|Pierce Brosnan was recently informed
that his martinis will no longer be shaken or stirred because the holders
of the famed Bond franchise want a new and younger 007. And yet, sipping
champagne at his Hawaiian home overlooking the Pacific, Brosnan. hardly
a codger at 52, acts as if having been released from Bondage was the best
thing that ever happened to him. No wonder: He has a regular spot on various
magazines' lists of the era's sexiest and best-looking people, and his
latest performance—in the dark comedy The Matador—has won acclaim
at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival. This is his opportunity to reinvent
himself, and he claims he's taking advantage of it.
Best known as everyone's favorite
post-Sean Connery Bond, Brosnan has a diverse set of films to his credit,
ranging from Mars Attacks! to Dante's Peak to After the
Sunset. Through his film production company, Irish DreamTime, launched
in 1996, he also developed, produced and co-starred in the 1999 remake
of The Thomas Crown Affair, with Rene Russo, and Laws of Attraction,
with Julianne Moore, in 2004.
An only child, Brosnan grew up near
Dublin. His father, a carpenter, abandoned him and his mother when Brosnan
was an infant. His mother moved to England to study nursing, leaving her
baby with her parents, both of whom died when Brosnan was six years old.
He then lived with a succession of family members and friends and attended
a harsh and punitive Catholic school until, at 11, he was reunited with
his mother in London. There he was an indifferent student until he entered
the Drama Centre and found his calling.
Brosnan jumped to the big screen
in 1980 with small roles in The Long Good Friday and The Mirror
Crack'd. Moving to Hollywood in 1982, he landed what became a five-season
stint on television as the slick private eye Remington Steele. In
1986, with Steele going strong, public opinion polls about potential James
Bonds put Brosnan ahead of such other stars as Tom Selleck, Jeremy Irons
and Mel Gibson. But Brosnan was contractually stuck on TV. It took nine
years, but the public finally got what it wanted when Brosnan was cast
as 007 in 1995's Goldeneye. His four Bond films went on to earn
nearly $1.5 billion.
In 1980 he married Cassandra Harris.
an Australian. From a previous marriage, Harris had two young children,
whom Brosnan adopted, and the couple had one son together. Harris died
of cancer in 1991 with her husband at her bedside. In 2001 Brosnan married
Keely Shaye Smith, an environmentalist and former actress, with whom he
has two sons.
We sent Contributing Editor Stephen
Rebello, who last interviewed Ewan McGregor for Playboy, to sit down
with Brosnan at his estate on Kauai's north shore. His report: "Besides
his wife, Brosnan was surrounded by a group of gorgeous female friends
and staff-—he calls them the mermaids—who discreetly buzzed around the
place, making sure there was plenty of food and champagne. You can't walk
away unimpressed, and I don't mean just by the gracious house and lush
grounds. Brosnan is absurdly good-looking and comes off as a bright, decent
guy who has reached a place in his life where his work and his psyche are
opening up in exciting ways. He is unassuming and friendly and very much
aware of the great challenges ahead of him. After a decade of politically
correct Bond movies, he seems extremely happy to have reclaimed his balls.
Were you ready to step down as James Bond?
||BROSNAN: It would
have been a trip to do another one. I prepared myself to do it. I psyched
myself. But they have set sail. They made their decision. They want to
reinvent it and make it a period piece. They want to get a younger guy.
PLAYBOY: How does it
feel to be told that you're too old?
BROSNAN: It was kind of shocking
to have ageism come on me when I was just getting started. It's shocking
to be told that you're too old, that you're past your sell-by date.
PLAYBOY: Do we detect
BROSNAN: It's bloody frustrating
that the fuckers pulled out the rug when they did. It was like, "Come on,
we're family here. You talk about being a family. You knew my late wife;
you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the
afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you've shut down negotiations
because you don't know how, where or which way to go and that you'll call
me next Friday?" What can I say? It's cold, it's juvenile, and it shouldn't
be done like that, not after 10 years and four films.
PLAYBOY: After the initial
shock did you feel a sense of relief?
BROSNAN: Later, yes, I had
a wonderful feeling of liberation: "Ahhhh. I'm free of it." I'll always
be known as Bond, but now I don't have the responsibility of being an ambassador
for a small country ruled by a character.
PLAYBOY: How do you
assess your Bond films?
