Happy 70th Birthday Pierce Brosnan: The Venice interviews (2012)

Next Tuesday, May 16th 2023, Pierce Brosnan will turn 70.

Upon approaching his 60th birthday back in 2012 the Irish James Bond star reflected that 60 was not just another number but a sharp corner that made him stop and think:

"I cruised in over 50, and I was good. 51, 52, 53, a little bit of turbulence. Psychic turbulence. Then you creep up the ladder there, and ... The body, the mind, the judgment of life. You have to stay alert. You become more passionate about being alive and being present with your children. You don't have the same nerves about acting. You still get nerves. Wednesday will be the first day on the set of my next movie with Toni Collette and Imogen Poots, I'm caught between this world and that. But I still have the passion and drive to try to be great."

Pierce Brosnan aired his views on aging at a press junket during the 69th annual Venice International Film Festival. Bond•O•Rama.dk was in attendance and had the good fortune to meet the then 59-year-old actor in an intimate two-on-one session as well as at a larger conference for the European press. Brosnan was in town to promote Danish director Susanne Bier's dramedy "Love is All You Need" (original Danish title: "Den skaldede frisør" = The Bald Hairdresser) which he had enjoyed making. The full transcripts of the two interviews have never before been released but are now made available for free in celebration of Pierce Brosnan's 70th birthday.

I am also quoted in a one-page profile on Brosnan which will appear in the Danish daily Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten on Tuesday May 16, 2023.

● The edited and published Pierce Brosnan interviews (2012) can be found here

One small anecdote: To this day I regret that I missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity when I met Pierce Brosnan in Venice. Before the actual interview, which took place in a large white tent, I was waiting around wearing a cream-coloured suit which happened to exactly match the leather couch that Brosnan and I were both standing next to. Pierce, who seemed relaxed and amiable while killing time like me, noticed the similar colours and cheerfully remarked that I was dressed for the occasion. If only I had had the good sense to capture that moment for posterity! Instead you will have to settle for this grainy snapshot of the younger Brosnan arriving at the Odeon Leicester Square for the London gala premiere of "GoldenEye" in 1995 where I was standing behind the barricades in a crowd of cheering fans, all stretching our necks to catch a glimpse of the celebrity guests.

Pierce Brosnan at the London gala premiere of "GoldenEye" at Odeon Leicester Square, London November 21, 1995 - credit © Brian Iskov/Bond•O•Rama.dk

DEN SKALDEDE FRISØR (Love is All You Need)

Danish junket, Venice Film Festival 2012 - 17 mins

Q: Your character in "Love is All You Need" says that he hates our bloody country. What was your impression of Denmark?
Pierce Brosnan: Mine was that I enjoyed your country. Copenhagen I really adored, I had the most fantastic time. Loved the country, loved the artists that I met. I started my career as a painter, as an artist so I was fascinated by the work that was going on there. Susanne's films had intrigued me enormously. The Dogma of it all, when those films came on the stage years ago, that was quite fascinating. There was a challenge in my mind to start with, of how I was gonna fit into this whole scenario. But Susanne just said, don't worry about that. And we *were* fine.

And you were surrounded by Danes all the time. Did you learn anything, or were they kind enough to speak English to you?
They did. It was a wonderful, warm embrace of friendship. Actors' theatrical friendship from the very beginning. We were at Vibeke's house for the readthrough, right in the heart of the city there by the palace. And I was very nervous, I was sat around this large table, this beautiful company of actors came in and everyone made me feel so welcome, so at home from the beginning. And the story had the ingredients of all of that anyway. It was so well-written, and her films work on so many layers of complexity and emotions and humour and tragedy. She alone is very beguiling, bedazzling, kind of seductive. Film-maker, woman. So I hit the ground running in Copenhagen. And then of course we went off to Sorrento which was this dreamlike atmosphere in this magnificent villa.

How many of Susanne's films had you seen previously?
I'd seen them all.

Are you generally aware of what's happening in Danish cinema?
Yes, I was fully aware of Danish cinema. I'm a filmmaker, I'm an actor. Been in the business 30 years. So something like Dogma comes along, you wanna know what that's about. You hear about "Celebration", "Breaking the Waves" ... Shit. Wow. Where are these guys, where are their heads at? The visceral energy that comes from the screen, the camera. I was ... cognizant of the fact that there was something going on there that I wanted to be part of. I didn't put my hand up and say "I wanna be part of it", but when you see movies like that, you can just feel the freedom and the energy of the performers within the framework. And you go, "that's fascinating". So when the job came in, you know, my agent just said, "Look, Susanne Bier is interested, she wants you for this film "The bald-headed hairdresser"," your ears prick up, so to speak.

