Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Sean Bean Story

Sean Bean: Not your typical Hollywood actor
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star)

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Sean plays the heroic Lord Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones| Zoom
Five minutes are precious at any Hollywood junket: A delay of even just a minute would send any hardworking publicist into a fit of frenzy — junkets are typically planned weeks in advance and every minute is accounted for. Talents have no less than 10 domestic and international roundtables to sit through and a dozen or so TV interviews to do over a span of a single day — and that does not even include any additional 30-minute press conference that most of the cast usually do if the junket involves a blockbuster movie or a huge television production.

Last January, this writer was invited by HBO to its winter press tour to introduce the newest series, the Emmy-nominated epic-fantasy Game of Thrones at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. We would have six roundtable interviews that day with English actor Sean Bean fourth on the schedule.

The first interview started on time and so did the second and third. When it was Sean’s turn to join us in our suite, it was the publicist assigned to us who showed up instead to tell us that the actor would be late for a few minutes. She explained that the actor had a minor hold-up and had to go up to his hotel room to check on something.
When Sean finally joined us some five minutes later, he was understandably apologetic and explained that he had to attend to his 12-year-old daughter who wanted to use the hotel pool. “She’s not been to America before,” he said. “She’s just gonna go down to the pool and check out a few things.”

This side of Sean, the father who gives equal priority to his kids as he would to his duty as an actor, is the reason why he is not your typical Hollywood actor. When he is not working, he lives mostly out in Sheffield, the English town where he grew up, and shuns the regular places frequented by celebrities.

He admits that he does not have the most easily recognizable name but film fans know him quite well with his indelible villainous turns in movies with Harrison Ford, Nicholas Cage and Robert de Niro, among others. To regular moviegoers though, he is most easily recognized for his breakthrough role as Boromir in the critically-acclaimed and worldwide hit Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy.

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, fans will take delight as the 52-year-old actor returns to the genre that made him one of Hollywood’s most sought-after character actors. This time, he plays the heroic Lord Eddard Stark, a stoic and duty-bound lord and warden of the north realm. He embodies the values of the fictional northern kingdom created by award-winning author George R. Martin in the bestselling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which the series is based on.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the final installment of LOTR hit the theaters and Sean thinks it’s about time he goes back to the genre and, being a fan of the book, the hulking actor revealed that he was flattered when he was chosen by the producers to play one of the central characters in the series. “I was delighted,” he shared before adding that he “found the book very exciting, very luxuriant, very dangerous, very edgy, very sexy.”

In a separate press conference with the Television Critics of America held one day before our interview, Sean was asked if he isn’t afraid that, with his new role in Game of Thrones, people will now always associate him with the epic-fantasy genre, to which he playfully replied, “It’s a good thing to be typecast, isn’t it?”

“I certainly enjoy this genre,” he added. “I happen to enjoy playing those kind of roles with riding horses and swinging swords and having fights and wearing wigs and growing beards even if it takes you about three hours in the morning to get ready.”

“I do have affinity to that kind of role, and I think the good thing about Game of Thrones is that there is such score for it. Whereas Lord of the Rings — there were three films and they thoroughly researched it. But with what George has created, it’s a very different world. Goes on much, much further and much longer, and there’s many twists and turns.”

HBO’s production of Game of Thrones is comparably smaller in scope to the history-making LOTR trilogy but the series’ 13 nominations at next month’s Emmy Awards is testament to the great storytelling that went into it and the impressive visual grandeur provided by the rustic and rugged northern Ireland locale where they shot most of the breathtaking exterior scenes.

“I think the amount of production value that was put into Game of Thrones was incredible, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen on any other production, including LOTR,” Sean proudly declared. “I saw the sets there, and it was a wonderful production, of course, I was very proud of that! But I was absolutely impressed by the detail, the size of it, the craftsmanship in the studio, the sets. Everything was so detailed, so vast, it was like working on a big feature film every week.”

And, with HBO behind it, the actor thinks that the transfer of the multi-layered and intricate tale from the pages of the novel to the screen was in good hands. “You got people behind you, and it’s an edgy, sexy, violent, dark, brutal piece where nobody’s safe, so many twists and turns, and the characters are so well-drawn as well. I think everybody who sees this is hopefully fascinated by what we have achieved.”

And, quite interestingly, Game of Thrones is set in a land where five minutes do not even matter — summers span decades and winters last a lifetime in the ravaged kingdom called Westeros where two families are eternally engaged in a deadly war to gain control of the Iron Throne, the seat of power that controls the four corners of the kingdom, including the so-called Ancient Wall that protects the kingdom from the encroaching darkness.

Like Tolkien’s LOTR series, the world created by the author is mostly inspired by accounts and legends of the chaotic middle ages. “Most written fantasy, even if it’s set in the imaginary world, is inspired by the history of the middle ages,” author George R. Martin explained, during our separate roundtable with him. “It’s full of castle and lords and swords and knights and all of the other trappings.”

Series producer David Benioff would later emphasize that what sets Game of Thrones apart from the other epic-fantasies that came before it is that “it is not your typical epic battle of good versus evil. These are characters of enormous complexity and shades of gray.”

Fans and critics did agree with him. When the series premiered in the US last April, it was welcomed with enormous acclaim and HBO would later announce that the series would return next winter for its second season. There are seven books in the series.

Game of Thrones will have its premiere this month on HBO Asia with a back-to-back screening of the first and second episodes beginning at 10 p.m. on Aug. 28. All eight succeeding episodes of the series will air back-to-back and uninterrupted for five consecutive Sundays the entire month of September.

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