BROSNAN: All the movies
made money. Creatively, maybe, they could have been stronger, but they
were Bond movies, and they advanced a certain degree out of the doldrums
where they had been. They were tricky to do. I never really felt as though
I nailed it. As soon as they put me into the suit and tie and gave me those
lines of dialogue, I felt restricted. It was like the same old same old.
I was doing Roger Moore doing Sean Connery doing George Lazenby. I felt
as if I were doing a period piece that had been dusted off. They never
really took the risks they should have.
PLAYBOY: Do you regret
joining the series just when Bond became politically correct and all the
sex and rowdy fun was toned down?
BROSNAN: It was sad to pick
up the reins and then have these restrictions. It would have been great
to light up and smoke cigarettes, for instance. It would have been great
to have the killing a little bit more real and not wussed down. My boys
watch the movies on DVD, so I see them from time to time. I see myself
with nowhere to go, and it's all rather bland.
PLAYBOY: Do you agree
that there were missed opportunities for sex, such as with Halle Berry
in Die Another Day?
BROSNAN: It would have been
great to have sex scenes that were right on the button. I remember doing
a sex scene with Halle—I mean frolicking in the bed—and there was director
Lee Tamahori right under the sheets with us like some mad Kiwi, saying,
"All right, now, where are you going to put your hands? Where are you going
to grab her?" I said excitedly, "Is this how you're going to shoot it?
Are you going to bring the camera in under the sheets?" If only, man, if
only. The way we ended up doing it was almost like the old days in Hollywood:
kissing the girl but still having your feet on the floor.
Who, for you, is the Bond girl who got away?
BROSNAN: Monica Bellucci is
a ravishing beauty—a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. She screen-tested to be
a Bond girl a while back, and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the
day instead. Uma Thurrnan is another magnificent beauty and a fine actress.
We've come around to talking about a sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair.
Again it's a love story and a romance, but this time it's not going to
be with Rene Russo. So we've been thinking about women, and there are just
stunning women out there.
PLAYBOY: You mentioned
Teri Hatcher. Purportedly you clashed physically with her during the making
of Tomorrow Never Dies. What happened?
BROSNAN: The Teri Hatcher
incident was blown out of proportion. She was late to the set because she
was newly pregnant. I didn't know that until the end of the day.
PLAYBOY: Did you slap
her, or did she slap you? Apparently there were hearty cheers from the
BROSNAN: She didn't slap me.
I didn't slap her. I was vexed because I had a call time of six or seven
A.M., and we didn't do any work until three or four in the afternoon. No
one told me her situation until afterward. By that time I'd already shot
my mouth off and cussed and moaned and groaned. That's all it was, a storm
in a teacup.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever
been tough to deal with on the set?
BROSNAN: I don't think so.
Not consistently. I have my days, and as I get older I have more days.
You bark or you snap at times. But ultimately I've tried to please, which
is one of my downfalls and weaknesses. I try to please them, to be liked,
accepted. I've never had unpleasantness with anyone. I don't allow it to
happen. I'd rather nip it in the bud. That stuff usually comes from insecurity.
You just let it rage, burn out. And you kill it with kindness, talk to
it, try to understand it, then leave it alone.
How about George Lazenby, who played 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret
Service? He once said about you, "If he walked into a room, I doubt
anyone would look up. But this is the 1990s, and women want a man who shows
his feminine side. Pierce definitely has that."
BROSNAN: George is just an
angry, old, pissed-off guy. He was never an actor but some pissed-off Aussie
who doesn't know how to show his feminine side. I met him, and he's got
that kind of brittle edge to him. People want to take swipes. I have no
PLAYBOY: Whom would
you choose as the next 007?
BROSNAN: Clive Owen would
have been a very strong contender. He's a good actor, but why would he
want to do it? He has a glorious career going. He's done some very fine
work and survived King Arthur.
PLAYBOY: In your new
movie, The Matador, you play a hilariously troubled hit man who
hooks up with a beaten-down businessman in a Mexico City bar. In some ways,
do you view the character as an antidote to James Bond?
BROSNAN: When the fuckers
try to hem you in with Bond, it's great to come back with The Matador.
It's great to say, "Fuck you, asshole. Fuck you, who wouldn't give me a
job. Fuck you, who thought I was some wuss. Fuck you, who thought I was
a pretty boy. Fuck you, who thought anything of me without even knowing
me or giving me the chance. Fuck you." But if you go around with all that
inside you all the time, you end up completely mangled, so you have to
let it go.
