Interview: Pierce Brosnan Looks A Long Way Down


From Remington Steele to James Bond to Julian Noble in The Matador and a singing role in the musical Mama Mia!, Irish actor Pierce Brosnan has established himself as a go-to actor who pulls off the role of dashing and debonair leading man in a way we haven’t seen since the days of Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.

The unsurprisingly busy actor can now be seen in the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down, playing Martin Sharp, a shamed morning television host accused of sleeping with an underage girl. One New Year’s Eve, Martin goes to the top of a London building to commit suicide where he encounters three very different people, played by Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots, and the foursome become fast friends who help each other through their respective issues. spoke with Brosnan last week about the movie, some general career questions as well as asking about the announced Mrs. Doubtfire sequel and the rumors of him appearing in an “Expendables” movie. “A Long Way Down” has been on my radar for a couple of years, ever since I talked to Aaron Paul at Toronto. He may have been on his way to film this. As a Nick Hornby fan, I was excited to see it brought to life, so did it take a long time for this movie to come together?
Pierce Brosnan:
My agent sent me the script, I liked the script very much. I read the book. Nick Hornby is someone who I’ve been aware of for many years, not that familiar with his writing, but read the script, read the book. The producers, Finola and Amanda are so accomplished and have a wonderful way about them. Pascal Chaumeil, I loved his work as a director and we set sail, Toni Collette, Aaron and Imogen. So you look at all the ingredients and say, “I’m in,” and very happily so, very happily so. I’m very proud of the movie. I think it has a heartbeat of entertainment and investigation of people’s lives, which is quite unique, dealing with the issue of suicide.

CS: In a very Nick Hornby kind of way, though. He deals with a lot of dark things in his books, but he always finds a way for light to enter in some ways. Did you read the book or the screenplay first?
I read the screenplay. They sent me it. It came in and I can’t remember exactly how or when it came in or how it came, but it was the script before the book.

CS: A movie adaptation of a book is always going to be different. Did anyone say, “Stay away from the book?” Or, did you want to see how the author intended your character to be.
No, Jack Thorne did an incredible adaptation. It’s not an easy book to adapt, and I think he acquitted himself grandly. No one gave me any roadmap on how to approach the material–you find that yourself–so in a way, you kind of have some kind of ownership over it.

CS: Martin’s an interesting character. Maybe it’s British, but it feels like there are more celebrities or famous people in Britain who become the targets of paparazzi or tabloids there. I feel there are more British celebrities who have the type of falling outs that Martin goes through. I’m not sure why.
Well, it’s a smaller landscape than the Americas, and so, they have a wonderful way of building you up and pulling you asunder – at the same time, sometimes. There are a number of characters that I watch their work from old TV shows and morning breakfast shows. I was ironically sitting at the Colombe d’Or in the south of France reading this particular script of “A Long Way Down” and having watched a particular talk show host from breakfast TV. He walked into the restaurant. So, there he was, with his wife and sister, a humorous little detail of preparation.

CS: Did you get the impression that Martin was good at his job and was popular?
I don’t think Martin was very good at his job. He knew he wasn’t very good at his job. He was probably a failed actor who stumbled into the world of breakfast TV and was more enamored by making people laugh and playing the buffoon within it all, and then, got found out, really.

CS: I talked to Nick Hornby before, actually for “An Education,” which he wrote the screenplay for. How involved is he in a movie like this? Did you get to meet him at all during the process?
It was at the read-through, which was at the BAFTA offices. It’s a glorious kind of occasion and ceremonial and very proper. He was there and he read a number of the subsidiary roles, and that was it. That was it. I never really saw the man again. We had a dinner and Nick let us get on with it. I think he took great faith and confidence in Jack Thorne, who did the adaptation, and thought that it was in capable hands.

CS: It’s funny that this movie’s been on my radar since I spoke to Aaron and I’ve also spoken to Imogen in the last year about it, and I never realized Pascal directed it. I’m actually a huge fan of “Heartbreaker” as well, so that was an added bonus that it was directed by a director I liked.
I like Pascal very much. He and I have a film. He has a story that I would like to do, so we became good friends. I think he did a brilliant job with making this film live up to its potential. I don’t read reviews, but I hear that there was a harshness taken to the piece back in England, which I’m not quite sure where that stems from. It’s such a volatile issue, that of suicide.

