Pierce Brosnan's back in the spy game

November Man marks Pierce Brosnan's return to the genre since his departure from the iconic James Bond movies

Co-stars Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko (both above) at the premiere of November Man (left), which Brosnan produced and acted in.
Co-stars Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko (both above) at the premiere of November Man (left), which Brosnan produced and acted in. PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Co-stars Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko (both above) at the premiere of November Man (left), which Brosnan produced and acted in. PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

More than a decade after his last outing as James Bond in the movies, Pierce Brosnan is still sore about being unceremoniously booted from the franchise.

"When the curtain fell - surprisingly so, and unexpectedly so - on my career as James Bond, there was a certain kind of void and vacuum there of what to do next and how to proceed," says the actor, who answers each question in his distinctively suave, caressing voice.

Speaking to Life! and a handful of reporters in Los Angeles for his new spy thriller November Man, the Irish actor brings up the subject of his bittersweet Bond experience when asked whether he is excited or hesitant about returning to the spy game.

He became the fifth actor to play the British secret agent with the movies GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002) - all of which were commercially successful, although only GoldenEye managed to win over critics as well.

He was eager to do a fifth film, and has said that producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had led him to believe he would. But they suddenly changed their minds in 2004 and decided to replace Brosnan, then 51, with actor Daniel Craig, then 37.

The move took Brosnan by surprise and, even today, it is clear that it still stings. "You know, just as I was getting the hang of Bond, it kind of disappeared."

For a while, he did not want to do another movie in that genre.

"I didn't want to pick up the gun again, even though my wife said, 'You should do action', because I was good at it," says Brosnan, recalling his conversation with his second wife Keely Shaye Smith, an American journalist with whom he has two sons, Dylan, 17, and Paris, 13.

"I wanted to do other things, and I did."

He went on to turn in a Golden Globe- nominated performance as a hitman in the dark comedy The Matador (2005), as well as star in critical and commercial successes such as The Ghost, a 2010 psychological drama, and the 2008 movie musical Mamma Mia!.

Yet the loss of the iconic Bond role still felt like "unfinished business", says Brosnan, 61, who had first made his name playing a private detective on the popular television comedy- drama Remington Steele (1982-1987).

He is getting back into the spy game once again with November Man, which he hopes will launch another successful franchise.

And this time, he is in the driver's seat as the producer as well as the star. The production company he co-founded, Irish DreamTime, obtained the rights to bring Bill Granger's best-selling November Man series of spy novels to the big screen.

Its story dovetailed with the fact that Brosnan was now older and therefore perfect for the part of Peter Devereaux - a former CIA agent who is lured out of retirement for one final mission and finds himself pitted against his former protege Mason, played by Australian newcomer Luke Bracey, 25.

Brosnan acknowledges that there was a certain sense of hesitation: "Can I pull this off, is this the right move?"

But he is counting on support from his Bond fans. "It was fertile ground. I thought there was an audience out there who enjoyed my work as James Bond and I thought we could do business.

"The timing felt good. I thought there was enough space between my days as Bond and this moment in time," he says, adding that the film was five years in the making.

Becoming a spook again in your 60s is not without its challenges, though - even if it is only make- believe.

"You have to keep your stamina going - the days are 14-hour days, there's the constant rush of adrenaline and you want to get it right every moment," he says of filming the action sequences, in which he and his old Bond stunt double, Mark Mottram, sprinted through the streets of Belgrade, Serbia. "Because you're going to be judged, constantly. As soon as you walk into the door, you're judged."

The actor had to get back in shape quickly before production began. "I had to work - nothing comes from nothing," he says with a sigh, describing his daily routine as "get up, play tennis, work out, work out, play tennis, work out".

But this Irishman could go only so far with all that. "I like my wine, I like my beer, I like my bread, I like my butter," he adds with a smile.

So as is often the case on his movies, he says, he ended up luring his personal trainer to the pub for a pint.

"I've trained so many trainers in my day," he says, chuckling. "I remember doing a film in Ireland: I had this trainer, he was a Marine and I'd take him to the pub to have lots of Guinness. You've got to train these boyos, you know - smoothies and juices and a couple of pints of Guinness."

There are some perks to getting older, however. "There's a certain mileage on the bones, the heart, the mind and the soul of the actor, and so you come with a certain gravitas."

And although it would be unlikely that he would, as producer, fire himself from a November Man franchise - and "there's a franchise - there are 13 books, and this is the first outing", he says - Brosnan likes the idea of his younger co-star Bracey taking on a bigger role in any sequels.

"If we were to go again (with a sequel), then you send the younger man out there - I'll just deal with the woman this time around," he quips with a laugh, referring to the fact that it is Bracey who gets the sex scenes in this movie.

Brosnan also tells Life! he still plans to do a sequel to his acclaimed 1999 remake of the heist movie The Thomas Crown Affair - which he produced and starred in - before he gets too old to convincingly play the hero who gets the girl.

"I might just be able to get in under the wire on that one, before the clock ticks too far past the hour of believability - you know, with a younger woman," says Brosnan, whose first wife Australian actress Cassandra Harris died in 1991.

As for when he thinks he will be forced to retire from action movies for good, "well, the body will tell you".

"Or the audience will tell you, they'll be pretty vocal about it: 'Sorry, time's up, get off the stage. Just play granddads and men your age.'

"And that's probably closer than I think," he says with a smile.

"You never know."


November Man opens in Singapore today.

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