Shaken, Not Stirred: Pierce Brosnan On Why Tequila Is The True Gentleman’s Drink, Playing A Royal & Joining The Marvel Universe

 Pierce BrosnanPhoto Credit: Frederic Auerbach for Casa Don Ramon



Alone (remotely) with Pierce Brosnan OBE, international man of mystery, three little words spill sloppily from my lips: “Shaken, or stirred?” I do not immediately regret them.

There are, quite likely, far more quote unquote “important” questions I might have asked this 40-plus-year entertainment industry vet. But when the man (debatably) most famous for playing James Bond starts publicly promoting a spirits brand, one might argue that, in fact, it seems like the only question.

Gamely, the 68-year-old actor, producer, environmentalist, philanthropist and artist plays along. “I suppose shaken?” He squints his eyes appealingly, thumbing at his white lion’s mane of a beard, and deliberates. “Yes, I suppose shaken. It seems to be the classic way, and it doesn’t bruise the alcohol. That’s what I’m told.”

Speaking of classic, if a more perfect word exists to describe Brosnan, I’ve yet to encounter it. Even wearing a plain white pocket tee and simple (though no doubt expensively made) slacks in the vague lighting of Zoom, he exudes the kind of savoir faire and elegance that made him, well, Bond. James Bond.

But unlike 007, his drink du jour these days isn’t a sexily shaken vodka martini. And in truth, it never was. He’s always been a red wine-and-tequila kind of guy — a Remington Steele at heart — so it would be far more likely to see him with a glass of cabernet or a perfectly made margarita in hand. Which is why his latest role, as the face and global brand ambassador of Casa Don Ramón is truly an organic fit, and one that came to be quite easily as well: “They just called my agent, we met and discussed the possibilities. I enjoy the company of everyone, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s as simple as that.”He adds, “I do like tequila very much, and this seems to be a tequila world we live in now.”

When I suggest this may be because the Mexican-made libation is, by nature, an upper (it also lowers blood sugar and cholesterol) and wonder why, after the hell of 2020, the world at large wouldn’t want to be happy, he nods. “I couldn’t agree more. If you want to feel up, drink Don Ramón. It’s very, very good tequila [he’s right — it’s made using 100 percent Blue Weber agave, which are slowly baked over the course of several days], and I’m happy to be representing it.”

While his tastes remain the same, his perspective on Bond, however, has changed courtesy of Covid-19. I recall a conversation we had in 2019, prior to the onset of the pandemic, when he shut down all discussion pertaining to his former 007 self — every Aston Martin Vanquish-driving, Walther PPK-shooting, Vesper martini-swilling inch of him. “I have no desire to talk about that fellow,” he said then, his silky Irish lilt just softening the blow of his words. “I’ve been there, done that and will never speak of him again.”

I understood his misgivings. As the gap that separated him from his last days as the iconic MI6 agent widened, his patience for discussing the past noticeably shortened. Every interview (including this one, let it be noted) inevitably turns to Bond talk, even though he hasn’t played that fine fellow for nearly two decades; he said farewell to the role after 2002’s Die Another Day and passed the baton to Daniel Craig. But after four films — including 1995’s GoldenEye, 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999’s The World Is Not Enough (the first three of which earned over $1 billion at the international box office, while the fourth garnered nearly half a billion worldwide alone) — he’s inextricably linked to Ian Fleming’s dashing, danger-loving secret agent forevermore. And he’s resigned himself to that, for better or for worse.

“It is true [that I never wish to speak of him again], but it’s just, he’s not going to go away. He’s not going to leave me,” Brosnan admits. “In that moment in time [when we last spoke], that’s what I said. But how can I not speak of him, really? He has been such a big part of my life, and it’s the gift that keeps giving, in some ways. It’s enabled me as an actor to have longevity and commercial interest.” He pauses. “Now, what do you really want to ask me?”

Brosnan is steeling himself for something inane — boxers or briefs, Craig versus Connery, shaken or stirred (oops?). But there is no hidden agenda here, just surprise at his prior statement, and a request for clarification.

He references the late, great Sean Connery, the OG Bond, who played the part from 1962 to 1967, and again in 1971. “I was told that one could never speak of James Bond with Sean, and I understand why,” Brosnan says. “But you know, I talk about playing the character, and I tell stories about playing the character, and I love the character. I’m an audience member now, though. It’s going to be wonderful to see who the next James Bond is. Daniel did such a brilliant job, gave such a brilliant performance and was very powerful. So you go on, and you celebrate other guys’ work.”

