Critics liked him; so did the box office. In between his four Bond outings, he made the self-produced The Thomas Crown Affair and Mars Attacks!, directed by Tim Burton. “There’s a wonderful stable of directors I’ve worked with,” he says, “and work I’ve done that has dignity and meaningfulness.”
Brosnan was keen to do a fifth Bond and was full of ideas for making the sex dirtier, the violence more real. He wanted, he said, to get back to the spirit of the original Casino Royale. Did it annoy him when the Bond people did just that, without him? “Yeah! Oh yeah!” He flings his arms wide, fizzes with angst.
“Quentin Tarantino wanted to direct it! Quentin Tarantino! Quentin and I had cocktails one night, and he said: ‘You’re the best f****** Bond! I want to do it with you!’ But they would have nothing to do with me or he.”
He sighs, then laughs a meaningful laugh. “It’s funny because on Goldeneye Barbara [Broccoli] gave me a first edition of Casino Royale, with ‘Here’s to New Beginnings’ on it. Delightful present.”
It’s what Brosnan did next that so endears him to me: make a very funny, dark movie called The Matador, in which he played a hitman going mad. In one scene, he strode through a hotel lobby dressed only in well-packed black underpants and boots. It could have been even more subversive, save that the original script was “too on the nose”.
He honks with laughter. “There’s quite enough ambivalence about my character’s sexuality: I thought me bonking bellhops would be a little too much.” He honks, again. “Yes, The Matador was a sharp left turn. At this point in the career, anything goes.”
He took another sharp left with Mamma Mia!, which, despite featuring Brosnan singing ‘like a water buffalo’ (according to one US critic), has brought him an entirely new, Bond-averse generation of fans.
Whether that includes casting Aaron Johnson and Carey Mulligan in his latest, rather mawkish production, The Greatest, I’m not sure, anyway, they’re there, as are Brosnan and Susan Sarandon. The film is about parents’ grief for a dead son, killed in a car accident.
Brosnan nearly lost Sean to such an accident, off the Pacific Coast Highway. “The phone rings at 4.30am and there’s a man going: ‘Pierce, Pierce, Pierce — please, we’re really f****** up. We’ve had an accident, we’ve gone off the mountain.’ And I was mega miles an hour up the PCH and there’s a helicopter in the sky and an ambulance, and this man saying: ‘We’ve got six victims, one critical.’ And up came my son, on a backboard, straight into the helicopter, and I’m holding his hand, hoping it’s not his last breath.”
Sean recovered after a six-month stay in hospital, and is now acting. Brosnan laughs, forcedly. “So yeah. No acting required. I love the film. It’s not for everyone, but I don’t care. You make the pictures for yourself.”
And, if you’re Pierce Brosnan, you recall the happy, hippy days when you performed in Puckaree, an Irish rock musical, at the Edinburgh Festival and had to prance around the stage, wearing “this mighty, mighty codpiece of a phallus”. He chortles: “I could have laughed from the top of my codpiece!”
Brosnan is now an American citizen — he voted for Obama, for whom he has high hopes — and has homes in Malibu and Hawaii.. He does a lot of charity work, worries about the environment and has been awarded an OBE for services to the film industry.