Smoke 

MALE BONDing WITH 007

Holiday 1995 

"What the f--- are you doing here?"
"I'm here to interview you."
"Can you write?"
"Well, some people think so. But, since this is an interview, I guess I should ask - can you speak?"

Not what most people would imagine as an auspicious start to an interview- but, for two old cigar-smoking buddies, it seemed just right.
 


When Pierce Brosnan and I last saw each other two years ago, he was known as 'The man who could have been Bond." Now, of course, he is playing the character he has flirted with since first meeting with Bond film franchise producer Cubby Broccoli in 1980 - the role that some say he was destined to play.

I first met Pierce Brosnan some years ago while I was working at the Davidoff of Geneva store in Beverly Hills. When in town, Pierce's weekly ritual consisted of going to Jose Eber's hair salon, then shooting across the pre-fab cobblestone road to the Davidoff store. Shortly after his arrival, we would adjourn to the private club upstairs for a late afternoon cognac or brandy. Pierce would indulge in a Davidoff 4000, (still his preferred smoke), and I would grab whatever cigar was about. I have often felt that selling cigars grants a person the "armchair psychologist" status achieved by the local bartender or barber. During our visits I felt I got to know Pierce. (As well as anyone can really know a public person.)

Occasionally Pierce would come in with his agent or a friend, but often it was just the two of us chatting up a storm until well after closing time. We talked little about business, his or mine. The conversations revolved around far more personal, yet general topics that I would put under the heading of "guy stuff." He would relax in the contemporary leather chair in the corner of the club, seemingly enjoying this respite, an escape where no one could find him. Pierce is fiercely private. I have never seen him look comfortable in a crowd. 

When I first met him in 1992, Pierce had a profound solemnity about him. Cassandra (Cassie), his wife of 14 years, had just died of ovarian cancer. In addition, his TV show was off the air, and his attempts to make the often difficult transition into feature film hadn't turned up a string of blockbuster hits. Some-such as The Lawnmower Man - were, but there were far more misses (such as The Deceivers and Mister Johnson).

In many ways Pierce embodies the very persona he now portrays: Calm, cool, and collected. Yet, unlike Bond, he is far less demonstrative and far more thoughtful. Basically, he's a nice guy.

The drive from my old Beverly Hills stomping ground to my West Coast editor's house in Santa Monica was filled with the usual pitfalls of driving in LA. After safely arriving and picking up Robert, I was armed with "my people" (well, in this case, "my person") and two tape recorders. We journeyed to Malibu, where Pierce has kept a six-acre spread, fondly called Redtails, for the last six or so years.

The prearranged meeting spot was Wolfgang Puck's Granita restaurant, one of the overdecorated, yet fashionable eateries that line the too-chic neighborhoods of LA and beyond. Actually "over decorated" doesn't go far enough - Granita looks like Disney's The Little Mermaid as a live action film with the main set blown up. A decor so abominable that it may not even be worthy of my own fanciful nickname for it, ''Underwater Splat."

Robert and I chose a table outside on the patio. The stifling Autumn heat and smog had tapered off in favor of a cool ocean breeze and mild temperatures, making it a picture-perfect day. Unfortunately, the only view from Granita's patio is a parking lot. But it is a parking lot in Malibu, and therefore is picture-perfect.

While waiting for Pierce, we chatted with the attractive and amiable waitress (with those two qualities we knew she was no native-sure enough, Michigan). We told her who we were meeting. Unfazed, she said, "Oh, yeah, he's in here a lot." She thought for a second and added, ''You know, He doesn't drive the Aston Martin in this movie…it's some Beemer." This revelation turned the table into a whirl. I mean this was a weighty issue to be contended with; it truly put both Robert and me into a state. How can James Bond, 007, the greatest superagent ever, the personification of the modern British Empire - how could he drive a German car? Thank God Pierce put our minds at ease when he joined us.

"Oh, sure I drive the Aston Martin in the beginning of the film," Pierce told us, "but then Q gives me a car for my assignment which is a BMW - the two seater roadster, the Z3." By mid-meal we had politely, but sternly, corrected the waitress for her faux pass. Of course Robert and I did not tell her of the horrible scare she put us, two Bond devotees, through.

