Celebrating the Many Lives and Deaths of Sean Bean

Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay;
The worst is death, and death will have his day.
. . . . . — William Shakespeare, Richard III (1595)

Sean Bean, actor

While some actors come and go, Sean Bean persists due to a striking combination of talent, tenacity, and timing. “Timing?” you may ask yourself. Yes. Timing! Timing is everything for an actor who is required to die time and time again for our entertainment. Since 1986, over 20 of Bean’s characters have died in films and TV shows, and after each death he rises from the pile of dead Hollywood characters to take on a new role.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sean Bean’s work (other than his roles as Boromir in Lord of the Rings and Ned Stark in Games of Thrones), here’s a snippet from his mini biography on IMDB.com to help you understand the actor that is Bean:

Sean Bean, England’s most versatile actor, holds a stellar career spanning every medium for approximately 20 years, in theater, radio, television and movies. This soulful, green-eyed blonde’s roles are so varied that his magnetic persona convincing plays angst-ridden villains, as in “Clarissa,” passionate lovers like Mellors in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” rough-and-ready soldiers such as Richard Sharpe, heart-wrenching warriors as the emotionally torn Boromir in “The Lord of the Rings,” and noble Greeks, like Odysseus in “Troy,” where his very presence in the film adds grace and validity to the rest of the movie.

With a Sean Bean character dying every 1.24 years, according to the Save Sean Bean Campaign, fans know that when Bean is cast in a role there is a high probability that his character won’t be around to watch the end credits crawl across the screen. However, fans are sure to get a great movie with some spectacular acting and a memorable or moving death. In an effort to prevent future fatalities, cartoonist Peter Chiykowski started the Save Sean Bean Campaign, which has gained momentum and notoriety as the death tally of Bean’s characters grows.

Being a Sean Bean fan, I wanted to do something to help support the cause and to send a message to the Hollywood film making machine to “keep Sean Bean’s characters alive.” So, it  seemed fitting to honor the many  lives and deaths of Sean Bean’s charters who have left this world again, and again, and again…

Therefore, Underwords is hosting a wake to celebrate Sean Bean, his work, and the many lives and deaths of his characters. We invited several writers and bloggers to join in the celebration and to share their favorite Sean Bean moments. We also invite you to share your favorite Sean Bean character and/or scenes in the comments below.

For me, Sean Bean will always be Ned Stark. Strong and full of honor. A character cut down in his prime. An actor who made me believe that winter is indeed coming.

Erin Underwood
Underwords, editor

~ S. B. ~

I’d like to take some time to appreciate one of Sean’s most marvelous body parts. I mean, most actors can eye-drop their way to a few good boo-hoos, but Sean always does one better. He can cry with his eyebrows.

It’s as if all of this world’s moral strength and determination sits upon that shelf above his glacial stare, so even the slightest ripple of struggle conveys more emotion than most us are capable of feeling in a lifetime. One flinch in that majestic ridge, and an entire saga of tortured resolve unfolds in our hearts like a road map to Captive Audienceville, population EVERYONE.

You see, Sean exudes an aura of troubled nobility. If trouble and nobility were toxic radiation, we’d all be giving birth to weird Sean Bean-shaped monster-babies. He’s just that potent, that penetrating, that unsettlingly capable of broadcasting inner turmoil.

Truly, the greatest tragedy of being Sean Bean must be the fact that, on any given day, Sean Bean is too busy being Sean Bean to spend time staring at Sean Bean’s eyebrows.

Sean, though you’ve died in more movies than most actors will ever be in, I hope the dignity that adorns your brow will live on in your memory, your performances, and your mutant babyspawn.

Peter Chiykowski
Founder of the Save Sean Bean Campaign

~ S. B. ~

I remember Sean Bean as Errol Partridge, erstwhile Cleric of the Grammaton, hunting down and punishing “Sense Offenders,” in the box-office sleeper, Equilibrium.

