I hopped a Trailways bus to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills recently, where I teamed with CraveOnLine’s Fred Topel for a rousing chat with Pierce Brosnan on his latest action thriller, The November Man.
Brosnan spoke candidly about using the 007 character as a springboard to success. Since parting with the franchise, Brosnan has gone on to star in three first-rate variations on a Bondian theme, all of which outclass the recent Daniel Craig aberrations.
For an added kick, click on the links to read Duncan Shepherd’s reviews of the Brosnan Bonds. He slams all four, and in the case of three, rightfully so. (Brosnan would agree!)
During the course of the interview, it began to sound as though I got a cut of the Tailor of Panama Blu-ray sales. (Director John Boorman’s audio commentary is more entertaining than most features, and it’s priced to move at $4.98 on Amazon.com.) The moment the houselights at AMC Fashion Valley #1 went up lo, these 13 years ago it became apparent that I’d just experienced the best film of 2001. My feelings held fast come January 1, 2010, when I called it the decade’s finest. It was also the first time I began to take note of Brosnan as a serious actor.
What happened the day Brosnan met Quentin Tarantino over cocktails to discuss the possibility of a Bond collaboration? Can Brosnan distinguish one Bond flick from another? Has he ever been mistaken for Charles Bronson? The answers to these and many more questions await you.
The door to the suite parted and there he stood, tall, tan, and terrific, minus the tuxedo and constant adjusting of his cuffs. After a hearty handshake, he looked down and spied the movie-cover edition of Bill Granger’s novel. We pick it up from there.
Pierce Brosnan: I haven’t seen this actually. It’s interesting to see the name there. There’s a lovely sense of accomplishment and achievement. As you know, it was a long road to get here. But it seems to make sense as we stood there the other night at the Mann Chinese Theater, which is a mighty venue of cinematic celebration.
Fred Topel: We were talking beforehand how you’ve had a few films that really played with the spy genre: Tailor of Panama, The Matador, and now The November Man. Was this another chance to play with and twist our expectations of the genre?
PB: Somewhat. Yes. (Smiling.) I kind of relate it to someone like, you know, Monet, painting haystacks over and over again. You find a subject that turns you on, that engages you, and the spy genre is something which, as a fan of movies and a movie geek myself, I just love the cinematic joy that they bring.
Scott Marks: Do you still see movies in theaters, and if so, who selects the evening’s entertainment, you or your wife?
PB: There’s a duality there. I try to go. I mean, I’ve been working so hard the last two years — I’ve done seven movies more or less back to back. It’s difficult to get to the movies. It depends. Now that I think about it actually, sometimes Keely wants to see a movie like Marigold Hotel, and I go along.
SM: You’re dating yourself. It has been a long time since you’ve been to the movies.
FT: They have a sequel coming out already.
PB: I was going to do the sequel, but I couldn’t. I was doing something else. I usually catch all of the movies, but at the year’s end. All the screeners.
SM: Tailor of Panama, The Matador, and November Man are the three greatest James Bond movies ever made…without the official dispensation of the Broccoli crime family.
(Brosnan’s eyebrow arches while managing to stifle a tickled look.)
SM: You don’t have to say anything. As far as I’m concerned, The Tailor of Panama is everything. Everything clicks. I’ve heard you speak about how you entered the film knowing full well that James Bond was essentially going to play this character. [Director] John Boorman also spoke about weaving Bond qualities into the character. It’s a wonderful satire, only this time you play Bond as a schmuck. [Laughter.] Could you take me through the discussion you and Boorman had about incorporating Bond into Andy Osnard?
PB: I met John Boorman, who is a mighty man and someone I have the greatest admiration for. I’m a huge fan of his films. He was sitting there in a little restaurant in Malibu, and I was so excited to be playing the tailor of Panama. He said, “No, no. I don’t want you for the tailor. I want you for the spy.” I said, “Of course. Of course.” That was our first meeting. I don’t know what happened in my agent telling me, but I went to the meeting thinking this is great — he wants me to play the tailor. “No, no,” he said. “Geoffrey Rush is playing the tailor. You’re playing Andy Osnard.”
SM: Did you ever have a conversation about Bond, or was it just a given?
PB: It was just a given, yeah. It wasn’t necessary to talk about Bond. I know the rules, I know the joke, I know the gag. I know what we were playing with here. I know the hijinks of what he was up to using me as Andy Osnard, the sleazebag. This morally mangled dude.
SM: I’m sorry, but they should’ve killed Osnard at the end of the movie.
FT: They shot that, right?
PB: Yes. The ending when they shoot me was so great. There was a helicopter sequence, and you can’t hear anything. And you just see him look down, and there’s blood in the money as it’s flying everywhere. And Andy Osnard looks at him and says, “What did you do that for, you stupid c---?” And then he f---ing dies. (Brosnan briefly channels his character’s obnoxious laugh.) It was such a f---ing great exit line.