Thomas Crown Affair- Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo




Thomas Crown Affair:  Production Notes

Creating The World of Thomas Crown

"In the original, Thomas Crown was supposed to be from a Boston Brahmin, old money background," notes McTiernan. "We changed the character to a man who'd made money himself. He came from nowhere, got himself to Oxford on a boxing scholarship and took that pugnacity to just pushing further. Now, it's 20 years later, he's in his mid-forties, he's got a fortune and he's kicked the hell out of just about everybody he's come up against. Basically, he's out of challenges."

McTiernan found Crown's ideal territory amid the steel and concrete canyons of New York City. The corporate headquarters of Lucent Technologies, with panoramic views of the south harbor, Governor's Island, Staten Island and Brooklyn, stood in for Crown's suite of offices in Crown Towers. The entrance to Crown Towers was shot in an unoccupied office building near the Stock Exchange. Additional exterior filming was done throughout Manhattan's financial district. 

Crown's Fifth Avenue mansion was not located on the Upper East Side but rather in a warehouse in Yonkers. McTiernan worked with production designer Bruno Rubeo to create just the right balance of nouveau aristocratic elegance and idiosyncratic art connoisseur that form the essence of the private man.

"It is not just a rich man's house," says Rubeo, an Oscar nominee for his work on Driving Miss Daisy. "He's a very eccentric guy with particular tastes and a particular lifestyle. You try to come up with the right mood of colors to create that idea. He also has a place in the Caribbean which had to be the opposite of his place in Manhattan because that represents a different side of his character. It's a creative process you go through with the director and John McTiernan is a very interesting director. He's at times mysterious but he comes up with very surprising, brilliant ideas like nothing I have ever experienced before." 

The India Club at Hanover Square served for the outside of the National Arts Club where Crown arranges his first date with Catherine. The interior of the National Arts Club was filmed outside the city, in Purchase, New York, at Manhattanville College, a private liberal arts school.

Another important interior was the Pierre Ballroom where Catherine Banning's pursuit of Crown turns to seduction. These scenes were shot in a marble-walled building that housed the old library at Bronx College. The torrid dance sequence was choreographed by John Carrafa (At First Sight, The Last Days of Disco). The couples danced to the Latin rhythms of Chico O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban Orchestra. The tune for the big dance sequence may sound vaguely familiar to anyone who remembers the original The Thomas Crown Affair, as McTiernan selected it in affectionate tribute to the 1968 film's Oscar-winning theme song, "The Windmills of Your Mind."

Crown's athletic pursuits - golf, gliding and catamaran racing - were filmed in Westchester County and Connecticut. The catamaran race required Brosnan to take a few lessons in handling that kind of specialized rig.
The cast and crew then flew to the Caribbean Island of Martinique just before a Christmas hiatus to film the sequences in Crown's secret paradise. The French-speaking resort island presented its own unique set of challenges, including difficult-to-access locations and vacillating weather patterns.

The greatest challenge, however, lay in the creation of the scene of the crime. "You probably can't get permission to film an art theft in any major museum in the world," McTiernan wryly relates. "They have huge security systems and they're very secretive about how those operate. They also can't insure valuable art works against potential damage from a film crew working around them with smoke-effects and sprinkler systems going off. Neither could we: one wrecked painting could be the budget of the entire movie. So, we had no choice but to make our own museum." 

Amazing as it sounds, the filmmakers created their own museum in a soundstage. Studying the architecture of several established museums helped Rubeo to not only make it look right but also meet the physical needs of a production crew. "You start to think about what you are going to do to make it interesting, so it's not just a fancy architecture that you see in almost every museum," says the designer. "You have a desire to be different without being too different because it has to be believable. So you research to find what other museums look like and come up with one of your own. The challenge is in laying out a place that works aesthetically and practically for the special effects in this movie."

The filmmakers hired a team of artisans and set up their own mold-making facilities adjacent to the construction department which was housed in a former Subaru dealership next door to the warehouse-soundstages. Once licensing rights for art works were cleared, molds were crafted and plastic poured to replicate everything from sphinxes to ancient sepulchers.

Some of the sculptures, along with a majority of the paintings, were commissioned from a group of master forgers living in Paris. Operating quite legally, Troubetzkoy Ltd. - under the direction of Christopher Moore - is a team of artists who have been reproducing fine works of art for over 20 years. Among the more than 200 works replicated for The Thomas Crown Affair were paintings by the Americans John Singer Sargent and Mary Casset, as well as several French Impressionists, including Claude Monet whose painting ("San Giorgio Maggiore Soleil Couchant") is at the heart of the caper.

McTiernan selected the kind of art that he felt would maximize the overall visual impact of the scenes in the museum, which are key to both drawing the audience into the beginning of the film and sustaining the intensity of the climax.

"The basic notion was that I don't think abstract art - which makes up a great deal of what is actually in museums - translates well on film," McTiernan explains. "The abstraction may have an emotional impact if you're actually standing in front of it and looking at it. But if you abstract it one more level by taking a photograph of it, it loses that primary impact.

"I had gone through the Louvre and found myself drawn most forcefully to the works of the French Revolutionary-Early Napoleonic period. So, I asked the art directors to use those pieces as much as possible. The people in those paintings are fascinating, the eyes contain enormous confidence. It's almost like they see what's going on here and become like the jury. They actually populate the walls in a way that abstract paintings wouldn't."

Only one scene, during the finale when Thomas Crown first enters the museum ostensibly to return the stolen Monet, is not a set built from scratch. For this scene, the filmmakers converted the entry of the New York Public Library into the entry for their museum. 


EON Magazine: Brosnan uses his Bond clout to remake Thomas Crown Affair (August 1999)
By: Jeff Bond

His name is Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan. On movie screens he's the world's most famous and most famously indestructible secret agent, James Bond. But right now he's looking a little haggard and nursing a hacking cough. He's halfway through a glass of bottled water but that's not helping. Someone brings in a second bottle, but its effect is negligible. 

Finally, someone brings in a tall glass of beer, unshaken and not stirred, and Pierce Brosnan's cough is banished. Now he's ready to talk about his remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, which teams him with an actress (Rene Russo) a scant year younger than his forty-six year age, and John McTiernan, the director of DIE HARD and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, for whom THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR represents a dazzling return to form. Brosnan met McTiernan on his first film, the little-seen adventure NOMADS, so THOMAS CROWN is a reunion of sorts. "I watched him work and you could see then that he knew the camera, knew what he wanted, and we made the movie and he just went off like a rocket," Brosnan remembers of the NOMADS director. "And I waved 'bye. ' I carried on doing what I was doing and he became a major director."

For Brosnan, who was trying to make a name for himself as a movie actor while languishing in the grip of his TV series REMINGTON STEELE, watching McTiernan take the movie world by storm was a sobering experience. "My ego is as healthy as the next guy," the actor insists, "and when I saw him go and do DIE HARD with Bruce Willis, and Bruce Willis was on MOONLIGHTING, I was on REMINGTON STEELE, Bruce was becoming a movie star, --everyone wants to be a movie star and do films. I had no patience, and you have to let the ego settle for a while and get on with your job and go back to loving being an actor. That's what I love doing. Then Bond comes along and GOLDENEYE and GOLDENEYE is successful, and my partner and I formed a company called Irish Dreamtime and made a film, and we came up with the
idea of doing this remake. I was a big fan of the original."

Brosnan recognized in the original THOMAS CROWN (a '60s milestone with Steve McQueen as a bored millionaire who takes to high-stakes burglary) a template with which he could fit his own big screen persona. "I thought yes, the suits, the love affair, this chess sequence--it's doable," Brosnan remembers. "Because there wasn't enough flesh on the bone of the love affair, I felt, and I felt we could explore the romance and what actually makes this guy tick and fall in love. And I also thought it dovetailed well into the persona that seemed to be happening with myself and James Bond. I didn't think it was a big stretch, and I thought if we could execute it well and get the best writers and director and female star, we
would be in. "

One intimidating factor in the mix was having to fill the shoes of yet another big-screen icon, the legendary Steve McQueen. "Steve McQueen could do no wrong in my book; he was brilliant in everything
he did," says Brosnan. "He was a unique screen actor and he was just watchable. He was the king of cool, and when you're fifteen you want to be cool. And when you're forty-six you want to be cool--guys want to be cool. But cool is not something you can play; you have to find your own sense of cool in life."

