BERLIN (Reuters) - Pierce Brosnan used his real life charms on Panama's President Mireya Moscoso to help the makers of his latest film "The Tailor of Panama" overcome resistance to their project, the director said on Sunday.
John Boorman said there was reluctance on the part of the Panamanian government to cooperate because the 1996 novel of the same name by John le Carre had cast the government in a poor light. The criticism was heightened after a Spanish translation of the book was published just before the filming began.
"The president of Panama is a very attractive lady who was very enchanted by Pierce, " Boorman said of the actor best known as James Bond "007" when he was asked how they were able to get permission to film inside the president's offices.
"We got all this astonishing cooperation," he added.
Brosnan stars in the dark comic thriller as a clumsy spy who recruits a tailor played by Geoffrey Rush in an ill-fated fiasco that nearly triggers a war.
Asked how precisely Brosnan was able to achieve such a breakthrough for the film, Boorman said: "He asked me not to say."
Moscoso, 54, was married to the former president Arnulfo Arias, who died in 1988.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Geoffrey Rush said on Sunday that kissing Kate Winslet in one film was a great experience but that nothing could beat the chance to dance with Pierce Brosnan.
The Australian actor with two movies in the running for ''Golden Bear'' awards at the Berlin Film festival said on Sunday he hoped slow-dancing with Brosnan in a Panama gay bar was a move that would enhance his career.
Rush, a contender for an
Award nomination for his strong performance as French
Winslet got up out of her chair and moved down the table to where Rush -- who has already won an Oscar in 1997 for his portrayal of an eccentric pianist in ``Shine'' -- was sitting and nearly knocked him to the ground with a deep kiss.
On Sunday, after the world premiere in Berlin of the film ''The Tailor of Panama,'' Rush was asked why he agreed to the starring role alongside Brosnan, better known as James Bond.
``I was reading the screenplay and got to page 47, where it said I would get to dance with Pierce Brosnan,'' Rush deadpanned. ``And I thought my career is really on a roll now.''
- Boorman on the relationship between Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush: “They went along really well, and the relationship between their characters in the movie turned out to be more comic than we had imagined. The script had it that Geoffrey would kill Pierce in the end, and we had that shot, too, but we finally decided his death was unnecessary.”
- Le Carre on Pierce Brosnan’s personal interest in his role: “Pierce wanted to show that he could portray a spy far away from his 007 performance.”
- Boorman on the audience’s reaction at a preview in London: “At first, they thought Pierce Brosnan’s role was like that of that super hero spy, 007. Then we had a scene where Pierce says about Marta: ‘She has a terrific body, as long as she turns her face away while you f*** her.’ And people were going like: ‘No, Pierce couldn’t possibly say that. Cut that out.’ So we had a few discussions about that, but as you have seen: it’s still in there.
Faz.net: Why have the degenerate British agent Osnard be played by Pierce Brosnan of all people?
Boorman: Hollywood wanted me to cast the leading roles with what they consider as great actors. One of them, who was recommended to me for the role of Pendel, was Brosnan. I could imagine him in that role at all, so I offered him Osnard. At first, he was shocked. That role meant turning everything he had played up till now upside down.
Le Carré: I think he wanted to give a new turn to his career in taking a risk and making the secret agent a scruffy, immoral, greedy, lecherous animal.
Boorman: Osnard is an uncouth fellow, and we tried to make Brosnan look like that. But it didn’t work. We dressed him in disadvantageously cut clothes, but he still looked too elegant. I believe that is called natural grace
"'The Tailor of
the new materialism of the new post-war era and spoke to my
"Instead we lapsed into a
self-indulgent materialism and isolation which I found deeply
Le Carre said he let out his personal frustration over the post-Cold War era in "The Tailor of Panama," a dark comedy thriller he wrote in 1996 starring Brosnan as a clumsy spy who recruits a Panamanian tailor played by Geoffrey Rush in an ill-fated fiasco that nearly triggers a war.
It is an unusual role
rich irony for Brosnan, who usually plays the suave James Bond
Osnard believes that the
tailor he recruits as a spy would be ideally placed to eavesdrop
"I love this movie, which is why I am here," le Carre said of the film directed by John Boorman.
"This is probably as exciting for me and satisfying as the process of translation gets," he said.
"The film took over and the book was left behind. It is a real movie. Earlier adaptations were far too respectful of my work. We got the essence out of my book. The film functions in its own right."
Le Carre said some of the other film adaptations of his books like "The Little Drummer Girl" in 1983 and "The Looking Glass War" in 1965 were catastrophic. "To turn a book into a movie is like turning a cow into a bullion cube," he said.
Because of the filming of his novel "The Tailor of Panama" John Le Carré is once again officially in Berlin. A Gentleman author with somewhat schaebiger tie
It is obviously done by Pierce Brosnan, and we are taken by it, the colleague of the radio and I, after the interview date with John Le Carré. It schwaermte from the leading actor in John Boormans filming of his novel "The Tailor of Panama" and called him one "sexy actor, animal actor". And it is likewise hinreissend: An older gentleman of 69 years, but gentleman author, civilized author, highly grown, elegantly dressed, but not too perfectly.
The diagonally touched tie for example, the inaugurating with security as a certain university would decode - perhaps Eton, where Le Carré informed - is already a little schaebig. But the maintained, full white hair of the author compensates. Above all however it is the voice, which fascinates. The colleague says of the radio, and professional does not only come from one déformation. John Le Carré speaks really in such a way that one listens gladly. And if it says a few records on German, then perfectly accent-free.
John Le Carré knows Berlin. For the first time it was here 1948. Then again 1961, when the wall was built, already but there was it as a coworker of the secret service MI 6 to course. After the case of the wall he admired the city as " the larger building site than Shanghai ".
Would he ever have become an author of espionage novels, if Berlin had not been fully been inflamed divided, thus the cold war? Yes, he already believes: " I was in-born into a konspirative situation. I believe, I with five years a feeler gauge became. As if my nut/mother disappeared, and my father - a type unattractive version of Felix Krull - either in the prison went or even again came out. " It was the frightening world of the adults, who had to be spied. So that one survived, with which specifications clearly came. " Because it applied the acceptance that we should be despite all Gentlemen. We learned the language of Gentlemen, and we attracted ourselves like Gentlemen. "
After the study in Switzerland and Oxford he became 1949 coworker of the British foreign service in Germany. First in Bonn, that small city in Germany, which gave the title to its fifth novel; afterwards as consul in Hamburg. Its third book, the best-seller " the feeler gauge, who came from cold weather ", permitted it to it to acknowledge the service in order to only live as writers.
