Pierce Brosnan discusses what it is like to make a movie about a man at the center of a huge scandal with Roman Polanski.
Those of you not confined to your homes with ankle bracelets have a treat coming this weekend. Summit Entertainment is releasing The Ghost Writer, what may very well be the last film from the acclaimed and controversial director/scuzzbucket Roman Polanski.
Whatever your thoughts are about this fascinating, troubled man, one thing is undeniable: he's made some incredible movies. And The Ghost Writer is one of them. It is a thriller in an old school, Hitchcockian fashion and deserves your attention.
More so than most movies, you should try to see this with as little foreknowledge as possible. Just know that Pierce Brosnan, who is still in theaters as a wise Centaur in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lighting Thief, plays a very Tony Blair-ish ex-Prime Minister underneath the scrutiny of a massive scandal. We had the good fortune to talk with Pierce. Here are some highlights.
Jordan Hoffman: So you were in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lighting Thief with Medusa and Hades, but if you want to talk about something scary, you want to talk about politicians.
Pierce Brosnan: Precisely!
Jordan Hoffman: On paper this is a Tony Blair type. And you can intellectualize that after the fact all you like. But while I was watching it, I wasn't thinking about Blair at all.
Pierce Brosnan: Roman and I established right off the bat that this wasn't going to be Tony Blair. I read the book and I knew what was put down, but I wanted to make sure we didn't go down that road and we didn't discuss it ever again. It's a man who is an actor playing a Prime Minister, basically.
There is a sense of irony in that it is me - you come with a certain baggage as an actor, of course, and in my case James Bond is always prevalent going into something like this, but you have to just go to the text. A man who knows his life is over as he knows it. A sham of a man holding on to a thread, and he has no qualms asking what to do in the company of lawyers or anyone. But he can still make speeches with an oratorical voice.
Jordan Hoffman: Is Roman Polanski more dictatorial than other directors on set?
Pierce Brosnan: He knows what he wants. He's a Grand Master. His presence is very, very strong on the set. He's been a long time into the world of thrillers but he has never done a political thriller. He's certainly mischievous. My first day was supposed to be a very easy day and then at the very last minute he switched it and gave me a very lengthy, six page dialogue scene to do. The scene on the jet at the end.
Jordan Hoffman: Wow - that's a heckuva scene to do first. Was that purely scheduling, or some sort of puppet master plan?
Pierce Brosnan: Scheduling. But I did wonder, though.
Jordan Hoffman: But someone like Polanski makes you wonder about every choice like that. Maybe he wanted something out of you on your very first day for that big, revelatory scene. Who knows?
Pierce Brosnan: It's funny. We went and rehearsed and Roman says, "let's shoot," so we sat on the plane and Ewan McGregor sat opposite me and we knew our lines, it seemed like a simple set up, we rehearsed some more and then Roman looked at the guards and the laptop and all the other props and then it was one o'clock and it was lunch! And we hadn't shot a thing. And then he put his hands up camera style in front of my face and said, "after lunch we go close on Pierce with the 27 lens." And I thought, "Man, I was ready to go at 7 o'clock and I've been anxious the whole way and now it is time for lunch!" So I wondered if maybe he was playing with me, who knows? We'll never know. . . .
Jordan Hoffman: The scene when all the characters are together and the lawyers are there and the helicopter appears and they are suddenly on CNN, and panic sets in. Do we go to London? Do we go to Washington? That was the first time I thought about Roman's legal situation and thought - ah, okay. This is why Roman is making this movie. How conscious are people on set of Roman's situation when you are making a scene like this?
Pierce Brosnan: Well, yes, we are aware of Roman's history. I read the biographies - or as much as I could stomach before throwing them away. I wanted to experience Roman as a director, as a man, as a father, and his troubles are in the past, even though you knew he was a fugitive. But, yes, it permeates his world. Hopefully there will be closure soon.
But you feel it. The movie's in the can and Roman's in the can, right? This is a man who spends his life with the Sword of Damocles at his throat. The movie is so claustrophobic and here's a man running from the furies of life. A man being hunted and hounded in a gray bunker in Martha's Vineyard enshrouded in winter. And here's a man in Gstaad with an ankle bracelet. So you can't help be shocked.
Jordan Hoffman: This is all subtext - you never discuss it with him, right?
Pierce Brosnan: No. No one discusses it. I never did, I don't think Ewan did. The book is a great page turner, you read the book, but then comes the cinematic vocabulary of Roman Polanski so it transforms and becomes palpable.
Jordan Hoffman: Let's talk about the house! That staircase! Best movie staircase in since --
Pierce Brosnan: Fantastic staircase. Magnificent.
Jordan Hoffman: Let's talk hypothetical about these new Bond movies. Let's say you were approached to enter this new world of 007 in some sort of elder statesmen role, would you be game?
Pierce Brosnan: Why not? Anything is possible. I don't have any ego about that. I love what Daniel Craig is doing with it. If the script, timing and money was right, why not? I don't know anything of which you speak, by the way, but why not - it's all a game.