Despite having taken on the role of James Bond and filling a space once vacated by the likes of Sean Connery, Brosnan was apprehensive. "I didn't want to repeat McQueen, I was fearful of it," he admits. "But in the joy of the studio saying yes I forgot all about that, and in the joy of investing myself in the story I began to forget about how daunting it could be. The first draft of the script Steve McQueen was still there; we hadn't found it yet. But then we got Leslie Dickson and Kurt Winmer--Leslie had done MRS.
DOUBTFIRE and Kurt had written these terrific action sequences for movies. And we discussed it and it developed from there, and in came this script and it was sheer heaven. The psychiatrist sequence came out through my conversations with Leslie Dickson about who this character was and why he did what he did. Does he really need a therapist or is he playing a game with her? The guy plays a game. I wanted to have something there as an emotional yearning of some sort, that he had everything in life but he didn't have a partner in life who gave as good as he gave, who could take him on an adventure. So Leslie wrote a wonderful role for Rene."

One of the selling points of the movie is that it explores a relationship between two actual adults, rather than the credulity-straining May/December relationships that seem to be the norm for modern popcorn films. Brosnan notes that Rene Russo was a key element in that challenge. "Rene I've always been a fan of," the actor/producer says. "I think she's a woman who's never been seen in this light before and I was instrumental in getting this role for her. I wanted her in the movie and I wanted a woman in the role, not a girl. I wanted someone I could fall in love with and believe in, and who could be my equal. And this is someone who's worked with every star in town and held her own every time." While the original THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR focused on Crown's heists with the love affair (with Faye Dunaway, who plays Crown's psychiatrist in the remake) a subdued '60s sidebar, Brosnan wanted to focus on the love angle in
the remake.

"The reason to remake this was the love interest--I wanted to make something sexy and romantic," the actor says. "How are you hurt by people? By believing in them and being deceived by them. This is a film which deals with trust. That's the opening line of the movie. It's about a man who has everything and knows the male world of business and has had many affairs and been hurt. For him it's a game--he's kind of dead at the beginning and alive at the end."

Another crucial ingredient was Brosnan's former collaborator, director John McTiernan. "I just think he's such a fine director," Brosnan says. "I wanted him on the Bond movies but that's never going to happen. When you get John you get a man who comes with big power and energy. He was on a list of directors for Bond and myself and he was right at the top."

According to Brosnan, McTiernan's independence and unique vision was something the franchise-oriented Bond producers were leery of. Nevertheless, he was the first director Brosnan thought of for THOMAS CROWN. "But he was unavailable," the actor explains. "and we went down the list of many wonderful directors who for one reason or another didn't want to do it or were unavailable. And we went to the next list and the next, and I said to my agent I want to do this movie, I've invested two years of my life, let's make it happen. And McTiernan's agent thought he'd be interested and he was, and John said 'I'm in.' And my agent said Pierce is in it and John said 'I'm doubly in.' I have a great fondness for John and a great respect for him. There's just an unspoken relationship with John--he's not the easiest man to
bring to laughter and when you do it's such a reward. He has such a gift and talent and intuition about the camera and storytelling. And this starts with a heist and finishes with a heist but in the center there's a love story." 

With a strong story in place, Brosnan found his job as a producer largely effortless.  "We had the magic of having a text that made sense," the actor points out, in an era when most movies begin the filming process without a completed screenplay. "As soon as McTiernan became involved my producing talents weren 't needed--it becomes his film and I'm just the actor. I never involved myself in overtime or the schedule or anything. That side of it leaves me cold, really. What I like is finding the story and developing it and finding the talent. Bringing the team together is fun, and then you just stand back and let people get on with it, and if you're in the movie you focus on your job. It wasn't until two weeks before the film that I actually had great anxiety about what I was about to set sail with."

According to Brosnan, the lack of pressure on the producer's side led to one of his better performances. "The best performances are the relaxed performances because the camera sees all. It sees when you're pushing too hard, so you want people to have a good time."

While THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR teams Brosnan with a romantic interest his own age, his upcoming Bond adventure THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH pairs Brosnan with the twenty-something Denise Richards of STARSHIP TROOPERS and WILD THINGS.  "Denise is a beautiful girl," Brosnan says. "I want the best for Denise Richards. I think she knows exactly what she's doing and she has it all there before her, and if she really pays attention and gets her performance and takes care of it all, she's got it, she flaunts it, and she does it so well. WILD THINGS I thought was great, and in the Bond movie she's playing a nuclear physicist, and she had a great sense of joy with it. She comes off well."

Brosnan has also come off well in the role of Bond, a character who commands one of the few guaranteed worldwide audiences in the current high-risk filmmaking environment. Asked whether he'll continue in the role, Brosnan is philosophical. "I'm contracted for three with the option of a fourth. Do
they want to do a fourth? Yes, I think we want to do a fourth. As good as this feels, you just never know. They're very demanding films to do physically and in every other way. You're looking at six months of filming."

The demands of THOMAS CROWN were somewhat less, but they did include one thing the Bond films don't--nudity. Brosnan engaged in some steamy pairings with Rene Russo that should set the standard for adult romantic coupling for some time to come. But Brosnan is modest about the accomplishment. "I had a great partner in Rene," he says. "We hit the ground running and as much as the film is about trust -- it's trust for the actors as well. We knew we wanted the love sequences to be sexy and provocative and we wanted them to be fun. Actually, that was McTiernan, that wasn't me. I was making a completely different movie. Rene and I just put our trust in John. It's not easy to do love sequences in movies because you have to bare as much as you can without baring it all, so the two of us are standing there in G-strings. Mine was bigger than hers, of course--had to be. And you make sure it's a nice warm room and turn on some music and have some champagne...although Rene wasn't having any of the champagne or the vodka. I did, and I had a good time. And you try and look cool in a G-string."
 


Writer's Guild Assoc:Outrageous Ms. Fortune- The Leslie Dixon Affair (August 1999)

By: Marsha Scarbrough

"There are opportunities that come because of your gender. I haven't found this big flaming sexism against women writers. I think the area where women have a much tougher time is in the executive ranks or trying to become a DP or even an agent, but with writers it's what's on the page."

Leslie Dixon has been in demand for major studio assignments nearly 10 years, usually for romantic comedies that include Outrageous Fortune, Overboard, Mrs. Doubtfire [co-written with Randi Mayem Singer, from the novel by Anne Fine], Look Who's Talking Now [co-written with Tom Ropelewski, based on characters created by Amy Heckerling], and That Old Feeling. By the 10th year, her sense of humor "being stretched to its maximum breaking point," Dixon decided to try "making a left turn" and reinvented herself as a dramatic writer.

She took six weeks off from studio assignments and wrote a spec script, adapting Edith Wharton's novel Glimpses of the Moon, which had just come into public domain. She showed the script to Jeff Kleeman, an executive at United Artists, who subsequently bought it. Then Kleeman asked if she was interested in working on a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair [written by Alan R. Trustman], which actor Pierce Brosnan and his producing partner, Beau St. Clair, had brought to the studio. She felt "a little intimidated" about writing heists and police investigations. With Dixon's encouragement the studio brought in action writer Kurt Wimmer, who had adapted Sphere [screenplay by Stephen Hauser & Zachary Hauser, based on a novel by Michael Crichton]. Producer Beau St. Clair was impressed: "I think Leslie was very respectful of her relationship with the studio in not wanting to sell them something she wasn't positive that she could do. I thought it was quite brave [of the studio] because I had no idea what would happen when you took two people who weren't used to working with each other to address two different aspects of the script." The innovative experiment worked. The script was greenlit off the first draft and quickly attracted action director John McTiernan. Dixon's genre switch was fait accompli.

Since adapting The Thomas Crown Affair, Dixon's plate has been full to overflowing. As she was finishing that script, she was offered the adaptation of a novel, Pay It Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hide that will be published by Simon and Schuster early next year. Next up is another update, 1945's Vacation From Marriage [screenplay by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pellissiek] with Nora Ephron set to direct for Warner Brothers. Dixon is also credited as producer on the upcoming Madonna/Rupert Everett film, The Next Best Thing, directed by John Schlesinger. Dixon is poised to make her directing debut with the project that began her genre turnaround, Glimpses of the Moon--"a tragedy with a happy ending."

Although she doesn't have a college education, her lineage runs to the artistic, literary, and theatrical. Her paternal grandparents were photographer Dorothea Lange and western artist Maynard Dixon. Her father was a writer, and her mother wanted to be an actress. Dixon came to Los Angeles from San Francisco during her early 20s with the "fairly focused but unrealistic" idea to become a screenwriter.

Today Dixon works out of an office in her home, a beautifully restored Greene and Greene Craftsman bungalow in a prime Beverly Hills location that she shares with her husband of 15 years, Tom Ropelewski, co-executive producer of the successful UPN series Seven Days, and their three-year-old son, Tom Jr.

Marsha Scarbrough: Where or how did you learn the rules of dramatic construction?

