The 62-year-old stunned viewers with his commanding role in the new BBC One drama Time, with critics hailing the three-part show as a five-star winner. The proud Yorkshireman stars opposite acclaimed actor Stephen Graham, who described Time as a “difficult to watch” masterpiece created by Jimmy McGovern. Bean remains one of the nation’s most loved actors, and has been adored by generations of viewers – thanks to his performances in films such as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and TV hits Game of Thrones and Sharpe.
But one of his standout performances came in the 1995 James Bond classic GoldenEye, which saw him play villain Alec Trevelyan.
Trevelyan is initially a 00 agent, and Bond’s close friend, until he fakes his own death and establishes the Janus crime syndicate before his untimely demise at the hands of Pierce Brosnan’s 007.
Bean himself was reportedly close to being considered to become Bond himself in 1987, before the role ultimately went to Welshman Timothy Dalton, who starred in The Living Daylights and License to Kill before Brosnan took over.
Producers were so impressed with the Sheffield-born legend, however, he was given the role of Bond’s nemesis.
Having worked on Bond itself, Bean is routinely asked questions about the franchise and how it has maintained its appeal after more than 20 films.
But one issue that irked Bean was the criticism that was aimed towards Brosnan’s successor Daniel Craig.
When Craig was announced as the new Bond in 2005, critics were furious that a blond-haired man had been given the role, with the secret agent known for his trademark jet black hair.
Websites such as blondnotbond.com and danielcraigisnotbond.com were set up to attack the producers’ decision, with even national newspapers describing the choice as “bland”.
Bean however told Digital Spy in 2012: “I think Craig is brilliant as Bond. I remember in the beginning they were all saying, ‘He won’t work’, and I thought you, ‘You watch’ – and he did because he’s a good actor.”
Bean was then asked about the backlash Craig received prior to the role, and he replied: “I think it’s pathetic. You don’t even know what he’s like.
“I’d worked with him, so I know what he’s like and I know he’s good, so I was particularly pleased when he got [the role].”
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Craig himself spoke about the impact it had on him, and he told GQ in 2020: “I remember saying to my mum, ‘Can I play James Bond?’
“And she was like, ‘Of course you can. But I am your mother.’”
Reflecting on the new show Time, Graham told RadioTimes.com how he “loved the fact that stuff I do is difficult to watch for people”.
Comparing the new show with period drama Bridgerton, Graham continued: “That’s not difficult to watch.
“So why is this difficult to watch? I think this is difficult to watch because it’s coming into your living room.
“As Jimmy said, ‘we need to look at the penal system…’
“[The series is] putting a mirror to society and going, ‘Not sure if we’re getting this right.’ So maybe that’s why it’s difficult to watch, because it makes you think.”
Time is available on BBC iPlayer, with episodes on BBC One on Sunday nights from 9pm.