In the meantime in addition, as a film script author, where it concerns, " like one from the cow bouillon makes - thus from the book a film ". He means, succeeded with the Boorman film quite well. The film has energy, irony, it is bitterly sad, but it is also merry. One cannot require more. Brosnan saw his role, as a chance like "shooting James bond into the foot ". What does it hold from bond films? " Those are our Fantasy: Hey, that I could be. I wrote exactly differently around: Oh, that I could be. I write for the victims, Fleming wrote for the heroes. "
For those looking for a laugh, there was also John Boorman's "Tailor of Panama," adapted from John le Carré's novel, starring Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis. In the movie, which opens in the United States on March 30, Mr. Brosnan plays an "anti-James Bond" who blackmails an expatriate English tailor into giving him information collected from shady politician, drug trafficker and banker clients. With nothing to offer, the tailor, played by Mr. Rush, instead invents his secrets, for which the Central Intelligence Agency and M.I.6 are willing to pay handsomely.
The movie veers from the novel, but Mr. le Carré clearly does not mind. He is credited as a screenwriter with Mr. Boorman and Andrew Davies. He also came to Berlin to promote the film.
"To turn a book into a movie is like turning a cow into a bouillon," he said. "So the first thing is to throw the book out of the window and try to remember what was in it. Some of the screen adaptations of my books have been catastrophic because they were too respectful of my work. Here, the film medium is functioning in its own right without hanging onto the novel."
Filming a book that angered many Panamanians for portraying their country in a decidedly sleazy light posed a problem when it came to location work in Panama. Mr. le Carré, for one, decided not to go along for the ride.
"At first, I was treated with some hostility," Mr. Boorman admitted. "But all was resolved by Pierce Brosnan. The president of Panama," Mireya Moscoso, "is an attractive lady who was entranced by Pierce, and she threw open the presidential palace for us to film there. She seemed much more concerned about Pierce than about the image of Panama."
From the dank dungeons of
at the turn of the 19th century [in Quills], Rush time traveled
Adapted from John Le
novel, it's a black comedy-thriller that costars Pierce Brosnan
"I'd never thought I'd
screen with Pierce Brosnan," he adds bemusedly. "I mean he's Bond and
Crown. And now he's playing a loser, someone on the espionage scrap
It was a
"What's the worst thing you can say about Brosnan?" (Jeffrey Lantos/Movieline)
"That he was constantly amusing. He's a giggly raconteur. In the hotel bar, he was one of the lads."
Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan's skinny dip in their new movie The Tailor Of Panama was made extra stressful by the fact they were swimming in alligator infested waters. Curtis, who has an affair with Brosnan's character in the movie version of John Le Carre's spy novel, says the pair were surrounded by safety divers throughout the scene to ward off the alligators swimming round their ankles. Curtis says, "There were some alligators there, but there were a couple of safety divers too." But by the end of the scene, the actress says she's found a way to combat her fears. She laughs, "I figured if I was going to get eaten by an alligator and have it filmed then that wouldn't be a bad exit for me!"
NY new movie directed by John Boorman has to be considered an event, in part because he makes so few — "The Tailor of Panama" (opening March 30) is only his 14th feature in more than three-and-a-half decades of filmmaking — but mostly because a picture with his signature on it is pretty much guaranteed to be different: different both from every other Boorman work and from whatever else is passing for cinematic entertainment at the time.
Although he'd probably be horrified to hear himself described this way, he is a profoundly English filmmaker, in the best sense — willful, eccentric and, if not actually mad, at least an enthusiastic connoisseur of madness, a constant lover of human folly. There are those, I'm sure, who would say that Mr. Boorman's abiding interest in folly derives from his having committed it so frequently himself.
Anyone who has seen his berserk science fiction epic "Zardoz" (1974) or the infamous "Exorcist II: The Heretic" (1977) knows that this is a filmmaker whose go-for-it approach sometimes carries him way past even the most elastic boundaries of reason, sense, coherence. (I pass over in silence his 1970 comedy, "Leo the Last" — which is even worse — only because it was practically unseen at the time and has mercifully remained so since.)
In a way, though, Mr. Boorman's flamboyant failures also connect him to a great tradition of English cinema: the jeweled fantasies of Michael Powell ("The Red Shoes," "Black Narcissus") often flirted with the purest silliness; Hitchcock occasionally perpetrated a Gothic absurdity like "Jamaica Inn" or "Under Capricorn"; and even the sober, craftsmanlike David Lean was capable of, let's not forget, "Ryan's Daughter."
And that willingness to attempt insane, impossible movies has all but vanished from contemporary English-language filmmaking. There's not much room, these days, for the dreamers, the big thinkers, the overreachers, so if we never see the likes of "Zardoz" again, we may also never see anything resembling Mr. Boorman's feverish, enchanted "Excalibur" (1981) again, either. Or even another film like "Hope and Glory" (1987), his audacious, poetic comedy about London during the blitz. Mr. Boorman is practically the last of an adventurous, risk-taking breed, a fact that is perhaps ruefully acknowledged in the name of his production company: Merlin.
In "Excalibur," the magician Merlin (played by Nicol Williamson) is a creature who knows that his time is coming to an end — that his powerful vision of the natural and the supernatural world is inexorably giving way to the more mundane concerns of men like Arthur and his knights.
Characteristically, there's nothing sentimental in Mr. Boorman's treatment of the wizard's obsolescence. His Merlin is no somber sage but a kind of metaphysical comedian, spritzing out pearls of wisdom with crack music-hall timing and even taking a pratfall or two for the amusement of us mere mortals. In Mr. Boorman's version of the Arthurian legend, Merlin, who presided over the birth of Great Britain, is a prankster, a comic cutup.
It's not hard to understand why Mr. Boorman might identify with that. For all his obvious respect for nature — displayed not only in "Excalibur" (which was largely filmed near his own home in Ireland) but also in the lush, wild landscapes of "Hell in the Pacific" (1968), "Deliverance" (1972), "The Emerald Forest" (1985) and "Beyond Rangoon" (1995) — he appears to harbor no illusions about our ability to live in it without making utter fools of ourselves. In his films, there's always a mysterious beauty in the natural world, and always a grim humor in his characters' blithe indifference to it.
Maybe there's something English about that attitude, too — a comic perspective generated by the disjunction between his countrymen's reverence for their green and pleasant land and their determination to construct within it some of the darkest, sootiest, most crowded cities in the history of civilization.
Mr. Boorman, who grew up in a council house in the London suburbs (the neither-here-nor-there milieu of his autobiographical "Hope and Glory"), has one of the most acute and complex senses of place in contemporary movies. His urban landscapes — the Los Angeles of "Point Blank" (1967), the London of "Leo the Last" and "Hope and Glory," the New York of "Where the Heart Is" (1990), the Dublin of "The General" (1998) and the Panama City of "The Tailor of Panama" — are as vividly rendered as the pastoral and wilderness settings of his other films. The emotional lives of his characters also tend to work against the grain of their surroundings: if his country people are always too prosaic for their environments, his city people are invariably too imaginative for theirs.
The comedy of "Hope and Glory" lies in its 8-year- old hero's transformation of his bombed-out neighborhood into a mythic playground, a Neverland of lunar rubble and lost fliers dropping out of the sky. And even the criminal madness of Martin Cahill, the Irish gangster who is the subject of "The General," functions as a kind of imaginative redemption of his depressing lower- class circumstances: he's a no-account kid who "betters himself" by assuming, and doggedly living up to, the image of a bold, fearless, invincible outlaw.
Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), the title character of "The Tailor of Panama," fits quite comfortably into the mold of Mr. Boorman's urban heroes. He's a helpless dreamer, an ingenious storyteller and, not to put too fine a point on it, a pathological liar. Harry's an ex-con with a trace of a cockney accent who has reinvented himself — in the unlikely setting of Central America — as a conservator of traditional English values, the disciple and successor of the (wholly fictional) Savile Row legend Joseph Braithwaite. (In his shop, which is as carefully designed as a stage set, hangs a portrait of "the founder," which is in fact a picture of his Uncle Benny.)
Mr. Boorman's affection for this brazen faker is enormous, and it doesn't diminish even when Harry's whoppers begin to take on a sinister life of their own.
"The Tailor of Panama" is based on a 1996 novel by John Le Carré, another lifelong connoisseur of the peculiarities of English character. Harry's tall tales are harmless and even rather charming until a representative of British Intelligence — an unscrupulous, semidisgraced MI6 operative named Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) — enters his fanciful world and uses the tailor's whole- cloth fabrications about Panamanian politics to implement a mercenary scheme of his own. (The plot, as Le Carré admits, owes something to Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana.") The mood of the film, which is among Mr. Boorman's most restrained and delicate works, is gently comic and, in its last act, elegiac. In the end, Harry has to destroy his own creation — he has to unmake the fragile, imaginative world he has made for himself — and it's funny and poignant and, in a weird way, genuinely heroic.
Unfortunately, "The Tailor of Panama" may be too droll and muted to find much of an audience. (If it isn't a hit, it will surely be the first Boorman picture to fail because it was too low-key.) There's an attractive streak of perversity evident in Mr. Boorman's decision to adapt this Le Carré story — one of the author's most whimsical and least eventful — rather than, say, the relentlessly suspenseful "Night Manager" (1993), which might have provided a better opportunity to show off his prodigious gifts as an action director.
Until "Hope and Glory," in fact, Mr. Boorman's most successful pictures, both critically and commercially, were action films: the sleek revenge melodrama "Point Blank" and the backwoods adventure-horror movie "Deliverance." Neither of those films could be called a straightforward thriller; "Point Blank" complicates its simple plot with splintery modernist narrative techniques, and "Deliverance" is also a withering cautionary fable about machismo. But both are constructed so that, whatever else Mr. Boorman has on his mind, he can always sustain momentum and keep the viewer hooked with old-fashioned what-happens-next suspense.
But Mr. Boorman isn't at heart an action specialist. He'd be less valuable if he were. (There's not likely to be a shortage in this area in the foreseeable future.) He's not any kind of specialist, when you come right down to it — more a restless amateur, following his fancy wherever it takes him. When, in the early 90's, he had trouble financing his feature projects, he entertained himself by founding and co-editing a lively film journal, Projections, and by making short films for British television. (One of which, "I Dreamt I Woke Up," is among the oddest, funniest, most honest artistic self- portraits a filmmaker has ever produced.)
It has become steadily more difficult for directors of Mr. Boorman's generation, and of his stubbornly independent temperament, to fund their fancies. The media conglomerates haven't been beating down the doors of any of his contemporaries in recent years: "The Ninth Gate" was Roman Polanski's first movie in six years; "Quills" is Philip Kaufman's first in seven. This is bad ecology: resources are being wasted.
What audiences hunger for right now is more eccentricity — more one-of-a-kind films by one-of-a-kind filmmakers. (I'd gladly take the bracingly crazy "Exorcist II" over most of the past year's machine- tooled multiplex product.) Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has become a sensation because it gives viewers a glimpse of a seductive dream world, a kind of soaring heroic fantasy most of them have never experienced in the movies. And Mr. Lee's film isn't really all that weird; by the standards of Asian cinema in the past couple of decades, it's fairly stately and sedate.
The unearthly marvels of "Excalibur" blow "Crouching Tiger" out of the water, but we seem to have reached the point at which we're unreasonably grateful for any spark of imagination, any mild daring, any faintly discernible gesture of creative defiance.
So perhaps John Boorman's time isn't over just yet. On the evidence of "The General" and "The Tailor of Panama" (and the savagely underrated "Beyond Rangoon"), he isn't quite ready to be encased in a block of ice like his unfortunate Merlin, and maybe the world is again ready to appreciate his gorgeous, wayward cosmic jokes. All he has to do is persist in his folly.
It comes naturally to an Englishman.
Terrence Rafferty is critic at large for GQ magazine.
