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The Matador: Pierce Brosnan Interview

Richard says you changed his life and without your participation none of this would have happened?
He changed my life. He came bearing gifts with his script. I wasn't trying to dismantle or turn on its head anything that had gone before. I wasn't looking for it. I was just looking for good work and the best people to work with and for. So it is a two way street in regards to changing lives or careers. This script just made me howl with laughter. I thought it was hysterical. I thought it was really well-founded by Richard who seemed to have a stream of consciousness which was uncensored. It had texture and it had heart...at the end of the day. It's about loneliness, friendship, redemption and entertainment.
Can you imagine James Bond looking in the mirror and Julian Noble looks back at him? What would James Bond feel?
I haven't a clue. There is no connection whatsoever. The role of James Bond is over there now...stage right or left, whatever direction you want to go...and Julian Noble and the world of The Matador is a piece unto itself. It's a theatrical piece of writing. Of course there are emblems in there that are interconnected somehow back to the world of Bond. He is a killer but beyond that the similarities are a world apart....continents away from each other.
Just to get the Bond thing out of the way, was it hard for you to let go?
That chapter is closed, finished. I am the happiest man with my company Irish DreamTime. the making of The Matador, the making of any movie that we have done ... Evelyn, The Thomas Crown Affair ......and I wish Daniel Craig the greatest happiness and success and he will be wonderful. He is a wonderful actor.
Have you become more down to earth since Bond is behind you?
Well I have always been down to earth. I think I have always had a good outlook on the business that I am in. I have always had the good fortune to work...not necessarily the greatest work at times but it has been work and the advancement of my acting abilities have always been worked on. I feel like everything that I have done I love...good, bad or indifferent...because I did it and because I had a wonderful time with the people and the projects. Each one has taken me further down the road to where I am right now with this picture and as a producer I've kind of got more experience. Our company - with Beau, Amanda and Chris and Angelique, a small company of people whom I trust - we have got more sophisticated in choosing the material.
Is it difficult to choose the material? Is there a lot to choose from out there?
There is a lot but it's rubbish. To find the little jewels and pearls is not easy.
You have tackled a broad spectrum of things, would you like to do theatre again?
Well doing something like The Matador of Tailor Of Panama, which have a theatrical spine to them - in the sense that that the scenes are 12 -15 pages long - that is the closest I will get to the theatre. That's what I loved about this particular piece is that it has a theatricality to it. When the clapper goes down you have 12 pages of dialogue to get through and it gives you room to move and to give a performance. I don't know about going back to the stage, I've been invited a few times in Dublin . But it's a bit scary.
You mentioned your company, what are your career plans?
We have a movie called Butterfly On The Wheel which will hopefully start shooting in February. We have another film which is Danny De Vito and Morgan Freeman. It was Danny who came to me with this job offer and asked if I'd do it and I said yes and I would like to produce it. It's a wonderful piece from a book called The True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle, which is in the school curriculum. It is a period piece, set in 1832 on board a ship and I play the captain.
After so many years how is your energy for doing these projects?
It's good...why! (jokes in mock indignation). A I getting too old! My energy is ok, my energy is good. I'm still passionate about it and you have to have stamina if you are going to play this game and you are going to stay at it. If there is anything to tell a young actor it is keep your stamina going...emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, physically...because it is warfare out there. I am more passionate now than ever...because of this film and the joy it is bringing to everybody. I had been wanting and wondering about when a piece of material was going to come my way that was going to tilt the scales or give a new colour on the palette and it came in the shape and form of The Matador, so it seems. But you just keep moving on, keep showing up.
The director says this is your best performance ever...do you agree?
I'd say yes. I'd say it is a good performance. I'd say it is the most relaxed and most confident and sure footed.
Is it the best in your career?
