Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Bean was accepted to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he won the silver medal for his graduation performance in Waiting for Godot. He went on to perform onstage for the Royal Shakespeare Company playing the lead in Romeo and Juliet, and continued to fill his résumé with performances in Fair Maid of the West, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Deathwatch, and Last Days of Mankind.
From stage he looked to launch his career onto the big screen. Achieving the spotlight, however, was not so simple. Bean spent years working on various projects, from the experimental Caravaggio (1986) to the hauntingly moody Stormy Monday (1988). He also expanded his résumé to television work, working on telefilms like Troubles, The Fifteen Streets and Small Zones.
Bean first garnered critical praise with his performance in the film The Field (1990). Soon after, moviegoers on this side of the pond also took a second look at the English actor who played an IRA terrorist in the hit film Patriot Games (1992).
Using the exposure of Games, doors began opening for Bean, especially back in England on the BBC. Bean received the coveted role of Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, and starred in many two-hour, made-for-TV films as that character. The stories, which include 14 episodes, follow a British soldier in the Peninsular War during the age of Napoleon. Other telefilms like Bravo Two Zero, Lady Chatterley, Clarissa and Prince continued his ascent into stardom.
His film roles also increased in both size and scope. In 1995 he played the agent gone bad in GoldenEye, Sophie Marceau's love interest in Anna Karenina (1997), the British weapons expert turned fraud in Ronin (1998), the lead role in Essex Boys (2000), the kidnapper in Don't Say a Word (2001), and the impatient human prince Boromir, in Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Return of the King (2003).
Bean has been married and divorced three times and has three daughters, two with ex-wife/actress Melanie Hill, and one with ex-wife/actress Abigail Cruttenden.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) - The voice of Emperor Martin Septim
Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010)
Far North (2007)
True North (2007)
The Hitcher (2007)
Silent Hill (2006)
North Country (2005)
The Dark (2005)
The Island (2005)
National Treasure (2004)
Venetian Heat (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Big Empty (2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Tom & Thomas (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Don't Say a Word (2001)
Essex Boys (2000)
Bravo Two Zero (1999)
The Canterbury Tales (1998) (voice)
Anna Karenina (1997)
When Saturday Comes (1996)
Black Beauty (1994)
Patriot Games (1992)
In the Border Country (1991)
The Field (1990)
How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
War Requiem (1989)
Stormy Monday (1988)
Winter Flight (1984)