(This Playboy Interview ran in December 2005)
Pierce Brosnan was recently informed that his martinis will no longer be shaken or stirred because the holders of the James Bond franchise want a new and younger 007. And yet, sipping champagne at his Hawaiian home overlooking the Pacific, Brosnan, hardly a codger at 52, acts as if having been released from Bondage was the best thing that ever happened to him. No wonder: He has a regular spot on various magazines’ lists of the era’s sexiest and best-looking people, and his latest performance — in the dark comedy The Matador — has won acclaim at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival. This is his opportunity to reinvent himself, and he claims he’s taking advantage of it.
Best known as everyone’s favorite post–Sean Cannery Bond, Brosnan has a diverse set of films to his credit, ranging from Mars Attacks! to Dante’s Peak to After the Sunset. Through his film production company, Irish DreamTime, launched in 1996, he also developed, produced and co-starred in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, with Rene Russo, and *Laws of Attraction, *with Julianne Moore, in 2004.
An only child, Brosnan grew up near Dublin. His father, a carpenter, abandoned him and his mother when Brosnan was an infant. His mother moved to England to study nursing, leaving her baby with her parents, both of whom died when Brosnan was six years old. He then lived with a succession of family members and friends and attended a harsh and punitive Catholic school until, at 11, he was reunited with his mother in London. There he was an indifferent student until he entered the Drama Centre and found his calling.
Brosnan jumped to the big screen in 1980 with small roles in The Long Good Friday and The Mirror Crack’d. Moving to Hollywood in 1982, he landed what became a five-season stint on television as the slick private eye Remington Steele. In 1986, with Steele going strong, public opinion polls about potential James Bonds put Brosnan ahead of such other stars as Tom Selleck, Jeremy Irons and Mel Gibson. But Brosnan was contractually stuck on TV. It took nine years, but the public finally got what it wanted when Brosnan was cast as 007 in 1995’s GoldenEye. His four Bond films went on to earn nearly $1.5 billion.
In 1980 he married Cassandra Harris, an Australian. From a previous marriage, Harris had two young children, whom Brosnan adopted, and the couple had one son together. Harris died of cancer in 1991 with her husband at her bedside. In 2001 Brosnan married Keely Shaye Smith, an environmentalist and former actress, with whom he has two sons.
We sent Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello, who last interviewed Ewan McGregor for Playboy, to sit down with Brosnan at his estate on Kauai’s north shore. His report: “Besides his wife, Brosnan was surrounded by a group of gorgeous female friends and staff — he calls them the mermaids — who discreetly buzzed around the place, making sure there was plenty of food and champagne. You can’t walk away unimpressed, and I don’t mean just by the gracious house and lush grounds. Brosnan is absurdly good-looking and comes off as a bright, decent guy who has reached a place in his life where his work and his psyche are opening up in exciting ways. He is unassuming and friendly and very much aware of the great challenges ahead of him. After a decade of politically correct Bond movies, he seems extremely happy to have reclaimed his balls.”
Playboy: Were you ready to step down as James Bond?
Brosnan: It would have been a trip to do another one. I prepared myself to do it. I psyched myself. But they have set sail. They made their decision. They want to reinvent it and make it a period piece. They want to get a younger guy.
Playboy: How does it feel to be told that you’re too old?
Brosnan: It was kind of shocking to have ageism come on me when I was just getting started. It’s shocking to be told that you’re too old, that you’re past your sell-by date.
Playboy: Do we detect some bitterness?
Brosnan: It’s bloody frustrating that the fuckers pulled out the rug when they did. It was like, “Come on, we’re family here. You talk about being a family. You knew my late wife; you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you’ve shut down negotiations because you don’t know how, where or which way to go and that you’ll call me next Friday?” What can I say? It’s cold, it’s juvenile, and it shouldn’t be done like that, not after 10 years and four films.
Playboy: After the initial shock did you feel a sense of relief?
Brosnan: Later, yes, I had a wonderful feeling of liberation: “Ahhhh. I’m free of it.” I’ll always be known as Bond, but now I don’t have the responsibility of being an ambassador for a small country ruled by a character.
Playboy: How do you assess your Bond films?
Brosnan: All the movies made money. Creatively, maybe, they could have been stronger, but they were Bond movies, and they advanced a certain degree out of the doldrums where they had been. They were tricky to do. I never really felt as though I nailed it. As soon as they put me into the suit and tie and gave me those lines of dialogue, I felt restricted. It was like the same old same old. I was doing Roger Moore doing Sean Connery doing George Lazenby. I felt as if I were doing a period piece that had been dusted off. They never really took the risks they should have.
Playboy: Do you regret joining the series just when Bond became politically correct and all the sex and rowdy fun was toned down?
Brosnan: It was sad to pick up the reins and then have these restrictions. It would have been great to light up and smoke cigarettes, for instance. It would have been great to have the killing a little bit more real and not wussed down. My boys watch the movies on DVD, so I see them from time to time. I see myself with nowhere to go, and it’s all rather bland.
Playboy: Do you agree that there were missed opportunities for sex, such as with Halle Berry in Die Another Day?
Brosnan: It would have been great to have sex scenes that were right on the button. I remember doing a sex scene with Halle — I mean frolicking in the bed — and there was director Lee Tamahori right under the sheets with us like some mad Kiwi, saying, “All right, now, where are you going to put your hands? Where are you going to grab her?” I said excitedly, “Is this how you’re going to shoot it? Are you going to bring the camera in under the sheets?” If only, man, if only. The way we ended up doing it was almost like the old days in Hollywood: kissing the girl but still having your feet on the floor.
Playboy: Who, for you, is the Bond girl who got away?
Brosnan: Monica Bellucci is a ravishing beauty — a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. She screen-tested to be a Bond girl a while back, and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the day instead. Uma Thurman is another magnificent beauty and a fine actress. We’ve come around to talking about a sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair. Again it’s a love story and a romance, but this time it’s not going to be with Rene Russo. So we’ve been thinking about women, and there are just stunning women out there.
Playboy: You mentioned Teri Hatcher. Purportedly you clashed physically with her during the making of Tomorrow Never Dies. What happened?
Brosnan: The Teri Hatcher incident was blown out of proportion. She was late to the set because she was newly pregnant. I didn’t know that until the end of the day.
Playboy: Did you slap her, or did she slap you? Apparently there were hearty cheers from the crew.
Brosnan: She didn’t slap me. I didn’t slap her. I was vexed because I had a call time of six or seven A.M., and we didn’t do any work until three or four in the afternoon. No one told me her situation until afterward. By that time I’d already shot my mouth off and cussed and moaned and groaned. That’s all it was, a storm in a teacup.
Playboy: Have you ever been tough to deal with on the set?
Brosnan: I don’t think so. Not consistently. I have my days, and as I get older I have more days. You bark or you snap at times. But ultimately I’ve tried to please, which is one of my downfalls and weaknesses. I try to please them, to be liked, accepted. I’ve never had unpleasantness with anyone. I don’t allow it to happen. I’d rather nip it in the bud. That stuff usually comes from insecurity. You just let it rage, burn out. And you kill it with kindness, talk to it, try to understand it, then leave it alone.
Playboy: How about George Lazenby, who played 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? He once said about you, “If he walked into a room, I doubt anyone would look up. But this is the 1990s, and women want a man who shows his feminine side. Pierce definitely has that.”
Brosnan: George is just an angry, old, pissed-off guy. He was never an actor but some pissed-off Aussie who doesn’t know how to show his feminine side. I met him, and he’s got that kind of brittle edge to him. People want to take swipes. I have no idea why.
Playboy: Whom would you choose as the next 007?
Brosnan: Clive Owen would have been a very strong contender. He’s a good actor, but why would he want to do it? He has a glorious career going. He’s done some very fine work and survived King Arthur.
