Sean Bean

To hear Lord Of The Rings actor tell it, there are two great passions in Sean Bean's life football and acting. The former welder's enthusiasm for the former is borne out by a tattoo on his right shoulder which reads "100% Blade", a reference to northern England club Sheffield United. A second one, of the figure nine in Elvish - a memento of his role as Boromir in the Tolkien trilogy pays witness to his dedication to his craft.

And it is in this seeming contradiction between feisty soccer supporter and versatile thespian that the secret of his big screen success lies. In the course of his 20-year career Sean has established himself as one of Britain\'s most ubiquitous stars, moving deftly between memorable roles in TV dramas and silver screen blockbusters.

He does villainy well, drawing on an edgy masculinity that Hollywood adores. Think Miller, the Irish terrorist who took on Harrison Ford in Patriot Games or Koster, the criminal preying on Brittany Murphy in Don\'t Say A Word. Contrast that with the brooding romance he provided in small screen productions A Woman\'s Guide To Adultery and Lady Chatterley\'s Lover .

Born Shaun Mark Bean into a working class Sheffield family on April 17, 1959, he grew up to become an apprentice in his father\'s welding firm. Three years down the line, however, he decided he wasn\'t cut out for the business and quit to enrol in art school. There, the budding thespian stumbled into acting, going on to land a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Acts.

After graduating he ended up treading the boards in a number of West End stage productions including The Royal Shakespeare Company\'s Fair Maid Of the West and Romeo And Juliet. Then came the breakthrough part in historical TV drama Sharpe, in which his breeches-clad hero had women swooning in droves. The series, which ran between 1992 and 1997, sold all over the world and transformed him into an international heart-throb.

While the sex-symbol status wasn\'t a problem, the typecasting was. Much to his dismay, for a few years after he hung up his sword, the parts dried up. "There was no work for me in England, and it was confusing because everyone was saying Sharpe… would lead to big things. But the real result was that I was typecast and difficult to employ."

A professional downturn was accompanied by problems in his personal life. His first union to childhood sweetheart Debra James had ended in the Eighties, and now his second marriage to actress Melanie Hill - with whom he has two daughters, Lorna and Molly - floundered. A third union with Sharpe co-star Abigail Cruttenden which resulted in daughter Evie - also ended in divorce in 2000.

The same year, his career began to pick up, however, kick-started by his role as an amoral gangster in UK drama Essex boys. While the part didn\'t result in the phone immediately ringing off the hook, it did provide a major boost to his confidence enabling him to nab his role in the high-profile Tolkien series.

Since then he has returned to the big screen with a vengeance. He played a morally questionable scientist in The Island opposite Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor, starred in Flightplan with Jodie Foster, and turned up in sexual harassment drama North Country. In the latter he joins a stellar cast led by Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson - not bad for a welder\'s son from up north.
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