Leslie Dixon: Because I was so impoverished, I never took any classes. I've always been an avid reader and, trained by my mother, an avid moviegoer. She was always hauling my butt off to revival houses. When I first came to Los Angeles, I was working for a Z-grade feature film company that no longer exists. I read a lot of scripts that came in. Reading bad scripts totally fans the flames of your neophyte confidence because you go, "I can do better than this!" And you probably can. There are so many bad scripts out there. To round out the experience, I got a library card at AFI and started reading good scripts. I was reading Robert Towne and Woody Allen scripts. There was a wild difference between the ones I was reading at the Z-grade film company and the ones I read at AFI. I tried to form as many theories as I could before I started to write my first script, but the truth is you really learn by trial and error. You learn by failing. I think application and ability are the two qualities you need most. Anything anyone can teach you is a distant third.

MS: How did you get started in the business?

LD: A friend lived next door to me who was really, really funny. I had an idea for a screenplay, so I said, "Why don't we work on this together because at least we'll both have had a lot of laughs by the end when we inevitably fail." And he agreed. We didn't just dash it off. We must have rewritten it 11 times and damned if we didn't get a little teeny, tiny agent and damned if she didn't sell it. And damned if immediately thereafter it became impossible for us to deal with each other anymore. We had a big fight and didn't speak for 15 years. We never wrote anything together again. But he went on to have a successful career. His name is Barry Berman, and he wrote Benny & Joon [story by Barry Berman and Leslie McNeil, screenplay by Berman]. After a number of years, we were forced to be in each other's presence again, and it was absolutely delightful. We're buddies now. The moral is you can't stay mad at anybody for more than 10 years.

MS: What script was that first one?

LD: It never got made into a movie. It was a first deal. So I was off on a solo career after that. The next solo original script I wrote was Outrageous Fortune. So with a pathetic amount of inexperience, I was thrust into the real world of production with actors and directors and sets.

MS: With the same agent?

LD: Yes, Linne Radmin, who's still in my life. She's my manager now. It's long term. She has her own company, but she was an ICM agent for years. At the time I met her, she was basically working out of the closet at some huckster's Sunset Boulevard pseudoliterary agency. I had never heard a line of my dialogue uttered by an actor until the first day I went to the set [of Outrageous Fortune]. That's how green I was. Everyone told me, "This is the end of your script now. The director will throw things out. There may be other writers. Just take the money, smile, and bend over." The director was Arthur Hiller, an old pro. So I had my first meeting with Arthur alone. It was a lunch. I was nervous. We sat down, and he said, "Now, dear, this is your script. I am just here to execute what you have written to the best of my ability. If I give you any ideas that upset you, you speak right up and tell me now." I just burst into tears because I knew he meant it. What else can you do but get moist? My relationship with this man went uphill from there. He took me under his wing. A lovely man and always the eye of the hurricane. I learned a great deal.

MS: Was the whole experience painless?

LD: No. One time I'd come back to the hotel from a day on the set where Bette Midler had complained about my dialogue. She was absolutely right. I had to rewrite it. It wasn't good enough. I admired Bette so much that not to be able to please her was the depths of despair for me. I was so tender that I didn't understand the difference between an adult criticism and "you're no good." So I was lying on the bed in my hotel room in New York feeling like I'm going to get fired, I'm the worst writer who ever wrote--and the phone rang. I picked it up, and it was Robert Towne, whom I didn't know. I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me for a minute. He told me that the makeup person on Outrageous Fortune is a friend of his who had said, "This is a really funny script; take a look at it. I'm enjoying working on this." He read it, and he wanted to talk to me. He said, "I just think this is so funny and clever. It's going to be such a success. I want to meet you." Needless to say, my mood went from P6 up to the 38th floor in about two seconds. We've been friends ever since. That was one of the nicest bolts from the blue that could ever have happened to a demoralized young writer. I'll try to remember to do that for somebody someday.

MS: And the movie became a hit.

LD: I came right out of the gate with a hit. So for a while there I was the It girl. You're new. Nobody knows you. You've burst upon the scene. I was besieged with offers to do all different kinds of comedies. I would say for the next 10 years, maybe slightly less, I basically did one comedy after another. I don't know for sure if my skill level got any better during those 10 years, which is not to say it was pathetic in the first place, just that there wasn't a major growth spurt. I think when you have early success, you're rewarded for doing the same kind of thing over and over again. A person like me is grateful, and you are held back by your gratitude. Your life suddenly has surpassed your wildest dreams, people are calling you all the time wanting to hire you. You need a certain amount of dissatisfaction to grow. I had not known that.

MS: I don't know how you can learn it without experiencing it.

LD: Right. And finally I got there. But some good work certainly came out of that period--Mrs. Doubtfire--but I don't think I took a leap of any sort. I was happy.

MS: Mrs. Doubtfire was another hit.

LD: Once in a while a writer is lucky enough to be associated with a picture that goes out of the ballpark. I saw net points on Mrs. Doubtfire. The studio admitted it was in profit without being sued. The check arrived, and they have continued to arrive.

MS: How did you get involved in that project?

LD: Mrs. Doubtfire was based on a British children's book by Anne Fine. Randi Mayem Singer was hired before me. Her draft was a little more like the children's book. As is often the case with these things, the finished film bears almost no resemblance to the children's book at all. It took the premise and partied. Fox brought me in. Basically my job was to tailor the script as a giant piece of bait for Robin Williams. That's who they wanted. In the book the character was a very strange gypsylike woman wearing shawls and dangling earrings who was very flamboyant. I remember thinking when I read the children's book, "This guy is going to look like a drag queen." I will take credit for having made her a kindly, maternal, pigeon-breasted, British, stolid, salt-of-the-earth, peppery old wren. My version ended with them getting back together, which was a little pat. I had no fun working on that script, none whatsoever. It was unmitigated torture from beginning to end. I never imagined for one moment that such an amusing movie could come out of it.

MS: Why wasn't it any fun?

LD: It's not the freshest idea in the world to dress up a man in drag, and I struggled with that. The hardest thing for any writer to do is invent plot. So much of the work was foundational. It wasn't like I got to come in and write fun dialogue. It was heavy construction, and that is always difficult, especially when you're not the first writer. It's almost easier to build from the ground up than to try to do a large remodel.

MS: Is that when you started to want to switch genres?

LD:  I was a happy writer, but then a few things jolted my life around. I had a baby unexpectedly. That'll do it, right there. I had a film fail. I began to become aware that I was experiencing no pleasure writing comedy.

MS: Which film do you consider a failure?

LD: That Old Feeling, starring Bette Midler, which I wrote during the '80s, and it should have been made during the '80s. But the script kicked around for a really long time. Sometimes a script's moment just doesn't come until later, but I think audience tastes had changed slightly by the time the film was made. It was an '80s film made in the '90s. I had experienced pleasure when I wrote the script, but rewriting it in the '90s, I somehow wasn't having fun doing it, and I suddenly realized that maybe the well had run a little dry. My sense of humor was being stretched to its maximum breaking point by having to be funny. I experienced some despair. Once you have a solid 10-year reputation for doing a certain type of writing, people are not beating your door down to offer you the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs [adapted by Ted Tally, from the novel by Thomas Harris].

MS: So then you wrote your adaptation of Glimpses of the Moon?

LD:  I had more fun doing that than any script I'd ever written. No screenplay is easy, but now I understood the joke: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." I had not known that I had inadvertently taken up the most difficult form of screenwriting.

MS: And on the basis of that adaptation, you were offered The Thomas Crown Affair?

LD: But I was a little intimidated when I looked at the old movie. I admired it, enjoyed it, but it's a period piece. It's very 1968. Interestingly also, audience's attention spans were very different than they are now. It begins with a 35-minute heist in which the hero plays no active part. There are actually cutaways of Steve McQueen back at this office looking at this watch like, "Hmm . . . I bet they're breaking into the vault about now." Immediately, I said "Can't do that. I have to get him directly involved." Then there's something like a 20-minute police investigation with Faye Dunaway. The hero and the heroine do not come face-to-face for nearly an hour of screen time. Can't do that! Right away I saw that it was going to be a large reinvention. It was hard but rewarding.

MS: What happened once John McTiernan came onboard?

LD: He just kicked my ass. It was great! He's very terse, and he likes scenes to have a point. He was constantly, in a very productive way, beating me up not to write scenes that were about nothing. When you have a facility for dialogue, sometimes you let characters yap endlessly without much really going on in the scene. He had a laser ability to zap in on places like that.

MS: Did you also work with Pierce Brosnan?

LD:  Definitely. Pierce Brosnan and Steve McQueen are not the same person. One of the things I talked to Pierce about--and to his eminent credit Pierce was so open to this--was making him more of a bastard. Pierce has a cuddly quality onscreen. It's one of the qualities that women adore about him, but this guy is a very Machiavellian character. In order to make that convincing, I said, "You're going to have to behave very badly in the first half hour of this film." I think he quite relished it. I think it made him sexier, too.