Playboy: In your new movie, The Matador, you play a hilariously troubled hit man who hooks up with a beaten-down businessman in a Mexico City bar. In some ways, do you view the character as an antidote to James Bond?
Brosnan: When the fuckers try to hem you in with Bond, it’s great to come back with The Matador. It’s great to say, “Fuck you, asshole. Fuck you, who wouldn’t give me a job. Fuck you, who thought I was some wuss. Fuck you, who thought I was a pretty boy. Fuck you, who thought anything of me without even knowing me or giving me the chance. Fuck you.” But if you go around with all that inside you all the time, you end up completely mangled, so you have to let it go.
Playboy: In the movie you strut around swilling beer in nothing but a Speedo and boots. You look like a rock star gone to hell. You’re funny but also desperate and sad.
Brosnan: This script just made me howl because it’s so over-the-top outrageous. The way I’m perceived, the box I find myself in — the corner into which I’ve painted myself — made it seem like a great idea. The character is a sad fuckup of a fellow who has just shagged his way through life. He loves to blow the shit out of people and is paid good money to do it. But he’s just a lonely guy and a great vulgarian.
Playboy: In one scene, you borrow nail polish from a woman you’ve just had sex with and paint your toenails black. How strange was that?
Brosnan: I just thought it was a great image. It’s never explained. Does he do that all the time, or has he done it before? He’s slightly mental. The writing was so clever and snappy. It was great because it wasn’t tailored to me. If you have too many things tailored to you, you don’t have any room to grow as an actor. You just play it safe the whole time instead of playing a character.
Playboy: Did you ever worry that you were going too far with it?
Brosnan: I actually got cold feet about the whole thing and said, “I can’t do it. It’s just too out there,” because of the sexuality and some of the stuff that would be coming out of my mouth. I like the ambiguity of not knowing which way he swings. He likes the whole world — pussy, blow jobs, animals, you name it — but some of the references in the script made me think, You know, you don’t want to turn the audience off. You want them to have sympathy for this character. So we toned it down.
Playboy: Even toned down, you’re probably going to freak out your fans who think of you only as the debonair Bond.
Brosnan: [Laughs] Yeah. And I grew this strange kind of Village People mustache and had this buzzed haircut. When I did the scene walking through the hotel in a Speedo and boots, with the gut hanging out, the skinny legs and ass, smoking a cigarette and drinking a Heineken, it was like, “Fuck you, Brosnan. Fuck you to everything.” When you get to play like that in a piece like this, it’s not as if you’re bulletproof or anything, but I have nothing to lose by doing it.
Playboy: You not only act in this movie but also your company produced it. Are you worried about how big an audience it will attract?
Brosnan: I would like to see this film be a glorious poke in the eye to certain parties and to be a success and to have other glorious roles follow in its wake. If Fantastic Four and superhero movies are what people go to see, maybe it won’t be in that league. But I think there’s an audience out there for this — grown-ups who want to listen to good, twisted dialogue and watch nuance. The ones who are switched on and have their finger on the pulse will get it and will love seeing me revel in it. It would also be nice if we and others make our money back. But The Matador is a delightful jolt. I was able to give a performance that hasn’t been requested of me all that often. I look a certain way and stand, walk and sound a certain way. I always saw myself as a character actor, but early on somebody told me I was a leading man. I believed him and went that route. But having been trained as an actor to play character, I was led to believe that I had more than one character in me.
Playboy: Your performance in the movie makes us wonder where the edgy, funny, twisted madman has been hiding all these years.
Brosnan: Yeah, I’m generally pretty guarded and cautious — too much so at times. I think it comes mostly from sitting on fear. You become cautious at times, and sometimes you stop believing in yourself. I’ve looked at it from that perspective. I’ve also looked at it from the perspective of pure laziness, that I’ve kind of gotten by and had the luck of the Irish. A lot of it, though, is probably from having dealt with that little knuckle of fear in my life since my childhood.
