March 14, 2010, 4:12AM
He’s been Bond, James Bond — and Remington Steele, and the subject of countless fervid female fantasies.
And at 56, slim and elegant in a black suit, he could undoubtedly still kindle many more. His leading-man days are hardly behind him.
But currently, Pierce Brosnan is, as he likes to put it, a “working actor,” happily taking on a variety of character parts — a brave centaur in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” a duplicitous politician in Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer,” a stubborn Brooklyn father in “Remember Me” — and, soon, a grieving parent in “The Greatest,” a “little jewel” of a movie he produced himself.
One recent afternoon in New York, an understandably exhausted Brosnan spoke easily about his busy schedule, his Irish childhood and fame. Even laughed about his singing in last year’s “Mamma Mia!” (“I was trying to woo back my lover with all my heartfelt yearnings. And people said, ‘Please put a bullet in that man and put him out of his misery!’ ”)
And when his cellphone rang, this multimillionaire “working actor” still briefly, politely, interrupted himself to check the caller ID.
“Sorry!” he said. “Could be a job!”
Q: It’s been a really wide range of parts for you, lately. In “Remember Me,” you’re this tough New York businessman.
A: Yes, this powerful, Donald Trump type. I’m very hard-nosed, separated from my wife — we’ve already lost one son to drugs, and I’m estranged from my other son, who’s played by Robert Pattinson. . . . It’s good. He’s very good in it, too. I’m so fond of Rob — this young fellow in the vortex of fame.
Q: And then in “The Ghost Writer,” you’re this politician facing a trial for war crimes. He’s a pretty shady character. And yet he gives a strong and rather stirring justification of himself at the end. He certainly doesn’t think he’s a villain.
A: Villains never do. There’s an ambivalence to him, and an ambivalence to his emotional heart. He’s a man who’s broken and hollowed out.
Q: There’s a bit of Beckett to that movie, isn’t there? This sort of absurdist tragedy, this Irish feeling of “Don’t worry — things will get worse.”
A: It is Beckett-like, isn’t it? I’ve been reading a bit of Beckett lately and you’re right: There is that desolation. But it is Polanski-esque, too. It’s Polanski with all guns blazing — the metaphor, the subterfuge, the malevolence, the claustrophobia, the orchestration of his own legend and history.
Q: In “Remember Me,” you play this very distant father of a troubled son. I know your own father took off when you were very young; your mother had to pretty much keep the family together. Growing up, do you think you took more of a lesson from your father on how not to behave? From your mother, on how you should?
A: Oh, God (long pause). I don’t know. I don’t know. Who knows what makes you what you are? Being Irish, being Catholic, that has something to do with who I am. A sense of aloneness as a young man, a fractured home life. Then the great clarity of a new beginning with my mother and my Scottish stepfather in London — but then, too, being an Irish lad in a big English metropolis, being an outsider, having to play the game to get along. All those things went to make me who I am. And then the gratitude — gratitude that I found a vocation in acting, that I was actually good at something when I was always being told I wasn’t good at anything.
Q: You’ve mentioned being impressed by how Rob Pattinson’s handling his fame. But you really had two waves of it, first with “Remington Steele” and then with the Bond films. Were the experiences very different, coming a decade or so apart?
A: “Remington,” that was just the golden opportunity to create a career and an American life. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the leap and mortgaged my house for 2,000 pounds and caught a cheap flight out on Freddie Laker. That was the start. And Bond, Bond always came in and out of my life with drama.
Q: Since you left 007, though, you’ve been doing a wider range of parts than ever. In retrospect, was it good you got out of Bond? Was there a danger that his tuxedo was turning into a straitjacket?
A: Well, I was very aware of being within the confines of a very iconic character. I’d seen the men who’d gone before me, and I’d seen the careers that they had afterward and the lives that they had lived as actors. Now, Sean (Connery) was the man for me — he was the Bond of my generation and the only one that I wanted to try to emulate, but with the firm knowledge that I couldn’t do what he did, that I’d have to do what I do. But within my time of service to her majesty in that role, I always knew I wanted to have a career thereafter. And so, since then, that’s what I’ve been busy with. A working actor, just chipping away, chipping away.
Q: Role by role.
A: You know, it’s really as simple as that. Role by role. The scripts don’t come pouring in; I have to fight for every part. Sometimes, I wonder where my place in this town called Hollywood is — and that can give you a really dull headache. So you just get on with the job. You say to your agent, “I want to work. I need to work. I like to work. Find me good work.” And as you get older, you adjust accordingly, the confidence level increases — you know what has to be done, and if you’re not feeling the emotion at that exact moment on the set, well, you pretend. You just bloody act it. Because you’re a working actor, and hopefully at the end of the day, there’s a handful of films in a career that you can look at and say, that one, that was a great role. And it’s all mine.