By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Pierce Brosnan returns to the spy genre in the big screen adaptation of the Bill Granger political thriller “The November Man.”
It’s been nearly a decade since the blue-eyed Irishman delivered his last performance as James Bond in “GoldenEye,” having depicted the iconic British spy on three previous outings (“Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The World Is Not Enough” and “Die Another Day”). He obviously was a bit miffed when the producers enlisted English actor Daniel Craig to take over as 007 for 2006’s “Casino Royale.”
But, as the saying goes, living well is the best revenge. Brosnan has enjoyed a successful post-Bond movie career. His first big hit was 2005’s “The Matador,” a critically acclaimed film in which he played a jaded assassin. He subsequently co-starred with fellow Irish actor Liam Neeson in the underrated revenge drama “Seraphim Falls.” He even ventured into the musical genre with the critically scorned but publicly welcomed big screen adaptation of “Mamma Mia!” alongside Meryl Streep.
“The November Man” is based on “There Are No Spies,” one of Granger’s 13-novel series, which means if the Roger Donaldson-directed spy film connects with audiences, the 61-year-old actor may have his next spy franchise. He stars in the film opposite Olga Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”) and Luke Bracey (the upcoming remake of “Point Break.”)
Dressed in a blue suit for an interview, Brosnan discussed “The November Man,” which he produced through his company, Irish Dreamtime. He plays a decidedly un-Bond-like ex-spy named Peter Devereaux who is lured back into the spy game to save someone close to his heart. When that effort fails, he has to find a way to protect a woman who is the key to resolving a decades-old conspiracy.
Q: Did you hesitate to do another spy film because you thought audiences might associate the character with James Bond?
Brosnan: No that never entered into the equation. It just seemed like unfinished business. I was contracted for four movies with James Bond. I saved the world four times. (He chuckles.) There was supposed to be a fifth, but it was never meant to be. I think that was grist for the mill. So, to go out there and find a piece like “The November Man” and do it my way… Cue song. But it was as simple as that. I’ve known my producing partner, Beau (St. Clair), for a long time. We’ve enjoyed many trials and tribulations. She wanted this for me. She wanted me to go back into this game and pick up the gun. As I was watching the movie at the premiere the other day, I thought, “I should’ve picked up the gun sooner! Made more money! Made business!” (He laughs.) My wife, Keely, said, “I told you you should’ve done it. I told you.” I said, “No, you didn’t.” And she said, “Yes, I did.” So there’s an embroidery of friendship and family.
Q: Are you going to do a sequel to “The November Man?”
Brosnan: That’s what we hope. (My producer partner) It’s Beau St. Clair’s and my intentions and wishes and desire. We’ll see. Also, we were pleased to find someone as wonderful and fresh and exhilarating and diamond-in-the-rough as (co-star) Luke Bracey is.
Q: You shot this in Serbia. What was it like to work there?
Brosnan: It was a joy. I knew Belgrade. I was there before the war, before the war and after the war. I did a mini-series, “Around The World In 80 Days.” I had a little franchise, right before I did James Bond, playing a mercenary, and we shot two movies there. So I knew the landscape of the people and the climate, and the great trauma that had befallen the Balkans. The book was set in Berlin, but we didn’t have the money to go to Berlin. This film was made for a really conservative amount of money, and so to get a bigger bang for the buck, we were trying to find a landscape that hadn’t been used. Roger (Donaldson) fell in love with it, and that’s how that happened. The Serbian actors and crew embraced us, and likewise. It was hard work, but also exhilarating. We shot in Belgrade and Montenegro. Beautiful. It’s just so wonderful to go to far-flung places—Papua New Guinea, Berlin and Montenegro—to make movies. It gives you so much insight into the character.
Q: You’ve enjoyed a successful post-Bond career, with “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “The Matador,” and smaller, independent dramas like “Evelyn.” You haven’t been pigeonholed as a spy. You can do a film like this, but it’s just one of the many things in your arsenal.
Brosnan: Well, thank you. I knew there was work to be done. I was trained as an actor to play many roles. I was led to believe that I had some versatility, some talent, some sense of performance. Going into James Bond, there’s only one way to do it, and that’s to do it right, because I’d seen men go before me in the role. I had great admiration for them all. So I knew that I was going to have a hard road, coming out the other end, trying to define myself as an actor, an artist, a performer.
Q: You’re also an artist and an activist and, it seems to me, you are working on a boatload of movies right now. And you’re a father. Your sons are almost grown, but not quite yet. How do you balance everything?
Brosnan: Just by the skin of my teeth, and my good wife, who holds the hearth and home together and guides the ship. I did seven movies in two years. It’s feast or famine being an actor. It’s a capricious game.
Q: With your production company, you’ve been able to kind of maintain some kind of control over your career. You’ve kind of made your own things happen. Do you look back and think how smart it was to start your own production company?
Brosnan: (The late Columbia Pictures president) Dawn Steel, god bless her, gave me a deal many years ago. She saw me in “Noble House,” a miniseries that I did. She liked the look of me, and gave me a producing deal. I sat there at that studio for a long time, going up to (agent) Gareth Wigan, with Chekhovian stories, stuff that was completely unacceptable in this town. I was there for about a year-and-a-half. I (had an office) between Madonna and Cher in a little bungalow. But life goes on, and I became James Bond. Lloyd Phillips, Beau’s dear husband/partner, who passed away last year, said to me after “Golden Eye” became a success, “You and Beau should get together to produce movies.” One time, we were in Malibu having lunch, and he mentioned that, and I said to him, “OK, give me a quarter.” I put the quarter in the phone, and called (United Artists’) John Calley, who was then the head of the company, and I said, “John, you said if I ever wanted to speak to you, or have a meeting, to call you. Well, I’m sitting here with my friend, my producing partner. Can we come and see you?” He said, “Yeah, Coogie’s (restaurant), Tuesday at 10 a.m.” And then I went back to the table and I said to them, “Beau and I have got a meeting with John Calley.” When we met with John I thought it was going to be a quick 15-20 minutes, but it ended up being three hours. He gave Beau and I an office. Beau said to me, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I don’t know, something Irish.”
Q: What was your first project produced?
Brosnan: (The Ireland-set family drama) “The Nephew.” After that, Beau and I were big fans of (actor) Steve McQueen. She said to me, “Did you ever watch (him in the 1968 version of) ‘The Thomas Crown Affair?’” And I said, “I love it. I love the music!” The song, “The Windmills Of Your Mind’. We got a copy from Blockbuster and watched it again. And then we remade that.
Q: How did “The Matador” come about?
Brosnan: ‘The Matador” was sent to us by (director) Richard Shepard, who loved “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and he sent it to us as a writing sample, for (the sequel), and I said, “No, let’s just do this! Let’s shoot this!”
Q: You’re playing King Louis XIV in “The Moon and the Sun.” Have you already finished filming that?
Brosnan: Oh, yes. It’s in the can.
Q: Did you have the whole get-up with the powdered wigs and stockings?
Brosnan: No, no, no. In this day and age, they take history and skewer it. This is a Bill Mechanic (produced) film. Bill has wanted to do this for many years. The Vonda N. McIntyre book is much loved. It’s in the court of Louis XIV, but it’s a fable. It’s a fable about Louis wanting to have immortality. The mermaid, (Chinese actress) Fan Bingbing, is the heart song, the young girl that’s sequestered in the convent. It’s a love story. It’s a gorgeous piece. My Louis is Jim Morrison meets Alexander McQueen meets Tom Ford—all rock and roll!