The Sheffield-born star plays the relentlessly evil Jason Locke in Essex Boys, which opens tonight, and is based on a real life 1995 drug-related murder in which three men were shot dead in a Range Rover in Rettendon When his character isn't doling out fatal ecstasy pills or blowing away half of the Essex underworld he's beating up his wife, played by ER actress Alex Kingston.
But despite the brutal scenes both stars decided to pull out all the stops to make them as realistic as possible.
''Those scenes were done in the early hours of the morning,'' he explains. ''We knew vaguely what actions we were going to take and where we were going to go but on the actual take it was a case of 'good luck' and, thankfully, it went really well.
''We agreed in going for it whole-heartedly, which I think it needed if we were going to show two people going for it hammer and tongs,'' he adds.
The part not only called for Bean to unleash his darker side but also to immerse himself in the seedy Essex underworld.
''We went to certain bars and talked to a few people,'' he says. ''I also read quite a bit about the actual incident.
"To be able to play this part you can't keep yourself at too much of a distance otherwise you're never going to get to know these people."
But however much he knew he was just playing a part the 40-year-old star was also aware that it wasn't one he'd like his three young daughters to see.
''I think they know me for who I am and that they can distinguish between reality and fantasy,'' he ponders. ''I know it's not always the case but I'm talking about my daughters. I think they know I am just playing a part.''
By contrast Bean hopes his next movie Lord Of The Rings will be something his girls will be proud to see him in.
''I did have them in mind when I took the part,'' says Bean, who has two daughters by his first wife actress Melanie Hill and a third with new wife Abigail Cruttenden.
''It's a big step from Essex Boys. I was really pleased to get the part in order to make a change from one extreme to the other.''
The Lord Of The Rings shoot did have its drawbacks however. Filming took place in New Zealand which meant long periods away from home for the star.
''I do miss my family,'' he says. ''I tend to focus on what I'm doing but sometimes when it gets over three months you start noticing that you want to come back.'
In fact Bean says he's more than happy to concentrate on making British-based movies despite stints in Hollywood working alongside A-list stars such as Robert De Niro.
''I do prefer British movies because you tend to get lost in a big blockbuster and your part tends to get diluted,'' he explains.
That's not to say, however, that he's not a little starstruck by some of his Hollywood co-stars.
''Usually, once you get to know these people you sit down, have a cup of tea and a cigarette and you realise you're all in it together. But Robert De Niro, he was different,'' he laughs. ''He had an air of individuality. He's such a hero of mine and a fantastic actor.''
Even now Bean, who lives in London, can't quite believe how far he's come since his days as an apprentice welder in Sheffield.
''I do take stock of my life,'' he says. ''It's always great to work with people you've been to see in films, like De Niro.
"You hear names and you just think 'fantastic' and on the whole they do live up to expectations. Richard Harris, I really looked forward to working with him and he was great. He lived up to expectations completely.''