Pierce Brosnan‘s career has gone through three distinct phases: His Eighties tenure as the suave con man-turned-private detective Remington Steele; his nearly ten years playing world famous secret agent James Bond; and now a post-007 period of studio and indie roles that have often shed his slick image. Those latter parts notably include a hit man undergoing a midlife crisis (in The Matador), a wealthy, divorced lawyer who is emotionally estranged from his children (the forthcoming Remember Me) and a beleaguered, ex-British prime minister accused of war crimes (Roman Polanski’s new The Ghost Writer).
The Polanski film, based upon the Robert Harris novel The Ghost, is the director’s first foray into political thrillers. It focuses on a successful ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) who is brought on board to finish the autobiography of Adam Lang (Brosnan), an ex-British PM with a complicated past. The situation already bodes ill for The Ghost as his writing predecessor on the project died under mysterious circumstances. As he digs deeper into Lang’s past, The Ghost finds troubling information that could be hazardous not only to the project but his health. At times it is hard to tell what Lang does and does not know.
ADD was among a small roundtable of journalists in New York who recently interviewed Brosnan about The Ghost Writer. He was charming and eloquent, if slightly exhausted from promoting multiple projects, and generated some unexpected laughs by checking to see if a call on his cell phone was about his next job. (“Always looking for work,” he quipped.) For more on Brosnan, McGregor and the new Polanski film, check out my recent Fandango feature. Further, A.D.D. also has a story on Ewan McGregor.
You have supporting roles in The Ghost Writer and Remember Me. How much do you invest in such parts? Is it more of a challenge to take them on as opposed to playing a lead?
No, not at all. If you support the piece and have said yes to it, and if you enjoy the company of the players and you want the best for it, then you should go through and give it your best efforts. In the case of The Ghost Writer, it’s Mr. Roman Polanski, and the invitation to play in the domain and the house of Roman Polanski was a great invite. I had a wonderful experience with Roman in the company of Ewan and Olivia [Williams]. Roman Polanski is very mischievous and deals with metaphor and the elliptical sides of his life in the context of drama. So it was a lovely, Max Escher lithograph of a performance. [This film is] squarely in the vortex of its own time as a political thriller that Polanski has never made. You have the movie in the middle and the life of this director on one side and the life of a politician, possibly Mr. Tony Blair, on the other. It was an interesting drama with a lot to choose from.
Your character seems to have been inspired by former British prime minister Tony Blair. Have you ever met him, and what was your impression of him?
I met him once, and he was very charming. I met his wife. I’ve lived in America for many years now, and I don’t pay deep attention to the politics of Britain. I cannot help having experienced the politics of America, especially during the last eight years, so when Mr. Blair came into office he appeared to be somebody who was doing great things and then seemed to fall by the wayside. That’s just an observance from my shallow perspective on his life.
Adam Lang seems to know more than we think he does at certain times and less than we think he does at other times. He has is own façade that he has to put up.
Yeah, it’s the visible and the invisible of the piece, what is said and what is unspoken. Of course, the character of The Ghost is the one you hang onto. We see it through his eyes. There’s ambivalence within it, and when you have ambivalence you have a strong sense of drama on both sides — the political drama and the huge “what if?” of a story like this. And it’s a huge “what if?” But quite plausible, too.
The Ghost Writer was filmed mostly in Germany, so it is appropriate that it premiered in Berlin. What kind of pressure does a premiere at a huge festival for a highly anticipated film carry with it, as opposed to something fun or light or maybe indie?
The expectation is fairly palpable for a piece of drama like this, where you have a politically charged thriller by one of cinema’s iconic filmmakers who is known for thrillers, but never a political thriller, and who is incarcerated. And there is a political figure like Mr. Tony Blair, who is under investigation. So you feel the heat somewhat, and it’s exhilarating because you’re going up the red carpet of a city that is extremely political at a festival that is 60 years old and has significant prominence in the theatrical world. I think we all took security in the sense that the film works well as a piece of drama and cinema, and you step forth, shoulders back and head up and give it your best shot. It’s not like a shoot ’em up indie or a sexy, little romantic comedy.
Are you disappointed that the release of The Greatest has been pushed back to April?
No, not at all. It’s a small drama that you enter into. I’m at the point of my career where I can go off — when there’s time, when I’m looking and searching for the High C of performance, like a Polanski movie — in the interim time you go and work. That’s why my company Irish DreamTime is such a benefit to me. I have to work as an actor, and to go off and do acting workshops or classes, I may as well go off and find a jewel of a film and make the movie and be part of a young writer like Shana Feste and have something to show for it. I don’t have any ego about it. There are four films [of mine this year]: Percy Jackson, The Ghost Writer, Remember Me and my little film, The Greatest. It’s there, it’s done and I’m deeply proud of it. It’ll be seen. It’ll have its place in time.
Speaking of Remember Me, you’ve dealt with female hysteria as James Bond…
Not quite like Mr. Robert Pattinson. I’ve had my fair share of admirers and long may it last, but to be part of that, that was incredible. That was unreal. I’ve been a man of certain years and time in this business, and having sons you want the best for this young man in every possible way. I think he is acquitting himself grandly. I think he’s got his head on his shoulders. He’s executive producer on that film, so grace under pressure, keep going.
Have you done any more painting for charity?
Yeah, I just did a little piece. I just paint. I’m just an enthusiastic painter.
What do you like to paint?
I’ve been taking classes out there in Plein Air, living out there in Hawaii. There are a couple of good mates, and I go out with them. But I like the studio. I like the repetition of certain images and drawings which I just find. I have a studio at home.
Landscapes or portraits?
Landscapes, portraits, that’s it. Don’t give up the day job.