After enduring his fair share of disappointment and tragedy in life, Pierce Brosnan has attained a measure of serenity that he never expected to find. He has been happily married to Keely Shaye Smith for more than two decades, recently became a grandfather, and is enjoying a pleasant resurgence in his film career, alternating between playing dashing romantic leads as well as menacing Bond-like government operatives.
This September, Brosnan finds himself playing both kinds of characters, which is proof of his enduring appeal and versatility. First up is No Escape, in which he plays a former spy who uses his special skills to help a vacationing American couple (Owen Wilson and Lake Bell) escape from a militant uprising in Southeast Asia. Then comes Some Kind Of Beautiful, a romantic comedy in which he plays a Cambridge professor involved with two sensationally beautiful women (Jessica Alba and Salma Hayek). For Brosnan, work remains an abiding although secondary passion in life.
“I still love making films,” says Brosnan. “It's wonderful to be on a film set and it's fun playing different kinds of characters that feed my creative instincts and allow my imagination to run wild. I also still think I can be better with each role, adding layers to my work that benefit from my own experiences and whatever wisdom I've gained. The only drawback is that I find it stressful to be separated from my family for several months at a time.”
The 62-year-old continues to maintain a lavish home in Kauai, Hawaii, where he and his wife spend several months each year. Their 17-year-old son, Dylan, began working as a model for Saint Laurent Men's Collection line last Autumn. Pierce and Keely have a younger son, Paris, 14.
No Escape comes on the heels of The November Man and Survivor. Do you feel you're having a second coming as a Bond-like figure?
I had stayed away from the genre for many years because I wanted to try my hand at all the other kinds of characters I wanted to play. It wasn't easy for a time to find those roles but I've worked very hard to carry on and do interesting work. But I always felt that there was unfinished business in getting back into the action genre and I enjoy the tension and physicality involved. It's also a good excuse to stay in decent shape.
You seem to be working more than ever these days.
This business has a tendency to be feast or famine. I've enjoyed working with some outstanding directors like Susanne Bier (Love Is All You Need) and Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), and being part of a lot of great stories and wonderful casts. When you've lived a good part of your life on a movie set, you never get tired of the camaraderie and the spirit that comes with the job. At one point lately, I had done seven movies in two years, which is more than I've ever worked. It makes you hungrier.
You're also playing another Lothario-like romantic figure in Some Kind Of Beautiful. What can you tell us about your amorous professor?
Richard has two passions in life—romantic poetry and beautiful women. The latter pursuit is the more dangerous one which leads to a lot of confusion and complications which are mostly his fault. All of which show the absurd roads that love often takes. He's an incurable womaniser who has difficulty curbing his romantic urges.
Did you ever go through a womanising phase?
When I was younger, perhaps. But I was never interested in one-night stands or having a lot of superficial relationships. I've also been married twice and have enjoyed raising two sets of children and all that takes up a lot of time. I'm a man who's very comfortable with the idea of marriage. I lived for 17 years with my first wife, Cassie, and now I've spent 21 years with Keely. That speaks for itself. Keely and I live a very beautiful and calm life together, and she has never objected to the fact that I spend a lot of time away at work, and not even if I'm working with beautiful co-stars like Jessica Alba and Salma Hayek! (Smiles)
Do you find marriage easy?
I think I've been blessed twice in my life by meeting very intelligent and resilient women. I never expected to fall in love again the way I did with Cassie, but then I met Keely and I knew I had found someone with whom I could share my life.
With Keely, we've been able to solve our problems in a very comfortable way without ever letting things get out of hand. Every couple needs to find an accommodation that allows them to live happily and harmoniously together.
But you have to work at it and be very attentive to keeping the spirit and passion alive.
Are you a better father today than ever?
I'm wiser and more attentive to certain things which you notice about your children as they grow older, especially during their teenage years which are the most complicated.
What kind of effect has spending time living in Hawaii had on you?
It's a form of paradise on earth. We have a very beautiful cottage by the sea, fairly isolated, and very peaceful. I like to describe it as Ireland, except the heating is turned on!
I get up a six, make myself a cup of coffee, sit on the terrace and watch the waves roll onto the beach. Then I'll have breakfast with Keely and the boys and spend the rest of the morning painting. Then it's lunchtime, maybe a few hours of surfing, reading, relaxing in the sun, and then, before you know it, you go, "What's for dinner?" It's a very simple and peaceful life. There are very few things that can trouble you, not even my occasionally dour Irish soul.
You've often spoken about how your Catholic faith has been very important to you. Do you still have that same faith today?
Yes. Even if my whole world would fall apart tomorrow, I would still remain devoutly Catholic. I've always tried to enjoy life and make the most of things even during the lowest and most gut-wrenching moments where you feel very lost. But you need to find a way to pull yourself through and your faith and your will are what's going to drag you out of the darkness. We all want to be happy, but it doesn't come easily.
Do people often come up to you and strike up a conversation when they recognise you?
It happens, sure, and when it does I try to be very open and natural and talk about everyday things. I never want to feel isolated from the world and so I love being able to wander about in London or Paris wherever I like. I just have to put on a cap and sunglasses and try to look very anonymous. (Laughs.)
Your son Dylan has recently embarked on a possible career as a model.
His mother and I are very happy for him. It's an opportunity that came at the right time just after he graduated (from high school) and before he begins his studies in film school (in Los Angeles). It all came about by pure accident. He was discovered by Hedi Slimane (Vogue) while sitting at a juice bar coffee shop in Malibu. He took some photos, and gave him his phone number. The next thing we know, he's doing a big fashion shoot for Vogue.
But this is really a temporary job which gives him the chance to earn some money for himself and meet some interesting people. Dylan is also a talented writer and his real aspiration is to become a director. I'm very proud of him.
Your life has been marked by both great and tragic moments. When you look back, what do you make of it all?
There have been tragedies, yes, but I've also had great fortune in life. I aspired to be in the movies, I wanted to become a movie star, I wanted to be Bond, I wanted all the grand things that came with that life. I got it all.
THE INTERVIEW PEOPLE