There’s a lot of things I’m looking for. I’m not as nimble in some areas as others, but you’re looking for something that’s going to emotionally capture you every day.
Pierce Brosnan is a hard man to chase down these days—maybe always?—and perhaps for reasons you wouldn’t expect. It might come as a surprise to many that the actor is also an accomplished painter. His oil-and-acrylic portrait of Bob Dylan sold for an astounding $1.4 million at amfAR’s charity auction during the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and last week, Brosnan, now 70, made his Art Miami debut with a selection of works from his solo exhibition, So Many Dreams, which took place in Hollywood this past summer. Brosnan has been painting on and off since his schooling days in Ireland so it’s a longstanding passion of his—a creative outlet that only intensified when he leaned into its therapeutic properties during a time of personal tragedy. “I started painting [again] in 1987 when my late wife had cancer,” he revealed at the aforementioned amfAR event. “I had been painting out of pain, and now the pain sometimes comes through in color.” After several failed attempts at connecting with Brosnan during his Miami stint, when we do finally reach him, he lives up to his famous reputation: a charismatic, straight-shooting gentleman with a gracious attitude.
Of course, Brosnan had found the fortitude to continue acting as well. One would be hard-pressed to choose a single defining moment from his illustrious career. Remington Steele, the long-running detective series in which the Irish actor portrayed the impossibly handsome—and impossibly named—title character was only the beginning. There are the four James Bond films, from Goldeneye to Die Another Day, during which time he was among the most recognized actors on the planet. It would be tough to vote against Bond as a high mark—so long and heavy is the shadow cast by the franchise that it can make all of an actor’s previous work look, in retrospect, like prep, and all of an actor’s work since like a reaction or recoil. But there are many other memorable performances that lie outside his esteemed tenure as Britain’s best. As the romantic foil to Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. As an art-heisting billionaire in The Thomas Crown Affair remake. The Matador, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. The Tailor of Panama. Dante’s Peak. The Foreigner. And Brosnan’s best may be yet to come. His latest role confirms that potentiality.
Phillip Noyce’s compact and darkly funny take on the existential hitman genre, Fast Charlie—adapted from Victor Gischler’s more crudely titled novel Gun Monkeys—capitalizes on Brosnan’s effortless charm and wry sense of humor. Charlie (Brosnan) is an aging fixer who has worked under Stan (the late James Caan in his final performance), a senior crime boss who he also calls his friend, for the past thirty-plus years. Charlie goes about his bloody business as usual, while also harboring a dream of retiring someday soon to a fixer-upper in Tuscany. Problem is, a rival mobster named Beggar (Gbenda Akinnagbe) has encroached on Stan’s turf with plans to take him and his crew out. Now the sole remaining target, Charlie embarks on a trail of vengeance in a seedy New Orleans, enlisting the help of Marcie (Lorena Baccarin), the ex-wife of a recently whacked low-level gangster who had the goods on Beggar, along the way. From there, Fast Charlie is a patchwork of murders set to the sounds of a blues score as he kills his way up the criminal ladder.
Brosnan breathes into the role his past screen history, adding an extra layer of suave dimension and infusing the kind of assured, low-key commanding presence befitting a former Bond.
Fast Charlie is available in select theaters and VOD.
Hello, Mr. Brosnan.
Hello. What’s your name?
Kee… The key to life.
I like this interview so far.
[laughs] That’s great, Kee.
This movie is a blast, and you are in fine form here.
It is. Thank you so much for saying so.
That opening shot of you in the abandoned car lot with a gun and your pants down to your ankles tells us exactly what we’re in for, doesn’t it? This movie wastes no time at all.
Phillip Noyce put that at the top of the film. Originally, I think, it was at the end of act two. It was a wonderful way to introduce the humor and the sentiment of the film.
That scene also bookends the film.
It does? [Pierce takes a pause] Yeah, it does! I’ve only seen it once.
Charlie’s inscrutable. Things are popping off and you get this sense that he’s seen it all. Was there something you implicitly understood about him that helped to anchor him?
Having played James Bond for a decade helped.
I can see that.