PLAYBOY: In the movie
you strut around swilling beer in nothing but a Speedo and boots. You look
like a rock star gone to hell. You're funny but also desperate and sad.
BROSNAN: This script just
made me howl because it's so over-the-top outrageous. The way I'm perceived,
the box I find myself in—the corner into which I've painted myself—made
it seem like a great idea. The character is a sad fuckup of a fellow who
has just shagged his way through life. He loves to blow the shit out of
people and is paid good money to do it. But he's just a lonely guy and
a great vulgarian.
In one scene, you borrow nail polish from a woman you've just had sex with
and paint your toenails black. How strange was that?
BROSNAN: I just thought it
was a great image. It's never explained. Does he do that all the time,
or has he done it before? He's slightly mental. The writing was so clever
and snappy. It was great because it wasn't tailored to me. If you have
too many things tailored to you, you don't have any room to grow as an
actor. You just play it safe the whole time instead of playing a character.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever
worry that you were going too far with it?
BROSNAN: I actually got cold
feet about the whole thing and said, "I can't do it. It's just too out
there," because of the sexuality and some of the stuff that would be coming
out of my mouth. I like the ambiguity of not knowing which way he swings.
He likes the whole world—pussy, blow jobs, animals, you name it—but some
of the references in the script made me think, You know, you don't want
to turn the audience off. You want them to have sympathy for this character.
So we toned it down.
PLAYBOY: Even toned
down, you're probably going to freak out your fans who think of you only
as the debonair Bond.
BROSNAN: [Laughs] Yeah. And
I grew this strange kind of Village People mustache and had this buzzed
haircut. When I did the scene walking through the hotel in a Speedo and
boots, with the gut hanging out, the skinny legs and ass, smoking a cigarette
and drinking a Heineken, it was like, "Fuck you, Brosnan. Fuck you to everything."
When you get to play like that in a piece like this, it's not as if you're
bulletproof or anything, but I have nothing to lose by doing it.
PLAYBOY: You not only
act in this movie but also your company produced it. Are you worried about
how big an audience it will attract?
BROSNAN: I would like to see
this film be a glorious poke in the eye to certain parties and to be a
success and to have other glorious roles follow in its wake. If Fantastic
Four and superhero movies are what people go to see, maybe it won't
be in that league. But I think there's an audience out there for this—grown-ups
who want to listen to good, twisted dialogue and watch nuance. The ones
who are switched on and have their finger on the pulse will get it and
will love seeing me revel in it. It would also be nice if we and others
make our money back. But The Matador is a delightful jolt. I was
able to give a performance that hasn't been requested of me all that often.
I look a certain way and stand, walk and sound a certain way. I always
saw myself as a character actor, but early on somebody told me I was a
leading man. I believed him and went that route. But having been trained
as an actor to play character, I was led to believe that I had more than
one character in me.
PLAYBOY: Your performance
in the movie makes us wonder where the edgy, funny, twisted madman has
been hiding all these years.
BROSNAN: Yeah, I'm generally
pretty guarded and cautious—too much so at times. I think it comes mostly
from sitting on fear. You become cautious at times, and sometimes you stop
believing in yourself. I've looked at it from that perspective. I've also
looked at it from the perspective of pure laziness, that I've kind of gotten
by and had the luck of the Irish. A lot of it, though, is probably from
having dealt with that little knuckle of fear in my life since my childhood.
PLAYBOY: Were you a
cool kid, or were you mocked and teased?
BROSNAN: Oh, let's not start
talking about the mockery. I had my share of mockery, that's for sure.
That's a painful one. I didn't really have it until I went from Ireland
to London. I had grown up with my mother in the Irish countryside on the
river Boyne, which back in the early 1950s was quite lush and remote and
tranquil. In London, when I rejoined my mother in 1964 after she'd gone
away to school, suddenly I was the true fish out of water. I was the token
Paddy in this large school in Putney, South London. It was the first sting,
the first whiplash of being in a strange land.
PLAYBOY: Was the sting
mostly verbal, or did it get physical?
