When Pierce Brosnan walked into the room, dressed in chic jeans, black shirt, and blazer, it was as though he had a spot light shining on him. His presence, both warm, powerful, and dazzling, coupled with his radiant Irish smile, filled the room with excitement that would permeate the ensuing interview regarding his latest film, The Greatest, written and directed by Shana Feste, in which he co-stars with Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, and Johnny Simmons. The story is about the loss of a child and the impact on the family. Brosnan is no stranger to grief having lost his first wife Cassandra Harris to ovarian cancer and a near-death experience with his son. The Greatest is Pierce acting out a role, pretending to be this man Allen Brewer.
Mirror: As a parent you almost had the experience depicted in the film. Did you draw on your personal experience?
Brosnan: One dark night, I experienced the near death of my son, as I watched him being airlifted out in the canyons of Malibu and found myself in a chapel praying for his life. So, when the script came to me I read it and then threw it under the bed because as good as it was, and as touching as it was, I felt that I didn’t want to go there. But, luckily Beau St. Clair (producer and partner in Brosnan’s Irish DreamTime) was tenacious and a few weeks later I looked at it again and said ‘alright, let’s go, let’s do this.’
Mirror: Was this the most emotionally demanding character you’ve ever worked on?
Brosnan: I haven’t done anything quite this emotional. The breakdown for him is very poignant, so you use what you have in your life experiences repertoire, including the pain.
Mirror: Was there any healing for you in doing this film?
Brosnan: I don’t know if there was healing per se, but certainly the exploration was fascinating. Acting is constantly about constructing and destroying and that’s why it’s such a psychologically damaging experience to some actors who go beyond the pale. I like to stick to light entertainment really (laughing).
Mirror: What would you like the audience to take home with them?
Brosnan: I thought, if we got this right, it could be an enduring piece of drama for people who have experienced such tragedy in their lives. It could be entertaining and uplifting and meaningful. It’s just as great to cry, as it is to laugh.
Mirror: There were a lot of intensely emotional scenes in the film. After shooting one of them, how did you re-center?
Brosnan: Just sat down and had a cup of tea. I’ve been doing this for many years now, but this kind of work is certainly going back to the beginning of my career where your emotions are much closer to the surface, but as you get older, you have ways of dissembling and protecting yourself. It’s takes courage to go out there and reveal yourself.
Mirror: What was one of the most difficult scenes for you?
Brosnan: That scene in the hospital bed, which was my first scene on the very first day of shooting. I turned to my producers and said, ‘What the heck are you doing to me girls? Can’t we push this to the end?’ But we couldn’t because of schedule and timing, we had to shoot that particular scene that day.
Mirror: Do you think one can ever master acting?
Brosnan: No, I don’t think so. Your life is constantly in flux – your emotions, your center of living, and understanding of life is constantly changing, and should be, if you want to be exhilarated by it and present in life.
Mirror: How would you describe you current career path?
Brosnan: It’s all about the work. You reach the mid-life of your life and you look back and think this is what I do and luckily what I do I still love. How do you stay at the table and try to find new roles, including character parts. And, you’re always dealing with the ego of letting go.
Mirror: Have you given new guidelines to your agents?
Brosnan: Yes. I’ve told them not to look for the big starring roles. If they come in great, but let’s look for character work. Let’s look for supporting roles. Let’s be adventurous across the board in finding the best, most challenging work. I’ve always considered myself a working actor with aspirations to be some kind of movie star.
Mirror: Do you need to stay in touch with your roots in Ireland?
Brosnan: My heart and soul are Irish. I come from so many places from the life I’ve lived, but the overall place I come from is America. It’s the longest place I’ve lived in. But ultimately it’s about the work and finding the best work I possibly can.
Mirror: When you look back at your Remington Steele days, do you look back fondly?
Brosnan: Indeed. Remington was a major gift in my life. Hop on a plane to borrow two grand from a bank manager in south London, and hop on a plane to come to America to find an agent, and the third day you’re here you get a car from Rent-a-Wreck, and drive across Laurel Canyon to CBS who is looking for Remington Steele, and you end up being Remington Steele. I mean you gotta’ tip your hat to someone. In that case, I tip it to my late wife who said we must go to America; otherwise I would have just stayed and just played it safe. So Remington is hugely significant, but every part of your career is significant.
Mirror: How do you account for your remarkable career? Is it luck? Timing? Destiny? Or, are you just incredibly gifted?
Brosnan: Destiny. It’s fate. It’s just meant to be.
Mirror: I have one final question to ask you. Are you still practicing fire eating?
Brosnan: No I’m not. My last performance of that was on the Muppets in 1995, which I’m sure you can pull up on Google. But, no, I’ve grown up. I’m a much more serious kind of actor now.