On the eve of the latest Bond thriller, Casino Royale, former Bond star 007, Pierce Brosnan is reflective of his post-007 career. In Toronto for the world premiere of his latest film, Seraphim Falls, a tired looking Brosnan admits to being disappointed that he didn’t get one last chance to don the famous tux in this adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel.
“I always wanted to go back, because it’s the blueprint of Bond’s character,” Brosnan says of the first Fleming novel that is the basis for the upcoming film. “It’s the one where Fleming really painted in the details of what Bond was about, so I was disappointed that it didn’t happen but, you can’t go around with that in your heart. It’s all such a game really, and you win some, you lose some, you’re there, you’re not there.”
The affable Irishman admits, now that he has had time to reflect on the character that would change his life, that “getting the part of Bond and playing the part of Bond was a blessing and a curse, which I think Connery has spoken about, and I’m sure Daniel is just getting the full taste of right now. So, you know, one can really only look at the blessings in life.”
Those blessings include taking a chance and playing an assortment of characters in both independent and mainstream films, from the assassin in The Matador, through an-ex Civil War soldier in the gritty new western Seraphim Falls, in which he stars opposite Liam Neeson.
In essence, a gritty chase movie, for Brosnan it was an irresistible opportunity. “I’ve always wanted to do a western, growing up as a boy in Ireland watching cowboys and Indians,” Brosnan smilingly recalls. “When I left and went to London, Clint Eastwood came into my life with all of the great films that he made, and then of course I got my education in cinema and John Ford. The Irish are very much steeped in the cowboy genre, and historically of course we have the great rift of the civil war.”
Brosnan says that shooting the film entirely on location in Santa Fe enhanced his performance, “because it’s just you and the landscape. This is a story of two very hollow men, men who have lost everything in life due to war. There’s nowhere to hide in a story like this and nowhere to hide as an actor. So you just hope you’ve done your homework well and that you’ve understood the story correctly and leave the rest to chance.”
The actor admits that, despite the physicality of doing the Bond films, this was a physically tough shoot “in the sense that you are down in Santa Fe, it’s got an elevation and my character is being pursued throughout the film, so I was constantly running, just being pursued on foot or by horseback. And the condition was very cold or extremely hot.” Set in the Rocky Mountains in 1868, Seraphim Falls is a manhunt, as Brosnan plays a former Union captain hunted by a small posse led by Neeson’s southerner.
An intense film about loss and the ravages of war, Brosnan felt a sense of identification with this character. “I mean the man has lost two sons at the battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest, goriest battles of the States. I too have sons so one can only imagine what it must be like to go through that, fighting for a cause that you started believing in, then lost passion for, and the manipulation of one’s superiors in the heat of war. We all have superiors or a boss to answer to, or a man who’s been broken by that boss or broken by the war, so I could relate to him.”
In his post-Bond career, Brosnan concedes that that the end of that franchise has enabled him to create characters far removed from the famous secret agent, “to go off and create my own identify.” At 53, Brosnan says that his is currently “a time of change, of exploration as an actor, kind of getting back to brass tacks so to speak, getting back to performance and playing characters.”
One such character is a ruthless kidnapper in the revenge thriller Butterfly on a Wheel, co-starring Maria Bello, which Brosnan is also producing. “It’s a tricky thing to do, this thriller. You’ve just got to be really nimble on your feet, stay ahead of the audience and yet not lose them.”
Brosnan also confirms that the rumours about a Thomas Crown Affair sequel are very alive and well. “Yes we’re going to have a crack at that and it’s a mighty challenge. It was a challenge the first time and it’s even greater now, so we should be getting the script for that in the next few months.”
Brosnan confirms that the new Thomas Crown will be based on a 1960s Peter Ustinov crime comedy/thriller, Topkapi, re-titled The Topkapi Affair. “I mean when you look at it, it’s much loved by people who love that genre of and has a sentimental resonance to it. So we just took Thomas Crown off the shelf, kind of dusted it off, and took Topkapi, which is much loved, and is also in the cannon of the MGM library so it didn’t cost us anything. This version of Topkapi will have a different part, different woman, and different affair. The guy is a little bit more seasoned and we’re using wonderful locations this time.”
Brosnan says part of his love for acting is the travel involved. “There’s nothing like going off and doing a film in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea or Santa Fe, it’s the best and most exhilarating. I mean it sorts the men from the boys really, where you have to figure out who really wants to do it and who’s good at their job. When you go off to distant locations, especially if they’re tough, it weeds those people out, but hopefully you don’t have to weed anybody out, because you’ve got everybody on board who really wants to go out and work hard – 14, 16, 18 hour days in the wilderness, in a great city or some backwater, but those are the best.”
Brosnan still calls Hawaii home, “on the north shore of one of those grand islands.” Brosnan prefers that tranquility to the Los Angeles lifestyle. “My family and I, kind of went there, and bought it as an investment. We make good money now and so we’ll, buy land, you know, ‘real’ estate. So it’s been fantastic, the boys go to school there and it’s a small community of people.”
Brosnan, the Irish larrikin, has come a long way since the days of Remington Steele, and the actor says that he is not that surprised at his success, “because I’ve worked for it, and I wanted it. I had good luck and a bit of talent somewhere in the back pocket that I could kind of polish and nurture, but I dreamt and wished for all of this, then you get all of that and you’ve just got to show up and work. Hopefully you can stay at the table.”
And through it all, he says with a grin, he remains an Irishman through and through, and that character manifests itself by “The love of people, the love of country, the spirit of life and being able to move through the fair with hopefully the greatest of ease in anyone’s company, telling stories.”
It seems that former Agent 007 there are many stories left in his varied repertoire.