BROSNAN: It started verbally
because of my not knowing the language in some respects and also with the
deep realization that I was lacking education. I couldn't read or write
at the age of 11 when I came from Ireland. I was really backward. I had
been in England only a week, and the first morning, my mother dropped me
off at this enormous comprehensive school of 2,000 kids with all the grades
massed together. I had to stand up in class and name my section. Mine was
called 30-A. When I stood up, with my Irish accent I said, "Tirty-A" There
were peals of laughter. Then the young chap who sat beside me proceeded
to call me Irish because he couldn't or didn't want to say Pierce.
PLAYBOY: Did the nickname
BROSNAN: That and Spastic,
a name I also got my first day in school. When the day ended and my mother
asked, "How was it?" I said, "They laughed at me when I said 'Tirty-A.'
She had to tell me how to pronounce it th. And I told her I had a new nickname,
Spastic, and I hadn't even known what it meant.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever
BROSNAN: By the end of the
first week or so I had my first crush on a girl. She liked me back, but
nothing happened. One day the guy who called me Spastic started to mock
this girl. I beat the snot out of him. I ended up going to the housemaster
and getting caned. It got me accepted into the clan. So my education was
not the greatest. It was mainly about mockery, fighting and using humor
to find my way out. The name Irish became an emblem I wore. I thought,
Well, I am Irish, and I'm the only Irish kid in this school. So that was
PLAYBOY: What other survival
tools did you use?
BROSNAN: A lot of self-deprecating
humor. I took what could have been an ugly moment—maybe having to get into
a fight—and found a release valve with humor. I also mastered the art of
dissembling, disguising who you are and learning how to blend in. I picked
up the Cockney accent fairly quickly to survive.
PLAYBOY: Your father
left when you were an infant. Next, your young mother left for London,
and you stayed with your grandparents in Ireland. When they died you were
raised by various relatives. It can't have been all that easy.
BROSNAN: When in the past
I've talked about my childhood, people have made it sound extremely bleak
and desolate. Written on the page, it is. But within it I had a wonderful
sense of myself and being on my own adventure, because I knew I was definitely
on my own.
PLAYBOY: What was the impact
of being left on your own at such a young age?
BROSNAN: That's hard to talk
about. I think there was so much pain and loneliness that I learned to
always cut it off pretty quick and bury it. So it's hard to talk about.
Certain images come. I don't remember my father, Tom. He left early, bless
his heart. I think he had a problem with drinking, because my mother spoke
of such things. He was painted in very dark tones, but it was all hush-hush.
You never knew what was going on. I mean, even if somebody was having a
baby back then, it was always spelled out b-a-b-y. It was as Neanderthal
as that. There wasn't much consistency in my life. There was no plateau
of comfort, no consistency or trusting of love.
PLAYBOY: What impact
did that have?
BROSNAN: For me it was always
a question of survival.
PLAYBOY: After your
father abandoned you, did you get angry at your mother when she left too?
BROSNAN: My mother suffered
greatly from it. We've made so much peace and had so much good love since
then. It took great courage on her behalf to leave, because they would
talk down to you publicly from the church pulpits in those days. The 1950s
were a brutal time in southern Ireland to be a young woman 20 years of
age and have a baby and no husband. The church had a mighty throttlehold
on people and their emotions. It was all built on ugly, disgusting fear
that came from the most beautiful words of Jesus and the Bible.
PLAYBOY: In the early
1960s you went to a Catholic boys' school in Navan, Ireland run by Christian
BROSNAN: I could never understand
getting the shit kicked out of me while trying to say the "Our Father"
just because some Christian Brother had a bee in his bonnet that day. I
watched another kid who came late to school get thumped up against the
door. These men were deeply frustrated. They were sexually repressed—buttoned
down, hammered and shackled. Yet other people speak highly of them. I never
had any bad sexual encounters. I was never molested. I never knew of any
boys who were molested, so I cannot speak of such grave ills against the
PLAYBOY: Given that
repressive environment, when did you first discover sex?
Some Irish go from that sexual repression to violence and drink, while
some go to great heights. I left Ireland when I was 11, and at that point
I had hardly any sexual understanding of life. I was innocent. Nobody even
spoke of where babies come from. I never saw any sexuality at all because
I was living with my grandparents and an aunt and uncle, and that was all
behind closed doors. I learned it all when I went to England. Before that
it never crossed my mind. When you're fearful in life, when you have a
childhood like that, when you have such a transient lifestyle at such a
young age and a loss— an abandonment or, better word, separation—it closes
down a huge part of your growth rhythms, including your sexual awareness.
I think it makes sense that it represses the libido, which at that tender
age should be blossoming mischievously, curiously and with wild abandon.
