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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.
The series was based on Bernard Cornwell's novels about the Peninsular War, and the fictional experiences of a band of soldiers in the famed 95th Rifles.
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 has since garnered further recognition for his performance as Ned Stark in the HBO epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, as well as roles in the BBC anthology series Accused and the ITV historical drama series Henry VIII.
One of his more recent prominent film roles was Boromir in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–03).
His first notable Hollywood appearance was that of an Irish republican terrorist in the 1992 film adaptation of Patriot Games.
He played the weak-stomached Spence in Ronin (1998), a wife-beating ex-con in Essex Boys (2000), and a malevolent kidnapper/jewel thief in Don't Say a Word (2001).
He was also widely recognised as villainous treasure hunter Ian Howe in National Treasure, and played a villainous scientist in The Island (2005).
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.