• Golden Globe Awards

Pierce Brosnan, 1995-1997-1999 on James Bond – Out of the Archives

Golden Globe nominee Pierce Brosnan, who took over the iconic role of James Bond created by Ian Fleming, after Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton had played him, spoke to the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press about his interpretation of Secret Agent 007 in Goldeneye (1995) directed by Martin Campbell, the timely topics of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) by Roger Spottiswood, and The World is Not Enough (1999) by Michael Apted. He would reprise the role a fourth and last time in Die Another Day (2002) by Lee Tamahori.
The Irish actor revealed what he felt the first time he saw a James Bond movie as a child: “I left Ireland as a young lad from a small country town, on August 12, 1964, and I only found out recently that it was the day Ian Fleming died, whatever that means. I was ten-years-of age, fresh off the plane from Ireland to Scotland, and the first film we go to see is Goldfinger with Sean Connery, and it was a great experience.  Bond is very sophisticated, but somehow there was a naked lady in there, Shirley Eaton, she was the first Bond girl that caught my attention. Her lovely bottom all gold and every bit of her all gold got stuck in my memory bank as a Catholic altar boy running around the fields.  And that’s how it all began, I knew then that I wanted to be an actor. I thought, ‘This is good, I can do that, all I have to do is pretend well.’ And as my education in the Bond movies progressed, my level of sophistication as a young Irish lad was elevated to different heady heights.”
Brosnan was offered the James Bond role in 1986, after meeting producer Albert Broccoli on the set of For Your Eyes Only (1981) with Roger Moore as Bond, where his wife Cassandra Harris played a role. But when his TV series Remington Steel was renewed, he was contractually obligated to return, and Timothy Dalton was then cast as Bond. This is how he felt when he was later cast as Bond in 1994: “I never dreamt about being James Bond, but I did go on and become an actor. The significance of Bond in my life has been great, because it was offered to me in 1986 and it left my life in 1986, and I would have been a fool not to have had trepidation coming to this role. The first time in 1986 I was very fearful of it, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and secretly, privately, I was really relieved that I didn’t get it, because I don’t know if I could have hit the mark; but after losing a partner (his wife Cassandra died in 1991), when that happens in life, you are fearful of nothing else. It’s a very simple business, so when the phone rang and they said, you have the part of James Bond, I went, ‘Okay, fine. That’s great. Let’s do it.’ I don’t think the essence of the man has changed that much. They tried to change it during the reign of Timothy Dalton, and they struck themselves in the foot. Timothy is a really wonderful actor, but he wasn’t well served by the product, so what we’ve done with this movie Goldeneye is go right back to basics. Connery put it down, he is the man, he was the guy who I’d look over my shoulder at, those were the shoes that I had to fill.”
When he took over the role of James Bond in Goldeneye, Brosnan tried to make the tough secret agent, if not more vulnerable, at least more accessible: “The understanding or the desire to do that came from my action heroes on our screens these days, Bond has to stand up to Mel Gibson (in the Lethal Weapon movies 1987, 1989, 1992), Bruce Willis (in the Die Hard movies, 1988, 1990), Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan (in Patriot Games 1992, Clear and Present Danger, 1994). The audiences are used to an accessibility of these characters and a certain vulnerability, although the word vulnerable is very dangerous to use in the context of James Bond. So it was a conscious effort on my behalf to make him more accessible, more human, because what Sean Connery did back there in 1962 was to bring an amazing strength, virility and his own uniqueness to it. But I’m a different kind of man, so I am trying to mix those colors on the palette to make it work.”
These are the actors that Brosnan admired and wanted to emulate, when he was starting out in his movie career: “I always wanted to do movies, to be up there on the silver screen, and I guess you should be careful what you wish for. It was an incredible romance for me as a young lad from Ireland moving to Lindon; living in South London, I discovered the magic of cinema, it was a great escape for me.  Spencer Tracy was significant, because my grandfather loved his movies, so I remember that I watched Spencer Tracy, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood. These were the guys that first turned me on. Then, as I got informed as an actor and I began to articulate, I looked at Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, then Robert De Niro in a huge way, and you begin to realize that you fall short, you’re not good enough to do it. These men seem to be way beyond you, then you have to go back and be true to yourself and figure out what your story is, what your legend is going to be and work as hard as possible in becoming an actor.  You have to try and trust, have faith in yourself and just do it.”
The villains changed in these Bond movies, in Goldeneye it was the Russians after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, in Tomorrow Never Dies it was a media baron using nuclear torpedoes. Brosnan commented on the contemporary significance of this plot: “Could this happen? Possibly, yes, if one of these men got out of the wrong side of bed, Rupert Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi or Ted Turner, who hopefully will have a sense of humor about this movie. We’ve seen media manipulation, whether it be during the Second World War on the battleships out there on the water, with photographers saying, ‘send off a few charges,’ then they manipulate it saying, ‘the British are fighting the Germans.’ That’s one case in point, but now it’s become so sophisticated with the Internet and with cable TV, it’s very powerful, and if you lean into the darker side of it, it can be very frightening. I thought it was a really good idea to choose a media baron as the villain, it was very timely.”
Pierce Brosnan commented on the plot of The World Is Not Enough, a scheme to increase oil prices by triggering a nuclear meltdown: “People always thought that, now that the Cold War was over, Bond was over, but Bond is such a traditional universal hero that enemies can be found anywhere on the globe for his organization, MI6, to fight against. In this movie you have the topic of this resource of oil for the planet, and where it takes place globally; there’s three borders there, and it’s about how those borders interact and who’s going to win for this pipeline.  It’s about greed and corporations and the families that come together for power.  So when the Bond movies get it right, they make for a wonderful evening’s entertainment with an issue which is topical of our time right now.”
But he remained mostly optimistic for the future of the world, despite the threat of environmental disaster: “Some days very pessimistic, having traveled, but most days I am optimistic because, unless you have wishes and dreams for a better planet, you may as well close the door, pull the covers over your head and forget about it. And that’s not something I want to do, because I have children. We have issues with the environment now which are devastating, and if we do not pay attention to that, we will be leaving this planet for our children and our children’s children a very sad state. But this generation now is more aware of what their forefathers have done, and the positive aspects of the media are far reaching and beneficial to the world at large, so you can use it, if you use it correctly, to your benefit.  Whether it be something like Laguna San Ignacio in Baja, California, Mexico where Mitsubishi wants to go in, wipe it out and make it into a salt mine for no reason, and stop the breeding ground of these wonderful whales going there.  Or the cutting down of certain forests and plants that could be beneficial to healing people with cancer, because both are inter-related, the environment and these diseases.  All of this has come to me in a part of my life when one thing was dying and something else was happening, a new beginning. So there’s no getting away from it for me now, I will speak up on healthcare or support any issue that concerns that within the best of my abilities and time and likewise on environmental causes.”