A few decades ago, Pierce Brosnan looked for where his movies would take him. Now he looks for when they’ll take him back home to his family.
“When I’m away, that’s a bit of a heartache because I want to be with my kids,” says Brosnan, who has two youngsters, 13-year-old Dylan and 9-year-old Paris, with his second wife, Keely Shaye Smith. (He has stepdaughter Charlotte, 38, stepson Christopher, 37, and son Sean, 26, from first wife Cassandra Harris, who died of cancer in 1991.) “As a young man in my late 20s, and a stepfather and a father 26 years ago, there was so much going on in my life. I didn’t have the same patience, and I didn’t have the same nuances of the heart and feelings. I was so busy trying to make a career and establish myself. But now, the career is the career – I’ll get work one way or another — and my ego is not as needy.”
That said, the one-time James Bond seems to be busier than ever, with three forthcoming films. In Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (opening nationally March 5), he plays a former British prime minister opposite Ewan McGregor, and in both Remember Me (out March 12) and The Greatest (April 2 in New York and L.A.), he is a grieving father. But the Irish-born actor took time out to talk about politics, parenting and what it’s like being Pierce Brosnan.
Is this the career you envisioned at age 20, when you looked into the future?
Oh, this career has gone beyond my wildest dreams. I wanted to be a successful actor in England. I trained to be a theater actor and worked in repertory theater and in the West End, but the movies always captivated me. I found the thoughts and the prospects of working in film so seductive and exhilarating. James Bond was a fast track into the international market and one that I was very aware of. It allowed me to create my own films, like The Thomas Crown Affair and The Matador. I have an education in making movies and an outlet to tell stories.
You worked with Robert Pattinson in Remember Me. Is it interesting to see how popular he is when, back in the 1980s as the star of Remington Steele, you were the guy American girls swooned over?
He’s executive producer on this movie, and I don’t remember that happening in my days of Remington Steele. I was just very happy to be working as an actor, and I didn’t have such big dreams and aspirations. But it’s a different beast now. You have to be very proactive in your career, and whatever success you have, you have to turn that to the best of your advantage in every way. It’s a good old street fight in many regards, and the fittest will win.
How has your parenting changed?
I don’t want them to be actors. [Laughs.] I’m much more disciplined on their grades and their education. I’m much more aware of being present and listening. My parenting has become more emotional because of time. You only have them in your life for a short time. It just goes so fast.
I’ve heard that you wanted to design album covers.
Yeah. I was all right at art in school. When I high-tailed it out of school around 16, art was my ticket to another life. It was a great time in music in 1968 and ’69, and how they sold albums was beautiful. I always wanted to design album covers. I never got to do it, but, luckily, I started with some kind of artistic life.
In The Ghost Writer, you play a former prime minister. Did you ever think of higher office, even as a kid?
No. Never! [Laughs.] Once I found acting, I clung to it like a sanctuary on the hill. It was the best. It made sense for my life.
How did you get involved with environmental issues?
It really came to the forefront when I met my wife Keely 16 years ago. I used to dabble – Ted Danson is an old friend, and I used to support him in an oceans campaign, because I lived by the ocean. But when Keely and I came together, there was a real synergy of life and force and commitment and passion for trying to do it on a bigger scale. She’s very well-informed, very articulate and passionate. She has lived the life of an activist and environmentalist, since she was born it seems. It’s in her DNA.
So what’s the hardest thing about being Pierce Brosnan?
Just getting out of the way of myself. I try to complicate things.