007 & the BIG 6-0
Pierce Brosnan turns 60 next month but he's far from the 'old fart' he claims to be. Stephen Milton found the man from Navan to be funny, philosophical and ready to show his vulnerable side
Everyone has their own coping mechanism when faced with a looming milestone birthday. There's denial; some rather frantic bargaining with the devil, or, my own personal tried-and-tested favourite, a cocktail of tears and alcohol.
Pierce Brosnan, however, seems to be leaning heavily on humour. Barely a month shy of his 60th, the star appears to address fears of advancing age with a perplexing comedy routine, adopting a bizarre imitation of Mrs Brown meets Mrs Doyle.
Never knew he had it in him.
"Well, holy God," he says, "I'm going to wake up and have a look in the mirror and, one of these days, I'll look like Methuselah.
"I'll say, 'Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, what in God's name happened to me; what happened to my face?' And they'll all look at me down the town and say, 'What ever happened to that fella? Sure I knew he was an old fart. Didn't I say he was an old fart?'"
It's peculiar to hear Brosnan utter the word 'fart'. Up to this point, he's been tautly composed, offering a deep exhale each time he formulates a ponderous, insightful response.
Creeping towards 10am, the actor enjoyed a gentle jaunt on the beach earlier, steps from his ocean-view villa on Hawaiian island Kauai. Speaking from a sun-drenched terrace, he comments on a pod of dolphins breaking waves in the distance.
It's the 007 retirement plan. Wife Keely is faintly audible in the background while Brosnan delivers his 'fart'-laden comedy routine. A quiet word from his partner seems to break him out of character back to a cool, Bond-style of exchange.
"If I'm honest," he says, in that unmistakeable drawl, "I look at 60 with the greatest humility and gratitude. I'm a blessed man. I have a darling wife who looks after me and a job I love to go to. And, God willing, he'll give me some more time."
More than a decade since he passed the Bond mantle to Daniel Craig, after success at the box office with 'GoldenEye', 'Tomorrow Never Dies', 'The World Is Not Enough' and 'Die Another Day', Brosnan has struggled to find an enduring foothold in Hollywood.
Like previous 007s, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, his desire to exist beyond the shadow of Fleming's super-spy led to some questionable choices.
Middling fare such as 'Seraphim Falls', 'After the Sunset' and Polanksi's contrived 'The Ghost Writer' saw him flounder without a paddle.
He exposed his shortcomings in the vocal department in 'Mamma Mia!' and was lifeless in Sarah Jessica Parker's vanity vehicle, 'I Don't Know How She Does It'.
"I was probably too aware that Bond was still sitting around my shoulders and I wanted to create another world for myself. But there were a few bumps along the way," he admits.
After shooting a big-moneyed Sky Ireland commercial recently on Dublin's South Quays, the Navan-raised star may finally be hitting his stride, post-Bond.
With Nick Hornby's 'A Long Way Down' and promising chemistry alongside Emma Thompson in forthcoming 'Love Punch', Brosnan appears to have turned his attention towards quality.
It's in his latest offering, 'Love Is All You Need' that he displays incredible bravery. In Danish director Susanne Bier's new film, Brosnan plays Philip, a rich, successful man devastated after the passing of his first wife, who finds the strength to move on when he falls for Ida (Trine Dyrholm), the mother of his son's bride.
After encountering her own heartache, Ida wants a second chance at happiness but her breast cancer comes back to haunt the couple.
It's a story that closely reflects the actor's own experience: he lost his first wife, Cassandra, to ovarian cancer in 1991 when she was just 43. They were together for 17 happy years.
"I thought this is the right time for me to be a part of a story like this," he quietly explains, choosing his words carefully. "I set sail with a certain kind of knowledge that I knew this man's heart, that I knew what it was to suffer the loss of a wife. I know something about love, something about being a father. It fit."
The film shows a previously unseen vulnerability in Brosnan, one he felt finally ready to explore.
"It was easier to show myself in this film. I felt a great trust and faith in the company of Susanne and Trine, and the story and structure. And for any family dealing with cancer, especially when a mother gets cancer, the whole unit is affected in a profound way, but this film was always meant as an extremely uplifting film," he says.
Brosnan's adoptive children with Cassandra – Chris and Charlotte from her marriage to David Harris [actor Richard's nephew] – and their son Sean, who was only eight when his mother passed, have yet to see the film. Did he feel the need to discuss the script with them?
"I spoke to my daughter about it and she was so happy for me, but I didn't speak to the boys," he says. "I just go off and do my job. They say, 'What are you doing?', and I say, 'I'm making this wonderful movie in Sorrento', and it's... well, I didn't actually say it was about cancer. I didn't think it was necessary."
Pierce left Ireland at just 11 for London's big smoke. He became an American citizen in 2004 and now splits his time between homes in Malibu and Kauai where he lives with Keely Shaye Smith and their sons Dylan (16) and Paris (12). He married Keely in Ballintubber Castle, Mayo, in 2001
This international arrangement, paired with a mild, untraceable mid-Atlantic burr, has often resulted in uncertainty over Brosnan's nationality.
"It's been happening for the past 40 years," he says between mouthfuls of what sounds like a crunchy cereal. "I don't know how many times I have to say, 'I'm Irish, blood and spirit'. It's where I was born and where my soul will remain."
Shooting the Sky Ireland broadband commercial in the capital last month, Brosnan used his time on home shores wisely. Honoured by the Dublin University Players at Trinity College, he visited his childhood home in Navan with his mum, May, and attended the European premiere of 'Once, The Musical' at the Gaiety with close friend and Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.
Interestingly, only days later, Broccoli would gush about current 007, Daniel Craig, branding him 'the best Bond ever'.
"Well, spade a spade." Brosnan slowly offers, a hesitant, stuttered response conveying genuine surprise.
"[Daniel] is the best Bond ever. But Barbara should know she's not getting a Christmas card from me again."
Brosnan has previously claimed that he's never seen any of his successor's outings, but was 'Skyfall' the exception?
"Well, I had to see the 'Skyfall' of it all," he graciously admits.
"I was making a movie in London last year and every which way I turned, I'd bump into Daniel Craig; on the side of every bus, on the Tube, on every billboard.
"I had no choice and, have to say, I enjoyed it enormously. It was fantastic to see it come out of the box with such panache, grace and storytelling."
Spoiler alert aside – and surely everyone must have seen it by now – did Judi Dench's tragic demise as spy boss 'M' prompt a flash of nostalgia for the star, given that they both began their Bond tenure on 'GoldenEye'?
"I felt a tad envious of Daniel," he says. "To play out that sequence and to have that moment with Judi, it was sad for me. I still remember our first day together, sitting there around a gas heater, in the dead of winter on a sound stage. Both mildly terrified at the work at hand.
"So I felt a lump in my throat while watching that scene. It was difficult, but I had my day in the sun; it was Daniel's time to have that special moment. He earned it."
A wayward bottlenose dolphin breaks the Pacific waves once again, grabbing Brosnan's attention as he puts the phone down.
Several audible 'wows' and 'look at that!' can be heard before the actor finds the receiver again and says: "I'm going to head off now Stephen, do you think you have everything you need there?"
Well, probably not as much as you, Pierce.
'Love Is All You Need' is in cinemas now