I don't want to say that because then everything else that has gone before is like...you know...I thought Tailor Of Panama was great...that Evelyn and Thomas Crown were good...I suppose I am so known as Remington Steel or James Bond or Thomas Crown and identifiable with suave sophisticated men in a suit, elegance that it's like you give the same performance for 20 years and then you grow a moustache and walk across the lobby in your knickers and people say...'Oh my God how amazing! What an amazing performance!' So you just keep showing up. Some people have careers that are just brilliant with everything they touch. I am a working actor, journeyman actor, and I have had the good luck to be still at the table.
Looking back, would you change anything?
No. I look back but I have been blessed. I came to this country 23 years ago on a wing and a prayer - Freddie Laker, sandwiches at the back of the bus - so I got a job, a TV show. I was looking to work with Martin Scorsese and I got a TV show, beggars can't be choosers, don't look a gift horse in the mouth - whatever you want to say - it's work. Relish it, enjoy it, get on with it.
What about Topkapi?
That is Thomas Crown 2 and we have taken The Topkapi Affair off the shelf. It is a heist movie much loved by movie buffs and we are using that as a blueprint but only in the first act and then we have embellished on it. It is a different theft, different heist, different woman but about a love affair. So we are trying...we are noodling it along. I enjoy producing and bringing people together and to have something like The Matador and Richard this wonderful text and Hope Davis and Greg Kinnear...they worked beautifully together. We surrounded this young director Richard with the best people possible.
What is your favourite scene in the movie?
There are so many. I love walking away from the Porsche and it blowing up. It was the first day's work on a Sunday. The first scene was with the little boy and the second scene was with the Porsche. There we were making our movie in a residential neighbourhood, we had one Porsche body of a car and we had this huge explosion. We had children in the scene and we were all hoping it would be ok. I had to walk away and as the camera followed me it had to blow at the right time. And we only had one take. So that was great.
What about the hotel reception scene?
The walking across the lobby! Loved it. It was funny. I wasn't embarrassed. I have been an actor since I was 18 years of age I have done crazy stuff before I ever came to this country. You wouldn't believe it. You should have seen me in Puckaree an Irish rock musical at the Edinburgh Festival in my wonderful rubber phallus running around the stage. That was a good one!
In real life do you prefer margaritas or beer or whisky?
I like a beer. I did have a few whiskies filming out in Santa Fe because it is so bloody cold out there.
Have you ever had the same relationships with women as Julian Noble has? Have you ever felt like using women the way he does?
No! God almighty, I have been a married man most of my life. That's the way I like it. I get to go home to the most beautiful woman on the planet...lovely children and have a good, normal life and then I get to run off and play in the movies and do fantasy world.
Who are you more like, Danny or Julian?
Danny. I don't know the Julians of this world. I like to have a good normal life and good times. I wasn't quite sure how to get into the world of Julian so I asked a friend of mine at the LA PD if he knew a criminal psychologist that I could speak to. I gave her the script and she did a breakdown on this psychopath. These men do exist, they are out in our society, they kill for money.
Were roles like The Matador not offered to you earlier in your career...maybe because you are a fantastic looking man?
If someone else had been doing this movie I don't think I would have been given the role. You kind of find yourself painted into a corner by your own personality, the choice you've made in playing the Bond role and underpinning that with Thomas Crown, which was deliberate conscious decision on my part to capitalise of such a ‘international persona'. In having your own company you get material and I think the business has changed now. If any actor has work and passion about it and they are not getting the work then it is up to them to create the work for themselves.
Were you underestimated in your ability as an actor?
There is a certain awareness in myself that I was not getting the right roles, the meaty roles, the performance roles, the acting roles. Because I was either too handsome, too pretty, too this...whatever...being judged in ways that left you nowhere to go. So this was just the right time. You have to be patient sometimes, or you have to force the issue and demand it. To the people that I work with I have said...now's the time, let's see what the actor is made of, let's see what talent you do have to transform to create a performance.
Brosnan serves as star and producer on the film, aided by producing partner Beau St. Clair who has worked with him on The Nephew, The Thomas Crown Affair, Evelyn and Laws of Attraction. They will next collaborate on Butterfly On A Wheel and a sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair. Brosnan and St. Clair with both in London recently for the premiere of The Matador.