"Tailor" tale: Movies based on books start out with the advantage of having well-developed stories and characters, something films that emerge from Hollywood's development hell process often lack.
Consider, for instance, Columbia Pictures' "The Tailor of Panama," opening March 30, based on a 1996 novel by John Le Carre. "Tailor" is perfectly suited to director John Boorman, who with Le Carre and Andrew Davies adapted it to the screen. Starring are Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis. It was produced by Boorman and executive produced by Le Carre. Also starring are Leonor Varela, Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack, David Hayman, John Fortune, Daniel Radcliffe, David Hayman and young Lola Boorman, making her film debut in her father's film according to established family tradition. There's also a special appearance by British playwright Harold Pinter as Rush's deceased uncle, who "appears" to him during times of crisis, of which there are more than a few.
Having had an early look at "Tailor," I was delighted to have the recent opportunity to focus on its road to the screen with Boorman, who called me from his home in Ireland. It's a film I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly because between Boorman's talents, Le Carre's story and some first-class work by Brosnan and Rush, who play wonderfully well opposite one another, this is not just one more spy film. Instead of being the routine espionage genre drama that Hollywood cranks out periodically, this is a something special that hopefully will be remembered when the next awards season heats up. Rush's performance, in particular, should put him right back in the Golden Globe and Oscar races.
"I've been a great admirer of Le Carre and, in fact, I was very interested in a couple of his other books that other people got hold of before I did," Boorman explained. " 'The Little Drummer Girl' was particularly the one that I would like to have done for the screen. So this possibility came up and I was very glad to do it. I worked very closely with Le Carre. I found he's a marvelous guy."
Before Boorman became involved with the project, he told me, "there was a script by Andrew Davies that the studio had done. I didn't particularly respond to that, but then it turned out that Le Carre, himself, had done a draft -- a long, long draft, sort of 180 pages. It was very full of ideas and vitality. So I worked from that and the book and just did a screenplay. Le Carre was at the end of a fax the whole time I was (writing). I'd fax him scenes and he'd make comments and send them back. It was a tremendous collaboration really. That's how it got started."
When the book was published in 1996 it was purchased by Columbia. "They had a script done before I was in the picture and actually, I think, Tony Scott was going to do it at one point," Boorman said. "None of that came to pass. You know, Le Carre's books are very difficult to adapt because they're so complex and there are so many characters and so many subplots. Books work on a kind of accumulation of details and, of course, that disappears when you come to make a movie. In fact, we were at the Berlin Film Festival and someone asked Le Carre, 'What is the process of turning a book into a film?' He said, 'It's like turning a cow into a bouillon cube.' I thought it was great because in a sense the bouillon cube does contain the essence of the cow. I'm the guy making the bouillon cube."
Without giving away anything that might spoil "Tailor" for you, I should explain that its story revolves around Andy Osnard, a ruthless British spy, played by Brosnan, who as the result of some misdeeds is exiled to Panama by his bosses at British intelligence in London. There he encounters Harry Pendel, a British tailor, played by Geoffrey Rush, whose shop turns out exquisite custom made suits for the country's richest and most powerful men. Needless to say, there's much more than meets the eye with Harry, who has reinvented himself in a major way and settled into a comfortable life in Panama with his wife Louisa, played by Curtis. Rather than fading away quietly in Panama as his bosses had hoped he would, Osnard makes the most of the opportunities for profit that he perceives there.
It goes without saying that although Brosnan is best known for playing James Bond, Osnard is a far cry from the dapper, patriotic and well meaning Agent 007. And it's really quite clear that "Tailor" isn't meant to be a film in the Bond tradition. Only those who approach it expecting to see a 007 adventure epic are going to be disappointed. What they'll find is Brosnan playing a British spy who's close to retiring from working in the field. While he may be a womanizer in the Bond tradition, Osnard is also cynical, manipulative and disillusioned, looking to enjoy one last monetary score before getting out of the game.
"We're starting it out in about 175 theaters," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake told me. "It's a really high-quality picture that will be both surprising and ultimately satisfying to John Boorman, John Le Carre, Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush fans. So it's our intention to get it out there, get the word going and then go wider in April."
"The elements in the film -- the elements of black comedy and farce and high drama and tension -- are all in the book, really," Boorman noted. "The struggle for me was to find a tone where I could bring those elements together and make them work. The people who love the film enjoy that conjunction of elements. Some people find that it's too rich a brew -- that a film that's both a farce and a black comedy and a drama is a bit too much."
While casting is certainly important to the success of any film, in the case of "Tailor" it really had to be the perfect fit that it is. "My starting point was Geoffrey," Boorman pointed out. "I really felt Geoffrey was the man to do this role and I fought for him. The studio, whilst admiring him, felt that we needed someone stronger (in terms of movie star name value) in the other role. I had the idea of Pierce, which I fought long and hard about because he's both an asset and a liability in a sense because of the baggage he brings with him from the Bonds. Here he is playing a spy. It's dangerous in the sense that if people come in expecting to see a Bond movie they might be disappointed because he's a kind of anti-Bond here, isn't he?"
Boorman has a good point in that Brosnan's character, Osnard, is a far cry from the urbane secret agent role of James Bond that he's become so identified with. "He's a marvelous actor, and I think he's bored with playing these smooth heroes," Boorman observed. "He was thrilled to get his teeth into this and play an absolute scumbag. He has that extraordinary charm. Because he has that smooth reputation I put him in all these sloppy, baggy clothes -- and he still looks great. You can't make him look bad."
In contrast, the mostly three-piece bespoke suits that Rush's tailor character wears in the film are simply to die for. "We had those made in Saville Row," Boorman said. "The most remarkable thing about Geoffrey is that he studied tailoring (for this film). That early scene in the beginning (under) the titles, where all in one shot he marks up a jacket (so it can be made) is extraordinary. It's absolutely perfect. He did it completely correct. It's rather like in 'Shine,' you know. I mean, he's not a pianist and he learnt those finger movements for the bits where his hands were showing (on camera). He just learnt it by rote. And he did the same thing with the tailoring. He was in Australia doing a play and I arranged for him to work with a tailor there. And he did that, but rather fitfully because he was in the middle of a play. But when he came out to Panama, I put him with a tailor there and he did two or three hours every day during the whole rehearsal period. He just worked and worked at it with the tailor. Then he took the materials back to his hotel room at night and worked on it again. I went up several times to his hotel room and went over it with him. And he just did it."