That freedom you mentioned, does that hark back to your beginnings in experimental theatre?
Somewhat, yes. I sometimes find the formality of film-making – not always, but sometimes ‐ so rigid. Action, cut, print, quiet please, da-da-da. It can be stultifying and nullifying at times. But to see Morten [Søborg, director of photography] out there with the camera on his back, to see the small crew - camera, sound - just dancing around you. It was, as I say, exhilarating, liberating. And then the actors all had such close proximity to each other, they'd grown up together and been together as friends, lovers, whatever. I came into a tribe where I was cared for and nurtured. (smiling) You know, laughed at in the best possible way for trying to speak the language. I came away with "tak", "tusen tak" and "du æ schmuk" [du er smuk = you are beautiful]. That's a good one.

Pierce Brosnan bliver interviewet af dansk presse i Venedig 2012.
Pierce Brosnan being interviewed by members of the Danish press in Venice, 2012. Photo © Brian Iskov/Bond•O•Rama.dk

It was during the production of "After the Sunset" that you learned that you were not gonna continue as James Bond. And you were upset by that. Did this turn out to be a blessing in disguise - knowing that you've said this movie was one of the most beautiful experiences you've had as an actor?
[Brosnan clenches his mouth] Yeah, I kind of knew back then, even though I was very upset and angry. I could rationalize and intellectualize why the changes were made, it's just that they closed the door at such a late time in the proceedings somewhat. But again ... intellectually, having lived my life as an actor with desires and wants, to try and be an unexpected surprise somewhat. It worked out well. It all works out one way or the other, it always does. You just have to have patience.

And Bond is a very ...
[Brosnan cuts the question off] Oh, it's a tight jacket, he's a heavy one to wear. It's a magnificent opportunity for any actor to play the role, and it's a small group of men now that have, but you are confined and restricted. Once you are playing that role, you are somewhat confined by it. I mean it was great when I was doing it, it sounds ... But when you play him, you have a responsibility to a contract. There are only so many avenues you can go down, and you don't wanna break ... the magic within it.

There is a scene in this film where Trine [Dyrholm] comes naked out of the water [with only one breast], really vulnerable, but beautiful. There is a similarity to that scene in Bond [Die Another Day] where Halle Berry comes out of the water ...
And Ursula Andress. Jeez, I never put that together. Really, I just ... You know, I've done other movies and there's indications towards Bond. One I did recently here, you know, "we've got a Bond moment here". I was so wrapped up in the film, I never thought of that. But yeah, of course, how stupid of me not to think that! Because I was there on that day when Halle did come out of [the sea in] Cadiz, half of Spain was there. I know I was there, I had a day off! (laughs) I thought, I'd go down and watch this gorgeous woman come out of the water in a bikini. But no, I never put that together. But I think that's the beauty of this film. And I hope it will be a healing film for women who have endured and suffered vasectomies and breast cancer. That's the joy of the film. Because she finds love, and he doesn't mind [her disease]. I thought it was the most crystal-gorgeous moment to see this lady just floating dreamlike under the water, and he thinks she's drowning when she's not. She's having the moment of her life. A very deeply emotional image, really. So yes, that's what was so lovely about the film. And then the son who was trying to figure out his own sexuality, and the enormous pain that that can cause a person, not to know how to love, who to love.

There are similarities with your life too... [Note: Pierce Brosnan lost his first wife, actress Cassandra Harris to cancer in 1991].
Sure, you can't help but use yourself and be aware of what you've done in your life, what's happened in your life. The suffering and the pain of losing a wife, of course. And here's a man, his wife is just taken from him on a frosty, cold night. And ... So you just use what's in your heart, what's in the back pocket. Hopefully you can express it, hopefully you can do it. You don't necessarily have to go through that to do it because you are an actor.

Do you think cancer is a taboo subject, something that people have a hard time talking about and discussing openly?
Yes, and everyone's so terrified about it, terrified by it. Torn apart by it. So many families. [Brosnan sighs] And it's not exactly the most commercial subject. [Brosnan seems clearly affected.] However you do have this film now.

Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm in "Love is All You Need". Publicity still: Duane Gregory

[Female interviewer interjects] On a much lighter note, what was it like to kiss Trine Dyrholm?
[Brosnan pauses] What was it--? Beautiful. Gorgeous lips.

Again on a light note, what's it like to have the world premiere of this film here in Venice?
I have been so looking forward to this. I saw the film in Paris about three weeks on a rainy Sunday morning. It was like a warm embrace, a warm hug. I was so proud of that film. I think I got away with it. I was worried about myself and participation in it, was I gonna rock the boat? I was certainly within the company of filmmakers that are so versed in each other's ways. I was very nervous that I might just, ugh, take people out of the movie. I've only seen it once and it remains to be seen if that's true or not. But I thought I fitted in and got away with it. I thought it was structured... in a good way, in a very intelligent way that I didn't have to speak Danish, and it looked like he understood Danish. They all spoke English, and everyone speaks such good English in Copenhagen anyway. So I think it works. Did you think it worked? Yeah. So that was my big fear. But I love the film.

Did you feel at all like a fish...
Out of water? No. Beforehand, before I set sail, yes. I just thought, how am I gonna... But I had the confidence because this great director asked me to join.

What is it that makes Susanne Bier great in your view?
The humanity of her films, the joy of her films. The stiletto bites of bitterness and anger within the films. The humour. She can keep all the plates in the air at once and work on so many levels of storytelling within one film. She can be quite demanding and infuriating, and bossy, and opinionated. And steely. But then she's quite, quite, quite... delightful, and she's a seductress. I say infuriating because, the first scene we did was this long scene, Trine and I, and she rewrote it, we redid it, ay-ay-ay, kind of freaked me out. But all the girls, Paprika and Trine and all who had worked with her, said, "don't worry, just go with it", and I just went with it. And you let that go, when you're liberated in that, then you can enjoy it. But she's a joy to work with, and she's a warrior. When you see her on set she's this foxy, sexy... She's the leader, she is the director. And you trust her.

And now you have met all these wonderful Danish colleagues ...
I mean they were everything that I respect and love. I can't wait to go back to Copenhagen to work there. I'd go back in a heartbeat. She offered me her next movie. Let's do another movie. Gorgeous women over in Copenhagen.

Have you seen a script yet, or do you just say yes no matter what?
She offered me a part in the last film that she did ["Hævnen"/In a Better World]. And it was, [Brosnan gasps theatrically]. But then there was a conflict of interest.

Pierce Brosnan, Paprika Steen, Trine Dyrholm and Molly Blixt Egelind in "Love is All You Need" | Publicity still: Duane Gregory

DEN SKALDEDE FRISØR (Love is All You Need)

International junket, Venice Film Festival 2012 - 20 mins

Pierce Brosnan: How are we? Are we all well? All standing? All surviving the day? I'm good, you know. Just the time of the day where you begin to get cable ... But I'm good. I love this movie, and I'm proud of the film. So in some respects, one feels kind of bulletproof. If there's such a thing. Because it's so heartwarming, it's such a joyous film. It has sincerity, it looks beautiful, and it touches on many aspects of life that we all understand, whether it'd be cancer or, you know, a young man coming to terms with his sexuality and trying to be strong, and the father trying to guide him through. There's a bit for everyone in there. It's gorgeous to look at. Really beautiful. And fun.

Q: Have you also struggled to figure out if you wanted to get married or not, or were you sure from the beginning?
No. I've been married twice. My first wife, she came like an angel down the stairs one day, and then went like an angel seventeen years later. So I knew something about being a widower. I'd had it up to the back teeth with women and love affairs, sitting in Mexico, and around the corner came this gorgeous girl (Keeley), who I'm now married to, and seventeen years later, we have two boys. So I've been very blessed by that aspect of love and life. And to find it again, and to make a life again, that's what was appealing about the piece.

