Outside of dying in films, Sean Bean is perhaps best known for his stints in Middle-earth and Westeros. Having been a fixture of the high fantasy scene as both Boromir and Ned Stark, it’s clear the British actor knows a thing or two about what it takes to stand out from the pack in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace.
That’s something Knights of the Zodiac aims to do. Based on the hit Saint Seiya manga and anime series, the new action movie blends Greek mythology with fantasy hallmarks, focusing on the story of a man – Bean’s Alman Kido – enlisting warriors to protect his daughter. Plot twist: his daughter is also fated to be the vessel for the reincarnation of the goddess Athena. Worlds away, then, from the more intimate political intrigue in Winterfell.
GamesRadar+ recently sat down with Bean to discuss his latest role, including working with The Witcher’s Tomek Baginski on his first feature film and being "hooked" by the source material. He also discusses a long overdue GoldenEye reunion with Famke Janssen, who plays his ex-wife – and potential god-destroyer – Guraad in Knights of the Zodiac and, famously, Xenia Onatopp in the 1995 James Bond movie. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been part of some of the biggest fantasy franchises in Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. While this is a very different type of fantasy, how do you think Knights of the Zodiac stands out in what is a more crowded genre than 10-20 years ago?
I wasn’t that familiar with [the manga] Saint Seiya, the Knights of the Zodiac, the kind of history behind it, and how successful and how popular it was in Japan and in certain parts of the world [like] South America and Poland.
But I think what makes this film unique is the fact it’s combined two kinds of elements, which are very interesting to me: Greek mythology – which I was always interested in growing up as a kid – and the Japanese culture, the anime, the manga. Combining those together complements each other very well in the end product. It’s quite fascinating and it’s very exciting.
I read [in a 2019 interview with Vulture] that you only read the first book to prepare for Game of Thrones. Was it a similar approach here? Or did you come in fresh?
I think I read a little bit more than that! As I said, I wasn’t that familiar with it. I spoke to the directors and the producers and we explored it a little bit. Once I got into it, I got hooked by it. I tried to incorporate that in my performance.
It became more apparent as we went along filming how intricate and how fascinating the themes of the stories were. The end product is quite unusual.
I’m a huge Bond fan, so it was great to see a mini-GoldenEye reunion with Famke Janssen in this. I know you have appeared in one other film since then, but what was it like sharing the set and sharing the screen together again? Was the chemistry stil the same?
We were all a bit younger then! [laughs]
It was good to work with her again. It’s the first time me and Famke really had any scenes together. On Bond, we saw each other on set, but we didn’t really have any scenes together. I worked with her on [Don’t Say A Word], had a telephone conversation [scene] and never saw her on that film either! So it was nice to actually have scenes with her and thrash it out in the later scenes in the movie. That was good.
I spoke to the Knights of the Zodiac director Tomek Baginski a few years ago for The Witcher – he has a real eye for visual flair. What was the thing that impressed you most about working with him?
He was very clear about what he wanted, he was brilliant with the crew, and great with the actors. He was able to separate the acting and the emotional subject from the crew. He looked like someone who really studied [the source material] for a long time – which I believe he has, because it’s very popular in Poland.
He said at the premiere it’s been years and years since he wanted to try and bring this to an audience. He’s finally had the chance to do it. I think he did a wonderful job: he’s very steady, not a man who gets too excited about things, and he’s very focused on what he’s doing. And I respect him for that. He’s fulfilled his dream with this film because he’s done a great job of it.
Knights of the Zodiac is set for release on May 12 in the United States and July 28 in the UK.