Boorman presents that scene in speeded-up motion, making it particularly impressive. "It would have taken so long (to present in real time)," he explained. "I wanted to do it without making a cut, just to prove that he was doing it. It would have just taken much too long, so I just sped it up."
We're accustomed to seeing beautiful women dressed beautifully in movies, I told Boorman, but it's unusual to see an actor wearing suits as wonderful as the ones Rush gets to wear here. Did he get to keep his wardrobe? "Columbia insists that all wardrobe goes back to them," Boorman replied. "I don't know why. I suppose it's in case they ever want to reshoot or something. Everything had to go back to them. I'm going to try and pry those out of Columbia and let Geoffrey have them because he certainly looks great in them."
Production took place in Panama, a country where moviemaking is far from routine. "We shot all the exteriors and some of the interiors in Panama," Boorman said. "We shot in the presidential palace and in the Canal and then we came back here to Ireland. I took an Irish crew with me, you see. So we did the film out of Ireland and then we came back and did the interiors at Ardmore Studios. This was my fourth film (shot) in the tropics. 'Emerald Forest,' of course, I made in Brazil, a little farther down. 'Beyond Rangoon' was in Malaysia. And going way back, (there was) 'Hell in the Pacific,' which I did in the South Pacific. I love the tropics. I love these exotic locations. Panama is a fascinating place. You can drive from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 45 minutes. It doesn't seem right, does it?"
Working there was fine, he said, but certainly not easy: "We had to bring everything in. There's nothing there at all. Panama City is quite a sophisticated place with lots of banks and high finance and money laundering things going on. When the book came out in Panama they read it and they were somewhat hostile to me when I first arrived because the book was very critical of Panama. On the other hand, they were also thrilled to have a picture made there because it's never happened before. Especially when they heard that Pierce Brosnan was going to be in it, the excitement reached fever point. The president (of Panama) is a woman and she was a great fan of Pierce's, so when she heard Pierce was going to be in it, suddenly all the doors were opened and we got all the cooperation we needed. The power of a movie star is extraordinary."
Production, he said, took place in Panama "for six weeks and then we shot for five weeks in the studio here (in Ireland). The big worry we had (while shooting in Panama) was kidnapping because there's a lot of kidnapping going on there. There are two types. Colombia is right next door and the Colombians come over and snatch someone and take them back to Colombia and trade them. They're sort of bought and sold. So the guys who snatch him sell him for half a million dollars to somebody else. And then they sell him off for a million. And eventually the people who are expert at getting ransoms, they charge $3 million. Then there are local gangs, who are even more dangerous because they snatch someone and you get a call and they want something like $10,000 and they want it in two hours. And if they don't get it in two hours, they just kill the person so they can't be identified in any way. It has to be done very fast before the police can get round and all that. So we kept a lot of cash handy in case that happened. It didn't. We didn't have a problem at all, but it was a nagging feeling the whole time because we knew so much of it was going on and, clearly, someone like Pierce was a tremendous target."
Did they work with increased security during production? "Well, we did," he replied. "There's a lot of ex-Mossad guys down there doing security. They're the best. They said if you want security you've got to have a lot of people. For instance, when the actors get in the car you need one guy to drive and one guy to shoot. One guy's not enough. Then you've got to have people at the hotel outside the doors. It was massive. We started off like that. And then the actors, themselves, felt so oppressed by it. They couldn't move without armed guards surrounding them the whole time. We just gradually toned it down until we were much more discreet about it. And, in point of fact, we got away with it, you know. I was very relieved."
Even with the costs of security and the need to bring into Panama virtually everything needed to make the movie, Boorman managed to bring "Tailor" in very reasonably. "$20 million and change," he said when I remarked on how good the picture looks on the screen and asked what it cost. "It's not bad at all. Of course, the key actors all worked for a lot less than they normally get. And we all had a good time doing it."
Martin Grove is seen Mondays at 8:35 a.m., PST on CNN and heard weekdays at 1:55 p.m. on KNX (1070 AM ) in Los Angeles.
In adapting his novel 'The Tailor of Panama' for the screen, author John le Carre takes a hands-on approach, with director John Boorman, in helping create an 'anti-Bond.'
What's a ruthless spy and a pathological liar to do in a post-Cold War world where none of the old rules apply and everything's up for grabs? Why, team up and turn the espionage game into the ultimate con and walk away with a fortune, of course.
At least that's what
and Geoffrey Rush try to do in "The Tailor of Panama," the John Boorman
film that opened last weekend to strong business in limited release
million on 199 screens). The film is adapted from John le Carre's
often whimsical spy novel.
No "Smiley's People" here; instead, when Brosnan's British agent is exiled to Panama for seducing the wrong women, he immediately searches for an operative to help him monitor the drug trade and volatile political situation. That would be Rush, an amiable English expatriate with a secret past who has reinvented himself as a tailor to the rich and famous. Trouble is, Rush not only weaves a good suit but a good yarn as well.
* * *
In fact, he's concocted a whole fantasy life for himself that he manages to hide from everyone, including his adoring wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). Only it's gotten him into some real estate trouble and he's desperate for money. Enter Brosnan, who schemes his way into Rush's precarious life and charms him into fabricating the most preposterous tale about a counterrevolution and the sale of the Panama Canal.
The whole thing quickly spirals out of control into an international crisis, forcing Rush to confront his inability to tell the truth. If the story bears a striking resemblance to "Our Man in Havana," that's because Le Carre acknowledges the influence of the Graham Greene novel at the back of his own.
"I liked the idea of Panama as this dangerous mix of high finance and corruption," noted Boorman, "and I liked the idea of these two men, one who is totally immoral and the other who is living this lie, a storyteller who can't help himself tell people what they want to hear. It seems very contemporary."
Boorman, who for more than 30 years has enjoyed turning familiar stories on their head ("Point Blank," "Excalibur" and "Hope and Glory") or delving into unfamiliar territory ("Deliverance," "The Emerald Forest"), found inspiration in Le Carre. Once again, the acclaimed director was confronted with human folly set in a dangerous tropical region. Only this time, black comedy was thrown into the mix.
