'Thomas Crown' also suits suave 007 actor

The lights went on in the projection room, but the audience was stone quiet.

Pierce Brosnan's eyes circled the room as frantically as a prime suspect looks at the jury. This was the initial showing of "The Thomas Crown Affair," the first big-budget movie from his production company, Irish DreamTime. The people in this room were the most important in his life.

"It was really too early to screen it," he says. "It wasn't a married print, it had 'green screen' on it, and some of the special effects had yet to be added."

Mr. Brosnan, who was just completing final scenes for his third James Bond thriller, "The World Is Not Enough," had taken his children, girlfriend Keely Shaye Smith with their young son, Dylan, his co-producer and longtime friend Beau St. Clair, and his parents to London for the viewing.

Suddenly, Brosnan's dad slapped his thighs, bounded to his feet, and with a sweet Irish accent announced, "Well, son, looks like you've done it!" The room quickly blossomed with conversation, yet Brosnan didn't hear another word. Now he could return "with a happy heart" to the sound stage where the latest Bond movie, scheduled to open Nov. 19, was filming.

Back on the Bond set, he was working with Dame Judi Dench, who plays his boss, spymaster M, in the series. "I think she must have thought I was slightly mad," he said, laughing. "I had to release my exuberance some way, so I just hugged her tightly and announced, "You're the best Bond babe. You're on the screen for 14 minutes, and you'll probably win another Oscar for this."

DreamTime Productions was a name chosen by Brosnan's late wife, Cassandra. But when the couple and friend St. Clair decided to produce films, they found it was already registered. So "we added Irish to it," Brosnan says.

"Remember, I was born in County Meath. We decided our first production would be a modest-budget film, a very personal story, 'The Nephew.' We were overjoyed when we signed renowned Irish actor Donal McCann as its star; I'd play a supporting role."

It was while Brosnan and St. Clair were in their offices in Santa Monica, Calif., though, trying to get a crew together for filming "The Nephew," that they started talking about remakes.

"The only one I wanted to do was my favorite, 'The Thomas Crown Affair,' with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway," Brosnan remembers. "I was 15 [when I first saw it] and thought it was great."

The seed was planted. St. Clair checked to see if it was available. It was.

Brosnan wanted to make Thomas Crown "an urbane, suave banking millionaire.

"I've been in many suits, and thought [this role] would dovetail, hang well in between the Bond movies," he says. "More importantly, I thought there was room for a grown-up love story."

Everything ran like a well-oiled machine. Brosnan had scouted the East Coast locations, found a Manhattan apartment so his family could be with him, and St. Clair had signed Denis Leary, along with Faye Dunaway, who appeared in the original movie, and would play the psychiatrist this time. When Brosnan learned there were several actresses being considered as his costar, he placed a few calls. He didn't want a 19-year-old leading lady. He wanted a mature woman - Rene Russo.

John McTiernan had signed on as the director, and he agreed. "McT" made his directorial debut in a 1986 film called "Nomads." He'd hired a young Irish TV actor who would make his American film debut: His name was Pierce Brosnan.

"I had followed John's career - 'Die Hard,' 'The Hunt for Red October' - and knew he would be perfect [to direct] 'Thomas Crown,' " Brosnan says.

But "two weeks before production started, the fear began. Suddenly I realized how much I had riding on this production. A lot of people remember McQueen in the first version, and he was wonderful. Would I measure up? And, what about Bond? If this failed, how would it affect that?"

Instead of sharing these fears with others, Brosnan began "thinking about the talented and gifted group of people we had assembled.... Reason began to kick in.

"I'm a survivor. I've been through so much in my life, and something has always carried me through. 'What do I know?' I asked myself. I love life and people. I love what I do, I love my profession. I'm not going to yo-yo from high euphoria to the depths of self-deprecating despair. That's all self-indulgent nonsense.... I'm just going to follow my instincts, that voice that spurs you on to accept challenge."

"The Thomas Crown Affair" came in on time and on budget.

The rest of Brosnan's year will be filled with travel. First to Europe for the openings of this movie. Then, in October, it starts all over again with the release of the Bond movie, which was filmed in and around the Caspian Sea. Another world tour is scheduled for that.

"Do you realize my two-year-old son, Dylan, has a passport almost full? Fortunately, Keely and the baby can travel with me. She is writing a book about gardens. She is an environmentalist, journalist, gardener, and above all an excellent writer.

"She's portable, the baby is portable, and life is portable - and very good."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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