You seem to have worked harder than any of your predecessors to keep from being typecast as James Bond. Has that always been easy to achieve?
Brosnan: “I was aware going into Bond that if I got it right I was going to be labelled as Bond, so I had to look ahead and try and carve a niche for myself outside of that role. So yeah, there was very much an awareness on my behalf. And when the success happened with GoldenEye, Beau and I formed a company to make films we liked. But the success of Bond has been bountiful to us as a company and to me as an actor.”
St. Clair: “With Pierce travelling the world and there being so much money put into branding him as Bond we always feel like that's a blessing, but that we should try to take the opportunity to go off and really work and do different roles and different kinds of movies to balance that so you don't get boxed in. That way people don't think ‘aah that's what this actor does', this one thing.”
The Matador is a quite different piece of work, how did the script come into your hands?
St. Clair: “It was the agent of writer-director Richard Shepard who sent it to us as a writing sample for the next Thomas Crown movie. Our company read it and I think the first thing we thought was that it was an amazing piece, and an incredible character. Pierce read it and he was like ‘wow'. So I got Richard in and we talked a little bit and said we really wanted to do this. He said ‘really? I was just gonna do it with a camera and myself as a really low budget $200,000 film.”
Brosnan: “I came into the office one day and they were all talking about the movie and the rest is history, so to speak.”
What research did you draw on for the character?
Brosnan: “I found a wonderful woman in LA who was a criminal psychologist dealing with psychopaths. She read the script, broke it down and analysed him as she would any of her cases. After that I talked with her and read her notes.”
There are very real concerns about filming in Mexico City, aren't there?
St. Clair: “I lived in Mexico City after college and loved it. It's a passionate, artistic place. But there's a lot of poverty so that creates the edge and the danger there, with kidnappings, it's wild. So we had to think right from the beginning in planning this movie about putting a security team around us, and around the people travelling in from the States because we had an international crew.”
Brosnan: “The great thing about making movies is going off on an adventure to far flung places whether it be Nigeria , or Panama or in this case Mexico City . So I was up for it and very jazzed for it. I was worried for my family, they were worried for me. The week before we left there was a big article in the LA Times all about these kidnappings. So I tried to hide it from my wife and put it under the sofa, then Sunday afternoon the kids came and jumped on Dad on the sofa and my wife found the article. So there was a real, deep concern for my welfare. But the people down there embraced us, we embraced them back and there were no problems.”
What practical measures did you have to take?
St. Clair: “Our security team brought in armoured vehicles, Tony Scott had just made Man On Fire and he used these bullet proof Broncos, and our guys brought them in for the actors. There's also a follow car, so if you're kidnapped then they can drive after you. We actually found out that the guy from the armoured car company got kidnapped leaving the studio. He'd dropped the cars off and went and got a taco out in front of Churubusco [Studios] and the next thing you know he got kidnapped. I thought this was how it was going to start, every day there was a story, something was going on in the city. They want your ATM card, they take you for that and keep you for as long as you have money in your bank account. It was a big drama. I'd see people following us in cars wondering who they were, getting all paranoid, but it was just our own counter surveillance team trying to be secretive.”
There was presumably a big advantage in taking those risks and shooting there, wasn't there?
Brosnan: “Mexico is a huge character in the film – we got all those other fabulous locations from it too, Arizona , Budapest , so it was palpable. Being in this city that has a kind of darkness to it it made us kind of cluster together at the Camino Real Hotel and gave it a wonderful sense of community. There were no mishaps, although I had to change cars a couple of times when we had blow-outs for some unknown reason…three!”
St. Clair: “They puncture the tyre right where the valve is, they know you're going to blow out and that means you'll blow out and that confusion is like a really good time. There were cars following him, seriously scary looking guys in black Broncos, coming to set and wanting to get in. We just kept our awareness up, you could never let your guard down but in the end the people were amazing, and it was fine.”

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