Once I discovered my dick, however, it was the best thing ever. I have
my geography teacher to thank. She wore these beautiful cashmere sweaters
and tight skirts. She had blonde bobbed hair, a beautiful ass, a beautiful
tummy and nice curved thighs. I wasn't quite sure where they all came together,
what that meant or what it looked like, so unfortunately it was nothing
more than fantasies. But the fantasies were colorful. She brought out the
happy smile on my young face, she and Barbara Windsor, the blonde who starred
in the Carry On movies in the 1960s. Barbara Windsor's tits—I've always
had a soft spot in my heart for them. Ah, yes, Barbara's boobies.
PLAYBOY: Did they remain
your templates for sexy women?
BROSNAN: That geography teacher
did it, really—the tall blonde.
PLAYBOY: Did any other
famous blondes attract you?
BROSNAN: Jessica Lange. I've
always been extremely attracted to her. I just love the way she moves,
and she's got a fine body and an even greater talent. I've also always
loved brown-eyed girls, like in the Van Morrison song.
PLAYBOY: Did you dress and
talk like cool guys from the movies in those days?
BROSNAN: Actually the first
movie I saw was a James Bond, Goldfinger, in 1964. Before that there
wasn't enough money for me to go to the movies. Even then, movies didn't
really kick in for me until around Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, so it was
Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. The heat went up a bit
then in the culture. That whole era was coming to its apex. I became a
mod but a mod without a Vespa. I couldn't afford one. I had a bicycle,
but you can't go around dressed like a mod and ride a bicycle.
PLAYBOY: When did you
have your first sexual experience?
BROSNAN: I was 16 or 17. Up
until that point I'd had a girlfriend. Carol was her name—my first love.
She was in South London. With her it was just kissing and fondling, discovering
breasts and speaking of love on her doorstep and
upstairs in her bedroom while her parents were shopping. There was no loss
of virginity, just a broken heart and an innocent romance. At that point
I used to think sperm had legs—they could crawl up your thigh. With
Carol it never went beyond that because there was a dreadful fear of a
b-a-b-y, which put the fear of God in me.
PLAYBOY: When did you
know that you wanted to act?
BROSNAN: I had no idea what
I was going to do. My first real job in London after I left school at 15
or 16 was as a trainee commercial artist. I just thought being an artist
was a groovy thing to do. Through art I could delve into any pain and put
down my anger, frustration and seething resentment of the fuckers who had
tried to buckle me up and shackle me down. I finally got a job in a tiny
studio in Putney. I had a shit education but managed to bullshit my way
into this studio for some reason. They had about five artists. I got £10
a week to water the spider plants, make the tea and draw straight lines.
They called me Pierce. I was no longer called Irish. When I became a trainee
commercial artist, I wanted to do album covers. The music scene had just
popped. I'd get to go to the Lyceum and see Pink Floyd in concert and then
go back to a buddy's house. We'd get an old projector, put some oil paint
on it, make a little mandala on the wall and play our own kind of show.
We'd lie down and smoke a bit of hash.
PLAYBOY: When did you
first try acting?
BROSNAN: My mother remarried
a great man, William Carmichael, who is my father to this day. I was 15
or 16, living with my parents, and I had this job and some money, and I
began to find books and literature. One day I was making a cup of tea for
all the guys at work. I was talking to one of them, a guy from the photo
studio upstairs. He mentioned the Oval House, an experimental theater where
he was doing workshops. Two days later I went. I wasn't going there to
be an actor, but I loved movies and I knew this was a place where I could
talk about movies, photography, the Super 8 stuff. I had long hair, an
earring, a little goatee and a big army coat, which was groovy at the time.
I joined this workshop in which we all lay down on the floor and hummed,
then got up and wandered around the room with our eyes closed feeling one
another's faces and bodies. Well, fuck me, man. If this is acting, I'll
take some of this. You know, there were beautiful girls. You'd think, I'd
like to go over there and have a grope with her.
PLAYBOY: Did the groping
continue outside of class?
BROSNAN: I met wonderful girls
there— ballet dancers, actresses. The first girl I slept with was this
gorgeous, voluptuous girl, Harriet. She was Botero-esque. She thought I
was like a lightning bolt in her world, and I liked being a lightning bolt.