MS: What did you learn from your first adventure in a new genre?

LD: I learned that I could write dialogue for a man as if I were a man. I had not known that, and it was utterly liberating and cool. I want to do it again. I don't think anybody looking at this material would necessarily think it was written by a woman.

MS: Do you think being a woman makes it harder to be successful?

LD: I think, in my case, it's been easier because anyone who sees me sees two things. One: I don't have an angry feminist side at all. Two: I can be a tough talker like a guy. So I think now there are jobs open to me for which you would probably hire a man, but I'm within the realm of possibility. Then there are those jobs that are offered to me because I am a woman because they're about women. So there are opportunities that come because of your gender. I haven't found this big flaming sexism against women writers. I think the area where women have a much tougher time is in the executive ranks or trying to become a DP or even an agent, but with writers it's what's on the page. I don't think they scrutinize the gender of the writer before they read a piece of material. If it's an action piece, and it's written by a woman, and it's successful, they'll be pleased.

MS: You've stayed on many of your projects all the way through production. What's your strategy for heading off rewrites by other writers?

LD: If you are self-critical, if you don't think the first draft you wrote is perfect and should be shot verbatim, you're way ahead of the game. If you can come to a note meeting already filled with ideas to make a script better that are your ideas, and you come in and tell them, "Hey, I can make these things better," they are so happy to have another voice making suggestions. There's the writer who just sits there and is told what to change by floundering executives as opposed to the writer who goes in knowing that the draft wasn't perfect and can be made better. Which would you rather work with and keep on the project?

MS: You've had some screenplays shot verbatim. Which ones?

LD:Outrageous Fortune, That Old Feeling, but there have been a couple of things that have gone into production that I actually walked away from because the people were so difficult. I just knew no matter what I stuck around and did, the script wouldn't necessarily get better, and it might get worse. It's not that I've never been rewritten, but I've been lucky enough most of the time to make the choice.

MS: What self-destructive things have you seen other writers do that get them fired?

LD: Thinking the first draft they write is perfect. No capacity for self-criticism whatsoever. Being in it for the money and not because they love movies. Or taking multiple jobs at once and lying to their employers about what they're doing so that nothing gets the benefit of their full attention. I know one writer who wouldn't return the producer's phone calls, saying, "I can't get it up to call her back." Needless to say, when it came time to discuss firing that writer, the producer did not stick up for that person. We do our steps in the dance, too.

MS: Do you remember the slings and arrows?

LD: I have my shit-list. They know who they are. You cannot stay in this business for more than 10 years without hating someone's guts or having someone hate your guts. It's impossible. It does not matter how professional you are, how committed you are, how nice you are; the chemistry is going to go wonky between you and someone else somewhere.

MS: Do you take jobs rewriting other writers?

LD: It's been a while since I did. About five years ago I put out an all-points bulletin to my agents that I didn't want to do any more page-one rewrites of other writers' work. It's hurtful to them. It's hurtful to me because you can actually get a film made, you can get a cast and a director and not get a screen credit because maybe you only changed 47 percent instead of 51 percent.

MS: When you are deciding what to write about, do you consider the marketability of a piece rather than writing from pure passion?

LD: Before I take jobs, whether they are initiated by the studio or initiated by me, I do think about the likelihood of whether this will ever be made into a film. It's good to think a little bit in advance, so you don't suddenly wake up out of a daze and have this terrible heartbreak when you realize that your dream project would never in a million years get made by anyone. Now if everybody thought that way, Driving Miss Daisy would never have been made. There are pictures that get made against the odds that are wonderful, and I would never discourage myself from going down that road if I was creatively on fire about something, but what keeps you going in this business and gives you more control over what happens to your work is multiple produced credits. One doesn't want to be a machine either, grinding out things because "they" might like them. You have to like it yourself.

MS: How do you keep your morale up when you're being kicked around the block by somebody with a lot of power?

LD:  You have to take a few steps back and figure out whether there is something in your work that really isn't right or whether this person is just an insane asshole. It helps to try to get perspective from friends or from other people who have worked with whomever is kicking your guts out. If there is something wrong with your work, it's good to be realistic and try to fix it. If on the other hand, the person is insane, sometimes it's better just to cut the cord and go on to something else. I think demoralization is an occupational hazard for writers. The knives are out everywhere you turn. It helps to be happily married and save your money and buy a lot of really good wine. Opening a bottle of spectacular burgundy has a way of taking the edge off. Having the balance of family is an excellent thing because your perspective on the vile little slights and disappointments becomes more realistic. You don't want to take an Uzi and shoot someone when something in the business goes awry. You just go home and take a bath with your kid.



 

LA Times: Art of the Con; In films such as 'The Thomas Crown Affair,'  masterpieces are paintings that photograph well, and that usually means reproductions to order.  Meet the master.

August 1, 1999 (Sunday, Home Edition)

By: Patrick Pacheco 

NEW YORK--:At the start of "The Thomas Crown Affair" an elementary schoolteacher is lecturing her class in front of a painting by Claude Monet at a museum not unlike New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seeing that the students are bored and listless, the teacher takes a new tack.

"OK, try this," she tells them. "It's worth a hundred million bucks!"

That gets their attention--as it does that of Pierce Brosnan's Thomas Crown, a wealthy, high-flying financier who, for sport and his own aesthetic enjoyment, steals a couple of Impressionist and Surrealist masterpieces, all the while romancing an insurance investigator (Rene Russo) whose company would rather not cover the museum's losses.

The tony context of high art is just one of the changes in this remake of the 1968 film, which starred Steve McQueen as a brainy bank robber and Faye Dunaway (here in a cameo as Crown's shrink) as the insurance investigator. But in reality the paintings, including that precious "San Giorgio Maggiore Soleil Couchant" by Monet that he folds into his briefcase (which should cause more than a few purists to wince), are worth little more than the pigment only recently applied to the canvases.

"I sell fantasy, what is that worth?" asked Christopher Warner Moore, president of the Paris- and New York-based Troubetzkoy Gallery, which reproduced the majority of the more than 200 actual masterpieces used in scenes of the museum's galleries and in Crown's townhouse, with its sleek interiors reflecting the tastes of a sophisticated art collector. "This is supposed to be the Met," Moore says about the film's key setting, "but for me it's an imaginary museum and an imaginary collection."

The imaginary museum and collections became necessary when the request of director John McTiernan to film scenes of the "Thomas Crown" remake at the Met was turned down. (The MGM film, with a reported budget of $ 55 million, opens Friday.) Harold Holzer, a spokesman for the museum, said the request was "respectfully declined" because the elaborate heists in the script portrayed security measures and breeches that had nothing to do with what goes on--or could go on--at the Met.

"It's not that we're censoring freedom of expression, but if we had allowed filming, it would almost appear as if we were endorsing their view of security," he said, adding that the museum receives about two dozen requests a year for filming and generally approves about five or six.

Leslie Rollins, set decorator for the film, said that the decision gave him and production designer Bruno Rubeo free rein to create their own museum--whatever the viewer might infer from scenes showing exteriors of the Met itself. And when it came to showing on camera works by such masters as Monet, Rene Magritte, Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent and Vincent Van Gogh, they were aware that only a textured, layered application of vibrantly colored pigment on canvas would yield satisfactory results. Flat or computer-generated images simply wouldn't work.

"The adult moviegoing public is quite sophisticated and expects nothing less than an accurate, realistic picture of life," Rollins said. "We have to keep notching up what we do so we're presenting something fresh and absolutely researched."

To fill the galleries as well as the Crown townhouse, Rubeo and Rollins tapped a number of sources, including Moore and his battalion of painters, who work out of a Paris atelier. The firm, established in 1978 by the French-born Russian aristocrat Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, began replicating classical and modern masterpieces for luxury hotels and private clients. The latter included those who may have possessed the originals and wanted copies for the beach house, as well as others who desired the patina of elegance and sophistication conferred on the owner of such paintings but not the exorbitant price tag.

In 1991, the gallery, then run by the founder's son, Arnaud Marie Troubetzkoy, and Moore--who had been in school together in Europe--expanded into film. At the recommendation of a consultant to the Met, Dante Ferretti, art director of "The Age of Innocence," commissioned them to come up with more than 200 paintings for director Martin Scorsese's lavish look at the lifestyle of American aristocrats at the turn of century.

The gallery has since provided replicas of important paintings for nearly 50 film and TV productions, including "Meet Joe Black" and "The American President," and such upcoming films as "Mickey Blue Eyes," "Bowfinger" and "Girl Interrupted." Indeed, the latter, starring Winona Ryder, even takes its title from a Jan Vermeer painting.

