Six-foot-two with blazing
blue eyes and an Irish lilt. Could anyone be more
007 than Pierce Brosnan?
The action man sits down (in the lotus position)
with Vicki Woods.
||I am in a James Bond
movie, playing Miss Moneypenny. The impossibly good-looking man on the
sofa asks if I would I like some English breakfast tea. His black hair
is lightly flecked with silver, his blue eyes have been put in with a sooty
finger, and his low voice has an Irish brogue. The room smells of lilies
and jasmine. Thai silk cushions and Oriental rugs are scattered around.
Outside the window, monsoon clouds are lowering. Sampans are chugging up
and down the flood swollen Chao Phraya River, exotically blowing shrill
whistles instead of hooters. The butler puts his palms together in a namaste
salutation, pours tea into little flowered cups, and withdraws.
OK—stop. Rewind. This is not a movie,
and the man on the sofa is not James Bond. For a start, he keeps folding
his six-foot-two body rather neatly into the lotus position. For another
thing, he's drinking chamomile tea, which is hardly a Bondesque beverage.
I am taking tea with Pierce Brosnan
in the penthouse suite of the Oriental hotel in Bangkok. It's one of the
world's great hotels, and he likes it here. Across the river is the famed
Oriental Spa, and he likes it there, too. "Oh, yes, I go across," he says.
"Great massages." And what about the rest? Body polishing? Papaya wraps?
"I've done a bit of that." He grins. "Had a bit of ... ex-fo-lia-tion."
When I ask him what he's doing in Thailand he says, "Earning a living."
Brosnan may not be Bond, but he slips easily through Bondlike locations.
He was in Bora Bora the other week. He flew to London for the day on 9/11.
"Did a bit of looping on Bond, flew back the same day, and flew on to Los
Angeles." Yes, he said, he was "well aware" of the significance of the
date. (OK—it was Concorde, but it was still gutsy of him to fly, no?) The
Bond machine is global, and it's rolling fast. Die Another Day—which
is James Bond's twentieth movie and Pierce Brosnan's fourth in the role—is
about to open: in France as Meurs un Autre Jour; in Spain as Otro
Dia para Morir; in German (rather wordily) as Stirb an Einem Anderen
Tag. Very global. Is there anywhere in the world where he isn't famous?
After a beat, he says, "I'm big in the Philippines."
"It has some resonance with my own life,"
says Brosnan. "I didn't grow up in an orphanage, but I came from a broken
home. I have a knowledge of what it's like to be taught by the Christian
Brothers and live in a tight Catholic community." The seven months of Die
Another Day started in January and finished in July, with Bond dashing
through Iceland, Hawaii, Korea, and Cuba, though most of it "was done on
the back lot," Brosnan says. "Cuba was done in Cadiz. I didn't get to go
to Iceland, but it'll look like I was there. That's one of the great things.
There's no other set in the movies like a Bond set. When you read the script
you think, How are the gonna do that? And then you end up in an airfield—in
Somerset England—with cutout icebergs behind you. And they splice them
in and you couldn't tell the difference." He says it's great fun doing
Bond, but "you've got to have the patience of a saint" There might be two
or three weeks at a time where he doesn't speak a word of dialogue. "Jumping
into the belly of the plane and running up a ladder—that sequence can take
ten days, especially if that plane is blowing up and falling apart and
you're running for your life as the character because you have to wait
for the SFX boys to rig up gas canisters, pulley systems— It's a world
of pyrotechnics," he says. "It's great fun, but it's bloody hard work,
because there's so much at stake. I think they used to be much more fun.
Someone I was working with recently, he said '.My God, I used to work on
Roger Moore's films—it was a good old laugh!' He said, "This is fearsome
work.' And that's because of the big bucks and the competition that's out
there. The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. They're
Leviathans now, these movies. They're monsters."
|The man who is not James Bond is
barefoot and wearing a loose blue shirt and a pair of cream pants with
seams across the knees as well as down the sides. They look very modern
and techno. He says they're G-Star, and when his son Sean saw them, he
said, "Hey—cool pants!" Sean is the child of Brosnan's first marriage,
to the late Cassandra Harris. (Being nineteen, he obviously knows a cool
pant when he sees one.) Brosnan wears his accent as loose and easy as he
wears his clothes: It's soft Californian when he's talking about Sean,
or Malibu, where he lives, or his little sons Dylan, five, and Paris, one
and a half, from his second marriage, to the environmental journalist Keely
Shaye Smith. But he can get very Irish if he's talking about Dublin ("Doobhlin")
or girly stuff like "ex-fo-lia-tion."
Brosnan has been working for a straight
year on two movies—first, Evelyn, for his production company, Irish
DreamTime, in which he stars with Alan Bates, Aidan Quinn, and Julianna
Margulies. He plays Desmond Doyle, a father who battled the Irish legal
system in 1953 to reclaim his children from a Catholic orphanage.
||His three Bond movies
have been bigger than anyone else's, each grossing in excess of $350 million
at the box office. I suspect Die Another Day will be the biggest
yet, partly because of the smoldering Halle Berry emerging from the sea
in her update of Ursula Andress's bikini, partly because there's a very
strong narrative to this one ("due in a large part to the tenaciousness
of the director, Lee Tamahori," says Brosnan), and partly because "there's
a certain comfort zone after four films, an ease with playing the guy."
