Big Issue 
Pierce Brosnan: Life Beyond Bond

May 3-9, 2004

By Martyn Palmer

Lounging on a sofa in a Beverly Hills hotel room, the man who, saved the James Bond franchise, with a suave sense of style and exactly the right dash of tongue in-cheek humour, contemplates whether 007 is no more - at least for him.'

Pierce Brosnan hardly seems stirred, let alone shaken, at the prospect of losing his onscreen alter ego. Others are already waiting in the wings. There are rumours that Hugh Jackman, an Australian born of English parents, who has proved to be rather good at creating action heroes, will be the next man to pack a Walther PPK. Or maybe it will be Clive Owen - dark, brooding, but not yet the big box-office draw in the US the way Jackman is. Who knows? Apparently not Brosnan himself. The question is, how much does he care?

Including his first, Goldeneye in 1995, Brosnan has played Bond four times now and each film has been bigger and more successful than the last, making, literally, hundreds and hundreds of millions - the kind of money, in fact, usually demanded by the Bond villains as they hold the world to ransom.

In the past, the cognoscenti were divided over a favourite 007 - you were a Sean Connery fan or in the Roger Moore camp. But everyone loves Brosnan as Bond. Ludicrously good looking in the Savile Row suits and the highly polished brogues, he seemed to fit behind the wheel of an Aston Martin or a souped-up BMW as if he were born to it. And as for the beautiful women? Well, they would, wouldn't they?

So what's going on? Is he coming back to save the world one more time or not? "My contract is finished," he says. "They asked me back to do a fifth, but now they seem to be a bit paralysed as to what to do next. So it's kind of in no-man's land. And really, you'd have to ask them - the producers - what's going on.

"I did say I would like to do a fifth film. And they did say 'we want you to come back and do it....’ But now we're in a situation where it's opaque. That's a good word, isn't it? Opaque.”

"I wish I could give you more of an answer and say 'yes, this is going to happen, this is where we are now and this is where we are going...’ But I can't. They have said to me 'we're confused, we're lost, we don't know what to do...’ Well, okay, fair enough. You know where I am."

This is delivered with a shrug of those broad shoulders as he leans back into that comfy sofa. He's here to promote his latest movie, The Laws of Attraction, a romantic comedy with Julianne Moore, which has been made by his own production company, Irish Dream Time. In other words, he's getting on with his career, Bond or not.

Brosnan and Moore play cut-throat rival divorce lawyers, both confirmed singles who know absolutely nothing about marriage except how to pick over the bones when it breaks down. It's fast, witty and sexy – a homage to the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn comedies, such as Adam's Rib and certainly doesn't feature any spectacular explosions or cool gadgets. In other words, it’s, a million miles from Bond.

"You get branded as Bond and I will always be Bond, or one of the Bonds," he says. "And that's fine. But there's more to life than James Bond and I think I have more characters in me. I think I still have enough talent and courage to go out there and find roles that will bend the perception of who I am as an actor, as a person.”

"I wanted to do The Laws of Attraction because it's a very funny script. And you know, comedy is hard to do - everyone says that, but it's true. And, of course, I wanted to work with Julianne Moore. Who wouldn't?

"It was actually terrifying to step out there with Julianne. You think, 'is it going to work?’ There are some tricky little scenes and comedy has such a rhythm to it, it's like jazz, it's quite convoluted, as opposed to drama where you can sometimes tuck away, if you make a mistake sometimes you can hide."

It's a change of direction and a chance to push himself, which is what he wants. There are others, too. He's finished After the Sunset with Woody Harrelson and Salma Hayek, and he's now filming The Matador, playing a hit man, with Greg Kinnear, and there are at least two more films pencilled in after that. In fact, if he were to play Bond again you wonder when he would actually find, the time to do it.

Click for larger image

Today, he's casual in an open-necked powder-blue shirt and dark jeans. There's an old-fashioned, busy moustache on his top lip "for The Matador", but there's no mistaking Brosnan. Later, as he glides through the hotel lobby, heads swivel and ladies smile. And Brosnan is easy company. Whereas some of a similar superstar stature is prickly and guarded, he is open and likeable.