To Moore, "The Thomas Crown Affair" was a particularly appealing project because it featured a number of what he calls "hero" paintings--those that significantly figure in the plot and cannot be slighted or cut from the film. After all, the paintings represent more than just quarry to the art-loving thief.

Some of the paintings, like Crown's favorite, Van Gogh's "Afternoon Siesta," with its simple haystacks, are meant as a doorway to the man's soul, while others, like Tamara de Lempicka's "Adam and Eve," act as aphrodisiacs for the characters, with its figures standing like sensuous sentries over Brosnan and Russo on the stairs of the townhouse. Later, Magritte's "Son of Man," which depicts a man in a bowler hat whose face is obscured by a large green apple, literally comes to life at a crucial point in the movie. In one scene, the Surrealist masterpiece is the inspiration for a ruse by art thieves to confuse museum guards during a heist.

Other reproductions in the film include Edouard Manet's "Regates," and Camille Pissarro's "Jardin Eragny." The script for "Crown" had originally called for a Paul Cezanne painting to be featured in the initial heist, but Moore convinced the filmmakers that the Monet would be a better choice because the colors would photograph better and the size would make it more likely to be stolen.

"I'm French, so I'm not shy about having my say," says the affable 42-year-old art executive, dressed casually as he takes a visitor on a tour of the artworks crammed into his East Side Manhattan office. Not surprisingly, most of them were featured in movies, from De Lempicka's "Adam and Eve" to Sargent's "Paul Helleu Sketching His Wife," both from "Crown," to Balthus' "The Cat and Mirror," in "Meet Joe Black."

Born in New York to an American father and French mother, Moore was educated in France and became involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures before joining the Troubetzkoy Gallery, running the American end of the business while partner Arnaud looks after their European interests. While he was never formally trained in art, Moore says that he gleaned its disciplines by osmosis from his art-loving family (a brother is a sculptor). Apart from the occasional touch-up, he leaves most of the painting to the Paris atelier.

Many of the paintings in the New York gallery carry price tags. That copy of "Adam and Eve"--the original of which Madonna reportedly purchased in a 1994 auction for $ 1.98 million--can be had for $ 4,291, and the copy of the Balthus, the original of which is in a museum and is probably worth $ 50 million, is on sale for $ 5,000. Of course, the size may be off as well as some of the color, but Moore says that even De Lempicka herself, if asked to make a copy, probably could not come up with an exact re-creation of the original.

"I don't like the term 'copy' because it implies that it is exactly the same," said Moore, adding that by law, reproductions of paintings cannot be the exact size of the original. "I prefer to call them 'reproductions' and the paintings are sold as non-original 'reproductions' with the full knowledge of the estates involved and stamped on the back as such. They trust us."

Negotiating with the respective estates of the artists whose work is being reproduced is one of the Troubetzkoy Gallery's most important tasks, given the arcane intricacies of U.S. copyright laws. According to a law that went into effect recently, artwork in general goes into the public domain 70 years after an artist's death, if he or she dies after 1978. If before, the work goes into the public domain 95 years after a work was first published in a book, magazine, pamphlet, poster, etc.

Artists' estates protecting non-public domain artworks can be particularly fierce, according to Moore, with the Picasso estate being among the most difficult. It refused to cooperate with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant on their film "Surviving Picasso," and, as a result, no works by the iconic painter were shown in the 1996 film.

"The Picasso estate didn't like the approach; even the title itself implied a negative treatment, so they were predisposed against giving permission," said Dr. Theodore Feder, president of the Artists Rights Society, which administers and oversees the rights to most 20th century artists, including Picasso. "For every request, there is a set of very individual and subjective judgments that are made by the estates, but most of the answers are, by and large, positive."

Another famously negative response from the Picasso estate was the use of a reproduction of the artist's seminal painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" in the film "Titanic," last seen floating in Kate Winslet's stateroom and presumably going down with the ship. (That, of course, begged the question, just what was that "Demoiselles d'Avignon" hanging in the Museum of Modern Art? A forgery?

"The estate had rejected the request, and they went ahead and used it anyway," Feder said.

Since the proper clearances had not been arranged, the Picasso estate sued, and the producers agreed to an out-of-court settlement. (The Troubetzkoy Gallery didn't do the paintings for "Titanic.")

Such publicized cases have made the studios far more cognizant of copyright infringement on paintings, says Moore, and more willing to comply with estates' demands. Those sometimes include instructions to destroy the paintings following the filming, as the Wassily Kandinsky estate required of those in "Crown."

Fees charged by the estates for the use of reproductions range from $50 to $ 5,000 a picture, depending on how it is shown in the film. MGM spent about $ 250,000 on the rental of paintings from Troubetzkoy.

Moore noted that one of the most difficult aspects of his job is the tight deadlines of supplying art for film production. "You frequently get calls wanting a dozen paintings within a week, and it usually takes four to six weeks depending on the job," he explained.

Such was the case with "Bowfinger," a comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, who is himself a top contemporary art collector. "He Martin, who wrote the film wanted large apocalyptic paintings by John Martin, the 19th century English painter, but they needed them fast. We worked night and day," Moore said.

Moore said that if his artists achieve 85% to 90% accuracy, his clients are usually happy, although there are complaints. The Met's Holzer, when asked his opinion of the paintings he'd seen in an early screening of "Crown," replied that they were "daubs," explaining that it's an English term for "not very good work."

Moore is unfazed by such criticism. "You win a few, you lose a few, but this is Hollywood, this is the movies, where a painting which is folded in a briefcase emerges in perfect condition in the next shot," he said.

"Perhaps the term 'art' shouldn't even be used in discussing this," he added philosophically.

"The historical context of what that artist was living through at the time. You can accurately reproduce furniture, jewelry, maybe even sculpture. But paintings? No. Never."
 

Trivia about The Thomas Crown Affair: 
 

  • Brosnan, Pierce's contract to play James Bond specifies that he may not wear a tuxedo in other films. Midway through "The Thomas Crown Affair," Brosnan dances at a black-tie ball. When Russo, Rene cuts in to dance with him we see that the top button of his shirt is open and his white bow-tie is untied, therefore he is technically not wearing a tuxedo. 
  • Dunaway, Faye, who played the psychologist in this movie, played the detective in the 1968 original. 
  • The painting that is seen several times in the film depicting a man in a suit with an apple covering his face is "Son of Man", by Rene Magritte. 
  • In the elevator after the boardroom meeting, Thomas Crown and his subordinates quote from the Leonard Cohen song "The Stranger Song": "Ah, you hate to see another tired man lay down his hand like he was giving up the holy game of poker." 
  • The car that Crown drives on Martinique was originally intended to be used for Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Last Action Hero (1993), another John McTiernan (I) film. 
  • The tractor in the background after the glider lands, belongs to director John McTiernan (I). 
  • The final heist consisted of men wearing bowler hats, trench coats, and carrying briefcases, to confuse the surveillance team. This was similar to Heist, The (1989) (TV), another Pierce Brosnan film, where a heist at a horse track involved multiple men wearing Hawaiian shirts and straw hats. 
  • One of the songs played by the band in the ballroom scene is "Windmills of Your Mind", a song written for the original film that became a big hit in the late 1960s. 
  • Rene Russo performed the first nude scenes of her career in this movie. 
  • When Crown sees Catherine off after they meet at the museum (when he donates the painting) he gives the limo two taps on the hood to signal the driver. This was Pierce Brosnan's trademark sendoff to Fred (Blake Clark) the driver in his breakthrough role, "Remington Steele" (1982). 
  • This is the first of two remakes that John McTiernan made from Jewison, Norman movies. The other one is Rollerball (2002). 
  • Thomas Crown's suite of offices was actually the corporate headquarters of Lucent Technologies, and one of the boats in the race is identified as Lucent. 
  • Pierce Brosnan performed his own stunts during the boat crash scene. 
  • The Monet paintings used in the film, "San Giorgio Maggiore at dusk" and "Wheatstacks", are, of course, reproductions and were supplied by the Troubetzkoy Gallery in New York, USA. What's more, the originals are not owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "San Giorgio Maggiore at dusk" is owned by the Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, and is currently (2003) on display in the National Museum and Art Gallery, Cardiff, Wales. "Wheatstacks" is at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. 
  • The catamaran that Thomas Crown is seen racing in Long Island Sound is a D-Type Catamaran, an extremely fast and highly unstable yacht design from the 1980s. The D-Type's were designed by California based aeronautical engineers to try to break inshore multihull speed records. Today there are only a handful of them left in the world. 
  • Crown's watch is a Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso, but the logo doesn't appear because Pierce Brosnan has an exclusive deal with Omega watches.


Scotland on Sunday: Man with the Golden Touch (August 8, 1999)

By Garth Pearce

PIERCE BROSNAN does not scare easily.