Playboy: Were you a cool kid, or were you mocked and teased?
Brosnan: Oh, let’s not start talking about the mockery. I had my share of mockery, that’s for sure. That’s a painful one. I didn’t really have it until I went from Ireland to London. I had grown up with my mother in the Irish countryside on the river Boyne, which back in the early 1950s was quite lush and remote and tranquil. In London, when I rejoined my mother in 1964 after she’d gone away to school, suddenly I was the true fish out of water. I was the token Paddy in this large school in Putney, South London. It was the first sting, the first whiplash of being in a strange land.
Playboy: Was the sting mostly verbal, or did it get physical?
Brosnan: It started verbally because of my not knowing the language in some respects and also with the deep realization that I was lacking education. I couldn’t read or write at the age of 11 when I came from Ireland. I was really backward. I had been in England only a week, and the first morning, my mother dropped me off at this enormous comprehensive school of 2,000 kids with all the grades massed together. I had to stand up in class and name my section. Mine was called 30-A. When I stood up, with my Irish accent I said, “Tirty-A” There were peals of laughter. Then the young chap who sat beside me proceeded to call me Irish because he couldn’t or didn’t want to say Pierce.
Playboy: Did the nickname Irish stick?
Brosnan: That and Spastic, a name I also got my first day in school. When the day ended and my mother asked, “How was it?” I said, “They laughed at me when I said ‘Tirty-A.’ She had to tell me how to pronounce it th. And I told her I had a new nickname, Spastic, and I hadn’t even known what it meant.
Playboy: Did you ever fight back?
Brosnan: By the end of the first week or so I had my first crush on a girl. She liked me back, but nothing happened. One day the guy who called me Spastic started to mock this girl. I beat the snot out of him. I ended up going to the housemaster and getting caned. It got me accepted into the clan. So my education was not the greatest. It was mainly about mockery, fighting and using humor to find my way out. The name Irish became an emblem I wore. I thought, Well, I am Irish, and I’m the only Irish kid in this school. So that was that.
Playboy: What other survival tools did you use?
Brosnan: A lot of self-deprecating humor. I took what could have been an ugly moment — maybe having to get into a fight — and found a release valve with humor. I also mastered the art of dissembling, disguising who you are and learning how to blend in. I picked up the Cockney accent fairly quickly to survive.
Playboy: Your father left when you were an infant. Next, your young mother left for London, and you stayed with your grandparents in Ireland. When they died you were raised by various relatives. It can’t have been all that easy.
Brosnan: When in the past I’ve talked about my childhood, people have made it sound extremely bleak and desolate. Written on the page, it is. But within it I had a wonderful sense of myself and being on my own adventure, because I knew I was definitely on my own.
Playboy: What was the impact of being left on your own at such a young age?
Brosnan: That’s hard to talk about. I think there was so much pain and loneliness that I learned to always cut it off pretty quick and bury it. So it’s hard to talk about. Certain images come. I don’t remember my father, Tom. He left early, bless his heart. I think he had a problem with drinking, because my mother spoke of such things. He was painted in very dark tones, but it was all hush-hush. You never knew what was going on. I mean, even if somebody was having a baby back then, it was always spelled out b-a-b-y. It was as Neanderthal as that. There wasn’t much consistency in my life. There was no plateau of comfort, no consistency or trusting of love.
Playboy: What impact did that have?
Brosnan: For me it was always a question of survival.
Playboy: After your father abandoned you, did you get angry at your mother when she left too?
Brosnan: My mother suffered greatly from it. We’ve made so much peace and had so much good love since then. It took great courage on her behalf to leave, because they would talk down to you publicly from the church pulpits in those days. The 1950s were a brutal time in southern Ireland to be a young woman 20 years of age and have a baby and no husband. The church had a mighty throttlehold on people and their emotions. It was all built on ugly, disgusting fear that came from the most beautiful words of Jesus and the Bible.
