We got close to landing a one on one with Pierce Brosnan, star of The November Man. Brosnan agreed to do a series of paired interviews with journalists, and many of our colleagues participated. We were paired with the San Diego Reader and agreed to identify each other’s questions so we can bring you the entire interview and maintain the flow of the conversation.
Brosnan returns to the spy genre in the film based on Bill Granger’s book There Are No Spies. He plays Peter Devereaux, a retired spy brought back for one more mission, which goes about as well for him as all final missions do. Devereaux may return as Relativity is already planning November Man 2 which we didn’t know about last weekend. A few mild spoilers for Peter Devereaux’s antics follow, and major spoilers for Tailor of Panama if you haven’t seen that yet. We also got Brosnan to confirm his interest in Expendables 4 and tell the story of his meeting with Quentin Tarantino.
Related: The Top 11 James Bond Gadgets
CraveOnline: You’d toyed with the spy genre in films like The Tailor of Panama and The Matador. Was November Man another opportunity to do that?
Pierce Brosnan: Somewhat, yes. I kind of relate it to someone like Monet painting haystacks over and over again. You find a subject that turns you on, that engages you. The spy genre is something which, as a fan of movies, a movie geek myself, I just love that cinematic joy that they bring.
San Diego Reader: Do you still go to movies in theaters? If so, who selects the movie, you or your wife?
There’s a duality there. I try to go. I’ve been working so hard the last two years, more or less back to back, so it’s difficult to get to the movies. It depends. I don’t really think about it actually. Sometimes Keely wants to see a movie, she really wants to go see Marigold Hotel and I go along.
CraveOnline: There’s already a sequel to that coming out.
I was going to do the sequel but I couldn’t. I was doing something else. Anyway, I usually catch all the movies at the year’s end, all the screeners.
San Diego Reader: The three films that Fred just mentioned are the greatest James Bond movies ever made outside the Broccoli family. What was your discussion with John Boorman about incorporating James Bond into the spy in Tailor of Panama?
Well, I met John Boorman who is a mighty man and someone I have the greatest admiration for and a huge fan of his films. We’re sitting there in a little restaurant in Malibu and I was so excited to be playing the tailor of Panama. He said, “No, no, I don’t want you for the tailor. I want you for the spy.” I said, “Of course, of course.” That was our first meeting. I thought he wanted me to play the tailor. I don’t know what happened in my agent telling me, but I went to the meeting thinking, “This is great. He wants me to play the tailor.” He said, “No, no, Geoffrey Rush is playing the tailor. You’re playing Andy Osnard.” I went, “Of course, yeah, I do know that.”
San Diego Reader: Did you ever talk about Bond, or was it just a given?
It was just a given really. It wasn’t necessary to talk about Bond. I knew the rules, I knew the joke, I knew the gag. I knew what we were playing at here. I knew the hijinks of what he was up to, using me as Andy Osnard, this sleaze bag, this morally mangled dude down there.
CraveOnline: Didn’t they film the ending where you get killed?
Oh, the ending was so great. The end, when they shoot me, it was so good because it was the helicopter sequence and you can’t hear anything. You just see him go like this, he looks down and there’s blood, and the money’s flying everywhere. Andy Osnard looks at him and says, “What’d you do that for? You stupid cunt.” And dies. [Laughs loud, almost maniacally] It was such a good line. It was such a fucking great exit line. “What did you do that for? Stupid cunt.”
CraveOnline: With Peter Devereaux in November Man were you able to go as dark as you wanted?
Oh yeah. I mean, yeah, I think it’s pretty dark. I think it’s got an edge to it. It’s got a bite to it. It’s got a visceral underpinning. We wanted to take the gloves off. After James Bond moved off stage right in my life, there was this certain kind of vacuum of unfinished business. I think it was palpable for Beaumarie [St. Clair] and myself as producers. For me as the actor who thought he was going in a certain direction with the next production of James Bond, was suddenly somewhat derailed, there was a desire and a want on my behalf to do something like this again. She was the one who found the material. It just took a long time to get here.
CraveOnline: Is likability ever an issue for you? Because we tend to like even some pretty despicable characters in movies anyway.
Yeah, the femoral artery scene is a fairly brutal example but to be able to push the envelope to that point, you hope that you have set down some yardage of the heart and the character and the accessibility of the character with an audience to be able to go to that place and do something as brutal and audacious as that without losing the audience.
CraveOnline: The worst was he drank all of that poor guy’s 60-year-old scotch.
Well, you know, these men drink. You could make a reference to James Bond and his martinis, but hardcore liquor like that, 60 year old scotch seemed to make sense for a fellow like Peter Devereaux.
San Diego Reader: What initially drew you to the novel?
The writing of Bill Granger I found had a complexity and nuance of character and style and storytelling. He was a journalist, he was from Chicago. It seemed be steeped in some relevance and immediacy, good storytelling.
CraveOnline: Seeing The November Man at the premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater reminded me of a story I heard about the Dante’s Peak premiere. Is it true that one of the projectors broke, back when it was film projectors, and the audience had to wait for it to be shown one reel at a time? Did they actually stay for that?
They did. It was a full house that night. Roger [Donaldson] had to get up and make an announcement that we have a problem with the projector, we don’t have the right lens and we’ll be five minutes. 20 minutes went by and time ticked on.
