Pierce Brosnan on the ‘great irony’ of an Irishman playing iconic British character James Bond

Pierce Brosnan

Irish legend Pierce Brosnan has spoken about getting the call that he was to play James bond – and revealed what an irony it was for an Irishman to play an iconic British character.

Brosnan was speaking to the Guardian about playing British Spy 007 in four movies from 1995-2002.

He said: “It was a great irony playing a British cultural icon as an Irishman. I had a quiet chuckle to myself.”

Pierce Brosnan

However, it was perhaps written in the stars that he would one day take on the role. The character popped up at another key moment in Brosnan’s life.

The star said: “The first film I saw when I came to London as a boy was Goldfinger, which starred Sean Connery as 007. In Ireland, I had been brought up on a diet of Old Mother Riley and Norman Wisdom, so it was a bedazzling moment, seeing this lady covered in gold paint.

“I ended up getting a toy car with an ejector seat, but I didn’t have any aspirations to be James Bond. The character who really captured my imagination was Oddjob, Goldfinger’s bowler-hatted henchman.”

When he grew up and got into acting it wasn’t long before he started to catch the attention of the Bond producers. By the mid-1980s, he seemed set to land the iconic role until fate got in the way.

He said: “I was originally offered the role of 007 for The Living Daylights. I’d done all the photos with the iconic gun pose and my late wife and I were about to toast our new life with a bottle of Cristal when my agent called and said ‘It’s fallen through’. It was because I couldn’t get out of Remington Steele.

“The role went to Timothy Dalton instead but, by the mid-90s, the franchise had been dormant for six years because of a rights dispute. I heard rumblings that the part was available but ignored them because I didn’t want to put myself back in that emotional vortex. Then I met the producers Cubby and Barbara Broccoli and, a week later, they called and said’ ‘You’re in’.

“The sceptics were out in full: the world felt there was no need for another James Bond. So, the challenge was enormous. I didn’t want to get caught between what Sean and Roger had done.

“Yet, at the end of the day, my take was a little bit of what both had brought to the role. I leant towards Sean’s style, but I couldn’t deny Roger because GoldenEye was in the tongue-in-cheek style people had become used to.”

Brosnan went on to discuss the experience of being part of such a huge movie, which was not always as glamourous as it may seem.

He said: “It was a demanding role, physically and emotionally. I did a lot of wirework and fight sequences. They created a padded cell for the fight in the bathhouse with Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), so we could go at it pretty hard.

“The most arduous fight was the one with Sean Bean, on the ladder over the giant radio telescope at the end. He and I spent six weeks constructing the sequence, working on it during our lunch breaks and at the end of the day with a stunt co-ordinator.

“But carrying myself as Bond was as much a mental as a physical thing. You have to hold the stage. You go in to win, full tilt to the finish line.”

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling