Sky TVGuide

Relatively Speaking
Dec 1998

The Nephew, a Sky Movies Exclusive, is Pierce Brosnan's most recent movie and his first project as producer. Nick Bradshaw caught up with the mild-mannered Irishman 
Click for larger version of image New York is buzzing.  Outside on Broadway, under a crisp blue sky, crowds of cheering Manhattanites march by as they celebrate a triumphant win by the New York Yankees in the 1998 baseball World Series. Six floors up, Pierce Brosnan is having his photograph taken for Sky TVGuide. Despite the madness on the street below, the only sound to be heard is the occasional click of a camera shutter and pop of the flash gun. All the women in the neighbouring studios and offices have gathered in the doorway to watch the effortlessly stylish Irishman strike a pose. As one, they look on with more reverence than for your average 11.30 Diet Coke break. Midway through the photo shoot, Brosnan takes off his shirt to change into a different outfit. Although I'm not actually present, I know when it happens, for at that precise moment, a collective sigh can be heard in the next room. 

Having finally had his picture taken, Pierce joins me. This is the end,' he says as he sits down.  Not, it must be said, the most encouraging opener. Having flown across the Atlantic to meet the man, this looks set to be the shortest interview on record. It soon transpires, though, that his comment refers to his latest film The Nephew - a film he has been more deeply involved with than any other in his career. I'll be putting the film to bed after this interview, because it's time to move on. I've been involved from the script landing on my desk, to meeting the director and putting the crew together, right through to this chat we're having now.'

The Nephew - a Sky Movies Exclusive showing on Sky Premier, Saturday 12 December - marks Brosnan's debut as a producer after considerable success as an actor, with firms such as Dante's Peak (also debuting on Sky Premier this month), Mars Attacks! and, of course, the Bond movies GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

I'd never produced before,' he says. 'For my first film, I didn't want to do a big Hollywood piece. I wanted to do a small movie about something that was intimate and had a strong storyline. I think this film has a good heart.'

In The Nephew he plays Joe Brady, the bar owner on an island off the coast of Ireland who is at the centre of a long-standing feud. Although his role is pivotal, Brosnan in no way hogs the limelight: 'I saw The Nephew as an ensemble piece that showed off the talents of all those involved. We had a wonderful cast that included the likes of Donal McCann and Sinead Cusack. When I look at the film, I can tell that they were passionate about it; they really brought it to life. I'm very proud of it.'

As producer of The Nephew, Brosnan is following in the footsteps of the likes of Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford. On reflection, though, Brosnan believes that the producer's job is far from glamorous.

The pressure is like a vice at times. You want the film to be rewarding for everyone involved, because you're the one who set the wheels in motion. It's like parenting; you're dealing with people's egos and talents, and trying to foresee problems.'

Sky Movies snapped up The Nephew after major film companies blew hot and cold over whether a film based on a strong storyline, rather than lots of action, would be able to compete against the big blockbusters

'It's hard when you're up against the big budget films to get noticed,' says Brosnan. 'Am I disappointed that we won't be showing The Nephew at the cinema? No I'm not actually. Knowing how hard it is to make a hit these days, I'd rather we appeared on the small screen. I couldn't be happier that the film is premiering on Sky Movies.'

Pierce Brosnan, Sinead Cusack, Donal McCann

According to Brosnan 'most of the characters in The Nephew are complex, fractured people'. His own life has also been peppered with upheavals and complexities, but Brosnan himself seems to have come out less shaken than a secret agent's Martini.

Born in 1953, in a small town 20 miles outside Dublin, Pierce Brendan Brosnan spent his early years moving between grandparents, aunts and uncles, while his mother struggled to set up a home for him. His father vanished from the scene when Pierce was just two, leaving his mother to bring up her son alone at a time when single-parenthood in Ireland was still seen as something shameful. So she fled to England to secure a home for him where they would be free from sneers or gossip. Pierce joined his mother in south London in 1964.

'I was sent to a very large comprehensive school and you had to be pretty tough,' he recalls. 'Being Irish, I was open to all the Irish jokes, some of which were very cruel. Sometimes it felt like swimming up river -but, ultimately, I had the most wonderful years there.'

The move to London also opened his eyes to the world of cinema - a world which would shape the rest of his life. The first film I saw in London was Goldfinger, on the big screen and in glorious Technicolor. All I'd seen back in Ireland were black and white Old Mother Riley and Norman Wisdom films. From then on, I wanted to be an actor, but I didn't want to be James Bond - the baddies such as Odd Job were the ones who fascinated me.

Iím a bit of a hybrid now. I was educated as an actor in England and did rep theatre there. But I'm Irish by birth, by nature and, I think, in spirit,' he says. 'I have the great luxury of moving between Ireland, England, New York and LA. The canvas is broad for me and I take a bit of those countries with me wherever I go.'

Apart from the movies, the other great influence on his life was his late wife Cassandra Harris. After meeting and marrying the Australian model in London in the late Seventies, they went on to enjoy a romantic and secure marriage in Hollywood. Unlike so many, fame and fortune brought them closer. If either of them had to work away from home, they would try and arrange their hectic schedules so they could travel together. They were inseparable.

Brosnan and Cassie were together in London in 1987 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 'It was not a shadow or a small tumour - this had invaded Cassie's being,' recalls Brosnan. Cassandra lost her fight for life on 28 December 1991, just after their llth wedding anniversary.

Overnight, Pierce became a single parent. Since then he has remained extremely close to his two stepchildren, and has had to cope with juggling a career and nurturing their 15-year-old son Sean through some difficult years. 'I took him out of school at the beginning of the year, and he joined me on the set of a movie I was making in Canada with Richard Attenborough. I got him a tutor and had him there beside me. Keely, my girlfriend, is writing a book, and my youngest son is still a baby, so they're able to travel with me, which is fantastic.'

Pierce Brosnan & Aislin McCulckin So which character is more like him? Brady, the strong family man with a sad history, or the urbane, adventurous Bond?

'Bond and Brady are both facets of me,' he admits. 'Like Brady, I identify with being a father and having to cope with the loss of someone and having children. Bond is pure fantasy. You take all the mythology and slowly you find that the shoes get more comfortable and you begin to fill out the role. I'd like to think that I've played my part in bringing the character back to life; he seemed to be on rocky ground for a while.' As he thinks about the characters he's been privileged to play, he pauses and smiles. 'I get to do it all,' he says. 'I get to play at being James Bond, or to play at making an independent movie. And I also get to stay home with my kids. Sometimes it's tough going, but you get through.' Brosnan shrugs pragmatically. 'You adjust.'

By Nick Bradshaw
Photographs by Darien Davis

The Nephew Sky Premier, Saturday 12 December, 8pm; Wednesday 23 December, 8pm

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