Playboy: In the early 1960s you went to a Catholic boys’ school in Navan, Ireland run by Christian Brothers.
Brosnan: I could never understand getting the shit kicked out of me while trying to say the “Our Father” just because some Christian Brother had a bee in his bonnet that day. I watched another kid who came late to school get thumped up against the door. These men were deeply frustrated. They were sexually repressed — buttoned down, hammered and shackled. Yet other people speak highly of them. I never had any bad sexual encounters. I was never molested. I never knew of any boys who were molested, so I cannot speak of such grave ills against the innocent.
Playboy: Given that repressive environment, when did you first discover sex?
Brosnan: Some Irish go from that sexual repression to violence and drink, while some go to great heights. I left Ireland when I was 11, and at that point I had hardly any sexual understanding of life. I was innocent. Nobody even spoke of where babies come from. I never saw any sexuality at all because I was living with my grandparents and an aunt and uncle, and that was all behind closed doors. I learned it all when I went to England. Before that it never crossed my mind. When you’re fearful in life, when you have a childhood like that, when you have such a transient lifestyle at such a young age and a loss — an abandonment or, better word, separation — it closes down a huge part of your growth rhythms, including your sexual awareness. I think it makes sense that it represses the libido, which at that tender age should be blossoming mischievously, curiously and with wild abandon. Once I discovered my dick, however, it was the best thing ever. I have my geography teacher to thank. She wore these beautiful cashmere sweaters and tight skirts. She had blonde bobbed hair, a beautiful ass, a beautiful tummy and nice curved thighs. I wasn’t quite sure where they all came together, what that meant or what it looked like, so unfortunately it was nothing more than fantasies. But the fantasies were colorful. She brought out the happy smile on my young face, she and Barbara Windsor, the blonde who starred in the Carry On movies in the 1960s. Barbara Windsor’s tits — I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for them. Ah, yes, Barbara’s boobies.
Playboy: Did they remain your templates for sexy women?
Brosnan: That geography teacher did it, really — the tall blonde.
Playboy: Did any other famous blondes attract you?
Brosnan: Jessica Lange. I’ve always been extremely attracted to her. I just love the way she moves, and she’s got a fine body and an even greater talent. I’ve also always loved brown-eyed girls, like in the Van Morrison song.
Playboy: Did you dress and talk like cool guys from the movies in those days?
Brosnan: Actually the first movie I saw was a James Bond, Goldfinger, in 1964. Before that there wasn’t enough money for me to go to the movies. Even then, movies didn’t really kick in for me until around Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, so it was Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. The heat went up a bit then in the culture. That whole era was coming to its apex. I became a mod but a mod without a Vespa. I couldn’t afford one. I had a bicycle, but you can’t go around dressed like a mod and ride a bicycle.
Playboy: When did you have your first sexual experience?
Brosnan: I was 16 or 17. Up until that point I’d had a girlfriend. Carol was her name — my first love. She was in South London. With her it was just kissing and fondling, discovering breasts and speaking of love on her doorstep and upstairs in her bedroom while her parents were shopping. There was no loss of virginity, just a broken heart and an innocent romance. At that point I used to think sperm had legs — they could crawl up your thigh. With Carol it never went beyond that because there was a dreadful fear of a b-a-b-y, which put the fear of God in me.
Playboy: When did you know that you wanted to act?
Brosnan: I had no idea what I was going to do. My first real job in London after I left school at 15 or 16 was as a trainee commercial artist. I just thought being an artist was a groovy thing to do. Through art I could delve into any pain and put down my anger, frustration and seething resentment of the fuckers who had tried to buckle me up and shackle me down. I finally got a job in a tiny studio in Putney. I had a shit education but managed to bullshit my way into this studio for some reason. They had about five artists. I got £10 a week to water the spider plants, make the tea and draw straight lines. They called me Pierce. I was no longer called Irish. When I became a trainee commercial artist, I wanted to do album covers. The music scene had just popped. I’d get to go to the Lyceum and see Pink Floyd in concert and then go back to a buddy’s house. We’d get an old projector, put some oil paint on it, make a little mandala on the wall and play our own kind of show. We’d lie down and smoke a bit of hash.