"What I tried to do was to catch something of this curious mixture you find in the Le Carre books of satire, farce, black comedy, intrigue and tragedy," Boorman added. "And it's difficult to pull those things together."
It's a strange mix to be sure. Aside from the biting banter between Brosnan and Rush ("Panama," Rush explains in the film, "is Casablanca without heroes."), there's a slapstick introduction to Rush tailoring a suit in fast-motion and Rush's imaginary conversations with his deceased mentor (played by playwright Harold Pinter), who's always steering him wrong. Then Boorman unexpectedly assaults the viewer with a bloody dose of reality.
Both Boorman and Le Carre realize that "The Tailor of Panama," which is being released by Sony Pictures, may be a tough sell with American audiences as a result of its ambivalent tone, confusing plot and casting of Brosnan as the bad guy. But they were heartened by the warm critical reception the film received at the recent Berlin Film Festival.
"At Berlin, somebody asked Le Carre what was the process of going from a book to a film, and he said, 'It's like turning a cow into a bouillon cube,' " Boorman reported.
* * *
The witty and erudite Le Carre, recognized as the master of the Cold War spy novel ("The Spy Who Came in From the Cold," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" among others), has never been as involved in a film adaptation as this one. He not only churned out a quick rewrite himself (180 pages in three days!) following Andrew Davies' initial draft, but also served as executive producer. He thought it was the right time to get closer to the filmmaking process.
"The world has changed," Le Carre said by phone from his home in London. "This was my first novel in the post-Cold War world. There's absolutely no ideological content. The ideology is materialism.
"Everybody lies all the way up until the fantasy takes us all the way to war. Lying is much more expansive in the novel. The media are involved in it as well. The labels may have changed but there is something about a continuum. The U.S. pulls out of Central America but goes back in because of the drug war. While we play the game of nations, it's a disguised term for the game of competing industries. In retrospect, the Cold War was a war of fantasies as well as a war of hardware. It was a war of perception."
The novel, which takes place before the Americans hand the canal back to Panama in 1999, had to be updated, and the plot carefully condensed. Le Carre is generally pleased with the results--especially the pairing of Brosnan and Rush.
"The central interaction between the duo was excellent," the novelist said. "Pierce, for all his training, retained the animalism of the character. He's instinctive. He's a sexy, decadent figure descending on his prey. Geoffrey is a more studied actor. He comes at it more indirectly. He's levitative when tailoring. He has an extraordinary mobility of face and body."
At first, Le Carre wasn't sold on the idea of casting the latest 007. He disliked "The Thomas Crown Affair" and is bored by the Bond films, but quickly changed his mind after meeting with the Irish-born movie star in Ojai. "When I walked with Pierce, I thought there was so much of a man there. With his classical training and background, he saw the part as a showcase for rage. I think he sees it as a springboard for greater recognition of his talent.
"It's daring for Pierce to go against the Bond image. He made a fool of Bond in the post-Cold War world with this role. He removed the hypocritical padding from Bond to reveal him in his nakedness. He reminds me of immoral middle management."
* * *
Boorman believes this is Brosnan's best performance to date. "I thought that within the narrow confines of the last Bond, that Pierce had a kind of subtlety and a kind of sensitivity, compassion. He'd clearly changed somewhat. I think this film allows him to deal with his frustration with Bond, with no sex [on screen] and just fantasy violence. In some ways, this character he's playing is not a million miles away from the way Bond was written by [Ian] Fleming."
But Brosnan's presence can be a liability as well. For instance, Columbia Pictures held a test screening a few months back in which it intentionally misled the viewers. "They were told they were seeing a kind of low-budget Bond film," Boorman explained. "The audience went with it for about 20 minutes until Pierce delivers a very nasty remark about a female character with a damaged face.
"The studio wanted me to take the line out, and I refused. It was a defining moment for Pierce's character. From then on, I was able to get them on my agenda."
As for Rush, Boorman said it was a difficult performance to pull off because you have an actor playing a character who is always giving a performance. "When I asked Geoffrey to do the part, he didn't know how to approach it, really. And what I gave him was, you know, listen to London headwaiters because they take on the airs of the upper class, and that's the tone of [the character]. Geoffrey's got the lightness of a clown, but at the same time he has terrific equipment in terms of acting."
Le Carre compared Rush to Alec Guinness, who starred in "Our Man in Havana." "Like Guinness, he is a throwback to old-fashioned values. Acting for him is like trying on hats and spectacles in front of a mirror. He was selecting a disguise, trying on different things."
Pierce Brosnan is back at MI6 this week. The suave good looks are the same. The cocky way of speaking to his boss is just as it would be with special agent James Bond. But Pierce's British spy in The Tailor Of Panama is no 007. "Andrew Osnard is the antithesis of Bond," Brosnan drawls. "Morally, he's completely ambiguous. To me, as an actor, it is a wonderful play on a theme - to have Bond in the repertoire alongside Osnard, who's also MI6 but is painted in much more detail and much more colour than 007."
To say colour is to put things mildly. There are few more intriguing spies than Andrew Osnard, author John Le Carre's villainous covert operator whose greed brings an entire country to its knees. Where Bond is true, Osnard is false. Where Bond saves lives, Osnard causes death.
At the start of the film, director John Boorman deliberately apes the Bond films by having his spy de-briefed by his boss - an M-figure played by Scot David Hayman in high camp style. It sets the tone of the movie - part spoof, part political satire, part thriller.
"I started off planning the film with Geoffrey Rush in mind for the tailor," Boorman explains. "The studio said 'great' - but he can't carry the film, you need a bigger name for the other part. I thought of a number of people and had the idea of Pierce. So I went and talked to him about it.
"He tells the story that he thought I wanted him to play the tailor but he gradually realised that I wanted him to play the other guy. He was just stunned by the connotations of the role."
Considering the actor's clean-cut image as 007, no wonder. In The Tailor Of Panama, Brosnan's Osnard is a British spy exiled in Panama. He's bored and wants out of the business - but to get out, he needs money. He takes under his wing Geoffrey Rush's Harry Pendel, a high-class tailor with a dodgy past as an ex-con from London. It isn't the suit maker's skill with a needle or high-placed contacts that make him valuable. It's his imagination and outrageous story telling.
