitterness and misery. Looks like life imitated art…
25. Wrong Addressee
Due to his surname, Sean Bean has gotten a lot of fan mail over the years addressed to Rowan Atkinson, the man famous for playing Mr. Bean on television and film. We’re sure he’s long gotten used to that error by now!
26. It’s Me or Nobody!
According to Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, Bean’s involvement with the series as Ned Stark was one of the two casting choices deemed essential to the series’ success—the other being Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. No other actors were even considered, though it does make us wonder what would have happened if Bean had said no.
27. My Own Method
Bean’s acting style has garnered great praise from his co-workers on film sets. While he is a professionally trained actor, Bean is known for an instinctive approach to understanding the characters he plays. While it takes him time at first to develop his performances, the effect allows him to immediately perform for the camera, shedding his usual personality to embrace the person he’s portraying.
People who have been especially vocal about their admiration for Bean’s acting include director Wolfgang Peterson (Troy) and actor Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring).
28. Wait, What?
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be astonished to learn that Bean was strongly considered to play the role of Hank Pym in the 2015 film Ant-Man! Is Pym originally meant to be from Sheffield?
29. Just Like Old Times
In 2008, Bean was a presenter at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. He announced the winners for Duo of the Year, presenting the award to John Tams and Barry Coope. This was a particularly nice moment for Bean and Tams, as they’d both worked together extensively on the Sharpe series produced by the BBC.
30. How Did I Get Involved?
Besides acting on television, film, and stage, Bean has also lent his talents to the world of music videos. In 2000, Bean appeared in the video made for Moby’s song “We Are All Made of Stars.” We honestly can’t think of a more random pairing of actor and musician than that.
31. Luck is Relative
Although he made his name with the Sharpe films, Bean was only cast in the lead role due to an unfortunate accident. Actor Paul McGann (best known perhaps as the 8th Doctor Who) was originally meant to play Richard Sharpe, but an injury caused him to lose the part. Bean was cast at the 11th hour, and the rest is history.
32. Let’s Have a Laugh
In case you weren’t sure if Sean Bean had a sense of humor, he lampooned himself in the UK adult comic known as Viz. He leant his image to the 1996 issue “I’ve Bean to Paradise.”
33. Father and Grandfather
During his marriages, Bean had two daughters with Melanie Hill, and another daughter with Abigail Cruttenden. As of June 2019, Bean also has four grandchildren.
34. My Brother, My Captain, My King
During his career, Bean has been connected to three different actors who have played the Tolkien character Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. The most obvious example is when he appeared in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy alongside Viggo Mortensen. Before that, however, Bean acted in the 1990 Irish film The Field alongside John Hurt (who voiced Aragorn in the animated film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi).
In 2006, Bean starred in Sharpe’s Challenge opposite actor Toby Stephens. Stephens’ father, Robert, voiced Aragorn for a BBC radio adaptation of the classic story.
35. When the Fans Help Out
Speaking of soccer, Bean has done far more for the Blades than have their name tattooed on his skin. Not only did he open their hall of fame in 2001, but he joined their board of directors from 2002 to 2007 after making a hefty financial contribution to the team. He used his clout as a famous actor to increase support and attention to the club before stepping down from the board in 2007 to just be an ordinary fan again.
36. That’s Why You Don’t Call Him “Mr. Bean”
Despite the undoubted good which Bean has done for the Sheffield United Football Club, his time on the board of directors was pretty tumultuous. Former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock accused Bean of verbally accosting him in front of his wife and daughter. Bean categorically denied the accusation, claiming that Warnock was a bitter hypocrite.
While Sean Bean has yet to be recognized at the Academy Awards, he did win an International Emmy Award in 2013 for his performance in the TV series Accused.
38. Marked for Life
In one of the most famous scar stories of Hollywood, Bean was filming a fight scene between himself and Harrison Ford for the film Patriot Games when Ford accidentally hit Bean in the head with a boat hook. Bean has carried the scar of that incident ever since. On a positive note, it’s proved quite effective during his career as credence to playing a battle-scarred warrior!
Those of you who have seen the TV movie Sharpe’s Honour will remember that there’s a scene where Richard Sharpe and Marquesa Dorada are riding a horse downhill, only to fall off and land in a stream at the bottom of the hill. As impressive as the stunt appears, it wasn’t a stunt at all. The horse stumbled when it reached the stream, and the jolt caused Bean and his co-star Alice Krige to tumble into the water.
Thankfully, neither of them was seriously hurt. The scene looked so good that director Tom Clegg ended up using that take of it.
40. Bending Literature to My Will
While Bean became famous for playing Richard Sharpe on the BBC, he was about as different from the book character as you could get. While Sharpe in the books was black-haired, 6 feet tall, heavily scarred, and sported a London accent, Bean is a blond Yorkshireman of average height. Bernard Cornwell, however, was so impressed with Bean’s performance as Sharpe that when he wrote new Sharpe books as the series went on, he dedicated one of them to Bean and also added in biographical details to Richard Sharpe’s life which justified the Yorkshire accent he sported on television!
41. Noble Sacrifice
Naturally, after all the times he has passed on in movies and TV, interviewers have asked Bean to name his favorite of those scenes. Bean chose that of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. When they asked him to explain his choice, Bean answered “You couldn’t ask for a more heroic death.” To be fair, any of us could have said that as well.
Speaking of scenes like that, one which horrified countless people was the execution of Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones. If making the scene traumatized Bean, he certainly didn’t show it. In fact, he famously played soccer with his own prop severed head. That might just be one of the most meta moments you could ever imagine.
43. Boromir the Mountaineer
One of Bean’s most famous traits is arguably his discomfort with flying. This led to one of the most famous incidents to occur on the set of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. When it was time to shoot the scenes taking place on Mt. Caradhras, Bean refused to take a helicopter up to the filming location. Instead, Bean would get into costume at the mountain’s base, and hike his way up to the shooting site as helicopters passed him by.
This hike reportedly took up to two hours back and forth every day that they filmed on the mountain. We wish we could have been there to see that sight firsthand.