The beverages arrived and not two seconds later Pierce stood in the entrance to the patio looking like a three-dimensional fashion spread. He was dressed in a loosely buttoned custom-tailored white shirt and black pleated trousers and, if I do say so myself, he looked quite dapper, much like a star. Actually; Pierce is one of those men who has grown into his looks. The boyish features he sported in Remington Steele are now rounded out with a few lines and gray hairs. At 42, Pierce looks better then he ever did. He strolled over to the table with a suave, fluid elegance. Truly, if there was a role for this man to play; it would be Bond. Or is it the other way around?

After our greetings, we sat down and ordered. For me, it was one of Wolfgang's world-famous pizzas (of course in the gourmet frozen foods section of my local grocery store they are ten bucks less, but for ten bucks I get to look at the parking lot); for Robert, a salad with an unpronounceable lettuce of some kind; and, for Pierce, an espresso and a Samuel Adams - I guess one counteracts the other, maybe it's an actor/spy thing.

Pierce seemed quite comfortable and relaxed on his home turf. He seemed unaware of, or simply indifferent to, the tape recorders on the table in front of him. In fact, despite the fact that we were all here to conduct an interview, we all seemed more concerned with a striking lady who had just strolled by. 

'The legs man there's lots of them here [that] I know," said Pierce.

“I could live here forever" added Robert.

"Aaron, you're facing the wrong way."

Shit, why do I miss everything? Maybe there is an upside to this parking lot after all. With the pizza now gone and Robert still looking at parking lot women between bites of his multi-hued green salad, we began to talk. It became immediately evident that nobody is more amazed by the entire Bond phenomenon than Pierce himself. The role that eluded him, that should have been his years ago, now is. This has left Pierce slightly, but yet happily, dazed.

"I remember the day of the announcement for Bond in London. We're going into the hotel, a big hotel in London, and were about 350 people there, all press from all over the world. I get out of the car, and these two bodyguards are taking me down the corridors and up the corridors. Then we go into the room and it's unbelievable. I'm standing behind this kind of screen and they say, 'OK, the music will come on and the announcement, and then (singing)…da da, dada, dada, da da…and you walk out and everything goes into slow motion.' I was just like, 'Oh fuck!' And you just smile, and smile, and smile…By the end of the day I was ripped. I went back to my hotel and laid on the bed, thinking, 'What have I said yes to? What have done? Do I want this? Do I want this?' It's a way of life, it becomes a way of life."

Once the plates have been cleared by Miss Michigan, and she brought Pierce another Samuel Adams, we broke out the smokes. While not on any cigar-friendly restaurant list, the staff was more than accommodating, fetching us some forgotten ashtrays from the darkest reaches of a storage closet. For the next three hours there we sat, on the patio, by the parking lot, talking and smoking away....

Why do you think there's been so much excitement about this Bond film, more so than any other that's come out?

One of the reasons is partly my involvement in it. Even though the Bond character's been off the screen for seven years, I think there's always been an audience for the Bond movies. It's the biggest franchise going, it's the longest franchise. If we cast our minds back to 1986 when I was offered the movie when Remington Steele was cancelled…I was denied the opportunity because Remington Steele wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted the world. There was just so much greed involved. But, to answer your question, that is why there's such a buzz about it right now.

Do you feel a sense of victory over NBC and the producers of Remington Steele?

There's a quiet satisfaction, but there's no gloating involved. I mean, '86 was business. I was just caught up in business, and I had a contract that said certain things, and they used it. And you could say they abused it. I find it amazing that it should come back into my life a second time, and I 

think if something comes back into your life a second time it carries a certain significance. So when the phone call came last summer and they said, "OK, it's happening," I said, "All right, let's do it." It wasn't jumping up and down and OH! WHOOPI! It was like, let's do this sucker. Let's get it right and make it.

Do you think you're more prepared to play the role today than you would have been nine years ago?