CS: I spoke to Richard Shepard who did a really great movie with Jude Law, a very British movie. Richard’s not British, but he was saying he thinks the British have an issue with British films that aren’t directed by Brits.
I think the crosshair’s right on poor Pascal or maybe all of us, really, just that, how dare they let someone else but a Brit direct? I know Richard and I know that piece and I was going to be in it, but the circumstances didn’t allow me to (do it). But there you go.

CS: You’ve worked with a number of foreign filmmakers from Pascal to Susanne Bier and I guess Roman Polanski, though I’m not sure he’s considered a foreign filmmaker since he was working in Hollywood a long time ago. Do you notice any difference between the way they work?
No, the essentials are always the same, really, the initial impulses, the same as everyone comes to the material wanting to do the best job possible. Someone like Roman Polanski comes with a lifetime of achievement, cinematically. It’s always exhilarating to be in the company of great filmmakers, writers, producers, directors. So, I’m a journeyman actor. I’m as passionate now as I was when I was 24, about the doing of it all, it comes with a certain grace and, I don’t know, passion as you don’t hold the reigns as tightly. So they love you, they don’t love you, they half like you, they’re not sure. All I have is the process of making it, finding the material, being passionate about the material, doing the work to the best of my ability, and moving on.

CS: So you go to see your movies at the premiere and that’s it?
That’s it. I don’t watch it again. I don’t, which my boys chastise me, especially in the realm of James Bond. I have no desire to look at myself. You know, I’ll give it maybe a few minutes. It’s not pleasant.

CS: I totally can understand that. I do these four-minute TV interviews and I certainly have no interest in seeing myself on screen.
Why do I do it? The joy is meeting the artist and investigating the moments that you have or the weeks, the days, the months that you have in the character. Then, did you have a good time? That’s all you have, is the process, and the rest is out of your control.

CS: You’ve kind of been producing some of the movies you’ve been in recently. I know you were involved as a producer in Roger Donaldson’s upcoming movie (“The November Man”) and you did the same with “The Matador.” Can you talk about the decision of getting involved in that aspect and how involved you get as a producer?
When it’s done from a friendship, came from a friendship with Beau Marie St. Clair, who is a producer and is my producing partner and dear friend. When “GoldenEye,” the James Bond, my first one came out and it had the success that it had, we said, “Let’s make movies. Let us step forth and create our own projects.” It’s as simple as that, really. So, from “The Matador,” “Thomas Crown,” “Evelyn,” “The Greatest,” “November Man,” it has allowed me to create a career and create work for myself in the world of cinema. It’s that simple.

CS: But you seem to be fairly busy. I think at a certain point actors can start to cut back on the number of movies they do, but in the past few years, you’ve been doing three, four movies a year.

CS: I guess a lot of it comes from your passion to keep making these movies.
There’s a want, a desire, a passion and a need to work. Luckily, there is a need actually, because when you have a need and a hunger and you have great want and a desire within that fabric of your day-to-day life, and how you provide for your family. So it’s fairly, fairly basic. Luckily, I have some talent, knowledge of what I do.

CS: For instance, let’s say you end up making a movie where you’re paid so much money that you don’t have to work for a year, would you do that or would you still want to keep at it?
If I made so much money from one movie, then that would be another scenario.

CS: It’s definitely a more theoretical question
To be honest, I probably would make that movie and take the $20 million or $25 million and then go around the Greek islands or I have no idea. I have no idea.

CS: We’ll talk again after you make that $20 million movie.
(laughs) Who knows if that should ever transpire again? But you have to be tough as all boots to play this game and stay at the table. But more importantly, to be passionate and connected and curious about your artform and how do you do the best job possible with the material and the work at hand?

