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After some college plays and one at Rotherham Civic Theatre, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), starting a seven-term course in January 1981.

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After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Bean made his professional debut in a theatre production of Romeo and Juliet in 1983.

Retaining his Yorkshire accent, he first found mainstream success for his portrayal of Richard Sharpe in the ITV series Sharpe.

In the independent film Far North, he plays a Russian mercenary who gets lost in the tundra and is rescued by an Inuit woman and her daughter, whom he later pits against one another.

Bean's most prominent role was as Boromir in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In 1989, he starred as the evil Dominic O'Brien in The Fifteen Streets, where he gained a dedicated following.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bean became an established actor on British television.

His major screen time occurs in the first installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

He appears briefly in flashbacks in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as well as in a scene from the extended edition of The Two Towers.

As Paul Mc Gann was injured while playing football two days into filming, the producers initially tried to work around his injury, but it proved impossible and Bean replaced him.

The series ran continuously from 1993 to 1997, with three episodes produced each year.

Bean's critical successes in Caravaggio and Lady Chatterley contributed to his emerging image as a sex symbol, but he became most closely associated with the character of Richard Sharpe, the maverick Napoleonic Wars rifleman in the ITV television series Sharpe.