It's a light comedy on the surface but there are a lot of important, underlying serious themes. How did that make you feel?
Well, it's just the way it goes. That's it. There's no great mystery to it, really. I wanted to work with Susanne Bier [Brosnan pronounces the name "Bear"]. When the Dogma films came out, and Lars von Trier ... von Lars? I always get his name back to front. [Brosnan laughs] Sorry. Lars? Lars. That whole style of filmmaking captivated me, and last winter, sitting in New York, and I was on a film, and my agent called and said, "Susanne Bier". I had just seen the Academy screening of "In a Better World", so immediately I was like, "Oh my God, this is exciting, this is exhilarating." Thank you, God, for a filmmaker like her to pick me, to choose me. Then he said, "It's a film called 'The bald-headed hairdresser'". I thought, "wow". And I read it and saw the emblems in there of life and story that you identify with. That made it even more joyous. Then there was the apprehension of me being an Irish actor in this kind of film - Irish-English-American, whatever I am - and I was really worried. But she was so matter-of-fact. She said, "Don't worry about that. We all speak good English". They all speak great English. So there you go. It came from Susanne Bier, this fantastic director, that she was asking me to be in one of her films. And then came, of course, the investigation and the, a-ha, okay. Hm, lost a wife. A-ha. By then I was already hooked. I was in.

Who is the more romantic, you or [your character] Philip?
Me. [scattered chuckles in audience]

Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan in "Love is All You Need" | publicity still: Duane Gregory

In addition to seeing you in a Danish movie, what other things were you confronted with while shooting a movie in a different language?
Well, you know, I flew to Copenhagen and went to Vibeke's house who's a great producer [Vibeke Windeløv] and sat with the actors around a big table. And there was apprehension. I thought, am I gonna rock the boat? [shouts through the noise from the adjoining hall] Can we have quiet over there, please? QUIET! Grazie, thank you. ... But then when I saw the film five weeks ago in Paris on a rainy Sunday morning and I sat there by myself, the curtain goes up, oof, what's this gonna be like? I thought we got away with it. There was just enough of ... I mean, I kind of pull back, and the piece, the character lent himself to this isolation and to me. I believed that I could run this fruit'n'veg company and never really got the hang of Danish, was always asking my secretary, "what did the say?". The conceit, I think, was well founded by Susanne and Thomas Andersen [Anders Thomas Jensen, the co-screenwriter]. So I just followed them, I followed Trine, Kim [Bodnia] and Paprika [Steen], and I'd seen all their work. And also the style of film-making, you know, the camera is always moving, and [adopts a slight sing-songy tone] you begin to get this kind of voice [Brosnan chuckles]. You may not speak it, but you kind of have a rhythm of Danish.

You said earlier that you are more romantic. Why is that?
I was just being flippant, I don't know. [laughter] It sounded like a good answer, really! But yeah, I'm a romantic, I love the romance of love and faces, people, and how you meet them. You walk down the street, and you see someone, you see people and they just go by ...

During the press conference Susanne Bier said that all the women on the set fell in love with you. Wasn't that a distracting situation?
Long may it last. [scattered chuckles] You know, the clock will tick by and it will go away. There's a certain sense of it, certain sense of that clock ticking. So... But I think love is great, falling in love, whether it's friendships and people. And movies.

Was there ever a time when women were not into you? It's hard to imagine, but you must have been also at school ...
Oh, yeah. Sure. Yeah. I can't say I was very good at chatting them up. It was never particularly smooth sailing, you know? You go out with your mates, and it was usually your buddy who was right there, "I've got their phone number", and I was kind of being polite and being nice.

It was a good surprise to see you with these Danish actors, some of whom came from the Dogma films. Were you afraid to go out and play with these different people?
Yes. Of course. Because someone like Kim [Bodnia] in the movie, the husband of Trine, has powerful force. You look across the table at the dude, and he's gonna come at you. But he's funny, ha ha! And that's the joy of acting, that's the joy of putting yourself out there and seeing if you succeed or not. But the script was so yielding and it was such simpatico, the words and the character, and it was a warm embrace from this company. It's some kind of answer.

With what kind of feelings are you expecting your next birthday? Because it's a special birthday. Is 60 just another number?
Oh no, it's not just another number! [Brosnan chuckles] It's one that has a huge significance, I think, in life. I came in, cruised in over 50, and I was good. 51, 52, 53, a little bit of turbulence. You know, psychic turbulence. Then you creep up the ladder there, and ... The body, the mind, the judgment of life. And how you have to stay alert. You become more passionate about being alive and being present with your children. [Brosnan sighs] You don't have the same nerves about acting. You get nerves, you still get ... [Brosnan gasps]. Wednesday will be the first day on the set of my next movie with Toni Collette, this young actor Aaron Paul, and Imogen Poots, I'm caught between to worlds, this world and that world. But I still have the passion and drive to try to be great, to try to be wonderful.

