If there’s one actor who has become an expert at dying well onscreen, it’s Sean Bean. It’s become a running joke that if Bean pops up in a movie or TV show – his character won’t survive for long. Arguably his best, and most memorable expiration scene is in The Lord of the Rings – and death expert Bean agrees!
Sean Bean plays one of the most compelling characters in The Lord of the Rings because in his short screen-time, he goes through a journey of almost succumbing to the allure of the One Ring and betraying the Fellowship. He also wrestles over Aragorn being Isildur’s heir, meaning that he should rule Boromir’s home kingdom of Gondor.
However, Boromir gets a hero’s death in the end, attempting to save the hobbits Merry and Pippin from being captured by Orcs and cementing him as one of the most selfless The Lord of the Rings characters. “It’s my favorite death scene, and I’ve done a few,” Bean told EW in 2017 “You couldn’t ask for a more heroic death.”
It was actually Bean himself, along with his The Lord of the Rings cast mate Viggo Mortensen, writer-director Peter Jackson and his co-writer Fran Walsh who came up with Boromir’s dying words the night before shooting his death scene. Over beers and a bottle of wine, they settled on the words; “My brother, my captain, my king,” which he says to Aragorn.
It’s testament to the writing, but also Bean and Mortensen’s performances that Boromir’s death is so emotional. We spend far less time with Boromir than with any of the rest of the Fellowship, but he gets a better character arc (in the movies, at least) than some of the others such as Gimli or Legolas.
The same can be said of Boromir’s brother Faramir (David Wenham) – who, thanks to the extended editions – gets to have an emotional story that invests the audience, despite there being so many other, more ‘important’ characters. And this is one of many reasons why the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings are the best fantasy movies of all time.
Sean Bean has got to have some spectacular deaths, including having his throat slit in Caravaggio (1986), impaled on an anchor in Patriot Games (1992), and James Bond gets to drop him from a great height in Goldeneye (1995). And then of course there’s his beheading as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones – another relatively early death that makes a huge impact, with repercussions throughout the rest of the series.
Bean’s advice for a good death scene is; “You can’t show off. You can’t be vain or posing…. Because every time you die, it’s a big fucking moment!” Take it from the expert.