Game of Thrones, an epic fantasy series from HBO, is all swords and sandals and back-stabbing. Donal O’Donoghue meets the show’s star, Sean Bean, who was recently caught up in his own off-screen drama
Three days before he was stabbed outside a London pub last Sunday, I met Sean Bean at the Monte Carlo TV Festival. The Sheffield born actor was there with his Game of Thrones’ co-stars Mark Addy, Emilia Fox and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. All four were promoting the violently addictive HBO series that Addy himself described as “a bit like Lord of the Rings for grown-ups”.
Bean, who is not a great fan of the whole publicity circus, looked a bit worse for wear. It later emerged that he and fellow Yorkshireman, Addy, had been on the tiles the night before. Right now in a stuffy room on the Monte Carlo waterfront, both men have the appearance of having just stumbled off a medieval battlefield. “It’s a bit humid in here,” Addy whispers to Bean before the questions kick off.
Throughout the ding-dong session Bean looks impassive but is good value – talking about his beloved Sheffield United (he sports a tattoo of The Blades), the closest he came to death (no, it was not in a bar room brawl) and how much he enjoyed playing Lord Eddard Ned Stark in the ten part series that was shot in Belfast and Malta.
Later that afternoon Bean’s on the terrace of the Grimaldi Forum, a vast amphitheatre overlooking the yacht-infested harbour. Under the heat of the Mediterranean sunshine - and a battery of film lights – the grizzled 52-year-old is being quizzed on character, playing the good guy and being a celebrity. He still looks uncomfortable. Then a few days later – three to be exact - he gets stabbed in the arm with a beer bottle outside his local in Camden. But rather than checking into the local hospital, the man asks the bar staff for their first aid kit, patched himself up and then orders another beer. Now that’s my kind of actor.
Q: Has success of Game of Thrones helped to dull the pain of the Blades being relegated again?
A: Hahaha! Yeah, it has been a funny old year and yes I suppose the series did help to take my mind off it but I never get too depressed about these things. I’m just looking forward to next season and playing, I don’t know, Yeovil?”
Q: You played Boromir in Lord of the Rings so was there much of a difference between being on set for LOTR and Game of Thrones?
A: It was like making a feature film and felt just as big as Lord of the Rings. There was so much detail and so many different sets. The scale was epic.
Q: Did you have to work out to be fit for the action sequences in the series?
A: Yeah. It was quite tiring, especially on set in Malta where it was ninety degrees and you were wearing leather and fur and stuff like that and doing fighting scenes. We just had to put a lot of ice packs on. Then when we went to Belfast it was freezing and it was just the opposite. As far as the horse riding I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Q: Are you drawn to action parts or does anyone approach you to play a doctor or policeman?
A: I never played a doctor or a policeman which I’m quite excited about. I’ve played in a lot of period dramas which is quite exciting. It gives an added glamour when you’re in costume and surrounded by the period sets. There is a lot of material in the book that was wonderful and useful to call upon when you were researching your character.
Q: Is it more interesting to play the bad guy?
A: It’s nice to play someone who’s OK. I usually killed you know. Maybe I shouldn’t say that! But I play one of the few decent guys in this show.
Q: Is it true that one time, during the shooting of Sharpe, a horse fell on your head and nearly killed you?
A: Yeah, it was the end of the day when things get a bit rushed and everybody is struggling to find their lines. I was hiding in this ditch that the horse had to jump over. Part of the ditch collapsed and I ended up with a hoof on my head and had to go to hospital. That was horrible. They actually showed it on the TV show and I thought ‘thank God I’m still here!’ You know, it landed on me head!
Q: Is epic TV like Game of Thrones setting the bar in terms of production values?
A: We didn’t use that much special effects on Game of Thrones but networks like HBO are really courageous about what they are trying to achieve on TV. You can work on some films and don’t get the same sense of scale and epic quality as Game of Thrones has. People used to frown on television but now a lot of big actors want to be part of these stories because they are so fantastic and with such great characters.
Q: What breed were the dogs used in the film?
Q: Finally which onscreen death brings back the fondest memories?
A: I think that my death in Lord of the Rings was quite a heroic death. Yep, that was my favourite death.
Game of Thrones concludes this Monday on Sky Atlantic. Fasten your safety belts for a very bloody conclusion.