Speaking of anniversaries, this year also marks 50 years of Bond [in the cinema]. Do you miss the character a little bit? How you deal with the whole Bond icon thing?
I don't. That's Daniel's problem. [laughter] I had my day in the sun. I mean, I will be forever Bond to that generation that knew me, and that's the joy of it. It's the gift that keeps giving, constantly, and I'm forever grateful for doing it. And it's a celebration. Great pride to have been there.

On television there is a gourmet food commercial running right now where you do kind of an ironic spin of the Bond image that you have. Do you enjoy that?
Yes, you know. I've done a few of these now, they are these little vignettes that I go off and... That's what I mean with the gift that keeps giving. If you have a sense of humour about yourself and what you've done, then you can go off and do these commercials around the world, and they play on the theme on Thomas Crown or James Bond, that persona that you've painted yourself into a corner with. It's fun, it's just great fun.

Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan in "Love is All You Need". Publicity still: Duane Gregory

Do you look forward to the different kind of roles you will be offered as you get older?
Yeah. Sure. It's a constant exploration. You have to be aware of, as I say, time past, time present, time future and what that's gotta bring and how you address that, how you deal with it. Sometimes it's harsh. You look at yourself, and you think, "Wow!" You think you're great, well, maybe you're not as great as you think you are. The vanity, the ego.

Maybe you will get less typecast in those kind of roles?
Yeah, bring it on. "Everything changes, everything falls apart." Which is a great book, by the way, by a Nigerian writer. Makes me sound clever, doesn't it? But I can't remember what his name is. ["Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, ed.]

When you read in the script that you have to take your shirt off, like in the balcony scene, do you think "Oh, no chips and beer for the next six months"?
No, I kept on enjoying the food. It was great fun. I enjoyed every day of this movie. It was a joy. I stayed in at villa that was one of the oldest villas [in the area]. Vibeke set me up in this place so I was able to share it with the rest of the cast. So I'd leave this villa in the morning and go to this gorgeous, decaying villa and make this movie.

The movie shows a certain kind of Italy. Does that image correspond to your idea of Italy?
Absolutely. It's so romanticized and personified that for me, it gives off the idealistic grandeur of Italy. Heightened. I don't know how the Italians will feel about it, but... It's make-believe. So we create this idealistic stage-setting.

You spoke of your first time watching the movie. Have you ever been disappointed or not satisfied enough when seeing your movies for the first time?
Oh yeah. God. More times than not, more times than not. Sure. It's a disappointment. It sticks to your gut, sticks in your heart, sticks in your brain, and then you have to let it go. Sometimes they just don't work. Sometimes *you* don't work. Great first act, good second act, and death come the third. But there was wonderful alchemy in this one. You could feel it, it was just tangible, that there was something here that had substance and relevance and was meaningful.

Are there any directors with whom you feel you have a special connection?
Yeah, Susanne Bier is one. You know, she invited me to be in her last film, and I couldn't do it. Just as well, because they got a better man for the job! You know, but she wants to work again, and I would love to work with her again. So it's a good friendship and relationship. She's challenging, demanding, bossy, infuriating. She's sexy, vivacious, beautiful, and she gets away with blue murder! She's beguiling and she's got a great ear and eye, touch. So ... [The publicist gives the "wrap it up" sign] That's it. Last question. Go on, let's get in there!

One thing that always comes to my mind when I see you on screen is a kind of effortless elegance. Is that something you can learn, or do you have to have it? How did you find your style as a man? Who was influential for you?
I just watched a lot of movies. I just wanted to be like him. Whoever "him" was. Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Tracy a lot - my grandfather, god bless him, loved Spencer Tracy. Steve McQueen. You just study, you study those men. You watch what they do and think, "God, if I just could do that". Connery. Then you try it and it's like, "why am I doing this? Just play the part, play yourself." And then use yourself within the context of the piece. Constant work.


More Pierce Brosnan at Bond•O•Rama.dk:

● "GoldenEye": Danish TV interview with Pierce Brosnan (from "Bogart", DR 1996)
● "GoldenEye": Danish TV interview with Pierce Brosnan (from "The name is ... James Bond", DR 1996)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.