People: The Spy Who's Loved Too Much
Pierce Brosnan, the man who would be 007, finds himself behind the eight ball as he reluctantly returns to Remington Steele
By: Laura Sanderson Healy & Mary Ann Norbom
August 11, 1986
Thinking he had closed a chapter of his career, he had taken to occasionally trashing Remington Steele and the high life in L.A. He had all but signed for The Living Daylights, the $40 million Bond film originally scheduled to begin shooting this month.
the prospect of Brosnan as Bond revived NBC's interest in its show. The
network saw a promotional windfall in beaming the man who would be Bond
into America's living rooms-particularly so after more than 10,000 furious
fans phoned and wrote NBC protesting the cancellation. This summer, Remington
has greatly improved its ratings during reruns. In the halls of NBC, programming
chief Brandon Tartikoff joked about his booboo, "Anybody can cancel a show
in 59th place. It takes real guts to cancel one in ninth place." Consequently,
just last month, three days before options on the Remington cast
expired, NBC made it official: The show was renewed for six episodes as
a midseason replacement.
The network's decision has started a worldwide scramble for another Bond, while shooting on The Living Daylights has been postponed to late September. The producers talked to 60 aspirants in one recent week alone. Earlier Mel Gibson and Bryan Brown were considered but not screen-tested. Australian model Finlay Light was tested and so was Sam (Kane & Abel) Neill, who was a front runner at last check. But the players change constantly. After Broccoli saw The Taming of the Shrew in London, new rumors surfaced last week that actor Timothy Dalton was the first choice. If you are a handsome, breathing male with a British accent you are a candidate.
Brosnan has not talked publicly about his dilemma since Remington's revival created it. But he was positively voluble when last interviewed in London, basking in the afterglow of what he considered a pro forma screen test for Bond-and in the midst of filming a kind of warm-up for the part, Frederick Forsyth's thriller The Fourth Protocol, in which Brosnan plays a KGB bad guy. Had Steele been renewed, he said, "I would have risen to the occasion, but I would have gone back to work reluctantly, just gritting my teeth. . . . Under the circumstances [of the Bond offer], if it had gone a fifth [season], I would have been pissed off. . . . No risks were being taken. I wanted the show to get a little more hard-edged, but they wanted to keep it like it was." He was particularly distressed by Moonlighting, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Remington. In fact that show was created by Glenn Gordon Caron, a former Remington writer. "Moonlighting [is] a direct steal which has just done it in a different, much fresher way," Brosnan said. "At least they take risks." Co-star Stephanie Zimbalist apparently agrees. "Now those people are doing at Moonlighting exactly what we're supposed to be doing at Remington Steele."
In a show that relies on character chemistry; there was little combustion. As Brosnan put it, they "were never progressing in the relationship. . . . There was all this kind of cat and mouse, old movie rubbish. . . . The people who were behind it were never courageous enough to say, 'Well, let's just throw it up in the air, what we can do next, how we can keep it alive.' " On that he and Zimbalist were agreed, and the producers' notable idea for invigorating the show-having them get married-infuriated both of them. During production earlier this year, Zimbalist said: "If they decide to marry Remington and Laura, they can find themselves someone else to play Laura. That is not the character I signed to play." And, of course, in the season's last episode, Laura and Steele were married. Brosnan recalls, "There was a lot of tension about that." Exec producer Gleason observes: "Pierce and Stephanie are both quite vocal when it comes to their characters." Although weddings are usually Nielsen bonanzas, the union did nothing for Remington ratings.
For Brosnan, television was no longer the most becoming medium. "You learn bad habits as an actor [on TV]. As the season goes on, you take short cuts, fatigue sets in. Then your confidence goes." With it goes some measure of esteem. "The word 'star' doesn't mean an awful lot to me. 'Good actor' and having the respect of one's peers means more. You don't really get much of that doing a show like Remington Steele."
By the end of last season, Brosnan wanted to leave Los Angeles as well as the show. Despite the comforts of a home in the hills, "I was becoming so Hollywood. All it became was money - get as much as you possibly can. I just find that you can become a very boring person living in L.A. I tell you, living there on a day-to-day basis is vacuous, terribly fake." So he particularly liked the prospect of shooting back-to-back features in London: "It's extremely civilized working here."
Brosnan has long
considered playing Bond a career goal, but only recently has he pursued
that prospect with passion. In fact, when he was first mentioned as a candidate
he was reticent. "I said, 'Why do I want to do it? It's become an institution.'"
But the idea kept coming back. Roger Moore told a newspaper that Pierce
was his hand-picked successor. The mushrooming attention made Brosnan reconsider.
So, no doubt, did the lack of attention given Brosnan's feature Nomads,
a quick fizzle released last March. Finally, he said, "I thought, if I
don't do Bond and some other guy gets it and I've been such a strong contender,
I'm going to be really pissed off."
So there are. A few weeks ago, Brosnan returned to L.A., and there, barring strikes or other acts of a merciful God, he will begin shooting Remington Steele next October.