Sean Bean was cast as the title character, Richard Sharpe in ITV's adaptation of the character, first debuting on TV in 1993.
Sharpe's Challenge was written by Russell Lewis and directed by Tom Clegg. In order to deal with Sean Bean's aging, the movie was set in 1817, instead of 1803. It loosely adapts Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe's Triumph and Sharpe's Fortress.
The film starts with a flashback to 1803 in India, where Sergeant Sharpe (Sean Bean) leads a patrol to an East India Company outpost. He arrives shortly before another supposedly friendly group of soldiers led by Major William Dodd (Toby Stephens). In a treacherous surprise attack, Dodd's men kill the entire garrison, leaving no witnesses, and makes off with the payroll. However, Sharpe is only wounded and manages to survive by pretending to be dead.
Fourteen years later, in 1817, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Sharpe, now a farmer in France, is summoned by his former commander, the Duke of Wellington (Hugh Fraser), to his London home, Apsley House, and asked to undertake one more mission for him: to find a man in India. The missing agent was trying to learn the identity of a turncoat officer advising a rebellious Maratha rajah. Sharpe refuses, unwilling to press his luck any further, until he learns that the agent is his old comrade in arms and best friend, Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley).
Sharpe sets out for India. On his way to report to General Burroughs (Peter Symonds), he passes a group of soldiers escorting Celia Burroughs (Lucy Brown), the general's attractive daughter. After a short conversation with her, he rides on ahead. He is soon attacked by marauders, but is rescued by Patrick Harper, who shows up just in time with his signature 7-barrel gun.
Celia Burroughs' escort is also attacked, by none other than Dodd; she is captured and taken to the fortress of Khande Rao (Karan Panthaky), the nominal leader of the revolt. However, he is not yet of age and is under the influence of a regent, his late father's favourite concubine, Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi), and her lover, now General William Dodd, who plan to kill Rao before he declares his majority.
Sharpe reaches the encampment of General Burroughs, who is preparing to lay siege to the fortress of Ferraghur. The General is ill, so command has passed to an old, bitter foe of Sharpe's, the cowardly General Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane). Simmerson refuses to act without orders and reinforcements from Agra. However, when Sharpe requests permission to infiltrate the enemy fortress, Simmerson is only too happy to allow him to risk his life.
Sharpe and Harper, posing as deserters, are welcomed by the rebels. Sharpe makes the acquaintance of former French Colonel Gudin (Aurélien Recoing), a fellow veteran of the Battle of Waterloo two years earlier. Gudin has been hired to train the men.
Meanwhile, General Burroughs recovers his health, dismisses Simmerson, and commences the siege. Sharpe discovers that Dodd has laid a trap for the British: they will attempt their breach of the wall just where he has mined it with barrels of gunpowder.
In a skirmish, some British soldiers are captured, among them Sergeant Shadrach Bickerstaff (Peter-Hugo Daly), who had clashed with Sharpe earlier. To avoid torture and execution, Bickerstaff betrays Sharpe. Sharpe and Harper are beaten and imprisoned, but Gudin, disgusted by the barbaric execution of prisoners, helps Sharpe and Harper escape, just as the British launch their assault.
Gudin next attempts to free Celia, but is murdered by Bickerstaff. Sharpe and Harper successfully set off the gunpowder prematurely, resulting in a huge explosion which kills many defenders. Harper encounters and shoots Bickerstaff, while Sharpe goes off in search of Dodd.
When it is clear the fortress has fallen, Dodd prepares to flee. Madhuvanthi attacks him with a knife when she learns that he is going to abandon her; he murders her. Sharpe finds and kills Dodd.
Khande Rao is allowed to keep his throne after he signs a peace treaty, much to Sharpe's disgust. Celia is reunited with her father. Their mission accomplished, Sharpe and Harper ride off. Celia tries to get Sharpe to stay, but when he does not she kisses him and bids him farewell, wishing him luck.
The movie was released in 2006 and broadcast on ITV. A DVD release followed shortly afterwards.