I took it and ran with it for all it was worth. But mostly I was focused
on my career. The plays we did were very experimental. Once I realized
I enjoyed acting, I thought I'd better get an education in it. I thought
I had better learn technique, to figure out what was behind the book covers.
At 18 or 19 I auditioned for all the big drama schools. I mean, I was a
lightning bolt. Harriet said so. At my first audition I was so lightning-boltish
that I literally fell off the stage from nerves. For my next audition,
at Drama Centre, I went with a bit more humility and got in with a scholarship.
I was just glad someone had accepted me, that someone wanted me. During
my three years of drama school I met one girl, fell in love with her and
was with her the whole time.
PLAYBOY: How did your
mother and stepfather take to your acting ambitions?
BROSNAN: They were very open
and supportive. My dad, a quiet and dignified man, a true Scotsman and
a strong workingman, was a bit worried I might turn gay or that I was trying
to tell him I was gay. I said, "No, Dad, I just want to be an actor. It's
a job, a passion." If my mother and father had said no, I would have done
PLAYBOY: Did you ever
consider any other way of making a living?
BROSNAN: Because my grades
were so dreadful, art and English were it, really. I thought about going
into the army for a while. I thought about becoming a cop. I actually went
through the cop exam, but luckily my math was abysmal. Otherwise I would
have been a British bobby.
PLAYBOY: After graduating,
one of your earliest opportunities came in 1977 when Tennessee Williams
picked you for the West End premiere production of his play The Red
Devil Battery Sign. Did you get to know Williams?
BROSNAN: We hung out a little
bit, got drunk together. It didn't take much to get Tennessee drunk in
those days because there weren't the innards there to hold on to the booze.
He'd already lived high off the hog. He was a real gent, stylish. He had
that Southern drawl, the straw hat. He sent me a telegram on the first
night that read, "Thank God for you, my dear boy. Love, Tennessee Williams."
That was a good beginning, to have had these little affirmations that you
have the talent.
PLAYBOY: How secure
are you about your talent?
BROSNAN: I've always questioned
whether I have any talent at all. How good is it? Where is it? How big
is it? When am I going to see it?
PLAYBOY: What brought
you to the U.S.?
BROSNAN: I got married in
1980. It was Cassandra, my late wife, who said, "Let's do it. Let's go
out there." I wanted to but didn't know how the hell we were going to get
there. We had bought a house in Wimbledon, which I still have. She came
up with this idea that you could get a second mortgage on the central heating
system, so we borrowed £2,000 and hopped on one of those cheap flights
that Freddie Laker used to run. You brought your own sandwiches. It was
sort of like the way it is now on airlines, only now it's much less hospitable.
PLAYBOY: Did it
take you a long time to find work in Hollywood?
BROSNAN: The first interview
I went to that first day, driving across Laurel Canyon in my rented lime-green
Pacer with a torn seat cushion, was for Remington Steele, and I
got the job.
PLAYBOY: Were you hoping
for a TV series?
BROSNAN: I came to California
dreaming of working with Martin Scorsese, of working with the down-and-dirty
experimental types, but they gave me Remington Steele, and I couldn't
look a gift horse in the mouth. It quickly became apparent that I was on
this TV treadmill and that it was a monstrous machine.
PLAYBOY: Between Remington
Steele and your landing the Bond franchise, Cassandra lost her four-year
battle with ovarian cancer in 1991. You were by her side. Did your experience
give you any special insight into the recent Terri Schiavo case?
BROSNAN: The Schiavo case
got an extreme amount of attention—painfully and embarrassingly and not
in a very dignified fashion. I dealt with those issues on a very personal
level with my wife. She went on dialysis at the end. The dialysis was brutal.
Finally I said, "Stop it." It wasn't like she was on life support for weeks
or anything like that, but it was a last-ditch effort on my behalf to bring
her back from the coma she was in. You want to get them back just to say
good-bye, but I realized we'd already said our good-byes. Dialysis at that
time of her life was redundant. So at the end it was very peaceful. "Okay,
we're going through this door." People should be allowed to die when their
bodies are wracked by disease.
PLAYBOY: The loss must
have been devastating for you and your three children. Did you ever feel
so bad that you wanted to die?
BROSNAN: Never, because I
had children, who push and spur you on. Nothing in life prepares you for
going through a long illness that ends in death. Nothing gives you the
vocabulary to deal with that grief or those emotions. You just have to
go slowly. I didn't always do that. I went into relationships that were
purely based on lust and the need for sexual contact. It becomes rather
vacuous and empty, meaningless. Then you work your way through that.
