Byline: Patricia Danaher
Three years shy of his 60th birthday, all the superlatives usually applied to Pierce Brosnan are still true. He is tall, dark and handsome, has charm in abundance and retains the debonair sheen that made him a natural for the highly coveted role of suave spy James Bond.
Arriving to our interview on the 61st floor of New York's Empire State Building, he's dressed in an elegant navy suit with an open-necked grey shirt underneath. His hair is flecked with grey in that distinguished-gentleman kind of way and his fierce blue eyes have a cheeky twinkle.
But scratch the dapper veneer and there is a wariness combined with that familiar self-doubt that besets so many actors - irrespective of their accomplishments. It would seem that, almost six years on, the Navan actor is still very much shaken and stirred after being dumped by the 007 franchise in favour of Daniel Craig - despite having delivered four solid box-office hits.
'Bond was great while it happened,' he says, lowering his eyes and looking more than a little bruised at the recollection. 'There was an instinctual understanding and awareness that I had my work cut out for me to find a path for myself after that. I had seen other men go down this road before me, so I was fully cognisant of the pitfalls of the success of being Bond. It's a small and rather elite group.
'But having said all of that, the disappointment was acute and the blow, when it came, was mighty, especially when you think you're going in a certain direction and then you get the chop.' Some might question, then, whether it was a wise move for him to get involved with another franchise for his new role in Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief, the film adaptation of Rick Riordan's cult magical adventure novels. With a stellar cast including Uma Thurman as Medusa, Sean Bean as Zeus and Rosario Dawson as Persephone, the film is now showing in cinemas.
'I did not think of that when I took this on,' Brosnan admits. 'My son Dylan loves the books and when they offered me the role he said: "You gotta take it, Dad." The director, Chris Columbus, was very sneaky - he sent me this beautiful artist's rendition of myself as a centaur. I put it up on the mantelpiece and bored everyone showing it off. The muscles! I'd never seen a body like that on a horse! Vanity ruled.'
Brosnan does indeed look every inch the Celtic god in his role as centaur Chiron - and he sounds surprisingly like one, too. When I point out that you don't see a lot of centaurs in Kerry, Brosnan laughs and says that the accent is actually more Limerick, and that he must have been channelling his inner Richard Harris when deciding how to play the character. 'I knew Richard a bit and we're connected through family,' Brosnan explains. 'I loved him as an actor and it was only when I looked back at the Lightning Thief that I realised how much I must have been thinking of him. I thought: 'My God, it sounds Harrisesque, the tonality of my speech." He was brave and bold and mad and scary and crazy and charismatic.'
Another character in Brosnan's life to whom any or all of those adjectives might equally apply is Roman Polanski, who directed Brosnan in The Ghost, due for release in Irish cinemas next month. In the political thriller, Brosnan plays the role of a disgraced British ex-prime minister who hires Ewan McGregor to ghost-write his memoirs. The role makes the obvious comparison with Tony Blair and his support for the invasion of Iraq against the wishes of his own electorate.
Controversially, Brosnan says that he's angry there will likely be no consequences for Blair, while Polanski remains under house arrest in Switzerland. The Oscar-winning director pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977 but fled America before he could be sentenced. On the run for three decades, he was arrested by Swiss police in September last year and is currently fighting US extradition. …