Blades fan Sean sharpens his bayonet
(Coventry Evening Telegraph Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)PLAYING rugged swashbuckler Sharpe kickstarted Sean Bean's Hollywood career nearly a decade ago.
Now he is dusting off his sword and getting back in the saddle for Sharpe's Challenge on ITV tomorrow and Monday.
"Just doing the role and getting the opportunity to play that kind of leading character has always been something that has stayed with me because it made such a huge impact on my life and my career. Sharpe was something that never really went away," says the 47-year-old.
"When we finished filming it was the end of that era, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo, and I think we all felt that we had gone as far as we could at the time.
"But I think we always believed that there was a lot of potential still there and many more stories to be told - it was just a matter of when and how we were going to present that."
He beams: "When we started talking about Sharpe's Challenge I immediately felt thrilled and excited again. I had a gut feeling and I wanted to be back in the game as it were, especially with the same team. It was just like coming home."
Sharpe's Challenge picks up the story of the adventure in the wake of Napoleon's crushing defeat at Waterloo. It sees Richard Sharpe in India on his most dangerous mssion to date.
"It was strange on the first day. I think, if you've played a character for a few years, you always think that you'll just drop back into it but it took me a few days to acclimatise to the part," says the Sheffield-born actor.
"It's quite a bizarre feeling bringing him back to life, but I really enjoyed filming. I think it's probably the best we've done because we were so unrestrained in India." It wasn't all fun and games, though. Being a Northern lad at heart, Sean makes no bones about the fact that he sometimes really missed traditional British grub.
"We ate at least 15,000 curries during filming - I mean, I like curries but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then Fray Bentos sent me over a box of meat pies which was great," he says.
"But the local people looked after us really well and I'd love to go back again because everybody is so welcoming and so positive about their life and work. It was a real breath of fresh air."
Although he performed all of his own stunts in Sharpe's Challenge, the closest he'd been to horse riding in recent years was jumping out of a wooden one in Troy. He admits that he had to brush up on his equestrian skills.
"We did quite a bit of sword work before we went out to India and I'd done some for Lord of the Rings and Troy as well - it's something that I've kept in with - but the horse riding I hadn't done for ages.
"In Lord of the Rings I did a bit of riding, but mostly just plodding on to set. I hadn't cantered or galloped for about eight years.
"I went to a farm for some practice and thought I'd fall off, but it is just like riding a bike, as everyone says. I remembered where the all the gears were - and the brakes," he grins.
Sean confesses he has a soft spot for Sharpe's famous green jacket, even going as far as to keep the original jacket in his wardrobe at home.
"It was a great feeling putting the uniform back on, and the one that I originally had I'd kept in my wardrobe, along with my sword. I wore it a few times, but had another one made as well. I don't usually go around dressed like that by the way," he insists.
Much as the thrice-divorced actor loves his work, he says he has always found it hard to be away from his three daughters, Lorna, 18, Molly, 15, and seven-year-old Evie.
"They've got quite used to it now because I've been doing it ever since they've been little," he says.
"Starting with the very first episodes of Sharpe, I used to go over to to the Crimea in August and then I wouldn't see the girls again until Christmas Eve. It was 16 weeks on the trot for three years so that was pretty tough.
"But it sort of balances itself out now - I get back and I'm usually off for a few weeks and we spend a lot of time together.
"Now, I try to get them to fly over to LA or I get back and have breaks in between so they don't miss me and they can see me every so often."
And, of course, his beloved Sheffield United FC, which he has been devoted to since he was in short trousers, also guarantees he will never be away from the UK for too long.
"Everyone knows I love the Blades, but I don't just go up there for that - I do see my family as well," he l aughs.
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