 Pierce BrosnanPhoto Credit: Frederic Auerbach for Casa Don Ramon

Even if he’s no longer involved (or wants to be), he’s still part of an elite crew — which also includes David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton — who were entrusted with the part. And while the news that Lashana Lynch will be the new secret agent in the upcoming No Time to Die (in Bond’s absence — he’s living in exile in Jamaica — her character, Nomi, assumes his 007 digits) is progressive and exciting, it isn’t Bond. “James should be James,” Brosnan maintains.

He likes to kick it old school, which is why he says the role he actually identifies with the most is the eponymous art-thief playboy billionaire of The Thomas Crown Affair, the 1999 remake of Steve McQueen’s iconic 1968 romantic romp. “He’s solitary, solo, a lone wolf, loves the arts, loves the finer things in life; he’s shrewd. [I love] that I had the audacity to go to MGM and say, ‘I’d like to do a remake of Steve McQueen’s [film].’ It was a pretty bold move, and to get away with it was pretty cool. To be with [costar Rene Russo], who I adore, and to make the movie with my late producing partner, Beau St. Clair, was beautiful.”

When I wonder aloud if he would describe himself in the same way he’s referenced Crown (the “lone wolf” comment in particular has thrown me for a loop), he laughs and hastens to set the record straight. “No, no, no! I am very social. It’s just the identification as an act of playing him. I would love to be as cool as that, and that’s the joy of what I do. When I fell in love with the movies, it was because of Steve McQueen. It was because of Clint Eastwood. You want to be that guy up there on the screen. And so, that lives on in different characters. For me, as an actor, that same passion is still there of creating something which hopefully will excite people and turn them on. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Whatever the end result might be, no one can accuse Brosnan of being one-note. His catalog of films, series and plays is noticeably expansive and diverse.

He began his career in London’s West End, in plays such as Franco Zeffirelli’s Fulimena and Tennessee Williams’ The Red Devil Battery Sign, before relocating to Los Angeles in 1982, where he immediately scored the title role in the TV show Remington Steele, a thief turned private investigator, which made him a household name in America. Since then, he has sung and danced his way through musical comedies Mamma Mia! (2008) and its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018); tackled thrillers like the neo-noir Ghost Writer (2010) and action spy film The November Man (2014); and went the fantasy route in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010). Most recently, he rocked out in the campy Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) alongside Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. He brought some elegance to the Jackie Chan action universe in The Foreigner, reunited with his GoldenEye costar Minnie Driver in the mystery thriller Spinning Man, and brought the drama to The Only Living Boy in New York with Jeff Bridges and Kate Beckinsale, all in 2017; that same year he also kicked off a two-year stint as a ruthless Texas oil baron in AMC’s western series The Son.

Even his two Golden Globe award nominations were for totally divergent projects: the BBC Two series Nancy Astor (1982) and the dark comedy film The Matador (2005) couldn’t be less alike. He’s certainly made it his mission to test-drive as many roles as possible, to lose himself in variety. (The only commonality as of late: “I seem to be into my beard acting phase,” he jokes.)

It’s what keeps him young, what keeps his career fresh. And while he’s always dared to be different, this year, he’s really pushing the diversity envelope with every single project. He had False Positive, a horror film for Hulu that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June; Not Bloody Likely, a romantic comedy with Helena Bonham Carter that explores the true story of the 1914 West End production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion; and The Last Rifleman, which was inspired by the true story of an 89-year-old Northern Irish World War II veteran who escapes his care home to rejoin his regiment in Normandy.

Out next, in September, is Amazon Studios’ big-budget Cinderella adaptation, with Camila Cabello, Billy Porter and Idina Menzel. Of the highly anticipated film, which sees Brosnan tackle the made-to-measure role of King Rowan, he says, “I had a great time doing it, a really fun time in London. It was a blast to play this particular part and to be with Minnie Driver; she plays my queen. We did GoldenEye all those years ago together, and she’s been a friend ever since. We got to hang out and romp around in beautiful places around England [where he moved at age 11 and started his dramatic training at 20]. Then Covid hit, and we closed down for five months, and finally started up again.”

