Pierce Brosnan Can't Watch His James Bond Movies: "It's a Horrible Feeling"
The actor starred in four franchise films in the '90s and '00s.
It's an anniversary year for Bond, James Bond. It's been 60 years since the first novel written by Ian Fleming featuring the spy was released. And the first movie adaptation featuring Sean Connery as the spy, Dr. No, debuted almost a decade later in theaters in 1962. This 60th anniversary year comes at a critical time for the franchise—No Time to Die, released in 2021, marked the end of Daniel Craig's run as the character, and his successor has not yet been chosen. You'd think actors would be clamoring for the part, but at least one former Bond finds it impossible to watch his own stint in Her Majesty's Secret Service. Pierce Brosnan, who carried the franchise from 1995 to 2002, says that revisiting his own performance is "a horrible feeling." Read on to find out why.
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The mid-1980s were a significant period for the franchise.
James Bond was one of the most dependable franchises in cinema by the '80s. Connery had recently returned to the role in 1983 in the Never Say Never Again (one of a few "unofficial" Bond movies not produced by Eon Productions), a decade after declaring he would "never again" play Bond. Meanwhile, after a short stint with George Lazenby, the official Bond franchise has gotten more popular than ever under Roger Moore (pictured above), who spent 13 years and seven films as 007. When Moore announced he was hanging up the tux in 1985, it became one of the hottest available roles in Hollywood.
Brosnan already had connections to the Bond Franchise.
Irish actor Brosnan was 32 at the time, having come up as a stage actor in London before landing a role as a James Bond knockoff in the 1982 American TV series Remington Steele. He'd also gotten the attention of then-head producer of the Bond franchise Albert R. Broccoli (of the same family who may have invented the vegetable) during the filming of For Your Eyes Only, in which Brosnan's first wife, Cassandra Harris (pictured with him above), played Bond Girl Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Broccoli reportedly declared that if Brosnan could act, "he's [his] guy" to replace Moore.
Brosnan auditioned to be the new Bond in 1986.
Lucky for Brosnan, NBC canceled Remington Steele towards the end of the 1985-1986 TV season, leaving him open to audition for the role. His competition reportedly came down to Sam Neill (the New Zealand actor who went on to star in Jurassic Park) and Timothy Dalton. Broccoli pushed for Brosnan, but when the rumors Brosnan would play Bond ginned up the ratings for Steele's final episodes, NBC reversed course and renewed the show. As The Los Angeles Times noted at the time, Brosnan was contractually locked in to continue starring in the series, and Eon Productions decided this was all too messy. They cast Dalton instead; his first Bond film was 1997's The Living Daylights.
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The role found him again a few years later.
Though it looked like Brosnan had lost out, Dalton's casting merely delayed his Bond years. Dalton exited the franchise after just two films, and Eon offered Brosnan the contract in 1993. Brosnan stayed with the franchise for almost a decade, starring in four films: 1995's GoldenEye, 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, 1999's The World Is Not Enough, and 2002's Die Another Day. In 2004, he hung up the tux, ultimately passing the role to Craig.
However, Brosnan was never happy with his portrayal.
Though his franchise films were relatively well-received, a decade after leaving the role, Brosnan admitted he'd never been comfortable with his interpretation of the character and couldn't rewatch it. "I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond because it's just never good enough—it's a horrible feeling," he told The Telegraph in 2014 (via The Wrap), also saying, "I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger and Sean." The actor noted that the PG aspect of the films also bothered him. "The violence was never real; the brute force of the man was never palpable," he said. "It was quite tame, and the characterization didn't have a follow-through of reality; it was surface." However, he did admit that his issues may just stem from him getting into his own head about his work. "[I]t might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well," the star noted.
But he still sees the role of Bond as "a gift."
Even if Brosnan feels his legacy as 007 leaves much to be desired, he admitted to The Telegraph that playing the role was "the gift that keeps on giving." Over the four movies, Brosnan made approximately $40 million, giving him the financial freedom to pursue his own projects. "[I]t allowed me to create my own production company and make my own movies," he said, including 2005's The Matador, which Roger Ebert called "the best performance of his career." It's also given him the freedom to take roles he never would have been suited for otherwise, like Sam Carmichael in the musical movie Mamma Mia!.