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'Love' Stories: Pierce Brosnan, Then And Now

Pierce Brosnan's career fits neatly into two chapters — before he played James Bond, and after.

Before, the Irish actor traded on his looks, charm and style; think Remington Steele, the arch detective show that introduced him to U.S. TV audiences in 1982. Three-piece suits never looked so good.

After he traded in Bond's dinner jacket, though, Brosnan took a left turn. He played a sad-sack hitman in The Matador, a soldier in the brutal Western Seraphim Falls. And he sang, infamously, in Mamma Mia.

His new film, Love Is All You Need, has him playing a widowed businessman on vacation on the Amalfi Coast. It's a Danish romantic comedy directed by Oscar-winner Susanne Bier, a story about about finding love — again. And as the actor tells NPR's Audie Cornish, it's a role that resonated for him.

Interview Highlights

On connecting with the 'Love' story

"Many of the emblems in the film — being a father, being a single parent, having been a widower for a short time in life — I could identify with. This is a film about new beginnings; it's about faith; it's about dealing with affairs of the heart."

On fitting in and following the work

"The goal was to entertain and to work with this great director, Susanne Bier. Beyond that, you set sail, and you surrender to the material. I was a little apprehensive because as an Irishman I wasn't sure where I was going to fit into this Danish filmmaking community. But Susanne said, 'Don't worry, we all speak English, and I'll make it work for you.' And consequently, in Sorrento, we all had the most joyous time."

On the long shadow of James Bond

"Bond is the gift that keeps giving, really. I have nothing but gratitude for having played this man, played this role. However, you know, it's a fickle business, and you have to find a way to dig yourself out from underneath that role. So it's always work; it's constant work. It's the constant constructing and destroying of yourself to create characters, and being challenged and trying to grow."

On whether he had a debonair role model as a kid in Ireland

"Oh, god, no. I mean, I grew up in southern Ireland on the banks of the river Boyne and had a country childhood — somewhat a fractured childhood, in the sense that the father left when I was an infant. And my mother, who has been a brilliant woman ... had the courage to leave Ireland back there in the late '50s to go find and build a home for us in London.

"So before I knew it, I was in London, and the first film I did see when I was in London in 1964 was James Bond — Goldfinger. And I was bedazzled by this beautiful naked gold lady, and this character, this flamboyant character. The music, the cars.

"And so began my relationship with the cinema. Steve McQueen was a big inspiration; Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde."

On discovering his ambition as an actor

(Puts on a thick Irish accent.) "I wanted ta be a fillum star; Jaysus, Maery and Jooseph, I wanted ta be a fillum star, and I became one." (Laughs.)

"But, no, I was very shy and quite reserved, and I left school very early — I left school at 15 — and I got a job in a tiny studio in Putney, South London. One day I was watering the spider plants and making cups of tea, and talking to one of the guys in the photographic department, talking about movies, and my passion and love of movies. And he said, 'You should come along to this Oval House Theatre Club.' And I walked through the doors of this building, down there at the Oval, and started doing workshops. And that's how the acting started for me."

On feeling like he had little in common with his dashing characters

"I mean, they were up here, and I was down there. ... My late wife, God bless her, said we should go to America, and somehow we took out a second mortgage on the central heating, and ... we went to America on a wing and a prayer. And the first audition I went on was for Remington Steele, and I got the job. And I had no idea what to do with Remington Steele. Bob Butler was the director, and he said, 'It's an old movie.' So I looked at Cary Grant movies and tried to be Cary Grant."

On turning an impersonation into a characterization

"Well, you borrow from the greats; you borrow, and it becomes yours. I borrowed from Cary Grant, and [at] the wardrobe fitting I said, 'We should have three-piece suits and a French cuff, and I love clothes.' "

On the allure of America for an Irish kid

"I'd been brought up on ... American TV. Lou Grant, Starsky & Hutch; Gilligan's Island. ... So America had a calling for me. And in my innocence, in 1964 when I left Ireland and I got to London with the mammy, we walked down Putney High Street, and I said 'Where are the big cars?' I was looking for the wings on the cars. And she said, 'No darlin', we don't have them here. This is England.' I thought I was in America."

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