And then there’s his current project, the one that’s set the internet abuzz: at 68, Brosnan is entering previously uncharted territory by bringing his Irish swagger to the DC Comics universe in Black Adam as sorcerer Doctor Fate, founding member of the Justice Society. Dwayne Johnson will play the title villain in the spinoff to 2019’s Shazam! The film is currently slated to hit theaters on July 29, 2022.

I can’t imagine a more motley duo and wonder aloud about their time on set in the woods of Georgia. Are they pumping iron together? Comparing tequilas? Discussing their mutual love of Hawaii?

 Pierce BrosnanPhoto Credit: Frederic Auerbach for Casa Don Ramon

“I’ve worked with Dwayne a few times now [on this set], and he’s been very quiet and keeps to himself,” Brosnan says. “We’re a small group of actors, really, even though this is a megafilm. The Justice Society is a small company, just four of us in total [including Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher and Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone], so the work is concentrated; big scenes, lots of cameras, lots of explosions. As for Dwayne, I don’t know the man, but I’ve got great admiration for him and what he’s created for himself in life and how he conducts himself with the world at large. So we go to set and get on with the work, and that’s what you have to do.”

He’s quite enjoying the experience as a whole, regardless of his uncomfortable costume: a motion-capture suit is required to play Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate — and it features some uncomfortably form-fitting tights. But he’s done it before — he had to wear bright-blue tights to play centaur Chiron in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief — and no doubt he’ll do it again. It comes with the job.

And in this case, the job — this character — sounds unbelievably unique, enough so to pique the interest of such a stalwart thespian. But I’m still a little uncertain as to whether he’s talking about his character or the role that fate has played in his own life when he shares the following: “My destiny is my destiny. Yours is yours, and I have a strong belief that what’s for you won’t go by you. I think you have to work hard and you have to dream hard, and you have to really, consistently do that. Fate for me has played many good hands. There’s been a few devilish ones along the way, too. That’s just life; everything happens for a reason.”

When I speak to Brosnan in June, he’s back on the Atlanta set of Black Adam. His rental home is massive and impressive, a beamed wooden structure reminiscent of a ski chalet or, perhaps, a gigantic log cabin. Save for an assistant who darts in and out of the frame, there is only he, and me.

And although he’s someone who can’t really sit still — even now, he’s in constant motion, crossing and uncrossing his legs, gesturing expressively, scribbling away on a giant white notepad, periodically using his pen to punctuate his statements — the state of the world has dictated that he take a step back and seek peace and quiet.

During the height of Covid, he and his family decamped to their home on the north shore of Kauai (they’ve split their time between Hawaii and the equally laid-back community of Malibu, California, for the past 20 years), where he “hung out and painted and gardened, swam and played golf and worried about my friends.”

Although he admits he didn’t feel the worst of the lockdown restrictions like most Angelenos did, because “where we are [on Kauai], it’s so isolated, which I like,” he’s certainly feeling them now on set due to Warner Bros.’ understandably strict Covid protocols.

“The conditions are a little tricky,” he allows. “We get tested every day, and everyone has to wear a mask; you take it off to do your scene and immediately put it back on. I don’t know what the rest of the crew looks like — I only see their eyes. So there’s a lament there, a certain mourning process that we’re going through for our past life.”

But on the flip side, he says, “I also think there’s renewal. I think people will be kinder. I think it will make us stronger and have a deeper appreciation for the fragility of our lives.”

Personally, this is something he’s always been aware of. His own life has been punctuated by trauma due to the deaths of his first wife, Cassandra Harris; adopted daughter, Charlotte; and best friend and business partner St. Clair, to ovarian cancer. Life is precious, and nothing is more important to him than his wife of 20 years, Keely (his partner in every way: after the passing of St. Clair, she became his partner at Irish DreamTime, the company he founded in 1996, which has produced films such as I.T., The November Man, Some Kind of Beautiful, The Greatest, Shattered, The Matador, Laws of Attraction, Evelyn and The Thomas Crown Affair), and his sons, Dylan, Paris, Sean and Chris.

Needless to say, philanthropy — especially focused on women’s healthcare, the environment and children’s welfare — is a huge part of his life. Honors he’s received for his charitable efforts include the 2015 Forces for Nature Award, courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council; the 2011 Caritas Award from St. John’s Health Center Foundation; and the 2007 Golden Kamera Award for his environmental work. For over two decades, Brosnan has also been an ambassador for His Royal Highness Prince Charles’ The Prince’s Trust, as well as an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. (Non-philanthropic accolades include an honorary doctorate of arts from the Dublin Institute of Technology, an honorary doctorate from the University College Cork and an Order of the British Empire bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

“I have so many people, women in my life, who are suffering now, so I suppose that work will continue, a ripple effect of putting your foot in the water,” he says.

