Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(May 16, 1952–     ): Handsome Irish actor who, in GoldenEye, became the fifth man to portray James Bond in the United Artists series of 007 adventures. Brosnan was originally signed to play Bond in The Living Daylights, but in a much-publicized decision, NBC executives refused to let the actor out of his contract for the series Remington Steele, and Timothy Dalton was his last-minute replacement. In addition to GoldenEye, Brosnan portrayed James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. He was also married to the late Cassandra Harris, who appeared in For Your Eyes Only.

Back in June 1994, at a press conference announcing his casting in GoldenEye, Brosnan promised “a Bond for the ’90s.” Asked how he would play Bond, he said, “He has to go back to being a more flinty character. But we are now in 1994. I think that has to be addressed.” The new Bond would be no “new man,” however. “In a piece like this, which is fantasy,” he continued, “I think the political correctness has to be eased up a little.” Brosnan also revealed that the earliest film he could remember seeing as a boy was Goldfinger. “I remember sitting in that cinema on a Saturday afternoon with my parents, seeing this magnificent thing unfold before me, and I remember Sean!”[1] Brosnan lived up to the Bond legacy, prepelling GoldenEye to the biggest box office haul in 007 history to that point.

At a press conference in Hong Kong for The World Is Not Enough, however, Brosnan was somewhat critical of his own initial turn as 007. “In GoldenEye, I was cautious; this was my first time and I didn’t want to blow it. So when you’re cautious, you’re not as free with your performance and your knowledge of the character because you censor yourself, but I got away with it.” His ambition going forward was to stretch the character beyond the familiar tropes. “The essence of James Bond is cruelty, vodka martinis, sex, his weapon—because the man deals with killing. He has this license to kill. There is a dark side to him. . . . And then you have all the wit and the charm and the throwaway one-liners. It is formulaic, which is its strong point. But I also think that’s a weakness. I’d like to see one where they take the formula away—to give the illusion of it at the beginning, but then to surprise, because if you can surprise and have growth, then you have interest. But I do know we can push it further. This man is fallible. He has feelings and doubts. And there’s moral ambiguity there. And I think when you go into the gray area of any character, that’s when you get interesting drama—it’s in the books. Fleming does make this character fractured.”[2]

But for all the talk of Bond’s fractured fallibility, Brosnan recognized that the movies needed to retain a sense of playful romance. “The women in Bond movies have got to be sexy, they have to be beautiful, they have to have a sense of who they are. And when you get the really good ones, they’re played by actresses who are right on the money with their own sensuality and sexuality and they play it to the hilt. And they play it with a wiggle. So they’re not going to go away, otherwise we wouldn’t have a Bond movie. That would be very sad. Bond without babes?”

A native of Drogheda in County Louth, Brosnan made his feature debut in director John Mackenzie’s crime drama The Long Good Friday (1980). However, it was his starring role as roguish frontman to the private investigator played by Stephanie Zimbalist in NBC’s Remington Steele that won him international stardom and a prominent career as a leading man in features.

Brosnan’s first post–Remington Steele feature, The Fourth Protocol (1987), reteamed him with director John Mackenzie in a film that also featured Bond player Julian Glover. His numerous feature credits include Dante’s Peak (1997); the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (1999); The Matador (2005), spoofing his Bond persona; Mamma Mia! (2008); Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010); and No Escape (2015).

[1] Special features, GoldenEye, James Bond Ultimate Edition (1995; MGM, 2006), DVD.

[2] Special features, The World Is Not Enough, James Bond Ultimate Edition (1999; MGM, 2006), DVD.


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