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Shocking, Not Stirred: A Conversation with Pierce Brosnan

‘I’m a big fan of the ‘gotta pee’ theory of assassination.’

-Julian Noble in The Matador

It’s official! Pierce Brosnan is done playing James Bond. You’ve probably already heard that by now-it’s old news. But it’s still shocking to me. The dude was born to play Bond. It’s hard to believe the suave, stylish, charming Irishman is going to start exploring more roles outside of the Bond mold.

With Brosnan’s Bond a worldwide success, however, the stigma of 007 could stay attached to him even as he’s playing roles outside the franchise. With The Matador– part thriller, part black comedy-not only does Brosnan break the James Bond mold, he slaughters it like there’s no tomorrow with his performance as Julian Noble, a merciless and ultra sleazy yet neurotic and insecure hit man. Basically, Noble is everything that Bond hates.

The Matador co-stars Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis as a salesman and his wife who develop an unlikely friendship with Julian, whom Kinnear meets while closing a business deal in Mexico. Chaos and hilarity ensue.

When I met Brosnan, I was surprised to see him sporting an unkempt beard – something that seems so not Pierce. Apparently he’s doing a war movie right now, and the filmmakers made him grow the facial hair. Whatever. The bottom line is that yours truly had the opportunity to meet James Bond… uh… the former James Bond during his press tour for The Matador. So Pierce, is there any of you in this sleazeball character, Julian?

Pierce Brosnan: There’s a little of me in every role I play.

You can’t be proud to say that.

Well, there is only me to rely on. I’m an actor, so my job is to act.

Gotcha. So was it cool to tap into your inner-scumbag?

He’s a lovable scumbag. That’s the razor’s edge of black comedy: You are constantly pushing the audience away, and then bringing them in. You make them feel comfortable, and then uncomfortable. Hopefully you don’t lose them. So – in a word – yes.

You have a few younger kids. Aren’t you embarrassed to play this guy when your kids will be watching?

I have several. Sean is older, 22, and has a life of his own that’s coming together gloriously, thank heavens. It’s just the little ones at hand. There is a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old.

Did the idea of playing a sleaze appeal to you?

The script was a writing sample for Thomas Crown 2 – which we are trying to do – and I fell in love with the character. I thought this script was great.


I thought it was very play-like. I liked the tight ensemble of three people and the twists and turns and flamboyance and shear vulgarity from Julian Noble’s mouth. It had good character and good heart. You enter into this heightened theatrical world. Where most hitman movies leave off, this starts.

What about the scene where you walk through the hotel lobby in your underwear? Did that make you laugh… or was that embarrassing as hell?

It was the lobby of the hotel we were living at, for God’s sake!

You’re kidding! So you knew some of the people watching?

All these men and women would greet me everyday. I had my bathrobe and underwear on, and the boots on as well because they looked funny with my skinny legs hanging out. My partner said I could keep the dressing gown on if I wanted, or maybe pajama bottoms. I said no. The train left the station. This was too good. It’s a great piece of shtick.

As different as Julian Noble is from James Bond, you made a clear ode to 007 during the margarita scene. Why?

It was there. It was in the script. The emblem of it has not gone unnoticed. You are fully cognizant of what you are doing, especially when you’ve created an image for yourself. Whether it is Thomas Crown or Remington Steele or James Bond, you are always aware of how you are perceived and the image you’ve painted for yourself.

So are you content with your image, or do you feel trapped in a corner?

I was wondering how I was going to break the mold. You have to have patience. If I didn’t produce the film with my own production company – Irish Dreamtime – I don’t think somebody would have offered me the role of Julian Noble. I wouldn’t have been at the top of the list. When you have a TV show like Remington Steele or a role like James Bond in your pocket, it is easy to get complacent and not try hard enough to break a mold that you have created for yourself.

I assume Julian will be your anti Bond… something you’re going to use to break the stigma of Bond that follows you from film to film.

I wasn’t trying to do anti Bond – I was just trying to honor the piece that Richard Shepard had written.

Are there plans to do a Remington Steele movie?

Yes, it’s in discussion. We have two young, wonderful female writers and they’ve been to the office and have a take on it. I think we are looking at New York, location-wise. I look for places with good restaurants and places to spend days off. I haven’t heard the pitch for the exact storyline.

Are you going to be playing that role again after all this time?

I wouldn’t play Remington. I would get myself a cameo and try to steal the third act or something. I’m too old to play him now. I don’t want to go back there. I’ve been there. That’s where I started. To be able to produce something and find an actor and actress would be great. The pitch line would be good in today’s market.

And what’s happening with the Thomas Crown Affair sequel?

We are going ahead with it. Amy Pascal is very enthusiastic for us to make The Topkapi Affair. We have taken just the title and the spine and then embellished upon that and made it our own. Structurally we are fairly sound and now it’s time to get the interior and voice of it.

Is there still room for Rene?

There is always room for Rene!

Damn, you’re busy. Have you thought about retiring completely?

If I did, I’d fall off the twig! As much as I love my kids, I also have to make a living. I took time off after Matador to see what the New Year brought. The year off was great and gave me time to recover and find what it was all about.

Did you go to any bullfights while making The Matador?

Israeli – the young man in the movie who wears the tight pants – is a real bullfighter. He’s a top matador. But I never went to a bullfight.

Why not?

I don’t like bullfights and I don’t want to go anywhere near them again. The mythology for the bullfight was the metaphor and I thought it was well used by Richard. I have no desire to see a bull go down, though.

Even though you’ve nabbed some of the most coveted roles in the history of cinema, do you ever hear about movies and envy the actor who gets a role you wanted?

Yes. The Da Vinci Code. I wanted to do that. Tom Hanks got it. When I was in the Bahamas, every man and his dog was reading the book, and people told me I should play the lead role. I read it and agreed with them. I didn’t get it… so there you go.

One last question. Will you shave the beard when you’re done with this movie? It doesn’t suit you… at all.

Yes. Absolutely.

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