Brosnan Is Breaking The Bonds
Brosnan is breaking the Bonds
by Shane Watson
January 22, 2002
You may know that at the end of last year Pierce Brosnan was voted the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. At the time this seemed like another of those meaningless poll findings. OK, so his Bond has a certain flinty-eyed charm, his Thomas Crown was cool as a vat of cologne and, in the Tailor of Panama, he proved that, at the age of 48, he's still got a torso to rival Hollywood's best (Brad Pitt excepted).
But, none the less, Pierce is sexy like St Bruno rough cut, like Dormeuil man - sexy if your definition of sexy involves driving gloves and three-piece tuxedos. Given that the dinkiest of actors bulk up on screen, in reality Brosnan is guaranteed to be neat, manicured and a little bit naff, right?
Actually, wrong. For a start, Pierce Brosnan is 6ft 1ins. For another, he is perfectly ordinarily dressed in loose jacket and black jeans (not a tasselled loafer or suede blouson in sight). The thick, dark hair which, in pictures, looks suspiciously as if it might be dyed, is greying at the temples and the voice, which could be on the transatlantic side, what with him living in Malibu and being married to American eco-journalist Keely Shaye Smith, has a seductive Irish lilt - more pronounced, perhaps, because we are on Dublin soil, where he is currently filming 30 miles from the town where he was born.
In short, Pierce Brosnan is, contrary to the laws of celluloid, a lot better in the flesh. But then, this image has been steadily worked at and refined over a couple of decades, since Brosnan was cast as Remington Steele in the early Eighties. "I went to America to do edgy filmwork and I got this goofy, lovely TV show and I used it to the best of my advantage," says Brosnan, giving me the twisted smile that M is so often on the receiving end of, narrowing his eyes in that special way, as if the light is troubling him.
"Remington could be anybody, so I created this look. I said it should be three-piece suits and French cuffs and played it with pace. There wasn't anybody like me at that time."
Long before he created the smooth Remington style, Brosnan's first and biggest challenge was reinventing himself as a local boy when his mother brought him over to London in 1964:
"Oh, yeah, I was one of the lads, I was sarf London, y'know, but somehow I felt different. All my mates were going off to be painters or plumbers, but I kind of invented myself to be a commercial artist, and then I found acting and invented myself to be ..." Brosnan tails off at this point, as he has a habit of doing. Another habit is running through his mental thesaurus ... "When I found acting I found a certain refuge ... sanctuary ... home ... sense of belonging," which tends to spiral into epic voice-over territory "the joy and pain of growing up in an environment such as Ireland in the mid-Fifties - I could put that to good use."
What he invented, of course, was the suave image that was to make him a natural candidate for Bond (some would say that Brosnan's steely interpretation is the more effective and true to the original than Connery's). This month he starts shooting his fourth Bond film, seven years after his first outing in Goldeneye. "Is it my last? I don't know, I'd like to think not." Of course, there's always Robbie Williams who has expressed an interest in stepping into Bond's shoes. Brosnan laughs a heh, heh clipped laugh. "I dunno - you do have to do a bit of acting in it, there are a few moments when you have to look as if you know what you're doing." Still, what both performers share (Robbie with his recent attempt to ape Frank Sinatra) is the desire to be an iconic class act, and Brosnan has cultivated the charisma to make it happen. It's tempting to wonder how much of an overlap there is between Brosnan's image and that of his most famous character.
"I have a couple of BMWs and many sharp suits, but they stay at home in the wardrobe in mothballs," he says. "I live much more simply than that." But he admits that the role of the smooth operator Thomas Crown in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, which he co-produced, was consciously remoulded for him - merging his history and Bond's style (in his version, Crown started out as boxer in Ireland). "Steve McQueen was great in the original - but there was a slight chink in the armour in the sense that McQueen never really sat well in suits, and that world."
Now Brosnan is back in his producing chair for Evelyn, a true story set in Fifties' Dublin about a working-class Irishman fighting for custody of his children, a project that's rumoured to be particularly "personal" to him. Brosnan's father abandoned him as a baby and his mother was forced to leave him behind while she looked for work but none the less there's a whiff of familiarity about the theme. "It's not autobiographical. I just happen to be Irish, I happen to come from a broken home, blah blah - which I've spoken far too much about, gave it all away like I was in the confessional box. I identified with the Irishness of the story. I identified with being a father with his struggling for his family."
When pressed for details of his treatment at the hands of the Christian Brothers, Brosnan shrugs. "My childhood wasn't that harsh - there were rather beautiful moments to it as well, growing up on the River Boyne, y'know."
Besides his childhood, Brosnan has also spoken frequently about the suffering he and his family experienced when he lost his first wife to cancer. She died 10 years ago, leaving Brosnan to raise their son, Sean, and to adopt her two children, Christopher and Charlotte. Since then he has had two children with Shaye Smith, whom he married last year. During the course of the 45-minute interview she phones him twice and sends one written message - whether or not this has anything to do with the fact that they met when she interviewed him on the subject of eco tips is anyone's guess. Whatever the case, he enjoys the female attention that comes with fame: "Oh, the girls are out there. Oh, it's great," he says lapsing into full Dublin brogue. "I can flirt with the best of them," he flashes one of his better gritty looks. "You can run amok with it all. There's been times ..."
For now, he's too busy. Besides Bond, this month Brosnan is putting his weight behind the forthcoming production of Phaedra by a theatrical company close to his heart, Concentric Circles, of which he is a patron. The show opens tonight in Colchester and comes to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith later this month. Brosnan may return to the stage himself in time, but for now he's happy being the hard man in the bespoke suit.
"I'm comfortable in the suits, I'm
comfortable out of the suits. I'm comfortable with who I am, where I am,
I've wished for it, I dreamed it, I worked for it ..." You get the picture.
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