He looked pretty comfortable from
the start. He's a great Bond, striding tall and doubly blessed with both
the Irish accent and what the cynical English call PGL ("pointless good
looks"). It takes a Celt to play a Bond. Ian Fleming's original was a Scot:
smooth on the outside, prickly as a Scotch thistle underneath (as, of course,
was the first film Bond, Sean Connery). Roger Moore, the seventies Bond,
always sounded way too camp and prissy- English to me. Brosnan is emphatically
not camp. Not even with the jokey one-liners that would have made
Benny Hill blush: "I thought Christmas
only came once a year" (after bedding
Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough) and "They'll print
anything these days" (after hurling a bad guy into a printing press in
Tomorrow Never Dies). Brosnan never utters these lines in a knowing
or self-referential way: He does them straight, in his terse Irish tone.
He gets equally terse in response
to my more lurid action-hero questions: Can you shoot for real? Do you
like gadgets and boys' toys? Are you mad about fast cars? He answers patiently:
(1) Yes, he shoots pistols, at a gallery just across the mountain from
his place in Malibu; but no he does not pop at empty beer bottles in his
backyard with a Walther P99. (2) No, he is not a gadget man. But (3) yes.
he loves the cars, loves the cars. Look, he says: "If you play [Bond] and
you do a half-decent job on it, then people will enter into that world
and begin to think that you are Bond, but—noooo. In real life, I. Am. Not.
Bond." Hastily I say, "Oh, I promise I don't think you are Bond." He raises
a weary eyebrow, which reads: Heard that before. And laughs when the very
next question is "Who's your favorite-ever Bond girl?"
||He has a soft spot for Izabella
Scorupco (GoldenEye) "because she was the first," he says. Sophie
Marceau is a "stunning woman" and a "good actress". Halle Berry, though...."
He shakes an admiring head. "Halle's got soul. She's got soul, she's
got heart, she's got, uh —" He ponders Ms. Berry's accoutrements for a
moment. "Beautiful eyes. Great figure. And she works hard at what she does.
And consequently brings a good performance to the screen. So you
have a very classy girl." And did they bond? "Bond?" He giggles. "We got
on well together. It was easy to get on with her. It was nice— nice
working relationship. You know— sometimes it can be a bit tough."
Tough? "Sometimes the acting game
doesn't sit too well on the ladies." Oh, yes? "Sometimes. The pressure
of it." Really?
"Well, you know, sometimes guys can
go out there and be mad and one thing or another and get away with drunken
bouts of insolence and whatever. It's kind of psychological warfare sometimes.
You're creating and destroying yourself to create a role. Sometimes it's
tough on the women."
Brosnan is too practiced an interviewee,
too wary these days to be drawn out further on his rather paternalistic
views of a woman's place on a movie set. He's been famous a long, long
time. Though he's a magnificent package ("at nearly 50 years of age"—his
words) and pretty good company over breakfast in Bangkok, you don't get
to see much of what's behind it all. He says he used to "love talking;
I used to love rattling on about myself. I opened my big mouth when I went
to America. Until I realized I was completely Irish and confessional and
said far too much, giving too much away. To the point now where it's uncomfortable.
I said too much back then, 1981, when I was doing Remington Steele."
Now he says, "Let's not go there" or "That's all fairly well documented"
about aspects of his private life.
The one thing he's happy to share
is his parental pride in his "little boys. I love the contrast," he says.
"I love being a parent. I love being a family man, and I also love the
joy of going off and living in the other world of being an actor. Playing
the actor, playing the movie star, playing the father. They're all different
roles. But the most satisfying, the most gratifying, the most hard work
is being a father."
disbelief, and very real embarrassment
at the idea that six seconds of wordless screen time from the starter movie
he made in 1980 could have burned into the mind of an Irish novelist for
decades. Politely he splutters, "Fine woman!" but when I tell him I had
to run straight out and buy the video, he groans: "Oh—Jesus!" Then he cracks
up. "Hey—listen!" he says. "I just showed up at the Savoy hotel at four
o'clock in the afternoon, and I was there until four in the morning. You
know? I wanted to drive the bloody car! I thought if I was driving the
car, I'd be much more flash, much more laddish and cool to be behind the
wheel, but [the director] John Mackenzie said, 'No—you're in the front
seat and you pop up with the gun.' He said, 'You just eyeball him.'"
|Trying to get under
his (handsome) skin, I decide to tell him about the impression he made
on the Irish novelist Josephine Hart. Hart (who wrote Damage) is
very intense, rather poetic, and very Irish-looking, and when I met her
some years ago, I told her she had 'Very Irish eyes." "Oh! Irish eyes,"
she said. "Did you ever see the fillum
The Long Good Friday?"
I did. "And would you remember the very last scene, where poor Bob
Hoskins gets into the wrong car?" I do. "He says, 'What's going on?
Who the hell are you?' but nobody says a word. The man in the front seat
just turns around with a gun, and locks eyes with him. And the whole screen
fills up with those fierce blue eyes, the bluest in the world, Irish eyes
that blaze to glory, and Hoskins sees in those eyes that all his dreams
are over, and that's the end of the fillum. Well, that," said Josephine
Hart dreamily, "was the glorious, beautiful boy Pierce Brosnan, in his
very first screen role."
When I finish this ode to his Irish
eyes, a somewhat appalled silence descends. Pierce Brosnan's face is a
mix of awe,
||Shaking his head, he
says, "I never read the script—I just showed up! My God," he says as his
20-something self, pre-Remington Steele, pre-Bond, pre-Malibu, rushes
back to him. "Daragh O'Malley [who played the driver] and myself. Coupla
And where's Daragh now? "Oh," he
says, his accent sliding right back to its childhood tings and tems, "I
tink he's workin' in Doobhlin."
Written by Vicky Woods
Photographed by Annie Leobovitz