PLAYBOY: How did you meet
Keely, whom you married in 2001?
BROSNAN: When Keely met me,
I was a fairly sad affair, still in my widowerhood and in that world of
relationships and sexual encounters that would just turn my head inside
out after having been with one partner for many years. When I met Keely
I wasn't looking. She literally walked around the corner into my life.
I thank the day that she did. She had her hands full with this man she
met and had fallen in love with. She had to deal with a family still in
pain from the death of its wife and mother. But what we had together was
very strong. Our relationship just gets stronger and sweeter. It was not
always easy. There were a few times when I was fairly pigheaded and Irish.
Luckily I saved myself, and luckily she didn't throw in the towel and say,
"I can't be dealing with this." At the beginning of the relationship I
thought I was the wise one who was showing her the world: "Come here, you
beautiful, gorgeous girl. This is the way it's done—my way." I was a total
buffoon. I don't know-how she tolerated me. She's handled herself with
the greatest degree of grace and dignity and has always allowed me to be
PLAYBOY: How does she
cope with being married to People's Sexiest Man Alive?
BROSNAN: I think Keely deals
with it with the same sense of humor I have. We don't talk about it, but
when I saw the photograph on the magazine cover, I looked like some kind
of Irish barman or a pig farmer from Donegal.
Has the Sexiest Pig Farmer Alive ever considered plastic surgery?
BROSNAN: Oh, that's bullshit,
man. Unless you've got something that's really hanging you up badly, I
don't think you should touch what God gave you. If your eyes are hanging
down and you can't see where you're going or your schnoz is getting in
the way, a little corrective surgery, sure. But to make yourself more beautiful?
The vanity stuff? I don't think it's a good idea.
PLAYBOY: In 2000 your
son Sean, who is 22 now, nearly lost his life in a car accident for which
the driver was charged with drunk driving. Your late wife's two children,
whom you adopted, have also had problems. Charlotte, 34, has been in rehab
for cocaine addiction, and Christopher, 32, who has also been jailed and
had rehab stays, was arrested this past June on suspected heroin possession.
What toll has all this taken on you? What's your view of Charlotte's and
BROSNAN: Addiction appears
to be a disease with genetic roots. Charlotte and Christopher's father
died from alcoholism, and sadly they seem to have that in their genetics.
Charlotte is certainly off running her life now. She's a mother and has
been in recovery for nearly three years. Christopher is still very lost.
Shockingly so. I have no idea—well, I know where he is, but he's having
a hard life. I can only have strong faith and believe he will recover.
He has tested everybody in this family but none more so than himself. He
knows how to get out. He doesn't want to.
PLAYBOY: How have you
BROSNAN: It's painful because
you shut down. You never completely cut them off, but I have cut Christopher
off. I had to say, "Go. Get busy living, or get busy dying." For all his
waywardness and addiction I adore Christopher and just want him well and
healthy. He's the most charismatic young man, with all the grace and charm
of his father. Last week I heard he found recovery again. But he's toiled
with this disease now for a number of years. He has my prayers.
PLAYBOY: Your father
apparently had a drinking problem. Have you?
BROSNAN: I'm all right. I
seem to have gotten by. I like my wine and my beer, but I have moderation.
I have a sense of discipline about it.
PLAYBOY: You became
an American citizen last year. Why?
BROSNAN: Having lived in this
country for 23 years, I have a great love of America. It embraced me, and
I've been very lucky here. Well, I thought, if not now, when will I become
a citizen? I have an American wife, three American sons; it's time to raise
the hand. I'll probably be buried in this soil. I want to have a vote.
It's as simple as that.
PLAYBOY: You're closely
allied with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Why that group?
BROSNAN: The NRDC is a body
of lawyers who go in and do battle with corporations and fight for the
rights of the planet, the waterways and the oceans. Right now we're fighting
to save the last one percent of the old growth of the forests. We've been
up to Sacramento and held a press conference asking people to think a little
longer and a little more deeply about what we're going to do once we've
cut down these great redwoods and sequoias forever. We're opposing the
lumber guys, but California state senator Don Perata, our ally, has a strong
voice and powerful reasoning. We just might win it.
PLAYBOY: Now that you
won't be returning to James Bond, what movies are on the horizon?
