Interview Magazine

Pierce Brosnan: He went from Ireland to la-la land to
become the very model of a modern major gentleman

Author: Ingrid Sischy
Issue: Oct, 2002

When Irishman Pierce Brosnan first came to Hollywood, all he had was a dream. After just a couple of weeks, he had a nine-week job on a new TV show called Remington Steele. Twenty years later, Los Angeles is Brosnan's home and his career has continued to flourish. Next month sees his fourth turn as James Bond in Die Another Day, while December sees the actor showing a softer side in Evelyn, a film he produced and stars in as a father fighting for custody of his children. James Bond--a family man? You better believe it.

INGRID SISCHY: As a young Irish lad, did you ever dream you'd end up in L.A.? In a beach house? With all of this?

PIERCE BROSNAN: [laughs] I had big dreams when I was a boy. And I can't say that I never saw a beach house in Malibu in those dreams. I wished for America; I wished for work in the movies. I came here 20 years ago and ended up getting a TV series called Remington Steele--

IS:--Wait, don't go so fast. Tell me a little bit about your childhood.

PB: My childhood, in reading it, kind of looks grim, but there was actually some magic there, and it definitely taught me to be a survivor. My dad left when I was an infant and I didn't see him again for another 33 years, and then only one time. So I grew up with my mother and grandparents. When I was three or four and my mother went off to England, to be nurse and find a new life for her son and herself, and I stayed behind in Ireland.  My grandparents passed away when I was six.  I lived with an uncle and then an aunt, so there was a real feeling of separation as I was growing up. There was a longing, a loneliness, a feeling of where does one fit in? What is home? Where is home? There was a period of time when I was very angry bout it, but that is all behind us now. My mother someone I've come to admire greatly.

IS: When were you reunited with your mom?

PB: I went to live with her and my glorious stepfather in England in 1964.

IS: And did you always want to be an actor as you were growing up?

PB: I wanted to be a painter. I was good at painting and I was good at putting words on paper.

IS: Did you go to art school?

PB: I went to night school. I got a job designing in an art department, doing furniture illustration for the newspapers, and then in the evening I'd go to life-drawing classes. Then when I was 17 or 18, as I was hanging up my coat one day, I was talking to a guy about the movies. I loved the cinema, although at that stage I had no dreams or aspirations to be an actor. He invited me to this art lab called the Oval House Theatre. I went in that night and every night following and I literally gave up my job. Suddenly I found myself with writers and poets and black people, gay people, musicians and acrobats--it was a cross-section of people. Lovely, beautiful, mangled people. And I thought, At last--

IS:--You're home.

PB: Yes, because while I was working in the art department, I'd look at the other people and think, There's got to be more. But what is it?

IS: And how did you end up getting on a plane and coming to America?

PB: I had done a drama documentary for British television called Murphy's Stroke, and a producer from America saw me in it and gave me a role in The Manions of America for ABC television. And that was my ticket to America. After the miniseries, it seemed to make sense to come to America. You know, I had something to sell. So I took a second mortgage out on the house in England that my late wife, Cassie, and I had bought, and got on the plane. I got an agent, and then at the end of the second week, the first interview I went on was for Remington Steele

Click for larger version IS: What was your first impression of L.A.?

PB: I loved it. I felt comfortable. When I got to L.A. I was suddenly free. I was free of being Irish or English--I could be anything I wanted to be.

IS: Did L.A. feel real?

PB: [sighs] It was so exhilarating. First of all, you're bathed in this blue light, where everything is set against the harsh blue sky and the space above you is vast. Then you're confronted with being inside a car and not being able to walk in that space, and you're driving to places that seem rather lonely. [laughs] Ultimately it felt like putting on a beautiful coat; it just felt easy. It came with a lot of feelings of displacement, but I was doing something I had always dreamt of.

 IS: And when did 007 come along?