Osnard wants a revolution in Panama, so Harry invents one, with Osnard working to convince the US that the country is unstable and pushing them to invade so that the Panama Canal is safeguarded as a shipping route. For Pierce it was an opportunity to explore the darker side of the secret service. So instead of seeing a suave spy surrounded by beautiful women with great style, we have a lewd chancer, out to get whatever he can. Osnard is a man who relishes meeting his contacts in brothels while watching porn, or in sleazy gay bars, where he can embarrass them.
"That world of the secret agent has a loneliness," says Brosnan. "These men, who have to go into countries and be someone they're not. Family and friends know nothing about their life - that's quite a heavy thing to do but there's also a mundane side to it. It's not like Bond at all.
"Osnard has had a very fractured life - he just bonks everyone in sight. A bit like Bond, in fact," Brosnan smiles. "He also has a very heavy drink problem. All those things you can't accentuate in the Bond movies but we could here. As a result this seems much more real." Other than the unique nature of Brosnan's character, filming The Tailor Of Panama was not without its own special problems. There was the very real threat of kidnapping from neighbouring Colombia - Brosnan was under close guard the whole stay and a special insurance policy had to be taken out on him.
Then there was the matter of what the native Panamanians thought of how they were going to be depicted in the film. Far from being the thrusting, go-ahead, young economy they like to think it is, Panama comes across as more like a third world country run by corruption and mafia-style gangs. Permission was only given to the film-makers after a meeting between Brosnan and the country's female president. "Do not dismiss the power of Bond," Boorman laughs at the memory. "Things really were a little uncertain, but they met together and it was all smoothed out.
"Panama is an extraordinary place. The brothel scene was actually filmed in one of the city's better known hotels and when we were planning it, I asked one of the local crew if they could get us some prostitutes. He said no problem, his uncle had prostitutes! It's that sort of place.
"When we got them all down to the hotel I was worried the manager might be hurt we were using prostitutes at his place. But instead he turned to me and said, 'Why are you bringing these prostitutes here? What's wrong with my prostitutes?' In the end we used half of his and half the other man's. But they were all real prostitutes."
Before he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1997 for Shine hardly anyone outside Australia had heard of Geoffrey Rush. And even as he collected his award, some were scratching their heads in puzzlement, wondering who was this guy with the putty-nose. They knew he was Australian. But he was not Mel Gibson. Since then, Rush has notched up a string of memorable performances in films such as Les Miserables, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, and Mystery Men and among his peers in the movie world he has acquired a reputation as a fearless and dedicated performer.
Rush had two films to promote at the Berlin Film Festival last week - Quills and The Tailor of Panama - and when we met at the fag-end of an intensive promotional drive, the seemingly indefatigable actor was clearly feeling the strain. He looked like a victim of his own success. No wonder, then, that the impending Oscar nominations - he would receive a Best Actor nod for his energetic performance as the Marquis De Sade in Quills - were not foremost in his mind. Rush was looking forward to flying back home to Melbourne to see his wife, Jane, and their two children Angelica, born in 1992, and James, born in 1995. And who could blame him?
The fact that he is in demand in the US and Europe has not persuaded the busy actor to settle outside his native land. He feels there are more important things than just his film career at stake. "Psychically, Melbourne is my home," he says, in typically considered tones. "I want my children to grow up in Australia, because if I have anything to pass on to them as a parent or as a mentor, it’s my experiences of growing up there and of shaping a career there."
By the time he collected his Oscar, Rush was already an established force in Australian theatre, and he still treads the boards down under. Just before shooting The Tailor of Panama, he and his theatre company staged a production in which they all played five-year-olds. Rush wanted to perform a show that his children could see, and felt that a play about the purity of the young would be an appropriate way to start the new millennium. Rather alarmingly, he says his children - both under ten - had visited the set of Quills, but adds that all they came away knowing was that it is the film in which daddy wears the funny grey wig. "I’m going to leave it at that for quite some time," he smiles.
Rush is a playful heavyweight - an actor rather than a movie star - whose conversation ranges within the space of a few words, from a quip that he took the part of the Marquis De Sade (Quills) because he got to "tongue-kiss Kate Winslet" to a discourse on how he used the King Lear and Don Quixote characters as illustrations of the role of the madman in literature. During his formative acting years, Rush, who is 49, spent four years in Paris studying at a school of mime, movement and clowning. On his return to Australia he starred opposite Mel Gibson, then fresh out of drama school, in a prestigious, Sydney-based stage production of Waiting for Godot.
The year was 1979: both actors were in their twenties and, by Rush’s own admission, probably far too young to play Samuel Beckett’s time-killing tramps.
"But we had a very funny production, I know that," he recalls. "It was refreshing for it not to be a metaphysical night in the theatre but to be closer to what I hope Beckett was intending, because he loved music hall. Basically, you spent a couple of hours with two clowns."
Twenty two years later Rush is cast opposite another lethal weapon - and in an equally unlikely pairing - in John Boorman’s entertaining John Le Carre adaptation The Tailor of Panama. "On page 47 of the script," says the actor, wittily echoing his unforgettable Kate Winslet comment, "I read that I got to dance with Pierce Brosnan, and I thought: ‘My career is really on a roll now’."
Joking aside, Rush admits that he was as surprised as anyone to find himself playing opposite Brosnan. Not because he does not rate the Irishman’s talent, but because they are like Fosters and Guinness.
"At the time I thought, ‘Never in my wildest dreams ...’ I mean, we are such polar opposites as actors - and maybe that can be perceived in the kind of work that we do - but that became the absolute fun of it."
Rush plays Harry Pendel, a Cockney ex-con who has reinvented himself as a popular tailor in Panama City. Brosnan stars as a British spy who thinks the tailor can give him access to the corridors of power. What he does not know, however, is that Harry’s stories are as fabricated as his suits.
If you think, "Oh, it is just Brosnan coasting on his Bond persona", then think again: his Andy Osnard is cruel, cynical and manipulative; he uses the Queen’s English in a way that would make James Bond blush; and he is incapable of looking at a woman without mentally sliding his hand up her skirt. It is an eye-opening performance which, were it not for the fact that Brosnan is already onto his last 007 movie, would surely have put the final nail in that particular coffin.