Playboy: When did you first try acting?
Brosnan: My mother remarried a great man, William Carmichael, who is my father to this day. I was 15 or 16, living with my parents, and I had this job and some money, and I began to find books and literature. One day I was making a cup of tea for all the guys at work. I was talking to one of them, a guy from the photo studio upstairs. He mentioned the Oval House, an experimental theater where he was doing workshops. Two days later I went. I wasn’t going there to be an actor, but I loved movies and I knew this was a place where I could talk about movies, photography, the Super 8 stuff. I had long hair, an earring, a little goatee and a big army coat, which was groovy at the time. I joined this workshop in which we all lay down on the floor and hummed, then got up and wandered around the room with our eyes closed feeling one another’s faces and bodies. Well, fuck me, man. If this is acting, I’ll take some of this. You know, there were beautiful girls. You’d think, I’d like to go over there and have a grope with her.
Playboy: Did the groping continue outside of class?
Brosnan: I met wonderful girls there — ballet dancers, actresses. The first girl I slept with was this gorgeous, voluptuous girl, Harriet. She was Botero-esque. She thought I was like a lightning bolt in her world, and I liked being a lightning bolt. I took it and ran with it for all it was worth. But mostly I was focused on my career. The plays we did were very experimental. Once I realized I enjoyed acting, I thought I’d better get an education in it. I thought I had better learn technique, to figure out what was behind the book covers. At 18 or 19 I auditioned for all the big drama schools. I mean, I was a lightning bolt. Harriet said so. At my first audition I was so lightning-boltish that I literally fell off the stage from nerves. For my next audition, at Drama Centre, I went with a bit more humility and got in with a scholarship. I was just glad someone had accepted me, that someone wanted me. During my three years of drama school I met one girl, fell in love with her and was with her the whole time.
Playboy: How did your mother and stepfather take to your acting ambitions?
Brosnan: They were very open and supportive. My dad, a quiet and dignified man, a true Scotsman and a strong workingman, was a bit worried that I might turn gay or that I was trying to tell him I was gay. I said, “No, Dad, I just want to be an actor. It’s a job, a passion.” If my mother and father had said no, I would have done it anyway.
Playboy: Did you ever consider any other way of making a living?
Brosnan: Because my grades were so dreadful, art and English were it, really. I thought about going into the army for a while. I thought about becoming a cop. I actually went through the cop exam, but luckily my math was abysmal. Otherwise I would have been a British bobby.
Playboy: After graduating, one of your earliest opportunities came in 1977 when Tennessee Williams picked you for the West End premiere production of his play The Red Devil Battery Sign. Did you get to know Williams?
Brosnan: We hung out a little bit, got drunk together. It didn’t take much to get Tennessee drunk in those days because there weren’t the innards there to hold on to the booze. He’d already lived high off the hog. He was a real gent, stylish. He had that Southern drawl, the straw hat. He sent me a telegram on the First night that read, “Thank God for you, my dear boy. Love, Tennessee Williams.” That was a good beginning, to have had these little affirmations that you have the talent.
Playboy: How secure are you about your talent?
Brosnan: I’ve always questioned whether I have any talent at all. How good is it? Where is it? How big is it? When am I going to see it?
Playboy: What brought you to the U.S.?
Brosnan: I got married in 1980. It was Cassandra, my late wife, who said, “Let’s do it. Let’s go out there.” I wanted to but didn’t know how the hell we were going to get there. We had bought a house in Wimbledon, which I still have. She came up with this idea that you could get a second mortgage on the central heating system, so we borrowed £2,000 and hopped on one of those cheap flights that Freddie Laker used to run. You brought your own sandwiches. It was sort of like the way it is now on airlines, only now it’s much less hospitable.