Maybe I'm biased. The first time I interviewed him, some five years ago for The World Is Not Enough, my tape recorder broke down after I'd only captured two minutes of 45-minute chat, with a deadline looming for a national broadsheet.

He could see the panic on my face when I checked the tape at the end of the interview. And this was a busy day – a conveyor belt of journalists lined up and if I'd messed up, tough luck, or at least that's what I expected. Instead, he told me to come back later and meet him in the hotel bar. He had a scotch and I had a beer and we did the whole thing again, while his dinner guests waited patiently.

If the Brosnan Bond era is over it will be a great shame. But at least he's leaving us wanting more and maybe that's a good time to go. And there's no doubt that Bond has, in turn, been good to him. Does he have any thoughts on who might be a good successor? "I think Clive (Owen) is a really fine actor and Hugh Jackman is too. There are a number of fellows who could do it."

Perhaps it's because Brosnan has suffered some truly, terrible blows in his life that he has a healthy sense of perspective about it all, these days. He has two step children, Charlotte and Christopher, and a son, Sean, from his marriage to Cassandra Harris, who died in 1991, at the age of 50, after a long, harrowing battle with ovarian cancer. He was at her side when she passed away on their 14th wedding anniversary. He admitted later that for a long time afterwards, consumed by grief, he "cried every single day". 

In the years following Cassie's death, Brosnan made his children a priority and managed to keep his career on track, too. He now lives in California with his second wife, former model Keely Shaye-Smith, and their two young sons, Dylan Thomas, 7, and three year-old Paris Beckett. "I was very lucky," he says simply. "I found love twice in my life."

Brosnan will turn 51 on May 16. "Oh let's not talk about me being 50," he sighs with mock dread. "Actually, you know what? I don't give a hoot. I'm having a very good time, both professionally and personally. I'm married to a wonderful woman and I'm enjoying being a father again. Being 50 isn't so bad at all.”

"And I love living here in California and you know, America has been very good to me." At home in Malibu he loves to paint and he gives support to many environmental charities. 

Born in Navan, County Meath, Brosnan moved to England with his family when he was nine and although he doesn't have a home in Ireland, he still goes back there frequently, in fact part of The Laws of Attraction was filmed there.

"I love Ireland. It comes with such a rich abundance of history and mystery to it all. It's the people, the romance of the landscape, the music, the drinking, the dancing, the song and always the drinking!" he laughs.

"Everyone goes there and thinks 'we've got to have a pint of Guinness' and it's one of those places where it's okay to go to the pub and have a good time and I think that the Irish have a sense of fun about themselves and about life. And they wonderful people, they really are very warm people."

As a youngster he always wanted to act but curiously, when I ask what he might have done if it hadn't worked out, he replies, "Maybe a social worker, I think I was heading that way."

After drama school, working in England wasn't easy. There was provincial theatre and some forgettable television; He said later that he felt that his looks, and perhaps even his soft Irish accent, went against him.

By 1981 it was clear to him what he needed. To take drastic action. "Either I stayed in England and worked as a mini-cab driver in between jobs or I took the plunge in America.".

He took the plunge and by 1982, life was looking up when he was offered the lead in Remington Steele on American television - suave, daredevil crime buster not a million miles away from a certain British secret agent. Ironically, when Roger Moore retired as James Bond in 1986, producer Cubby Broccoli offered it to Brosnan, who couldn't accept at the very last minute when the producers of Remington Steele refused to let him go.

Timothy Dalton took the role instead and fine actor though he undoubtedly is, he wasn't exactly the best Bond we've ever seen. Brosnan would have to wait a further decade before Broccoli came back to him. Now, it looks as if it is time for Brosnan to hang up the tux for good. "I'm 50 years of age now and I think that there comes a point where you just say' I've been there, I've done it.’ The ones that I’ve done have been very successful and I think that if you look at them, there's been a progression in my work there I think there's an assuredness and a confidence. So if there's a fifth, then great, I'd love to do it. If not, well, it had to end sometime." 

[ Pierce Brosnan Files ]  [ Interviews]