- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

TORONTO - For his next act, James Bond star Pierce Brosnan prefers a pint of Irish stout rather than a martini shaken, not stirred.
Agent 007 shows some frayed edges with Mr. Brosnan's Bond-as-renegade turn in the franchise's 20th film, "Die Another Day." Mr. Brosnan gets downright grizzled and boozy as he returns to his Irish roots in "Evelyn," the real-life story of a down-and-out father in 1950s Ireland who fights church and state for custody of his three children after their mother runs off.
"Evelyn," which opens Friday, is the third film from Irish DreamTime, the company Mr. Brosnan runs with producing partner Beau St. Clair. Their first efforts were another small Irish drama, "The Nephew," and the hit remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair," which starred Mr. Brosnan and Rene Russo.
Irish DreamTime is Mr. Brosnan's means of developing roles to take him beyond the typecasting that comes with playing the world's most famous spy.
"'Thomas Crown' was not a stretch. It was an entertaining film, and I played close to what I know, what I do" as Bond, Mr. Brosnan says in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Evelyn" played. "Coming onto something like 'Evelyn,' I really haven't been down and dirty or I have, and no one's seen it.
"I certainly haven't gone on this sort of emotional plateau, and I haven't revealed myself or allowed myself to come asunder like this, so to speak. So maybe people will say, 'Wow, he's different. He looks different, sounds different. And he sings.'"
In "Evelyn," Mr. Brosnan croons "On the Banks of the Roses" and "The Parting Glass" as his unemployed and stout-swilling character, Desmond Doyle, takes to singing in pubs to raise money and prove he can support his children, who have been placed in orphanages.
The film co-stars Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates as attorneys who take up Mr. Desmond's cause; Julianna Margulies as his new romantic interest; and 9-year-old Sophie Vavasseur as the title character, Mr. Desmond's bright and willful daughter. Bruce Beresford ("Driving Miss Daisy"), who previously worked with Mr. Brosnan on "Mister Johnson," directs.
"Evelyn" hits theaters just weeks after the Bond film. Mr. Brosnan would have preferred more elbow room between his two pictures so that "Evelyn" would not get swamped by "Die Another Day," which had a $47.1 million opening weekend, the best ever for the Bond franchise. After three weeks among the top 10, the film surged again last week to the No. 1 spot.
But "Evelyn" is the sort of family film that plays well around the holidays, and distributor United Artists whose parent, MGM, handles the Bond movies needed to get "Evelyn" into theaters before year's end to qualify for the Academy Awards.
"You've just got to take the high road and not think about whether there are disadvantages to it," Mr. Brosnan says. "This is the reality of it. We cannot release this movie, I do not want to release this movie after Christmas. It doesn't have the same meaningfulness."

Mr. Brosnan, 49, was born in Ireland and identified with the themes of abandonment in "Evelyn" because his father walked out when he was a young boy. The story also resonated because it was set in 1953, the year he was born.
"It brought me back to my own childhood growing up in a small community in Ireland," he says. "The church, altar boy, choirboy, taught by the Christian Brothers. Beaten by the Christian Brothers. The nuns, the good nun, the bad nun. So it was a whole series of parallels."
In the mid-1960s, he moved to London, where his mother had found work. He recalls that the first movie he saw in England was "Goldfinger," one of the early Bond films starring Sean Connery as 007.
Mr. Brosnan studied commercial art as a teenager but dropped out to pursue acting. He started on the London stage and did bit parts in movies before landing a lead role in the 1981 miniseries "The Manions of America."
The title role in the series "Remington Steele" soon followed. After that show was canceled, Mr. Brosnan was asked to take over the Bond franchise when Roger Moore stepped down in the mid-1980s.
With the hype over Bond, NBC decided to resurrect "Remington Steele," and Mr. Brosnan's contract for the show prevented him from playing 007. Timothy Dalton wound up in Bond's shoes for the next two movies.
"I was pretty gutted. I was very annoyed. Sad. Disillusioned. Manipulated. Call it what you will," Mr. Brosnan says. "So it was sweet irony that it should come 'round again."
The Bond franchise lay fallow for six years until Mr. Brosnan stepped in for 1995's "GoldenEye." In the interim, his wife, Cassandra Harris an actress who co-starred in the Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only" died of cancer.
Last year, he married former entertainment reporter Keely Shaye Smith, with whom he has two sons. He also has a son and two stepchildren from his first marriage.
Mr. Brosnan helped reinvigorate the series; his first three 007 tales topped $1 billion worldwide at the box office, and "Die Another Day" is poised to become the top-grossing Bond film yet.
"He's brought a freshness," says Halle Berry, Mr. Brosnan's co-star in "Die Another Day." "Pierce brings a little of the lightness of Sean Connery and a little of the Shakespearean actor of Timothy Dalton. That's a good blend."
Given his age and the physical requirements of the role, Mr. Brosnan figures he's game for one more Bond movie.
"You just have to be careful you don't overstay your welcome," Mr. Brosnan says. "These films are a lot different than the ones Sean did. They're far more demanding just in what you're called on to do. Jumping off things, hanging, swimming, parachuting. But would I like to do another one? Yes. It's given me a sense of security. It's allowed me to start this company. It's allowed me to do something like 'Evelyn.'"

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide