If I could have a penny for every time I've watched Sean Bean pick up a gun (or bow and arrow if he's got his toga on for Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings/anything with Sharpe in it), look meaningfully into the semi-distance and plot a one-man revenge for the way the world has turned against him, I'd... be able to buy Patriot Games on DVD. Twice. Everything Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham have learnt, the original British tough man has already forgotten. Why never a romantic lead, I wonder?
"I like what I do, and it appears to be working out," he chuckles. Which is fair enough, when you think how many millions he must have made from bulked-up, narrow-eyed appearances in everything from Lord of the Rings to Sharpe, via Patriot Games and Lady Chatterley's Lover (the last one a bit worryingly romantic, but ultimately doomed, thankfully).
So it comes as something of a surprise to find him, in person, disarmingly gentle, full of northern shyness and an apparently authentic humility. No middle-distance, shrewd appraisals, or any of the suspicion on which he has built a substantial career of two decades and counting. My respect for him as an actor just went up.
He's here to talk about his latest - guess what - terrorist thriller, filmed on the streets of London and concerning the security services' worst nightmare, a crime about to occur, but attributable to someone nowhere on their files - a 'Cleanskin'.
Does cutting your trade in such hostile, threatening fare on a weekly basis make it easier or harder to deal with the terrorist threat that pervades all citizens of western cities in this day and age?
"You do think about it because of all the homework you do," he reflects. "It's quite unsettling, you go into areas where you didn't have that knowledge before...
"I've always been interested in it, reading history books, particularly political history, and you discover there's a story that runs right through it from the Crusades to the present day, everyone still battling for the same thing."
When I tell Bean I've just read he's "Britain's foremost film action hero", he laughs in a "don't believe the hype" kind of way. So how does he stay authentic, true to his Sheffield roots, his famous Blade tattoo notwithstanding, when he spends half his life being powdered and corseted for his next role?
"I always get nervous before a scene," he replies. "That never disappears, on the first day it's like you're at school - once you've got it done, then you can start talking to everyone.
"But it's a buzz like nothing else, enthusiasm and passion."
Bean hasn't stopped working for years, it seems, with six films slated for this year alone, plus the continuingly successful HBO TV series Game of Thrones. And he's no longer a young man. Does he ever get tired of throwing himself around hillsides/streets with revolvers/muskets?
"You can run out of energy if you take on a lot of stuff," he admits. "Last year, I was going from job to job, and my battery runs down... I just try to get as far away from my job as I can, go out and live a normal life."
What's a normal life for Sean Bean? He doesn't hesitate. "Going shopping."
Cleanskin is in UK cinemas from Friday 9 March. Watch the trailer below:
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