Oh, wholeheartedly, yes...yes. There's been a certain amount of growning up and maturity in me as a man, as an actor. Just the way life has turned around for me, yes. I think there was less fear this time of filling the shoes. They’re big shoes to fill, you know. Big, huge shoes to fill. I mean, the man being Sean…but you look at Roger…Roger came and made Bond his own. He did seven films and in his own way. But there are many people who remember the first time Bond came on the screen. Sean is the man that created this cinematic icon.

You mentioned there has not been a Bond film for seven years. Did the animosity created by the lawsuit between UA and Cubby Broccolli spill over and have an effect on the atmosphere once the film got rolling?

No, no. Once the business got out of the way and everybody knew what they owned and what they were going to make, then it was just business as usual. I wasn't involved in any of the litigation or any of that. I mean, when it came into my life in '86 and it went out in '86, I was annoyed. It was a very frustrating period. And people would always say, "Well, you should have been...you could have been...you might have been." I just got on with my work. I just felt manipulated, used. And yet, you have to get on with your career, so I certainly wasn't waiting in the wings for Bond to happen. I wasn't looking for it, I wasn't wishing it. As far as I was concerned, Timothy Dalton was Bond.

You've stated over the years that you and Dalton had been friends and you knew each other in the UK. So, when Bond went to him, you said there were no hard feelings. Now that the roles are reversed, has he talked to you, has he told you how he feels?

The other night we met at the Ballet and we talked for about half an hour over Jack Daniels. It was very interesting. We met at the Monkey Bar for a cigar one night. We're not great friends and we don't know each other that well. I’d say we're acquaintances. I'm very respectful of his work; he's a really good actor. It took great courage for him to do Bond the way he did it. He just went, fuck it, I'm gonna do it this way. I'm gonna smoke, I'm gonna play him this way. He did it and you can't knock that.

Yet it seemed to fail at capturing the hearts of Bond fans...

You have to find the right balance of danger and reality in the character, and yet you're in this fantastical story playing this superhero. He's just a guy at the end of the day, but the man's got great style, finesse.

And he gets all the women.

He gets the best-looking women. And you have to get the humor as well. You have to let the audience in, you have to bring them along with you, you can not play it in an austere fashion.

Your Bond, the fifth screen Bond - how did you make it your own? What did you draw on to say, "OK, these are the elements about the other Bonds that I did or did not like?" Did you go back and read the Ian Fleming books? Did you go look at Sean's old films?

I think what we've done with this Bond is go back to a classic Bond. To the days of Sean Connery, and yes, I read the books. Before I picked them up I took them down off the bookshelf and I looked at them. I read passages off them to see what Ian Fleming had to say about the character. The character's a very hard man, a very somber character at times. What Connery did is indelible in my mind anyway. I left Ireland in 1964 as a boy of eleven and the first movie I ever saw in London was Goldfinger, so that created a big impact on the life of a young boy from the country. I'd never seen a film in Technicolor; I'd never seen a naked lady covered in gold paint; I'd never seen a dude that was so cool - a man that could chop heads off with a bowler hat. [He pauses] It was very sexy, it was a very cool movie and the guy's a cool dude. Those images stayed with me. You just put those into your own performances. But you have to be real. You have to make the man real. You have to be the guy.

If you were going to pinpoint what your unique contribution to the Bond legend was, would you say that you were the guy who turned it around and brought back the tradition?

No, I think that would be presumptuous of me to even put that on paper. You get one chance. You get this right - and I hope we have, I think we have - and I strongly believe that you have made a very good Bond movie.

Throughout our talk you've been mentioning the "classic Bond" and getting back to it. The women, the fun…but one of the things that makes a Bond film great is the music.

Oh, what the hell was his name? Great piece of music and it's unbelievable and your fucking doing the scene you know, and I'm sitting there and I'm driving the DBS in Monte Carlo and it's like, "ding dada dingding, ding ding ding ding dadadingding..."

Do you hear the music while you're...