So there’s an homage to Bond. It has to be referenced. How can it not be? And happily so. The material [Victor Gischler’s Gun Monkeys] came to me from my agent, Fred Specktor. He and I have had many years of friendship and kinship working in movies. The book was so captivating. Then there’s Philip, whose work I’ve enjoyed enormously, and Richard Wenk, who did the adaptation. It allowed me to invest myself in the role. You have the hitman. He has a gun. But what kind of gun? How do you play the scene with a gun and still have the same illustration of the actor with the gun so it’s theatrical? There’s a familiarity for the audience who knows my work and have grown up with my work as Bond and Remington Steele.
You’re right. We’re not just watching Charlie—we’re watching Pierce Brosnan who played Bond do Charlie. It takes an icon. It must be a lot of fun to play around with your image.
It’s performing arts, basically. It has a theatricality to it, as simple as that. That being said, the tonality of the film was established by Phillip so beautifully. Every day was a learning experience creating the character. Sorry, I’m trying to get a name out of the hat and it’s escaping me. Carry on.
Well, how about James Caan? The film is also unexpectedly beautiful in the way it has come to serve as a farewell love letter to him. There was no way of knowing that this would be his final performance. What do you remember most about your time together?
His indomitable spirit. His voice. The whole persona of the man. Jimmy was at a point in his life where the body had taken much punishment. But he was right there in the wheelchair. He had to be in the wheelchair—he’d had many surgeries. But the actor was there. That ferocious focus and passion and quick wit of Jimmy Caan was there. Stan is somewhat of a father figure to me in the movie. He’s someone who took care of me, a man racked by violence and war or just bad dealings in life—things that go sour. He took care of me, so now at the end of his life, I take care of him. And Jimmy was charging out there into the wild blue yonder. It was a beautiful thing to behold, wheeling him in his chair, holding his hand, and talking about the next higher ground of life.
How amazing is it that that’s now forever captured on celluloid?
It is, it is. He knew that. We knew that. Your time is your time at the table and the pen’s gonna fall outta your hand anytime soon. That was the beauty of the week’s work with him.
I was surprised to learn that this production was hobbled by many challenges. It turned out so well. I’m referring to budget issues, having to relocate the shoot from Florida to New Orleans, the rewrites, and on and on. Phillip has talked about it openly and even referred to it as “the horrors of making this movie.” What was going through your mind?
“Where’s the money?” [laughs]
How could you not?
“Pay attention,” you know? You find people in life who say one thing and then do something else. But I was there to celebrate the works by Victor and Phillip. And it was a challenge. There were a few moments, which certainly are gonna be in the memoirs. But I think every movie is like that. They’re all like that. This one certainly had its iffy moments, but it was a lesson in moviemaking with Phillip: having the sheer balls to go out there in the land of independent filmmaking, having the faith and trust in the material, making the money show up, and taking care of people. It was great. To have the finished product be meaningful to people is quite exhilarating.
I’m glad you stuck with it. You took it to the finish line.
I did, thank you. I was not alone, that’s for sure.
Phillip said that he was keen on exploring comedy because he had never really done that before. So this desire to do something new propelled him on this journey. Do you have a similar outlook? You’re certainly not new to comedy. What felt different about this one?
It’s a constant search. It’s a constant looking, and hopefully doing, of life. And I didn’t know that about Phillip to tell you the truth. I didn’t know he hadn’t done comedy because I never really thought about it. Well, there you go, Phillip! We made a light comedy with a little bit of drama thrown in. There’s a lot of things I’m looking for. A lot of things. I don’t know if I want to name them, but I’m at a certain point in my life where I have a career and I can move around the stage. I like to think as nimbly as I can. I’m not as nimble in some areas as others, but you’re looking for work that’s gonna move you. You’re looking for something that’s going to emotionally capture you every day. To live with it for six days or six weeks around, you wanna be turned on just like you wanna turn the audience on and make something that’s entertaining. It’s as simple as that.
Phillip seems to believe that, if not a sequel to Fast Charlie, there will be a TV series because there’s already been a lot of interest. Would that be an interesting proposition for you?
I would continue, absolutely, to see where Marcie and Charlie go. Why not? That’d be great.
Thank you, Pierce.
Thanks a million. All the best.