Pierce Brosnan: James Bond or James Bland?

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Tom Pheby looks back at the Brosnan years...


For me Pierce Brosnan was, without question, the best fit in the role of Bond since Sean Connery. Bringing back the charm, style and sophistication that had been absent since the Scot called it a day. However, Brosnan also appeared in probably the worst Bond outing to make it to the big screen, 2002's Die Another Day. An implausible, CGI infested, Madonna filled pile of doo-doo which took Bond to the point of extinction. The worst parts of which were John Cleese as Q, that ruddy invisible car and a henchman with a face peppered with diamonds! In fact it's hard to say anything good about the entire thing, the plot was dreadful, the effects were laughable and some of the co-stars, including Oscar winner Halle Berry, were shocking. Then there's that theme tune, so totally out of touch with what went before and one of the worst tracks ever to be yodelled into a microphone by the cone breasted, peroxide exhibitionist.

Die another day was a disaster, not in terms of box office receipts but for what it did to the series - it effectively put paid to Brosnan as Bond.

"I'll be off then..."

From his first outing in Goldeneye, Brosnan looked every inch a Bond and acted accordingly, but he was hampered by scripts that attempted to reinvent the super spy and failed miserably. All the things that Connery had said he wanted to avoid, all the things the franchise started to avoid during the Dalton years were back in. The gadgets, gizmos and air headed girls. Instead of progressing, it had begun regressing in a desperate effort to reestablish itself and find a 'new' winning formula.

Yet, despite these obvious flaws, Brosnan rose above most of it to deliver credible performances that in a way returned Bond to the Connery blueprint, but for the most part he had to work his socks off to achieve this because the production was awful. The exotic locations were there, as were the fight sequences and car chases, but overall the films lacked intelligence and heart. It had almost tumbled into the realms of parody without realising it and was out of step with the audiences needs.


Brosnan had been in the minds of the producers for some time, and it looked likely that he would take over from the aging Roger Moore. He came so very close too. When Brosnan's television show, Remington Steele was cancelled in 1986, he was officially offered the role of Bond, but the publicity revived Remington Steele, and Brosnan's contract with the series required him to regretfully decline the part of 007.

Remington Steele lasted just 6 more episodes before it was cancelled for good.

Had Bosnan been allowed to assume the role of Bond earlier, who knows what would have happened, we may have been given that one definitive Bond film that became a classic. But he wasn't. So instead we have to plough gingerly through his four outings, with his debut, Goldeneye, standing out as his best adventure.


It could have and should have been so different. The Irish actor mirrored all that fans admired in Connery's portrayal of Bond, he bought gravitas to the part, was very much the suave super spy, but unfortunately he was the victim of substandard scripts that contained outdated innuendo and tongue in cheek dialogue, all of  which worked in the 60's and early 70's but failed to work with the more discerning film goer. When Brosnan was allowed to shine in the more dramatic elements of the films, he did it with aplomb, delivering assured and consistent performances that we knew he was capable of, but when you look back at his movies now, in truth, those moments were few and far between.

At this point I want to clarify that I'm not in any way implying that Brosnan was a terrible Bond, he wasn't at all. If there is any fault to be attributed to the actor, then it was that he was unable to find his feet in the iconic role or burrow under the skin of the character to make it his own, but is that the star's fault or those behind the scenes? Personally, I think the latter.


Outside of Bond, Brossie often excelled. Films such as The Thomas Crown Affair, The Tailor of Panama, and The November Man were all more worthy of his array of talents than any of the Bond films he appeared in. Which makes it all the more a pity, as what should have really been a golden era fell flat on its face after years of legal wrangling had left us Bondless. The enforced hiatus raised expectations, yet the makers failed to use the break wisely or to their advantage.

Brosnan himself seems genuinely unimpressed by his time as Fleming's slick, sharp suited spy...
"I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger Moore and Sean Connery. It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me. The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable. It was quite tame, and the characterisation didn't have a follow-through of reality, it was surface. But then that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well.

I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond. 'Cause it's just never good enough. It's a horrible feeling."
Strong stuff from the man himself. Extremely harsh you may think, but there is a grain of truth here. The role he inherited was stagnant, and the character had no depth as the producers had taken him a million miles away from Fleming's original concept. As a result Brosnan couldn't deliver anything fresh, Bond was a blunt instrument in a world that required finesse, and so during his tenure the audience were no nearer to knowing what made the character tick.

With the release of The Bourne Identity, Bond's producers suddenly emerged from their lengthy slumber to come to terms with what a modern spy film was all about, but it was too late for Brosnan.


It would be easy to say that 'the Brosnan years' contributed little to, what was, an ailing franchise, but that would be wrong. Brosnan himself upped the profile, restored it to a degree and made the tills ring with excitement. He was the best element in the four Bond films he made, everything else was out of his control. He can't be held responsible for a lack of vision and the crippling complacency - that rests firmly with Eon Productions.

Brosnan is by all accounts a charming and honest individual. An affable charmer who knows what side his bread is buttered on, but secretly he must look at the recent Bond films and be more than a little envious of Daniel Craig.

Brosnan's a good actor, if not a great one, and it's such a shame that his potential as James Bond was never fully realised.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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