Before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Sean Bean was going to enter his father's Sheffield steel fabrication business as a welder. He changed his mind after he garnered praise for acting in a few roles in local theater while taking an art class at Rotherham College. Bean received a scholarship to the prestigious academy and graduated a few years later with the Silver Medal for his performance in Waiting for Godot. Shortly thereafter, Bean performed in several West End productions. He also appeared in Romeo and Juliet with the Glasgow Citizens Theatre and with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. In the first he played Tybalt and in the second he played Romeo. Following more stage experience, Bean made his feature film debut in 1986 in Derek Jarman's Carvaggio. Two years later, after returning to the stage, Bean appeared in Mike Figgis' Stormy Monday and in another Jarman effort, War Requiem. In addition to his filmwork, Bean also has a thriving television career that began in the mid-'80s. Notable television work includes Clarissa (1992) and Sharpe (1993). It is as a "bad guy" in films such as Patriot Games and Golden Eye that Bean is best-known in the U.S., though in the 1997 remake of Anna Karenina, he plays the dashing and romantic Count Vronsky. After joining Robert De Niro and Jean Reno for some international espionage in John Frankenheimer's Ronin (1998), taking a psychotic turn in Essex Boys (2000) and kidnapping the daughter of a respected adolescent therapist in Don't Say a Word (2001), Bean made his way to New Zealand for a role in director Peter Jackson's highly-successful Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Bean maintained his career working in diverse projects such as Equilibrium, the old fashioned sword and sandal epic Troy, and National Treasure.
He scored a supporting part in 2005's drama North Country, as well as a major part in Michael Bay's sci-fi spectacle The Island. He returned to the role of Sharpe for 2006's Sharpe's Challenge as well as 2008's Sharpe's Peril, and in between took on the role of the serial killer made famous by Rutger Hauer in the remake of The Hitcher.
The steadily working actor continued his hot streak in such projects as Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Death Race 2, and he found success on the small screen when he was cast in a pivotal part in the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones.