Pierce Brosnan isn't letting his new James Bond image go to his head, even though in his first outing as Agent 007 in the new film "GoldenEye," he's described as the best Bond in years.
It's a role he was geared up to play once before. "Playing Bond has been a long time coming," he says. "It was in my life in '86, then went out of it. I never really expected it to come back in, but, come around it did. I think it's a really good film."
Eight years ago, Brosnan was studying the Bond script, even being fitted for the wardrobe. Then the producers of his TV series, "Remington Steele," decided not to release him from the last few episodes, even though they knew the series was not going to be renewed.
"My Irish mother says, 'What's for you, won't go by you,' and so here I am playing this coveted part. I'm a bit more lived-in now. I think in heart, soul, and mind, I'm better suited to play the role.
"In '86, I remember secretly asking myself, 'Am I up to this role? Do I have the weight? Do I have the presence? Of course, if I had gotten it the first time around, I would have stood there and delivered a performance, but it's only in hindsight as I look back, I know it worked out for the best. Eight years ago, when the network said no, I didn't tell my family this, but in my heart I did feel a sense of relief.
"In the intervening years, my private life changed drastically," he says, explaining: "My wife, Cassie, who had always been a tower of encouragement, developed a lingering illness. There were days that were wonderful, and we had small celebrations, like a walk around the garden, or going out for a drive, or meeting friends and getting through a lunch and still seeing her smiling. You become conscious of how precious life is. It's so sweet you can taste it on your tongue. You feel another's courage and strength and in turn it gives you incredible strength to celebrate life and not to stand still.
"Then began the hardest, most overwhelming role I've ever taken on, being a single parent to three children."
During this time, Brosnan acted in a few films, but none of them became Hollywood blockbusters. He was beginning to check his bank balance when the offer came again to star as James Bond.
"I was cautious even when 'GoldenEye' was completed. I told my agent, 'Keep me working. I don't care if it's a supporting role or a cameo, just as long as I'm surrounded by good people."
In the 10 days remaining before Brosnan starts the world-premiere tour for "GoldenEye," which includes Europe, Asia, and Australia, he is acting in a small role in Barbra Streisand's new movie, "The Mirror Has Two Faces."
"It's not a major role," he explains, "but it's in a film with a wonderful cast. Besides Barbra, there's Lauren Bacall, Jeff Bridges, Mimi Rogers, and Dudley Moore."
And Brosnan's Bond will return after "GoldenEye." The actor has signed for three more Bond films, with an option for the fourth.
When "GoldenEye" has its royal premiere in London, Irish-born Brosnan and his mother will be there, and she will be presented to Prince Charles. (Brosnan has already met the prince.)
At one of the first screenings of "GoldenEye," Brosnan's three children were in the audience. "My youngest, Sean, who's 12, is the critic of the family. I could tell they were excited. I could also see they felt the old man had pulled it off OK. Then, Sean asked if he could get a Bond T-shirt for his pals, and I exhaled.
"There's plenty of travel ahead to sell 'GoldenEye,' but I've arranged the schedule so that I'll be home in Malibu for Christmas with the children."
His next goal is to produce a movie. "I want to do well-made, heartfelt films. I've found a project that I like a lot. It's called 'Timeshare.' It's about a father, a single parent of three kids, who is a chef. He's pretty irresponsible, and his kids are more grown-up than he is. He falls in love with a woman who is also a single parent. It's a light romantic comedy."
In the next few weeks, moviegoers will be introduced to the 32nd James Bond movie and the fifth Agent 007. With predecessors like Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton, some might say Pierce Brosnan has big shoes to fill. But if handsome looks, charm, and a lack of ego count for anything, he'll do just fine.
*'GoldenEye' opened in major theaters over the weekend.