CS: “November Man” is an interesting case, because I think over the last few years you’ve tried to stay away from doing James Bond spy type of stuff, very deliberately. You were in some romantic comedies, including a recent one with Emma Thompson. In “November Man,” you play an ex-CIA agent and it has more action.
Well, we optioned that book five years ago, so the gestation period has been one of making the material to the best of our ability and the timing and the financing. So that’s the timeframe. I think there was no set plan five years ago. If the stars had been aligned, we would’ve made it five years ago. But it came about the way it did. Roger Donaldson, being a good friend, and the material being, in some fighting shape and our friendship certainly gave it a real pulse of filmmaking. So that comes out very shortly. Relativity has bought it, so I think they’re going to give it a good push. I think they’ll support us. They already have, it seems. They’ve been very passionate about making this film that will be seen by many people.

CS: I like Roger Donaldson also. I think he’s a really talented director.
Roger is a really fine director. He gave his heart to myself and to the piece, which comes from a friendship and the respect of each other’s work. So, we’ll see.

CS: I guess one of the odder rumors I’ve heard–and I guess you can either confirm it or deny it–is that you’re going to be in an “Expendables” movie. You see the trailer for “The Expendables 3” and you see Kelsey Grammer and all these interesting names, so I can definitely see you doing something like that.
Sure. I said to Avi Lerner, “Look, you know, if it works out, Avi, you know where to find me. If you have a good script, you know where to find me. If you still want me, you know where to find me.” It’s as simple as that, really. I had a grand time at his company. Sylvester Stallone is the one that’s given us these wonderful platforms for actors who’ve had careers, had careers, to be able to go play and have fun and to entertain, to bring a bunch of guys together who’ve saved the world, fought the bad guys, put them all on the same stage. That’s crazy good.

CS: I’m not sure Kelsey Grammer has saved the world that many times.
But what Kelsey does in the most glorious way. He’s a fantastic actor, Kelsey Grammer. You don’t have that kind of career without having a talent, without having something to say and to give to an audience. It’s just about entertainment. It really can change the world, and that’s great, but “The Expendables?” Yeah, I’d love to do “The Expendables.”

CS: You mentioned it would be fun. Is that a big factor, because one would expect that the script wouldn’t be Shakespeare.
No. It’s just a kick in the pants to go off there to Serbia. I made James McTeigue’s “Survivor” there. I’ve done seven movies in the last two years, so that’s a fair bit of work, two of which I’ve produced and made with Irish DreamTime, and the rest were gigs that came up and it’s just the order of the cards. So Avi was someone who I’d heard about and his movies have always got big, brash entertainment value to them. We’ll see.

CS: I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but did you hear that “Mrs. Doubtfire” was one of the most aired movies on cable last year with some insane number.

CS: And because it was so successful on cable they began talking about making a sequel to it.
I heard that. I’ve heard that rumor.

CS: I was curious, do you feel like your character Stu from the first movie has a place in the sequel? Do you think they’re going to try to bring him back?
Listen, if they want me back, then great. Let’s read the script and see if it’s, you know, doable.

CS: People love the movie because obviously they wouldn’t show it on cable so much if they didn’t.
Beloved movie. Yeah, it’s a classic in its own right. I think it will be passed down from generation to generation as all good movies should be, father to son, mother to daughter, whether it be “Mamma Mia!,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “James Bond,” that’s the joy of moviemaking, you know? It’s a wonderful life. It’s a wonderful life. The critics tore it apart, but the people at the end of the day say, “We love it. We love you. We love the movie and we want to see it.” So that’s the alchemy.

CS: So you’re pretty satisfied with the legacy you’ve created so far? If you get a $20 million job and retire would you pretty happy with what you’ve left behind?
(Laughs) My wife would. I think my children would. They’d like to see more of me, because I’m a working actor, so I have to go out there and make a living. Luckily, I’m passionate about it and want to do what I do, so that’s the gift.

A Long Way Down is now available on ITunes and on On Demand, but it opens theatrically at the Quad Cinemas in New York on Friday, July 11 and in other cities on July 18. You can see the full list of theaters here.

(Photo Credit: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/

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