CraveOnline: So it was the lens, not the projector. I had heard it showed in fits and starts one reel at a time and I couldn’t imagine anyone waiting for that. So it was just delayed, not interrupted.
It was a delay. No, I don’t remember fits and starts. When they got the right lens, the curtain went up and everybody enjoyed the movie and many deals were made.
San Diego Reader: You’re not afraid to take risks, including making an R-rated movie which is a risk now. Do you consciously plan these risks?
You want to do stuff that turns you on and hopefully turns an audience on. Beau and I created Irish DreamTime after Goldeneye happened and I hadn’t made a pig’s ear of it all, to make movies. We do one at a time. We’re pretty slow moving.
San Diego Reader: Didn’t you just make seven films?
Two years, well, that’s just me being an independent contractor. Beau and I, we’ve just made 10 movies. Before The November Man the last film we made was The Greatest, a little film. It’s just the joy of being able to have choices and create your own work for yourself. After Goldeneye I knew that I had my work cut out for me to distance myself from Bond, or to create and cleave another existence for myself as an actor, as an artist.
San Diego Reader: Did you intentionally merge them?
Well, it just happens because once Bond, always Bond. Forever and a day. It’s a small club of men now and Bond is the gift that keeps giving. Without Bond I wouldn’t be The November Man. There’d be no Tailor of Panama, no Mamma Mia!, no Matador so everything has its organic footstep.
CraveOnline: Since Stallone has been doing press for Expendables 3, he mentioned your name as someone he wants for Expendables 4. Has he said anything officially to you?
Avi Lerner has because I did a movie called Survivor over there in Sofia, Bulgaria recently and Avi is the man there. I said, “Yeah, sure. I’d love to do it. Send me a script.” Then it was in Hollywood Reporter the next day that I’m doing The Expendables. So we’ll see. I mean, why not? Right now I’m free as a bird to do anything I want to do and go anywhere or play hopefully any level of performance.
CraveOnline: You’ll be the first Bond they have in their cast.
Mm-hmm. Slow and steady. I looked at the poster the other day and thought, “Wow, where’s Harrison?” This sea of faces there. I’d like to be in the one with all the women, The Expendabelles. That’s the one I said to Avi, “Let me go in with the women. I’ll jump in there. It seems only fitting.”
San Diego Reader: If you had a dollar for every time someone called you Pierce Bronson, how many dollars would you get? Did Charles Bronson ever get called Brosnan?
Charlie lived in Malibu and I used to pick up his laundry. They’d give me his. “No, no, I’m Brosnan, Brosnan.” “Bronson?” “No, Brosnan.” There you go. I almost changed my name when I left drama school. My stepdad was Carmichael. I almost changed it to Pierce Carmichael. I thought, “No, I’m born Brosnan and Thom Brosnan, the old scallywag that he was, gave me the name.”
San Diego Reader: Peter Devereaux is a great name too and so was Andy Osnard.
Devereaux is good and November Man has got a sensuality to it and a punch. I love the name. It was like doing Thomas Crown Affair. I love the song “Windmills of Your Mind.” That’s why I really wanted to make the movie.
CraveOnline: In the Bond documentary Everything or Nothing, there was a funny moment where you couldn’t tell your own Bond movies apart after Goldeneye. Is that true that you couldn’t tell Tomorrow Never Dies from The World Is Not Enough from Die Another Day, or were you playing it up for the camera?
No, there’s a certain truth in that because Goldeneye was so unique. It was so palpably exhilarating and absolutely just mind-blowingly daunting to step onto the stage and into the shoes of James Bond so it stands alone. Then the next one was, I don’t know, it just seemed to be unwieldy. I think the last one, Tomorrow Never Dies, was that it?
CraveOnline: Do you want me to help?
Die Another Day?
CraveOnline: Yes. So that’s true, you can’t tell them apart.
CraveOnline: Well, I’m a fan and I can tell them apart.
Good. I’m so glad you can. Good.
CraveOnline: There was a time when Tarantino was trying to do Casino Royale and he wanted you for it. Did that ever get as far as talking to you about it?
Yeah, yeah. He wanted to meet me right before Tomorrow Never Dies and he was doing Kill Bill 2 [Note: So he still means Die Another Day,if it was 2002. – Fred] It was at this hotel and I came up and I met him. I got downstairs and was going to have a beer. The guy came up and said, “Somebody sent you a martini.” I had the martini and the beer. Then I was waiting for him and I thought, “Okay, I’ll have another martini.” Then Quentin came down and he was like, “Yeah, man, yeah! Fucking great, man! Apple martini!” Had an apple martini, another apple martini. We got so fucking blitzed completely and he’s banging the table saying, “You are the best James Bond! You’re the only James Bond!” I said, “Quentin, man, people are listening for heaven’s sake.” I could hardly get out the door here. Luckily I had a car. I wasn’t driving, and we were outside this hotel. I went to the Broccolis to say Quentin Tarantino but it didn’t swing.
CraveOnline: But what was his take?
How could I remember after six martinis? How could I possibly remember what was his take? The take was that we had a great bloody time. Quentin didn’t know what his take was except that he loved me as James Bond and he wanted to do James Bond.