Playboy: Did it take you a long time to find work in Hollywood?
Brosnan: The first interview I went to that first day, driving across Laurel Canyon in my rented lime-green Pacer with a torn seat cushion, was for Remington Steele, and I got the job.
Playboy: Were you hoping for a TV series?
Brosnan: I came to California dreaming of working with Martin Scorsese, of working with the down-and-dirty experimental types, but they gave me Remington Steele, and I couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It quickly became apparent that I was on this TV treadmill and that it was a monstrous machine.
Playboy: Between Remington Steele and your landing the Bond franchise, Cassandra lost her four-year battle with ovarian cancer in 1991. You were by her side. Did your experience give you any special insight into the recent Terri Schiavo case?
Brosnan: The Schiavo case got an extreme amount of attention — painfully and embarrassingly and not in a very dignified fashion. I dealt with those issues on a very personal level with my wife. She went on dialysis at the end. The dialysis was brutal. Finally I said, “Stop it.” It wasn’t like she was on life support for weeks or anything like that, but it was a last-ditch effort on my behalf to bring her back from the coma she was in. You want to get them back just to say good-bye, but I realized we’d already said our good-byes. Dialysis at that time of her life was redundant. So at the end it was very peaceful. “Okay, we’re going through this door.” People should be allowed to die when their bodies are wracked by disease.
Playboy: The loss must have been devastating for you and your three children. Did you ever feel so bad that you wanted to die?
Brosnan: Never, because I had children, who push and spur you on. Nothing in life prepares you for going through a long illness that ends in death. Nothing gives you the vocabulary to deal with that grief or those emotions. You just have to go slowly. I didn’t always do that. I went into relationships that were purely based on lust and the need for sexual contact. It becomes rather vacuous and empty, meaningless. Then you work your way through that.
Playboy: How did you meet Keely, whom you married in 2001?
Brosnan: When Keely met me, I was a fairly sad affair, still in my widowerhood and in that world of relationships and sexual encounters that would just turn my head inside out after having been with one partner for many years. When I met Keely I wasn’t looking. She literally walked around the corner into my life. I thank the day that she did. She had her hands full with this man she met and had fallen in love with. She had to deal with a family still in pain from the death of its wife and mother. But what we had together was very strong. Our relationship just gets stronger and sweeter. It was not always easy. There were a few times when I was fairly pigheaded and Irish. Luckily I saved myself, and luckily she didn’t throw in the towel and say, “I can’t be dealing with this.” At the beginning of the relationship I thought I was the wise one who was showing her the world: “Come here, you beautiful, gorgeous girl. This is the way it’s done — my way.” I was a total buffoon. I don’t know how she tolerated me. She’s handled herself with the greatest degree of grace and dignity and has always allowed me to be myself.
Playboy: How does she cope with being married to People’s Sexiest Man Alive?
Brosnan: I think Keely deals with it with the same sense of humor I have. We don’t talk about it, but when I saw the photograph on the magazine cover, I looked like some kind of Irish barman or a pig farmer from Donegal.
Playboy: Has the Sexiest Pig Farmer Alive ever considered plastic surgery?
Brosnan: Oh, that’s bullshit, man. Unless you’ve got something that’s really hanging you up badly, I don’t think you should touch what God gave you. If your eyes are hanging down and you can’t see where you’re going or your schnoz is getting in the way, a little corrective surgery, sure. But to make yourself more beautiful? The vanity stuff? I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Playboy: In 2000 your son Sean, who is 22 now, nearly lost his life in a car accident for which the driver was charged with drunk driving. Your late wife’s two children, whom you adopted, have also had problems. Charlotte, 34, has been in rehab for cocaine addiction, and Christopher, 32, who has also been jailed and had rehab stays, was arrested this past June on suspected heroin possession. What toll has all this taken on you? What’s your view of Charlotte’s and Christopher’s problems?