He has played tough on screen and has been able to cope with body-blows in his own life, from crushing career disappointments to the death of his wife, Cassie, from cancer. But, as we walk along the streets of New York, the James Bond star admits he feels frightened and out of his depth.

He has 50 million and the hopes of ailing film studio MGM/United Artists on his shoulders.

Brosnan is the producer and star of a new version of The Thomas Crown Affair, originally made in 1968 starring the late Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. (That Sixties version is a tough act to live up to - innovative split-screen effects, a mesmerising chess scene and the wistful sound track, The Windmills of Your Mind.)

Right now, the film crew, who have blocked off streets around the world -famous Metropolitan Museum on the edge of Central Park are expecting his instructions.

"I am thinking: 'My God, what have I bitten off here?'" he says. "I have enjoyed setting up the project, but I am not enjoying the ramifications of putting a movie together. I am so worried about getting the film done, it's easy to forget about the acting."

There have been risks at every turn. He has persuaded an A-list director, John McTiernan, to head the project. When they last worked together, on Nomads in 1986, it was a box-office flop, though McTiernan went on to make a star of Bruce Willis two years later in Die Hard. Rene Russo, a 45- year-old actress not known for on-screen sexuality, will play the insurance investigator with whom his sophisticated art thief will have an affair. Then there are comparisons with the magic of McQueen.

"Part of me can't believe that this project is going ahead at all. I asked for the backing - and got it. I now turn a corner on the streets of Manhattan, see what we have created and another part of me is thinking: don't blow it."

Brosnan will know by tomorrow whether his gamble has paid off. The first box -office figures for The Thomas Crown Affair, which opened across America on Friday, will be in.

Anything below 10 million and he's in trouble; if it breaks 20 million he can crack open the champagne. He should be celebrating, since he has delivered an immaculate performance. But whether audiences will like it as much as film critics is the true test.

Either way, he will be arriving at Edinburgh Film Festival with Russo and his producing partner, Beau St Clair, on August 16 for the film's British premiere before its nationwide release on August 20.

"It's always a time of tension," he says about such moments. "You work your butt off on a movie and keep the pressure buttoned down, but always in the back of your mind is the question: 'Will they like it?' This is high- risk for me. I am putting myself out there, looking at projects that I can do other than Bond. I have to get audiences to go along with that."

It often seems that Brosnan is wary about the Bond side of his career. He has requested that recent interviews do not focus on his role as Bond and that he got to talk about his producing role. Indeed, there are rumours that, though he's signed up for one more Bond movie after The World Is Not Enough, he will be giving up the gadgets, cars and girls thereafter. These rumours have yet to be confirmed.
Brosnan turns heads, but does not seem to be aware of it. He is 6ft 2ins tall, with dark hair swept back, and looks fit and younger than his 46 years. "I said, 'Let's make this film in New York', never thinking it would come to fruition, because I had little faith in it,'" he says. "That sounds a terrible thing to say. I just did not expect the script to be so good. I remember turning the pages and thinking: 'This is a go project.'"

Brosnan has come to know the business well after his succession of television roles and little-watched movies during his wilderness years in the Eighties. Even after the success of his first Bond film, GoldenEye, in 1995, he was considered too lightweight by the money men to be cast as the leading man in Lord Attenborough's film about a Red Indian chief, Grey Owl.

But the volcano disaster movie, Dante's Peak and another performance as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies, which became the biggest box office hit of all 18 Bond films, allowed him to clinch Grey Owl to be released early next year.

On his role in Thomas Crown, he says: "The character is very cool, so he has Bond-like attributes. The main thing is that I have to make him my own and not think of McQueen." That said, the film's most memorable scene - with McQueen and Dunaway locked in a chess game, like foreplay to sex - has been dropped. "We could not top it," says Brosnan. "I knew that I'd fall flat on my face. I may do that, anyway, so I don't want to add to the possibility."

It seems unlikely that Brosnan, who has now completed his third Bond film, The World Is Not Enough, released in November, will fall.

It's one of the phases in his life when all seems right. He and his partner of five years, Keely Shaye Smith, are now set to find a new American home far from their base in Malibu, California. Will he relax? "Possibly," he says. "I have learned that just when you think that everything in life is perfect, something will come out and hit you.

I prefer to be ready."


Adobe Premiere World:  Interview with John McTiernan, Director, 'The Thomas Crown Affair' 
(August 9, 1999)

By Elif Cercel
 

Director John McTiernan recently discussed what goes into creating a believable love story -- not what's expected, perhaps, from a director with a reputation for blazing action films. It was, after all, McTiernan who directed Bruce Willis in "Die Hard, Sean Connery in "The Hunt for Red October" and Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Last Action Hero." But McTiernan's latest film, MGM's "The Thomas Crown Affair" is a thriller without the explosions and gunfire. And at the heart of the story is the love affair between its two antagonists, one a self-made billionaire (Pierce Brosnan) with a knack for stealing priceless artworks and the other, a cunning female investigator (Rene Russo) bent on snaring him. The film is a remake of its 1968 namesake, which was directed by Norman Jewison and starred Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen.

'Thomas Crown' was produced by Brosnan and partner, Beau St. Clair's Irish Dream Time Productions.

How involved were you in developing the idea for this film and in the writing process, along with Pierce Brosnan and the writers Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer?

Pierce Brosnan originally developed the project and sent me the script. I developed and modified it somewhat after that, but the original work and the credit for it should all go to Leslie, Pierce and Kurt.

What elements did you change from the original and how did you made this film feel contemporary?

I was probably in junior high school when the original film came out. But I was a film freak already, so I certainly saw it.

Well, the original was a caper film, and a model for an awful lot of caper films that came after it. It was very much a part of its time. You know, "Bonnie and Clyde" was out about the same time. It was about a pillar of the establishment becoming a robber. Which was a notion that was on a lot of people's minds in 1968.

The film we made is a love story. In some ways, it's a bit more retro than the original, in that it feels a little bit like an old Cary Grant caper-love story, "To Catch a Thief" or something like that.

Because that film was so intensely a function of its time and spoke for its time, I didn't try to imitate it directly. I tried to modify the story so that it spoke to this time. That alone dictated an awful lot of the changes that we made.
 

How would you describe this fiery relationship between Rene Russo's and Pierce Brosnan's characters, and what you wanted to depict through them?

Well, I wanted a pair of professionals. A pair of full grown adults with all of the porcupine quills, if you will - it's a love story for crocodiles. They are both a piece of work. That is the notion -- a love story is about two people who should really be together and yet there's an enormous obstacle -- they're two people who can't be together with anybody. They're people who come with razor blades installed at the end of all of their long bones. And to find a way for those two people to could go off into the sunset together was what I wanted. Even if it's only a fairy tale, I wanted to believe it was true. I wanted it for personal reasons.

Once you cast these two strong personalities, how did you go about establishing the level of tension and retaining the sense of attraction and rivalry between them? Did you do a lot of rehearsing to find that?

No. That's not a matter of rehearsal. I guess it's how you shape the people to begin with. For Rene, a lot of it was finding a way that she could be both sexual and strong at the same time. Women, if they wish to be perceived as powerful, often unsex themselves, neuter themselves, become one of the guys. In fact, that's even been Rene's stock-in-trade; here is this gorgeous woman who acted like she was one of the guys. So the tricky part for us was to create a character that kept her gender, kept her sexuality and yet was strong. It took me so long to do that. For Rene, personally, as soon as she admitted the sexuality back in, what came with it was a whole bunch of deferential behavior. Things designed to assuage the aggression, or hostility, of the dominant male, somehow. We had to find ways in which she could behave as if she simply wasn't worried about that. Not that she was at war with it, because that would have made her angry, but that she simply wasn't threatened. So she could look somebody right in the face, say something that she knew he wasn't going to like and there's no winks, there's no challenging it, there's just, you got a problem with it, that's your problem. It took us awhile to find that.

You've worked with Pierce Brosnan before, in "Nomads" and you've also worked with a variety of leading male actors in your films. Can you describe his acting methods and how you directed him in this role?

Pierce is enormously gifted, enormously skilled as an actor. People don't realize how he makes it looks so effortless, but it's not. It's really a pleasure to work with him because of his breadth of skill and his ability to fine tune. You know it's a tricky thing because he's known for Bond and this character seems to be close to Bond. It's a tricky thing to step away from Bond and yet still make this character real. It's easier to get rid of James Bond if you give him a hunchback and let him drool! But if he's supposed to be a gorgeous, powerful, 42-year-old businessman, now how far away is that from Bond? Yet if you see this thing, I think you'll agree he's not James Bond. It's a different man. Well, that's the work of somebody who's really good, which Pierce is.

He's also gutsy. He's been doing Bond and he's very successful at it, and it's real interesting that he's willing to change things, do things very differently.

