A Reappraisal of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond

Reexamining Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Pierce Brosnan reinvented 007 for a new generation

In 1995, the James Bond franchise was in disrepair. Fans hadn’t seen a new movie in 6 years — and the few that had come before that hiatus were not fan favorites (at the time). Then, along came Pierce Brosnan …

To help us evaluate the lasting influence of Pierce Brosnan, here’s an article by Nicolás Suszczyk: author of The Bond of the Millenium


. . . begin editorial . . .

Many renowned James Bond fans and fellow actors often agree that Sean Connery is perhaps the biggest reason that Ian Fleming’s secret agent became a popular success worldwide. I agree with them, but I also feel that without Pierce Brosnan we wouldn’t have James Bond after the 1990s or in this millennium that is almost twenty years old.

And lately, I see that the Brosnan era had been the object of biased hatred lately. “Parodic” is one of the terms used aside of sentences that include “bad acting”, “weak Bond girls” and “lack of personality from the leading actor” on Facebook comments or forum posts. I couldn’t possibly disagree more and this was the starting point of The Bond of The Millennium, my most recent book released only two months after The World of GoldenEye had been available to buy.

Before typing, I sat to watch the four films and gave a read to the novelizations and the film scripts that were available to me. I had all of my theories in mind, yet after rewatching GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day I reaffirmed them: those were fantastic films and they have set a precedent for many of the things we saw in the Daniel Craig adventures, which will follow up next year with No Time To Die.

Pierce Brosnan in the fire as James Bond

Pierce Brosnan was far from parodic.

Yes, he had a big sense of humour as all of the action heroes of the time did have: John McClaine, Harry Tasker, Martin Riggs, but he also explored a hidden and obscure side of 007: his emotions.

Although George Lazenby cradled in his arms the dead body of his wife Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Timothy Dalton was close to tears when examining the maimed legs of Felix Leiter in Licence To Kill, Brosnan was arguably the first to introspect the psyche of James Bond.

He sits down in a Cuban beach knowing that a final confrontation with his former friend is coming. Natalya, the leading girl of GoldenEye, sits next to him and begins to question his lifestyle and profession: “You think I’m impressed? All of you with your guns, your killing, your death, for what, so you can be a hero? All the heroes I know are dead.” Bond replies that this is what keeps him alive.

“This job of yours is murder on relationships,” his former girlfriend Paris Carver (now the wife of the villain) questions him in Tomorrow Never Dies. Moments later, after betraying her husband, she appears dead on Bond’s hotel room and an authentic feeling of grief and emotion draws on his face, minutes before avenging her death, that is.

Bond and Natalia in GoldenEye

How the Pierce Brosnan films influence the Daniel Craig era

In Casino Royale and SPECTRE, Vesper Lynd and Madeleine Swann convinced Bond to resign in order to lead a life together, but Natalya Simonova and Paris Carver – although they weren’t meant to be romantically attached to Bond– were the first ones to question his profession and lifestyle.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it was Bond who felt he had to resign in order to marry Tracy and give her a different life, but she seemed to accept his profession and wasn’t precisely horrified when facing risky situations as a downhill ski chase evading avalanches and armed SPECTRE skiers. This is one of the things where the Brosnan era paved the way for situations seen in Craig’s tenure

In Skyfall, the MI6 Headquarters are blown away and the leading threat comes from a man M tried to get killed in the past. The same happens in The World Is Not Enough, which in a certain way is also a deconstruction of two Ian Fleming novels: Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Barbara Broccoli herself said that, in Elektra, Bond “thinks he has found Tracy but he has actually found Blofeld”. He will get romantically involved with this woman played by Sophie Marceau and she will betray him like Vesper Lynd from the original 007 novel.

However, in one of the most shocking moments of the entire series, it will be the secret agent the one to pull the trigger when she thought she wouldn’t dare to kill her. One has to have guts to write and play a scene like that and Michael Apted himself was worried that the test audiences may find it too disgusting and he didn’t have another way to conclude Bond’s romance with Elektra.

Still, audiences understood Bond did what he had to do and the scene was brilliantly played by Brosnan and Marceau: that uttering of “I never miss” as he caresses the body of Elektra is hard to imagine with another actor in the role, judging from the style of their portrayals. But the fifth official 007 actor could balance the strong and weak side of James Bond with great success in that scene.

Pierce Brosnan in a tank in GoldenEye

The Bond of the Millennium

In The Bond of The Millennium, I evaluate much of the overlooked pros of Brosnan’s portrayal and I give another look at Die Another Day: for many, the worst film in the series and the one that put the franchise at risk and caused the reboot.

That’s a greatly exaggerated statement: the film was financially the most successful of this era and EON Productions did want to go this way before getting the rights of Casino Royale and feeling this could be an opportunity to begin a new timeline in the series.

While Die Another Day has many questionable things, the movie is considerably violent – probably the most violent film since Licence To Kill. Bond locked up, beaten up and savagely tortured is one of the most visually shocking things seen in the series and the 20th entry in the series was the first one to question Bond’s future and relevance: he has always succeeded in coming back alive, but what if he was captured in “the scariest place on Earth” (as Bill Clinton described North Korea)?

Pierce Brosnan's James Bond being tortured in Die Another Day

What happens next?

We learn the first rule of the cold world of espionage: “Get caught and you’re given up”, rehashing an idea first put in the mouth of renegade agent 006 in GoldenEye and later observed by Raoul Silva, another operative fallen in disgrace, in Skyfall.

Beyond the literary aspect of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, I decided to give you a look at what happened behind the scenes of each of them: stuntman Jean Pierre Goy talked to me about that spectacular bike jump from a roof to another in Thailand, Lee Sheward told me how he fell into the Carver printing press and the lovely Sarah Donohue gave me a lot of details of the shooting of The World Is Not Enough’s boat chase over the Thames River.

Brosnan was also the first Bond to be formally digitalized into the virtual world of video games, therefore there is a chapter focusing on the interactive James Bond adventures, primarily the original ones like 007 Racing, 007 Nightfire and Everything or Nothing.

Composer Ed Lima and screenwriter Danny Bilson gave me some details of their work in some of these games and testified about the unbreakable rules EON and MGM Interactive gave them to create the characters in these stories.

Although I have many people to thank for and to dedicate this book, I felt that the leading dedication should go to Pierce Brosnan himself. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I know that James Bond has occupied at least one-third of his life: a time span that included moments of joy and success but also frustration and tragedy.

I don’t know why he thinks he wasn’t good enough in the role and I sincerely hope (should he ever read my book) that he changes his mind and knows how much the series and the fans owe him.

The Bond of The Millennium is now out in Paperback and Kindle formats through the Amazon store, although for some regions BookDepository is more convenient since the shipping comes free.

… about the author …

Nicolás Suszczyk is a long-time James Bond fan and the author of The World of GoldenEye, which examines the cultural and historical impact of the 17th James Bond movie. 

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