Brosnan: Addiction appears to be a disease with genetic roots. Charlotte and Christopher’s father died from alcoholism, and sadly they seem to have that in their genetics. Charlotte is certainly off running her life now. She’s a mother and has been in recovery for nearly three years. Christopher is still very lost. Shockingly so. I have no idea — well, I know where he is, but he’s having a hard life. I can only have strong faith and believe he will recover. He has tested everybody in this family but none more so than himself. He knows how to get out. He doesn’t want to.
Playboy: How have you coped?
Brosnan: It’s painful because you shut down. You never completely cut them off, but I have cut Christopher off. I had to say, “Go. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” For all his waywardness and addiction I adore Christopher and just want him well and healthy. He’s the most charismatic young man, with all the grace and charm of his father. Last week I heard he found recovery again. But he’s toiled with this disease now for a number of years. He has my prayers.
Playboy: Your father apparently had a drinking problem. Have you?
Brosnan: I’m all right. I seem to have gotten by. I like my wine and my beer, but I have moderation. I have a sense of discipline about it.
Playboy: You became an American citizen last year. Why?
Brosnan: Having lived in this country for 23 years, I have a great love of America. It embraced me, and I’ve been very lucky here. Well, I thought, if not now, when will I become a citizen? I have an American wife, three American sons; it’s time to raise the hand. I’ll probably be buried in this soil. I want to have a vote. It’s as simple as that.
Playboy: You’re closely allied with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Why that group?
Brosnan: The NRDC is a body of lawyers who go in and do battle with corporations and fight for the rights of the planet, the waterways and the oceans. Right now we’re fighting to save the last one percent of the old growth of the forests. We’ve been up to Sacramento and held a press conference asking people to think a little longer and a little more deeply about what we’re going to do once we’ve cut down these great redwoods and sequoias forever. We’re opposing the lumber guys, but California state senator Don Perata, our ally, has a strong voice and powerful reasoning. We just might win it.
Playboy: Now that you won’t be returning to James Bond, what movies are on the horizon?
Brosnan: We’re going to start shooting an intimate thriller, Butterfly on a Wheel, at the end of the year. I’m playing what appears to be this evil son of a bitch — another warped character. Somehow my career is like this carpet that’s just unfurled before me. I follow it; I don’t try to push it around or direct it. Once you have a taste of something like The Matador, once that box is opened, you want to find the next role that’s going to be as audacious or freeing. I’ll probably have to go find that role for myself. I want to have my cake and eat it. I want to be part of this world of movies and making films, but I also want to have a private life away from it that lets me keep my sanity and my sense of appreciation of life. Thus far my life has been a dream with great wallops of reality every now and then.
Playboy: What does your home in Hawaii represent in your life?
Brosnan: It represents hard work, first and foremost, and a decade of having done Bond. It also represents a certain lifestyle that grounds me as an actor. I can get away and recover from it all. This is a very powerful part of the world. I love throwing parties here. The girls here are incredible fire dancers. On some nights we have beautiful girls out here on that lawn with the big moon shining behind them.
Playboy: Very James Bond.
Brosnan: I’m a sensualist. I would be lost without the ability to look at life in a sensuous way or having sensuality around me. I love the beauty of the world around me, the beauty and power of both men and women. I like music, movies, art, poetry. I like the good things in life. They don’t have to be worth millions. They can be the simple things — good food, wine, the simple sensuality of life.
Playboy: And sex?
Brosnan: Sex is quite necessary. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes not so great. Sometimes we don’t meet the mark, maybe, but it’s all part of being human
Playboy: Now that the interview is over, what happens next? Do the girls start fire dancing in the moonlight?
Brosnan: As you can see, there are lovely ladies all around the house — the mermaids. When you leave, I will say to them, “Come in here and take your clothes off, girls.” My wife said I could do that, and I don’t want to disappoint her.