Equilibrium, Sean Bean

Bean met his end when he himself was revealed to be a Sense Offender, in dusty warehouse, reading Yeats. Partridge used Yeats’ words in an effort to sway the heart and soul of his partner, the film’s protagonist. They are words that resonate with every struggling writer. “But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

But those words failed to sway his partner, who puts a bullet through Yeat’s poetry, and ultimately, Sean Bean’s face.

In Equilibrium, as in so many other films, Sean Bean has delivered stirring and inspiring words, only to be . . . well . . . shot in the face.

Do your part to help keep him alive. So that his words may inspire generations to come. In some future picture. For once.

– Myke Cole
Control Point, author


~ S. B. ~

I’ll always remember the first time I met Sean. It was in a slightly seedy area of Manchester, a back street by the canal, where they were busy filming “Extremely Dangerous”. I’d asked Sean’s publicist and agent whether I could visit the set, and they’d graciously made all the proper arrangements… and my friend Julie and I were granted access.

All morning, we stood off-camera with the film’s crew, watching Sean smash a bottle over the head of a baddie, have a conversation with another baddie while sitting at a table, and perform assorted stunts, fights, and fleeings. I wondered when I was going to be allowed to actually speak to Sean – but nobody came along to introduce me… in spite of my rather anxious glances at anybody who looked like they were in charge.

Finally, the cast and crew broke for lunch. I screwed up my courage and located Sean’s publicist, and asked if it would be possible for him to provide an introduction. He suggested I “seize the day” and introduce myself, and then disappeared… leaving me wondering how on earth I was going to accomplish it.

Cast and crew returned from lunch – half an hour later than promised – and I was still trying to sort out the logistics of approaching Sean to say hello, when the opportunity suddenly presented itself. There he was. Standing all alone. On a corner. Talking on his cellphone.

“Go!” Julie said, giving me a push.

I went. Timidly. Tiptoeing. Behind him.

“Hello,” I said.

He turned around. And suddenly there I was, face to face with my hero. Except he was about six inches taller than me, and I was staring at his chin.

“I’m Winona,” I said, stammering to get it all out. “I do the internet!”

I’d meant to say, “I do your website, The Compleat Sean Bean!” – but it didn’t come out that way. I was now single-handedly responsible for creating the entire world wide web.

Sean’s face lit up. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

And I realized, in that moment, that his agent and publicist hadn’t told him I was going to be on set. It had been arranged as a surprise.

“I came to see you!” I said. It was the only thing I could think of. And then… I ran away.

I literally ran away! To this day, Julie will tell you that she watched, killing herself with laughter, as I rushed off, frightened and afraid in the presence of my personal god – while my personal god pursued me – literally pursued me – all the way back to the canal, where he finally caught up – and we had a perfectly lovely, not-scarey-at-all conversation.

And that is how Sean and I first met, many many years ago.

I’m sure he remembers it. If not the exact circumstances, then very definitely the film and the role! It’s one of the ones he didn’t actually die in!

Winona Kent
Creator of The Compleat Sean Bean
Cold Play, author


~ S. B. ~


It may have been the voice Sheb “Purple People Eater” Wooley, as some film historians contend.  Me, I prefer to think it somehow sprang up organically in nature, or perhaps from some cosmic source, like the deep space static picked up by the CETI antenna dishes.

Whatever its origin, the “Wilhelm Scream” is a cinematic institution, having been utilized in many hundreds of films, television episodes, cartoons and commercials since its 1951 introduction in “Distant Drums”, a Gary Cooper western that wasn’t “High Noon”.  It has become instantly recognizable to legions of learned filmgoers, and so frequently used by the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino as to now border on cliché.

Clichéd…but employed.  Because it really might just be the most absolutely perfect cry of a man falling to, if not his death, a most ill at ease outcome nonetheless.

Consider Sean Bean the Wilhelm Scream of modern Hollywood.

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”  So said Laurence Olivier.  Or maybe Donald Crisp.  Or possibly Edmund Kean.  Doesn’t matter, because it’s a truism that’s so correct, it can’t have a single font of origin…it must simply Be.  Anyway, it’s also absolutely wrong.