PB: In '86. It was before NBC cancelled Remington. The film producers offered me Bond, but then the show's ratings went up, so the network put the show back on. Ultimately, they wouldn't let me out of the Remington Steele contract, so I lost the Bond gig and Tim Dalton did it.

IS: But then Bond came back for you?

PB: Yes, in '94.

IS: And in November you'll be releasing your fourth Bond film. But you also have another movie, Evelyn. due out at the end of the year. It has parallels with your own life, doesn't it?

PB: It has parallels up to a point. It's set in Ireland. I was born in Ireland in '53, and the story takes place in that year. It concerns a broken family, and it's about a father, and I am now a father of a big family. It was a lovely picture because it allowed me to play the emotions of a man who is fighting his heart out for his kids. And I produced the picture through my company, Irish Dream Time, so it's something I'm proud of.

IS: One thing that I've noticed about Los Angeles is that it seems so quiet. It's not like New York, where there are people out walking the streets at all hours. L.A. feels very private and sometimes people say they feel isolated. How did all this affect you when you went through a very difficult period in the late '80s and early '90s, when your first wife, Cassie, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and eventually succumbed to it?

PB: The beach was always the place that we came to. That's where you find a comfort and beauty. I found L.A. supportive. You have to know how to use it, because it can be very lonely in the quietness. I can only say that it was because of the fine woman that Cassie was--her great strength of character--that everybody got through such a time. But L.A. was good. Keely [Brosnan's new wife] and I keep thinking of moving away, but the beach is fantastic, and after 20 years, L.A. is a big part of my life. I've done more living, loving and losing, and working, than I've done in any other city.

IS: Do you ever still feel like an outsider?

PB: It's funny. We started this conversation with me talking about coming to America and the sense of belonging, [laughs] but then I think I don't belong here, either. When I go back to London, and I see my life there and my friends there, I think, I like it here, too. And then I go to Ireland and I'm like, "This is where I belong."

IS: Has L.A. changed in the last 20 years? If I was a young Pierce right now, coming from Ireland, would I have the same shot?

PB: Yes, you would. There's no question.

IS: What does it take to make it in L.A.?

PB: You have to be as tough as old boots, and you'd better have a pocket full of humor, otherwise you're going to be dead in the water, because it's a crazy town--you just have to laugh at it. You also have to take it seriously. So many people say, "I'm going to L.A.--it's just a joke," but you should be saying, "Hey! I'm going to L.A. It's a great town." If you're going to do it, be proud of it. Don't piss on it. L.A.'s a cool city. She handles herself well.

IS: For some people success happens for a minute, and then it's over. For others, like you, it's sustained. Is it the luck of the draw?

PB: I don't know. I worked hard and I was lucky, and I'm still doing one and hoping for the other.

IS: What would you like to have happen over the next five or 10 years of your career?

PB: I would love to have another few movies under my belt where I've done work which surprises me and surprises the audience--work that is challenging to me as an actor. Because I've walked the same walk for some time now-

IS: --You mean the Bond walk?

PB: Yeah, from Remington and into Bond, and some of the work I've done in between. I'm very proud of Bond. I'm very proud of all the work that I've ever done, [laughs] whether people saw it or not, but Bond has meaningfulness in my life. It's meant that I've earned a great living, and I would hope that I've given some good entertainment through it.

IS: Is there a snobbery towards Bond? 

PB: Oh, yes. You have to have broad shoulders to play the role because you know you're going to be loved by many and sneered at by the few. You're an easy target for people who want to mock it. But ultimately, I'm holding the cards at the end of the day, and I am so proud to have come this far with it. It seems to have been my destiny that I should play this role.

IS: I think so. too. Pierce, tell me what you're looking at right now as you sign off.

PB: I'm looking out at the ocean.

IS: You're about to go on a holiday, so tomorrow you'll be looking at a new ocean, right?

PB: Yes. God willing.

IS: Have a great holiday, Pierce.

PB: Thank you, Ingrid. It was good to talk to you.

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COPYRIGHT 2002 Brant Publications, Inc.

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