At the time, though, Brosnan had no reservations about leaving the spy game behind.
“You have to follow your instincts and your heart,” he says.”The way the Bond kind of fell apart did leave a certain void there of what to do next. The bottom line is entertainment.”
Since his fourth and final Bond film, Die Another Day (2002), Brosnan has made nearly two dozen movies. Some, including The Matador (2005), Mama Mia! (2008), The Ghost Writer (2010) and Love Is All You Need (2012), were successful, but none has had the global reach and financial firepower of the Bond films.
Sitting for an interview in a West Hollywood hotel suite, the 61-year-old actor still looks dashing in a navy-blue jacket, black shirt and black pants. His face is lined, and some gray is visible around the sideburns.
“I tint it up (to meet the press),” Brosnan says,”but I love seeing the gray. I’m trying to grow old gracefully. It will knock you down if you try and rally against it. I have no desire to have any nips or tucks.”
Brosnan looks the part in The November Man, playing Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent who is dragged back into action. As for the title, it speaks to his lethal skill as a killer. As someone says in the film,”Know what we used to call you, Peter? The November Man because, after you passed through, nothing lived.”
Set in Serbia and Moscow, the film deals with a CIA mole, human trafficking, a Russian election and a cat-and-mouse game between Devereaux and a former prot`g` (Luke Bracey). There is plenty of intrigue, lots of spilled blood and hints of romance with Olga Kurylenko, a former Bond girl who played opposite Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace (2008).
“In Quantum she was a bit underused,” Brosnan says.”Girls tend to be a little misplaced in those films. In our film she just shines. She brings vulnerability, simplicity and a wounded soul. She struts her stuff (in a key scene), and it’s like ‘Yay!’ I love it.”
Whatever ill feelings the actor has about the end of his run as Bond, they don’t extend to his successor.
“Daniel does such a magnificent Bond,” he says.”His ferocious commitment to the character is dazzling and beguiling.”
Meanwhile, though, if audiences ignore the lack of gadgets and gag lines in The November Man, Devereaux could almost be 007 retired.
“That’s the idea,” Brosnan says.”When Bond slipped away quietly, off stage left, I had a sense of unfinished business.”
His producing partner of 18 years, Beau St. Clair, thought that the 13 books in Granger’s November Man series had the potential for a franchise.
“The November Man has a complexity of character and storytelling which is a throwback to the Cold War,” Brosnan says.”We tried to make this film as relevant as possible.
“The circle of history repeats itself,” he continues.”Poor humans! With the events that are now happening in the Ukraine, we look like we’re geniuses. It’s a sweet twist of fate and luck and timing for us as filmmakers.”
Brosnan admits that he is drawn to stories of intrigue.
“There is something in my DNA that loves the world of weaponry and violence,” he says.”I’m just a lad at heart. When I was a kid in Ireland, I liked playing cowboys and Indians. I always loved being the Indian and using bows and arrows.”
As he grew older Brosnan considered joining the military.
“Army life fascinated me,” he recalls.”I was in the Army Cadets for many years. I was a good shot, a marksman.”
He didn’t consider espionage as a career, which probably was a good thing.
“I’m the complete antithesis of these men as portrayed,” Brosnan says.”I like peacefulness and kindheartedness. I enjoy the company of artists and poets. I have no desire to pick up weapons. They’re very seductive and they’re very scary.
“Spying requires patience,” he continues.”You have to know how to dissemble and charm. You have to know how to ingratiate yourself in many levels of society and work between the shadows of the day. Mostly it’s about getting to know somebody in Hong Kong, the manager of a local hotel or diplomats. It’s all about the contacts, how you get information. You have to know how to seduce and cajole and inveigle your way into people’s lives.”
Has he even been approached by a spy agency?
“To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t,” Brosnan says.”I’ve met people along the way who’ve been connected to and part of the world of information. They really get you at a young age. I couldn’t do it. I work for no one but myself.”
Brosnan has been a free agent almost from birth. His father opted out early on and, when he was 4, his mother left him with relatives in order to train as a nurse in London. Seven years passed before she brought him to live with her.
As a youth Brosnan planned to become a commercial artist.
“I left school at 15,” he recalls,”with a cardboard folder of drawings and paintings. That was my passport out to a creative life.”
Before he could establish himself in his chosen field, however, Brosnan got sidetracked into acting. Three years of training at the Drama Center in London led to his acting debut in a theatre production of ‘Wait Until Dark’ (1976) in York, England.
The next year Tennessee Williams chose him to star in the British premiere of ‘The Red Devil Battery Sign’ (1977). The miniseries ‘The Manions of America’ (1981) brought Brosnan to the attention of American audiences, and the hit television series ‘Remington Steele’ (1982-1987) made him a household name. Then came the invitation to replace Timothy Dalton as James Bond, and the rest is Hollywood history.
Brosnan shows no signs of slowing down. His company, Irish Dreamtime, is developing a series about the Crusades, and he has four films awaiting release.
In the fantasy The Sun and the Moon, he plays King Louis XIV.
“It’s Louis XIV meets Alexander McQueen meets Tom Ford,” Brosnan says.”There are no ruffles and tights. It’s rock ‘n’ roll.”
After a stretch of comedies, though, including The Love Punch (2013) and A Long Way Down (2014), most of his upcoming films are tense and action-packed.
The actor describes his character in The Coup as ‘a fixer’.
“He helps a family in Cambodia when all hell breaks loose,” Brosnan says.”He’s messed up, but knows how to handle a gun and how to kill. He’s a pretty serious dude.”
Brosnan is equally tough in Survivor, in which his character is”a hit man, cold, lethal and bizarre,” he says.”He’s a watchmaker, and he’s exceptionally good at what he does.”
As a change of pace, How to Make Love Like an Englishman is a romantic romp that casts Brosnan as”an English professor at Cambridge, a bit of a bad boy, who has his way with all the young students,” he says.”He’s operating under the shadow of his father (Malcolm McDowell), who was a brilliant lecturer.”
Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba co-star as stepsisters.
“I like stories that make my heart skip a beat when I read them,” Brosnan says.
That’s not his only criterion these days, though. After making seven films in two years, he likes to quote a remark by Robert Mitchum, the bad-boy star of 1950s Hollywood.
“People asked Mitchum what he looked for in a script,” Brosnan says,”and his answer was ‘Days off.’ I look for days off too. They’re nice to have once in a while.”