BROSNAN: We're going to start
shooting an intimate thriller, Butterfly on a Wheel, at the end of the
year. I'm playing what appears to be this evil son of a bitch— another
warped character. Somehow my career is like this carpet that's just unfurled
before me. I follow it; I don't try to push it around or direct it. Once
you have a taste of something like The Matador, once that box is
opened, you want to find the next role that's going to be as audacious
or freeing. I'll probably have to go find that role for myself. I want
to have my cake and eat it. I want to be part of this world of movies and
making films, but I also want to have a private life away from it that
lets me keep my sanity and my sense of appreciation of life. Thus far my
life has been a dream with great wallops of reality every now and then.
PLAYBOY: What does your
home in Hawaii represent in your life?
BROSNAN: It represents hard
work, first and foremost, and a decade of having done Bond. It also represents
a certain lifestyle that grounds me as an actor. I can get away and recover
from it all. This is a very powerful part of the world. I love throwing
parties here. The girls here are incredible fire dancers. On some nights
we have beautiful girls out here on that lawn with the big moon shining
PLAYBOY: Very James
BROSNAN: I'm a sensualist.
I would be lost without the ability to look at life in a sensuous way or
having sensuality around me. I love the beauty of the world around me,
the beauty and power of both men and women. I like music, movies, art,
poetry. I like the good things in life. They don't have to be worth millions.
They can be the simple things—good food, wine, the simple sensuality of
PLAYBOY: And sex?
BROSNAN: Sex is quite necessary.
Sometimes it's great, sometimes not so great. Sometimes we don't meet the
mark, maybe, but it's all part of being human
PLAYBOY: Now that the
interview is over, what happens next? Do the girls start fire dancing in
BROSNAN: As you can see, there
are lovely ladies all around the house—the mermaids. When you leave, I
will say to them, "Come in here and take your clothes off, girls." My wife
said I could do that, and I don't want to disappoint her.
Can the next 007 top Brosnan's
Best Action Sequence:
Goldeneye (1995) After escaping from his With nary an Aston Martin
in sight, he steals a tank and sets off through St. Petersburg then deliberately
parks it in the path of a train packed with ICBMs. Ka-boom! Why
A steely-eyed Bond wreaks utter havoc while dressed to kill.
Best Showdown with a Villain:
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) By the time the obligatory shoot-out with
the villain (Jonathan Price) comes, we can't wait for Brosnan to ice him,
which he does with aplomb and a giant drill. This leaves 007 just enough
time to rescue his Chinese counterpart (Michelle Yeoh), who's chained and
dangling over the water. Why it rocks: We never tire
of seeing Bond trounce supercilious punks bent on world domination.
Best Way To Avoid Death:
Goldeneye (1995) Bond tracks down a once trusted colleague, now a spy
gone Bad (Sean Bean), and slips into the turncoat’s headquarters.
His break in is discovered, and guns start blazing. When a burst
of gunfire explodes near 007's Patent leather hair, he moves his head out
of the way as if dodging a pesky mosquito and continues to tinker with
a bomb. Why it rocks: It's coolness personified.
Best Sparring Partner:
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Sexy, catlike scene-stealer Michelle Yeoh
matches Bond quip for quip as the Chinese secret agent Wai Lin. She is
a martial arts ace, a great motorcycle rider and very nice to look at.
When Yeoh is allowed to whirl, high kick or scale a building, she sends
the movie into orbit. Why it rocks: Yeoh reinvented
the Bond girl, making the sexy appendage into the sexy essential.
Best Death Scene: The
World Is Not Enough (1999) "You wouldn’t kill me. You’d miss
me,” boasts sultry heiress Elektra (Sophie Marceau) when confronted by
a betrayed Bond, who has been her protecter and lover. Bond has no
choice but to squeeze the trigger and blow her away. Why it rocks:
Brosnan makes the hit – “I never miss,” he says – but he does it with a
touch of pathos, leaving us shaken and stirred.
Best All Around Scene:
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Bond moodily sits alone in his hotel, waiting
for a visit from the villain. Downing a shot of Smirnoff Red, he cooly
attaches a silencer to his Walther. After a brief visit from the heroine
Terri Hatcher), Bond gulps another shot and hurls the glass to the floor.
it rocks: It's an all too rare does of Ian Fleming – straight
to the chase and no gimmicks
— Stephen Rebello
Photographs: Greg Gorman