You used a number of 'experts' from the art world to replicate the artwork that you use very 'life imitating art.' How important was it for you to have authentic-looking paintings and what particular effect did you want to achieve?

Oh, a fair amount. I drove the art people nuts, though, because we don't have the authentic stuff in the film. The authentic paintings that would probably be on the wall in that museum would be abstract art, and abstract art might be very evocative in person, but if you put it in a movie, it's two layers of abstraction and it almost always goes dead cold. So I wanted representational art, portraits of people you could respect, none of these neurotic portraits. I used all these faces from the French Revolution, they're mostly David's, because I wanted to populate the museum. I wanted to have the ghosts on the walls and have them slyly sort of commenting on the love story they saw unfolding, approving it.

In order to do that, obviously, I needed a particular sort of painting and the official art experts hated that.

The climactic scene of the crime is choreographed like a ballet. Could you describe the camera work that went into that scene and what technical challenges you had?

Well, it was a 10-15 page caper sequence, and actually I'm thrilled with it because I managed to shoot it in a way that it keeps what's important in front of the audience. What's important is not to see the painting; what's important is how it affects the love story. I wanted to focus on what Pierce's character is doing it in order to save them and that if he can pull it off, the two of them can be together. We kept rewriting it -- I probably had five different writers working on that scene. In fact, it never, ultimately, made it to paper. A lot of what I shot was the script that was sitting in my head instead of what we formally got worked out on paper. But I'm very gratified that the audience gets it and can take it in the way that I'd hoped.

But the main point to the sequence is about stealing the woman's heart, not stealing the painting.

Why did you decide to do the museum scene on a soundstage?

Well, among other things, the museum wasn't going to let us anywhere near them. I probably would have wanted to shoot it on a sound stage anyway.

How challenging were scenes like the Catamaran race to shoot and direct?

I didn't find the catamaran race challenging; I found it a hell of a lot of fun. The boats are astonishing. They run whole races at about 30 miles per hour, but we couldn't find a camera boat that could keep up with them. There are motor boats that will go faster, but they also pound something awful and you can't keep a camera stable on them. So I wound up having to shoot most of that sequence from helicopter. It was the only way we could keep up with the boats, they're so fast.

I was -- it may seem like a lesson in topology, but where you shoot a film has a lot to do with what a film looks like. So, yeah, I'm always in the middle of locations. Often pretty ferociously because there are a few good location people, but often location scouting is an undefined specialty and consequently all sorts of people think they know how to do it when they don't know a damn thing about it.

The sequence in the Caribbean was a great fantasy. It was like the most incredible date you ever went on, where you expect to go out for an afternoon and it turns into a whole weekend. That was what it was about. It was a great fantasy.

The Martinique location, I had location scouts out for months, all over the Caribbean --

Enjoying themselves, no doubt!

Oh, probably. To judge by the stuff they were sending back, they barely left the bar! They kept sending things back that looked like the state brochure. And I hated it. I wanted something that felt romantic. So actually, we were already shooting and I took a weekend and flew down and I covered like 14 islands in a small airplane looking for the right sort of house. It shouldn't be ostentatious, it was charming and it was most unique in its situation. I found this particular thing in Martinique.

Was the ending of the film also something that required some re-thinking?

Yeah. A lot actually. The script, when I got it, still had the bittersweet ending that the original movie had. I don't know, maybe it was just for personal reasons, I really wanted to make a story where the pair of crocodiles can live happily ever after. The tricky part was to figure out how to do that yet keep it plausible so it wasn't just a pasted-on happy ending.

Once I saw Rene and Pierce together I knew it had to end that way, and I just got more determined to see if I could figure out how.

We're often presented with happy endings in films, but this one felt particularly gratifying.

A forced happy ending that hasn't been earned is worse than an unhappy ending, because it's cynical and it makes you feel the opposite of what it intends. It makes you say, "Oh, this isn't possible and they just made something up and I don't believe it." That, in effect, says that a real happy ending isn't possible, and that's a downer. I wanted a happy ending that you could come out of the theater saying, yeah, this could really happen.

Are you satisfied creatively directing action films, or is there a costume drama or slapstick comedy you're dying to make?

Oh, there're a few things hiding in there. The basic secret about me is that I'm still the eleven-year-old sitting out there in the audience. I try to have the sense of wonder and joy I remember having as a kid, in my movies. And yes, there are all sorts of movies that I'd like to do. I'm nowhere near ready to quit, so I imagine I'll get near some of them.

What are you going to be doing next?

Next, I'm doing a pure action movie -- people are going to tease me unmercifully because it's also a remake (and Norman Jewison did the original). I'm remaking "Rollerball". I think it's a cracker-jack idea. I'm having a wonderful time preparing it. And it's also going to be very different than the original.

Are you going to have a cameo appearance the way you did in 'Thomas Crown' with Faye Dunaway?

Oh I don't know. Maybe I'll have James Caan in the movie. No. Probably not. But it's a thought.


Herald: Brosnan's new film crowned with sound of Glasgow (August 17, 1999)

By: Rosemary Free 

BOND actor Pierce Brosnan yesterday arrived in Edinburgh for the European film premiere of The Thomas Crown Affair and revealed his affinity for a Glaswegian accent.

Brosnan and actress Rene Russo star in the remake of the 1968 classic which opened at the Odeon Cinema last night as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Yesterday, it was revealed Irish-born Brosnan had decided to give Thomas Crown a Glaswegian background, reverting at one point in the film to a Glaswegian accent.

At a press conference in the Caledonian Hotel, a sun-tanned Brosnan said he loved the Glasgow accent, describing it as very earthy.

The 1968 movie starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. In the new version, Dunaway makes an appearance as a psychiatrist.

Brosnan plays Thomas Crown, a self-made billionaire who has run out of challenges.

When he steals a famous painting from a museum, no-one suspects him apart from Catherine Banning, played by Russo, the investigator hired to find the painting.

As well as starring, Brosnan co-produced the film with Beau St Clair, his business partner in the entertainment production company Irish Dream Time Production.

She said they had chosen to do a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair because it was a great story with two very interesting characters.

"We both thought that there was room to take the idea of what the story was about, which is two very interesting, complicated characters who are equally matched but on the wrong side of the law, and take that idea and put it into the 90s," she said.

"And thought we would get away with it," said Brosnan. "It's as simple as that. I thought it was doable. I loved the film, I loved the original. 

"We thought there was room for embellishment there. Especially for me, there was room to move. It is not exactly a stretch acting-wise but I thought it fitted well on the heels of GoldenEye which I had just completed." Brosnan admitted he would not have touched the film if Sean Connery, who was offered the original role, had played Thomas Crown.

However, he described McQueen as an icon and said it had been a challenge to step into his territory.

"The whole thing of doing the movie was a risk," he said. "The neck was on the line. The territory was McQueen's territory.

"Two weeks before the shooting, I practically had a nervous break-down. Nobody knew that. I was quietly coming out in hives and one ailment after another, trying to find a reason for not standing in front of a camera and showing my face."

He joked that the decision to have Crown stealing paintings instead of money meant he had ended up with some lovely little fakes after a team of forgers was hired to produce the art work for film.

He added: "I also wanted the film to be a love story. That was what appealed to me. These two people who as soon as they see each other really want each other but are in strange circumstances."

Co-star Rene Russo said Brosnan, whose films GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies were the most successful in the Bond series, had adopted a very Bond-like approach to their love scenes.

She said: "Pierce comes into the room. Only Pierce Brosnan would do this Bond style. He comes in with a silver tray, two crystal champagne glasses, an expensive bottle of champagne, a cigar, with a G-string and a little smoking robe. That is how we started those love scenes. I think we laughed more than anything."

Brosnan said it was a great honour to have Faye Dunaway, the original insurance investigator, in the new film and described working with the legendary actress as "a day I will never forget".

"It was like a one-woman show really," he said. "She was lovely. She was utterly charming. She comes with many stories, a legend unto herself. It was wonderful that she said yes to us." - Aug 17



San Francisco Examiner: Rich clothes are the jewel in “The Thomas Crown Affair’ 
(August, 22 1999)

By Cynthia Robins

In one of the character-establishing scenes in The Thomas Crown Affair, Crown (Pierce Brosnan), an international billionaire businessman with a taste for great art and grand theft, is being fitted for a bespoke suit.

As Brosnan moves around his office with its panoramic views of New York City, he is oblivious to the two Italian tailors who patiently are chalk-marking the half-finished jacket he wears. It is the only unscripted scene in the film. And the tailors are real.

The Milanese bespoke tailor, Gianni Campagna, and his son, Andrea, had made suits for Brosnan's personal wardrobe and, at one time, he mentioned he wanted them to design a wardrobe for a future film. The opportunity presented itself last summer when they were called back from a vacation by the Thomas Crown producers, who requested that the Campagnas create the $ 400,000 wardrobe the title character wears.