Because dying…convincingly, in a manner that doesn’t make us want to snicker…is damned hard to accomplish on screen.  Real death be not proud; nor, mostly, terribly noble or stoic.  It’s messy or anti-climactic or even morbidly comedic, but rarely is it carried off in a way that doesn’t just move us, but actually touches some gallant light deep within, and makes us actually think, “Yeah, that’s the way I’d like to go.”

Ned Stark nobly giving his life for his child, and at peace with himself as the feral crowd bays for his blood. If we had our pick, who wouldn’t want to have it all end that way?

The scene works, it shocks, it moves, not only because of the finely-crafted character.  It succeeds because of the panache which Bean brings to the life and cleaved death of Ned.  And that didn’t just happen.  It’s the end result of Sean Bean mastering the Art of Dying.

Patriot Games, Sean Bean

A coward may die a thousand deaths, but so does an actor who has honed his craft.  We don’t get to the magnificent Stark Terminus in 2011 without Bean having first had his ticket punched in “Caravaggio” in 1986.  In the quarter century in between, he bought the farm in “Patriot Games”, took a dirt nap in “Goldeneye”, rang down the curtain in “Don’t Say a Word”, crossed the River Styx in “Fellowship of the Ring”, and joined the invisible choir in something like 600 other roles (figures vary).  Seriously, when a character dies in a film now, they ought to just call it “Beaning”.

Granted, this probably isn’t what Sean had dreamt of when he first got into acting.  But you’ve got to admit, there are plenty of worse things to be known for as an actor.

Of course, Sean Bean dying on celluloid has almost become cliché.  Clichéd…but employed.  Because when you see Bean in a role now, you know you’re going to get a rock solid performance and, should it end in death, it’ll be a meaningful one.  Because that’s what he brings to the table, and a hell of a lot of other actors can’t so much as touch him when it comes to departing this mortal coil.

(If I were a producer, I’d develop a black comedy for Bean where he plays a poor soul at the end of his rope who keeps trying to kill himself, but fails miserably with every attempt, and goes on to live a long, long life. That is what passes for ironic in Hollywood, after all.)

So we come now not to bury Bean, but to praise him.  He lives to die, and he does it so very well.  He is our new Hollywood institution.

Of course, if he ever dies on screen while giving the Wilhelm Scream, all of our heads will implode.

(And P.S….what two things do “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” have in common?  Why, Sean Bean and the Wilhelm Scream, of course.  Coincidence?  There are no coincidences.  Consider your minds blown.)

Shiai Mata
SlayerLit, founder


~ S. B. ~

To us keen team of Beans, all of Bean’s scenes and schemes, up ‘til now, teem of scream or dream scenes.

He’s been reamed in-between, his blood steams on the green, and it seems he’s not keen on serene.

Lean on Bean, let us scream, let us show what we mean ‘til he deems his next scene is serene.

If the Bean is not keen, if he views this obscene, let us all mourn the man he has been.

–  Jay Paulin
Ink’d Well Comics, writer and artist


~ The End ~
Long Live S.ean B.ean

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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12 Responses to Celebrating the Many Lives and Deaths of Sean Bean

  1. jaypaulin says:

    Reblogged this on Jay Paulin and commented:
    I contributed a strange little piece for a strange little concept. It was a lot of fun, though!

  2. Winona Kent says:

    Fabulous! I’ll reblog this and give it a shout on Twitter and Facebook 🙂 Love it 🙂

  3. Winona Kent says:

    Reblogged this on Winona Kent and commented:
    This is great fun so I thought I’d share it… I contributed a little bit, too! 🙂

  4. Helen Isitt says:

    This piece is just awesome. I’m sharing on facebook, thank you so much for an interesting read with a couple of good hearty chuckles.

  5. Barb Vischer says:

    Fantastic! Must share on facebook as well.

  6. EFi says:

    Reading Nona’s quote “I do the internet” is one thing, having the full story about her first meeting with Sean tolde by her live, is way more hilarious …
    Thank you guys for collecting those stories!
    Btw: After my first meeting with Sean, I fled with “I can die happy now”, which left a very broad smile on his face 🙂

  7. Pingback: The Dead Sean Bean Incident « FanFiction Fridays

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