"I’m sure the Bond people aren’t going to be too happy about this," confirmed Boorman, with accustomed understatement.
Despite their very different careers, Rush and Brosnan got on like a house on fire.
"It was wonderful to watch him - because he’s a real giggler and he really mucks around - drawing on well-trained instincts of himself as a younger actor, before he had all this celebrity with Remington Steele and Bond," says Rush admiringly. "You could see his acting juices being really kind of charged."
They had so much fun working together that they re-dubbed the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Panama. However, Rush is not sure that Brosnan will ever be able to live down the scene where they dance together, in a gay bar, surrounded by around 100 same-sex Panamanian couples. "I said to him, ‘In 25 years’ time there’s going to be a retrospective of your career, and they’re going to show all these clips of you with Famke Janssen and Michelle Yeoh and Sophie Marceau - and then there’ll be this one of you and I fox-trotting. I was one of your leading ladies.’"
After a particularly dense spate of work, which, confesses Rush, must have given people the impression that he was a bit of a "slut", the gifted Australian now finds himself without a job to go to. He knows, though, that if the trend continues, his phone will probably ring as soon as he returns to Melbourne. He is unlikely to have to hustle for work. Of greater concern is the number of home-grown projects that keep falling across his desk at the moment - there are just too many of them.
"I tend to get offered almost every script that somebody writes in Australia because they foolishly think that I’m a name there," says Rush bluntly. "But, in reality, the more successful and more interesting Australian films over the last 25 years - such as Muriel’s Wedding and Strictly Ballroom - have never been star-driven. I don’t put queues around the block unless I’m in something that is a complete and entertaining film in its own right. They’re foolish if they think getting me is going to help."
John Boorman’s spry John Le Carre adaptation, The Tailor of Panama, could win several awards, including one for Pierce Brosnan’s wickedly mischievous spin on his Bond persona.
Brosnan will have to fight off Geoffrey Rush, though, who, as well as appearing in Tailor, is also here as the Marquis De Sade in Quills – a role that he says he took after reading that he would get to “tongue-kiss Kate Winslet”. She is unlikely to be in the running for an award, but Emma Thompson deserves one for her devastating turn as a literary professor dying of cancer, in Mike Nichols’s heart-achingly uncompromising Wit, which surpasses everything she has done to date.
THE name's Osnard.
Sure, actor Pierce Brosnan has been James Bond for the last seven years. But that doesn't mean the suave actor can't step into the shoes of another spy, does it?
In the case of The Tailor of Panama, which opens in Winnipeg today, Brosnan assumes a role that is at once quite similar and quite different from that of his 007 alter-ego.
Osnard is a British spy, alright, but he's also a despicable womanizer, an egotistical manipulator and, in Brosnan's own words, an all-around "sh--."
The Tailor of Panama, based on the book by spy novelist John Le Carre, has Osnard skulking around the South American country looking for information on the canal. The spy finds an informant -- or so he thinks -- in a fellow Brit, tailor Harry Pendel (played by Geoffrey Rush), who clothes Panama's richest and most powerful men.
When Brosnan originally met with director John Boorman (The Emerald Forest, Beyond Rangoon), he was thrilled to think he was being considered for the part of the tailor.
"Then he said, 'No, no. The spy!'," Brosnan recalls via telephone from his California home. "And I said, 'OK, well I'll still do it.' "
But playing yet another spy didn't bother Brosnan, he says, because the similarities between Bond and Osnard end there.
"Bond is the glorification of the spy -- that's the comic-book version," explains the actor. "Osnard has much more of a reality to him. It was exciting to go into this for the very obvious reason of messing with the whole Bond image and playing his antithesis. He was just a great character to play, with or without Bond in my pocket."
Though Brosnan has relished his turn as a villain, audiences have had a tougher time accepting him as the baddie. An original test screening for the film in Los Angeles resulted in a mire of complaints that led to Boorman changing the film's ending entirely.
"You don't want to
hoodwink the audience
and as much as I think sometimes that I'm just an actor -- well I am --
you have to address the whole movie-star image thing," he says. "You
to look at it and analyse what it is you've become and what people
"I think it was worth reshooting. The original ending was a bit of a downer for the film. But thank God for DVD. John will put the original ending in there. I think test screenings can sometimes make a film better and sometimes make it worse. It depends on who's doing it, on the executives and how intelligent they are. It depends on who you're working with."
With Boorman, Brosnan says he had nothing short of total trust.
"He was really the hook that brought me in. When the phone rang and my agent said, 'John Boorman,' anything else that came out of his mouth after that, I was like, 'Whatever it is, it's John Boorman.' I've always wanted to work with John Boorman. He's made some amazing, intelligent films, humanly drawn and analysed and performed," he says, citing Excalibur and the infamous backwoods drama Deliverance as two of his favourites.
"There's always the conflict of the cruelty of man there," he says. "In this film, you have that and then, of course, the world of John Le Carre. And then you have Geoffrey Rush. How can you say no?" Rush, recently nominated for an Oscar for his turn as the Marquis de Sade in Quills, is "an actor all the way," says Brosnan.
"He always gives such a rich performance. We became good mates. He and Jamie (Lee Curtis, who stars as Rush's wife) and their families were down here at our house on weekends. He's got a very fine mind, as you would expect based on his performances. He has a rich kind of theatrical, analytical joy."
For now, Brosnan is keeping busy and maintaining an open mind about an impending Screen Actor's Guild strike. (The negotiation deadline is July 1). He has three projects in development, all of which are expected to shoot in Canada, including The Sound of Thunder, a science-fiction flick based on a short story by Ray Bradbury. Renny Harlin will direct.
"I'm taking the attitude and spreading the word that there will be no strike," says Brosnan. "It's too foolish and it's a bad time to have a strike. I think it will be resolved. Nobody wants it; it will be crushing to the industry."
And when does his next Bond film -- the 20th installment in the series -- get under way?
"Bond doesn't start until
he says. "I'm looking forward to it very much. Bond can be a curse and
a blessing, but if you use it correctly and take the high road, then
fabulous and a joy to do."