The ripple effect is a continual presence. Brosnan, who actually started his career at 18 as a London-based commercial artist, dreaming of drawing and painting album covers, didn’t begin truly working on his art again until 1987, when his late wife was diagnosed with cancer, as a form of cathartic release. And up until this point, he typically donated his original artwork and reproductions to raise money for his causes, in honor of the women he loved and lost. His biggest sale to date, a painting of singer Bob Dylan, was auctioned off for $1.4 million at the 25th annual amfAR Gala Cannes charity event, Cinema Against AIDS.

For the past year, he’s been creating art nonstop, regardless of where he lays his head, be it Kauai, Malibu or even here in Georgia, where he has his own studio in the woods near the Black Adam set.

 Pierce BrosnanPhoto Credit: Frederic Auerbach for Casa Don Ramon

“Sometimes it’s so beautiful [here] that it becomes very hard to paint,” he says. “And sometimes the best paintings come out of just being in close quarters or in an uncomfortable situation. But I draw constantly, and I paint. I try to paint every day when I’m away, as well as when I’m at home. I was supposed to have an exhibition last year, my first ever. But then Covid happened, and in the interim time I set forth going into the NFT world.”

He launched his NFT — a collection of new works of abstract movement, self-recorded sound elements (including his voice) and bespoke visuals that’s reminiscent of a ’90s multiplayer video game — on on Father’s Day. And now, finally — at nearly 70 years of age — his foray into the tangible art world is happening: Brosnan will have a comprehensive showing of his work for the first time in Venice, California on September 25, his wife’s 58th birthday (“It’s her birthday present from me”).

“It’s a retrospective,” he tells me. “I suppose I’m starting at the beginning, when I started painting in 1987 right through to now. It’s figurative, it’s landscape, it’s color, surrealism, lyrical, ionic. It’s hard to describe one’s own work. There’s a large group of paintings. It will be a very personal and sentimental show. But I think it’s time to let them go.”

Somehow, I think that a display of his art will be far more raw and revealing than any interview could ever be. He murmurs his assent, saying, “I’ve shown my work a few times here and there, but to have a show like this will really be putting my neck on the line. I think there’s some progression and articulation of my work over the years, so maybe I’ll make a book from it, make a diary from it, do a biography as well. But who knows? [Basically], don’t give up the day job!”

In all seriousness, he loves his chosen path. It’s afforded him all the luxuries he currently has and created a world of distance from the young and hungry boy he was, growing up on the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland. “To be an actor, to get away with it, and to have fun and to be able to create a meaningful life for my family and support them, well, that’s pretty darn good,” Brosnan says with a smile.
I agree, and I also agree with his sentiment that “precious time” is the greatest luxury in life. “Time lived, time past and present, and good health, those are luxuries. Spending time playing nine holes of golf in the morning, having a beautiful lunch with my wife, a swim, spending the late afternoon in the studio painting, having a cocktail as the sun goes down — some tequila, some Casa Don Ramón — that’s the best day I can dream of. Peace, nature, being by the ocean. Simple things. That’s joy.”

And there’s also joy in that, no matter how many little luxuries he indulges in, Hollywood is still calling, and calling often, with new and exciting opportunities far beyond what he dreamed he’d be doing at this point in his career.

“Now I’m playing roles like the king in Cinderella, The Son, Doctor Fate,” he says. “It’s exciting. You’ve left your youth behind, that pretty-boy image you created, and you’re an actor of more than 40 years, still standing. It is so magnificent to be relevant, to try and have longevity in your career as you get older and as you get grayer and more on in your years, which you have to be aware of. And I am aware of it, and it’s very joyful. It’s also exhilarating to see what kind of work you get asked to do.”

No matter what, he says, the goal is always the same: to show up, and to keep up. “Some people think I retired,” he admits, adding, “[Oscar winner] Michael Caine says actors don’t retire — the phone just stops ringing. And right now the phone is ringing, and I’m working and enjoying it. And that’s about as good as it gets.”

Pierce BrosnanPhoto Credit: Frederic Auerbach for Casa Don Ramon