Gianni Campagna, Milan's premier bespoke tailor, was perfect for the part. His $ 3,400 custom-made suits drape the shapes of such real-life gazillionaires as Mattel's Bill Rollnick, Revlon's Ron Perelman and the wife of arbitrageur Henry Kravis, as well as actress Sharon Stone, who considers Campagna "an old-world artisan at the finest level."

The fashion look for the film was designed by MGM costumer Kate Harrington, who dressed co-star Renee Russo in strong, tough chick chic from Michael Kors for Celine - bulky-knit cashmeres, fox mufflers, mink-trimmed coats, suede and leather. And the costumes were to become to Thomas Crown as important a signature as the theme song, Michel Legrand's Windmills of Your Mind.

Clothing denotes class, income and station, and in this film - certainly with the body-revealing Kors clothes on Russo and the Campagnas' easy-fitting, second-skin suits on Brosnan - character. These clothes had to telegraph the message that Crown was not only relaxed, adventuresome and rich, but active, handsome and addicted to risk.

Russo's character, the insurance investigator sent to track the culprit in the theft of a valuable Monet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the remake is set in New York rather than Boston), also was delineated by her clothes - beautiful, peripatetic, rich, reckless and dangerous. (When a woman wears butter-soft black leather, black cashmere and silver fox, you can bet she's got more than an edge going for her.)

In the original film, Steve McQueen, whose sense of irony overcame his shortness, was dressed in clothes that probably were expensive for the time. But they were off-the-peg, preppy and boxy and did not send any messages except that this was not an international.

"We saw that movie before starting this one," said Andrea Campagna on the phone from New York (he was acting as interpreter for his father, who speaks very little English). "The style was very classic, but the quality of the suits weren't hand-made like we do. We tried to create something even better in terms of making it perfect on the body of Pierce Brosnan." The elder Campagna knew what he was looking for, having dressed the international rich since he was apprenticed to the most famous tailor in Italy, Domenico Caranceni, who dressed Gianni Agnelli, Aristotle Onassis, Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sophia Loren, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Tyrone Power. Before Campagna left Caranceni to go on his own, he made wedding clothes for Prince Rainier of Monaco and Prince (now King) Juan Carlos of Spain. "(My father) knew how to make suits for movie stars already," noted Andrea Campagna.

"He sewed suits for Gable and Cooper in the '50s and '60s, and he wanted to take inspiration for Thomas Crown from that time with those kinds of vested,three-piece suits. Very elegant and classy." So while we see Russo in hard-edged fabrics,welt-seams, boiled cashmeres and wools, leather and suede, Brosnan's clothes are relaxed-to-fit - a "softer suit that moves with the body, an important shoulder," says Gianni Campagna through his son. "We tried to represent the kind of character Crown would have been in real life - a rich man who was easy in his life and not stiff."

In the original Thomas Crown Affair in 1968, thelook was designed by Theadora Van Runkle, who dressed Faye Dunaway (as the insurance investigator)in sophisticated suits, gowns and flowing.chiffon scarves in palomino colors. The look started several fashion trends.

This version of Thomas Crown probably will set itsown fashion precedents and ensure the success of respected designer Michael Kors and that of the Celine line.

Watch as this fall's fashion looks all include bulky-knit, body-hugging sweaters with funnel or turtlenecks over some kind of animal pelt.

Also, watch for the bespoke suit look translated into men's ready-to-wear. The Campagnas have created their own preta-porter line, Sartoria Campagna. The prices will be high (the line compares to Brioni at $ 2,500 for a suit). But the look is priceless.

PHOTO: The clothes experts wrapped Rene Russo in tough chick chic and draped Pierce Brosnan in elegance for their starring roles in The Thomas Crown Affair.



SEE Magazine: Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo are the picture of sexy and seductive in in The Thomas Crown Affair  (February 2000)

By Cindy Pearlman

When Pierce Brosnan landed the title role in last year's THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, the part came with no strings attached. Literally. Wearing a skimpy thong in the name of modesty during one of the film's steamier love scenes, the Irish heartthrob was told that the solitary stitch of clothing he was wearing was interrupting the cameraman's view of his naked thighs. So zing went the strings of Brosnan's cover-up, and the man who also filled James Bond's shoes in 1999's The World Is Not Enough ended up, well, a little shaken and stirred. And a little chilly.

"I've been naked onstage before," notes the 47-year-old Brosnan, who first hit it big in the States in the '80s playing a dashing private eye on television's Remington Steele. "I have also been naked on film, but when those scissors came out, I needed a lot of champagne. I even asked, 'Does anyone have a shot of tequila on them?"

Now fully clothed in a pair of black slacks and a white silk shirt at L.A.'s posh Four Seasons Hotel, Brosnan continues to lament the anxiety his indecent exposure caused him. "I was like any woman preparing to show her body on-screen. I lived in the gym, For God's sake, I lifted weights," he moans, inquiring about whether or not hie efforts to prevent any love handles from being detected paid off. "I even laid off the red wine and the cream sauces," he adds. "It was heinous!"

The actor, though, really has no right to complain. After all, he did more than star in The Thomas Crown Affair; he also served as a producer. And as the film's self-made billionaire who snatches a priceless Monet painting from a famed New York museum, he wasn't the only one called upon to show a little skin. Enter the film's sexy insurance investigator, played by Rene Russo (Get Shorty, Tin Cup), who, despite her attraction to Crown, is determined to catch the culprit by any means necessary.

In one revealing scene, Russo's character, Catherine, dons a see-through dress that practically sends Brosnan into palpitations on the dance floor. "I looked at this very sheer dress," Russo, who turns 46 this month, recalls, "and thought. Okay, this is Catherine. This dress is one of her swords. And the truth was that the dress wasn't so see-through when I put it on in my trailer. Then I got to the set and they turned on all these hot lights. I was out there doing the hoochie koo on the dance floor and boom! I realize all the Teamsters can see my naked ass!

"I had to sign a waiver saying they could let my whole ass hang out there," adds Russo, who enjoyed a successful modeling career in the '70s and early '80s, gracing the covers of magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. "It was definitely a no-underwear dress. In fact, reporters have asked me if I had underwear on, and I'm so unnerved now that I really can't remember."

What she does remember, though, is another scene in which she was wearing practically nothing at all. "The nude scene was definitely an out-of-body experience," she offers with a laugh. "We actually shot it on the beach two different ways, first with my top on. I could tell our director John (McTiernan] wasn't into it. I knew he would want me to take my top off. and I didn't want to do it. Then he told me [Catherine] was a European woman. She's on an island and she wouldn't have her top on. I modeled for years and I've spent time on European beaches and John was right. If you have your top on, you're a weirdo; so I let my top fall."

Still, the hardest part wasn't behind her. "I was so stiff," the actress recalls, pointing out that the scene looks much more glamorous in the film than it realty was. "Sand was blowing in my face, I'm trying to suck in my stomach, and here comes the camera! I finally said, 'I can't act with my top off!1 But I worked myself into it. To be honest, the third day nude on the beach, you don't give a sh—. At the end of the day, [people] saw what there is to see, which ain't much. You're so sick of trying to cover yourself between takes that you don't care who gets a peek."

The question is, does Brosnan feel the same way? "Believe me," teases Russo, who'll next be seen as Natasha to Jason Alexander's Boris in the big screen's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, "I have pictures of Pierce seared into my memory. We did a love scene with him down on all fours. He's below me kissing my leg and I'm pouring water on him saying something stupid." It was at that point that Brosnan's thong was given its walking papers. "I thought, I know how you feel. He was dying down there."

The whole experience at least gave the two plenty to commiserate over between takes. "You feel like an idiot and you feel like you're 15," Russo says about the awkwardness of acting opposite someone sans clothing. "There's a lot of, 'Are you okay?' 'Are you comfortable?' and 'I'm sorry, but I have to move my arm around. It's falling asleep.'"

By comparison, filming the remainder of the movie—which was inspired by the 1968 original starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway—was more or less a piece of cake for Brosnan and Russo. The role, in fact, was one that Brosnan, a father of four (including two stepchildren), had his eye on for quite a while. "When I was a teenager in Ireland, I went to my local cinema to see Steve McQueen in [the original]. And I remember thinking was, I want to be this man." But while Thomas Crown has often been described as the guy who has everything. Brosnan stresses he only became "that man" onscreen, not off it.

"If you think I have everything, then you believe everything you've read about me, which is good," laughs the actor. "I'm sitting at home, saying, 'So far they're buying it!' Honestly, though, I never feel like I have everything,"he continues with a reflective glance. "Besides, it's human nature to always want something more."

Like a thong with some invisible strings, perhaps?
 




* Added  June 2006*