Though Sean Bean refuses to disclose whether he’ll meet his maker in upcoming TNT series Legends—where he plays an FBI sleeper agent with the uncanny ability to assume undercover identities—one thing is dead certain: The 55-year-old British actor is a pro at dying on-screen, kicking the bucket (scratch that: he’s been beheaded, shot, torn apart by horses and more—nothing yet having to do with an actual bucket) in more than 20 roles since he broke out as an actor in the 1984 British TV series The Bill. In a clever marketing move, TNT recently even used Bean’s many deaths to their advantage, creating a social media campaign encouraging fans to adopt the hashtag #DontKillSeanBean—which inspired numerous memes, tweets, posts, and fan tributes all dedicated to Bean. And, oh yeah, there’s a t-shirt. Click through to see what Bean thinks about his deadly claim to fame.
In the 2010 film Black Death, Bean’s character is tied to horses that run off in different directions, tearing him apart from limb to limb. A gruesome death—but not one that required buckets of theatrical blood (much to Bean’s relief). ”Sometimes it’s sickly sweet, sticky. Especially you’re in the middle of a desert, you’re doing a fight scene, you’re covered in this sticky red stuff,” he says. ”I mean, acting’s like that. It looks quite good. It glistens, and it’s red, Viking red, and gooey. What can I say?”
Bean has appeared in some of pop culture’s most beloved franchises, including bloody fantasy drama Game of Thrones. And as the iconic line says, ”When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Unfortunately for Bean’s Ned Stark, winning was never a real option, making for the actor’s most traumatic death to date. ”I got my head chopped off!” laughs Bean. Making it worse, he adds, was that the cast and crew took the multiple casts of his head used for the infamous beheading scene and began ”taking pictures, and laughing, and messing around with it and throwing it around. And so that was a bit creepy.”
As Tadgh McCabe in 1990’s The Field, Bean meets his end when he’s chased off a cliff by a herd of cows and sheep. But that wasn’t the worst—or weirdest—part about that scene. Cut to a lifeless Bean, floating in the water, surrounding by actual dead sheep. ” They were floating around me in the water towards the end of the film, and then we had to reshoot something about four weeks later, in the same place, and there were still these remnants of these sheep. That was pretty horrific,” recalls Bean. ”I mean, they tried everything to clean it out but there were things popping up here and there.”
Fans around the world mourned when noble Boromir was shot to death with arrows by orcs in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). But Bean didn’t mind being killed off (sort of). ”I thought that was very artistic, very tastefully done, very beautifully done. A lot of pathos, and I thought that was a very poignant, moving way to go.”
Bean first met his maker in 1986’s Caravaggio as a 28-year-old. Now, decades later, he’s determined not to return to the art form that has cemented the course of his career. ”I think I started out not dying,” he says chuckling. ”And then I went through a period, quite a long period, about 20 years, where I died all the time. And now I’m starting to survive again, where I’ve come full circle.”