TV Guide: Pierce Brosnan Cover (Nov 2002)

TV Guide: Brosnan Takes Bond To The Extreme


November 9-15, 2002

ON THE BACK LOT OF ENGLAND'S Pinewood Studios in the wee hours of the morning, James Bond stands alone, ready for battle. His weapons: a well-cut tuxedo and a sexy grin. His mission: to foil a plot to destroy the world (again). His foe: not SPECTRE, not SMERSH, but the crummy British weather, which, at this moment, is pummeling the world's most sophisticated secret agent with sheets of unrelenting rain angled by bitterly cold wind.
Pierce Brosnan looks up from the puddle he's been standing in for hours and laughs as raindrops run down his handsome face. "Did I tell you I wanted to play this role since the day I was born?" says the star of "Die Another Day," the 20th installment in the series that began 40 years ago, when Sean Connery first electrified audiences in "Dr. No." Once director Lee Tamahori ("Along Came a Spider") yells "Cut!" Brosnan heads to a nearby tent to warm himself-not with a shaken martini as Bond would, but with a proper cup of tea. After all, he has hours to go this night, and even a hero needs a caffeine shot every now and then. He can, ahem, rest another day.

If Brosnan is pushing himself-he admits that "Die Another Day" has been the most physically taxing of his four Bond films-it's for good cause. Like Bond, Brosnan, 49, can't afford to slow down, as contenders to the action star throne pursue him like heat-seeking missiles.

''The stakes are really high on this one," Brosnan says. "We all felt the pressure of making the 20th movie. And of all the competition. Everybody wants to be Bond: Tom Cruise wants to be Bond. Vin Diesel wants to be Bond. Mike Myers wants to be Bond. They all kind of parody and emulate. And that's a compliment. But they can't hold a candle to Bond. How can they? They're not Bond."
TV Guide: Pierce 2002  (Click for larger version)
At first glance, this Bond film looks deceptively familiar, but gaze beneath the surface and the latest installment moves into uncharted waters: For part of the film Bond is bearded and imprisoned, then cast from the Secret Service and disavowed. And according to Tamahori, the love scene between Brosnan and Academy award-winner Halle Berry, who plays a spy named Jinx, "really pushes the edge" in terms of sexuality.
"Halle's comfortable in her own sexuality," says Brosnan. "So when you're taking it off and jumping in the sack, we had a hoot. We enjoyed each other's company."

Well, it wasn't all fun for Berry, who nearly choked to death in one scene while trying to seductively swallow a fig. Says the actress: "I'm so busy trying to be groovy that I choke. No air. I was frozen. And Pierce saved me. He just went into reaction mode and did something to my back and it popped out."

This wasn't the only mishap during the arduous shoot, which took cast and crew from England to Iceland to Spain. Brosnan had to have knee surgery after a stunt with a hovercraft went awry. "It was a cold February morning. I didn't warm up. I didn't stretch. And I just blew the meniscus out," he says. "There were 600 extras. Five cameras. And you try to do a hundred-yard dash three times over and not get blown up or go the wrong direction. It's a breath away from parody, believe me…" With a budget of some $140 million, any potential delay to the costliest Bond film ever caused the producers, says Brosnan, to freak out: "And so did I, but quietly." He flew to LA. the next day, had surgery on his right knee and was back on the set in a week.

With "GoldenEye" (1995), "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997) and "The World Is Not Enough" (1999), Brosnan is now James Bond to a new generation of 007 fans. His own favorite Bond: Sean Connery. "Roger Moore did a great job," says Brosnan, ''but Connery's the only one that has that kind of presence on screen." His favorite 007 scene: Connery about to be halved by a laser in "Goldfinger" (1964).

Bond and Brosnan have had a long relationship. The first film he ever saw was "Goldfinger." His first wife, Cassandra Harris, who died of ovarian cancer in 1991, played a Bond paramour opposite Moore in 1981's "For Your Eyes Only." And Brosnan was picked for the role not once but twice. The first time was in 1986, when he was starring in Remington Steele and Bond producer Albert Broccoli chose Brosnan to take over from the retiring Roger Moore. But NBC would not release Brosnan from his contract, and the part went to Timothy Dalton. Brosnan was finally fitted for 007's tux in "GoldenEye." 

Looking at past Bonds, Michael G. Wilson, the series' executive producer, points to Connery's "animal magnetism, masculinity, sexiness. Lazenby (see "Double Oh Once," page 34) was an interesting character but, as an actor, a bit immature. Roger made it a little more fanciful than Sean. Timothy Dalton played it a little more tortured. Pierce has a lot of Sean's attributes but he has a vulnerability, too. And that's allowed us to write more complex pieces for him."

Months after enduring the deluge at Pinewood Studios, Brosnan sits in his office in Santa Monica, California. He appears fully rested-he and his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, just spent a month in Bora Bora. ''That woman has been a joy in my life," he says of the mother of his two small sons, Dylan Thomas, 5, and Paris Beckett, 1. "I'm a lucky man that I should find happiness and love and a new life. She is the essence to what my family is about."

That family also includes Harris's children, Charlotte, 30, a massage and beauty therapist, and Christopher, 29, a documentary filmmaker, whom Brosnan raised and adopted. And he and Harris had one son, Sean, 19. It was Sean who was injured in a car accident in Malibu in April 2000. "The worst phone call of my life," says Brosnan. "His pelvis was shattered-and his ribs. He is made of strong fiber. He's a better man in many respects." Sean is now a drama student in London.
Brosnan is clearly at a high point in his career. "Die Another Day" opens November 22, and "Evelyn," a small but powerful film from his production company, Irish DreamTime, opens December 13. The film tells the true story of a man (Brosnan) whose children are sent to an orphanage, and his battle with the Catholic Church and Irish courts to get them back. Like those children in the movie, Brosnan had a difficult upbringing. "My father [Thomas] took to the hills when I was an infant," he says. "My mother [May] did the courageous thing and set sail for England [from Ireland] to make a better life for the two of us." After living with his grandparents and relatives, Brosnan and his mother, who was a nurse, were reunited in 1964 when he was 11. "When you put it down on paper it seems bleak," he says. "It was the childhood I knew and I learned to get by on intuition and instinct. I learned to take care of myself."
He's certainly done a good job of that. His first three Bonds have brought in more than $1 billion worldwide, and although "Die Another Day" represents the last Bond under his contract, the role is clearly his as long as he wants it.

And how long will that be? Brosnan walks out the door of his office and onto a terrace, considering the question. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. There isn't a drop of rain. He thinks for a moment more, then mentions the name of an actor he believes could make a worthy successor: Paul Bettany ("A Beautiful Mind"). But then he smiles. "You know, I'd rather not think about somebody else being in that driver's seat just yet," he says. "They are just going to have to bloody well wait."

TV Guide: Alternate Cover- Pierce & Halle 2002  (Click for larger version)

Interview transcription courtesy of Ellen

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