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Bean Pilots 'Flightplan'

Every now and then, an actor ends up becoming "that guy." You'll speak to a friend about a movie you've just seen and say, "Oh, yeah, that guy from such and such. Remember him?" It's usually a character actor who has appeared in a number of successful flicks, but doesn't get the notoriety or the publicity of his counterparts. Sean Bean has been "that guy" for awhile, but it looks like he is about to move out of the shadows.

Most audiences will recognize the Brit for either his role in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as the villain in "National Treasure" or as Odysseus in "Troy." A minority might even remember him as the head of the cloning facility in "The Island." But, chances are they won't know his name. Bean has just finished three more movies that may end up lifting him out of the supporting arena: the videogame adaptation "Silent Hill"; the coal-mining drama "North Country"; and the Jodie Foster thriller "Flightplan." Interviewed as he traveled Europe to promote the international release of "The Island" (where it is actually a hit with $100 million to date), Bean was especially enthusiastic about the Foster "Flightplan."

"It twists and turns as it goes," he says of the mystery that features Foster searching for her missing child on a plane in the middle of a trans-Atlantic flight. "You start to think, 'It's got to be him or no, it has to be him.' It's quite a big shock when you find out the person or persons that have been doing this. It could even be the captain."

Bean plays that captain -- a character that, at first glance, isn't that disturbed at the child's disappearance.

"This is a massive aircraft. It's got numerous stories and seven galleys," he says of the fictional plane. "So, it's not inconceivable that this could happen at the beginning. As the story goes on [Foster's character] becomes more and more desperate and we start questioning her sanity. And as much as I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, I have to make a decision because of responsibilities to the airplane and the cargo. So, it becomes more bizarre as it goes on."

"North Country" is a serious drama from director Niki Caro ("Whale Rider") that gave Bean the opportunity to act opposite Oscar-winners Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand.
"I play a great friend of [Theron's character] and Frances plays my partner who becomes quite ill," he says. "Throughout the course of the film I look after her and ... it's a very moving story. It's very poignant, very hard and very gritty. It's like a play in some respects. The characters are so fantastic. I mean they are really deep characters. It was just a joy to work on even though it was very intense."

If both films live up to their potential, Bean just might take one more step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

"Flightplan" opens nationwide September 23; "North Country" opens nationwide October 14.

Next: Hollywood Invades Toronto
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