Of course you do! We all end up humming it. We are setting up a shot, and "da da dada da da dada" [All at once all three of us break into an exceptionally poor impromptu harmonization of the Bond theme music.] But Eric Sera has done a great spin on it - when you see the trailer you'll hear it, but it's jazzed up. It's really jazzed up.

How has Bond changed your life?

I don't know...Suddenly you're playing this character and they want to put your statue in Madame Tussaud's, the big waxworks in London. All the famous people of the world past and present are there. That was a first. Life just changes when you become this character. People acknowledge you in a different way, the public do it. And it is very warm and everybody's really excited about it, which just creates a certain pattern of pressure. So then you think, "Well, did we get it right?" In doing the film, people would say, "did you have fun?" Yeah, I did, but it was basically just hard work. It was a tough film to do.

How many days shooting? How many months?

Six months. Six days a week.

How many countries?

We didn't cover that many, the principle unit. We went to Monte Carlo for about seven days. We went to Puerto Rico for about eight days. Those days you just fly in, you get up in the morning, and you're out on the set. Running, jumping. It's all action. All action.

What was tire first day of shooting like? What did you have to do?

First day of shooting was with Robbie Coltrane. Robbie Coltrane is an English comedian. He's a very, very accomplished actor as well. It's a six-page scene, and he plays Valentine, who's an ex-KGB agent who is now completely corrupt and part Mafia. Robbie is about six-feet one, 250 pounds. He's a big man, he's very big. And very funny too. Of course he can frighten you as well. The scene was me sitting in a chair and he's there and they're just beating the shit out of me, and it's just eyeball-to-eyeball and it goes on for six pages. 

You want to make any predictions, box office wise?

I wouldn't dream of it.

What does Bond smoke?

He doesn't smoke in this, but there are more women. [He laughs.] More women, more fun! But there should be a really good cigar moment. [He starts to gesture as if playing with an imaginary Q gadget.] There should be something there which you can do, you just twist it, [he manipulates the imaginary cigar, making sound effects] and you leave it on the ashtray...and "BOOM!"

Do you remember your first cigar? Was there someone who really got you into cigars?

Yes there was. I was on Remington Steele, the very first day of the third [second] season, and I'd given up smoking. We were in Acapulco and there was a director called Seymour Robie. A really lovely man, a good man. Seymour smoked cigars. And he got me into cigars. I started smoking them during that summer in Acapulco.

What was the first cigar?

I think it was a Romeo y Julieta. I just love the feel of them, I love the smoke, there's a certain sense of well-being when you hold a cigar. A certain feeling of affluence, a certain peacefulness. When I'm painting at home I like to have a cigar.

Has your son Christopher shown any interest in cigars?

Yes, he smokes cigars. We were down in Bora Bora recently and I brought my humidor down with me. I brought a good collection of cigars and we went through them together.

Why do you think there's been a resurgence of cigars? Is it almost like the Bond thing - are we getting back to the classic things we once were accustomed to?

I haven't really stopped to analyze why there's such a resurgence with cigar smokers. I'm not sure whether it started here in the West Coast or back in New York. There's a certain romance to it. However you cut it, people like to smoke. And there's something very clean and organic about a well-made cigar. It doesn't come with any kind of preservatives or any saltpeter…there's a certain romance to them, a mystique. There are certain actors connected to it. And of course it's a trickle-down factor. Somebody sees Jack Nicholson with a great looking cigar and a girl and a car and they want to do the same. 

And they can, for $5.00!

That's it. You see somebody walking into a premiere or a movie or sitting at a table or just having a really cheap dinner and a fine cigar...

And just feel like your on top of the world!

And feel very cool.

After having what amounted to an entirely too good time, Pierce had to rush back home to greet some friends who were expected. We say our goodbyes, and Pierce and I made some plans to have a drink and a cigar while he is in New York filming The Mirror Has Two Faces. As Pierce pulled away from the parking lot in his black tiptronic Porsche coupe, and my person and I crawl into our rented LeBaron convertible, we turned to each other and, "Dum da da da dum, dum dum…Dum da da da dum, dum dum…Da da daa daa, da da Daaaa…" 


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