Amidst Controversy, Bond Re-Invented with Brosnan...

GOLDENEYE, the long-delayed debut of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, was a film mired in MGM's convoluted legal problems for six years, problems which had nothing to do with the 007 franchise, but which happened to fall at the worst possible time; after Timothy Dalton's 'Serious Bond' experiment, LICENCE TO KILL, failed to break even in U.S. markets. Despite international grosses that made the film a profitable venture, many American critics, long grumbling that the Bond series had outlasted it's welcome, heaped abuse on the newer, leaner direction for 'Bond', and it's taciturn, less light-hearted star...and, with MGM's decision to put the expensive series 'on hold' until their own legal and financial issues could be resolved, LICENCE TO KILL became the unfair 'scapegoat' for the delay.

Much happened during the six-year hiatus; with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Communist undercurrent of many Bond films (and the subject of most of Ian Fleming's novels) was lost; Richard Maibaum, the series' most prolific screenwriter, passed away, and ill health forced legendary producer Albert ('Cubby') Broccoli to turn over his duties to his daughter Barbara, and stepson, Michael G. Wilson (thus ending the other 'prime' 007 screenwriter's script contributions); many other key production figures would retire, die, or move on; and finally, as the delay continued, Timothy Dalton, nearing 50, announced that he was no longer interested in playing James Bond (sparking rumors that Eon Productions, no longer honor-bound by the senior Broccoli's choices, had given him 'the boot').

While all this opened the door for Pierce Brosnan's long-awaited debut as 007 (after his aborted first attempt, in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), with a new 'look' and style for the franchise, whether audiences would even accept a new 'James Bond' adventure was in doubt.

Fortunately, everything 'worked'. Brosnan, now 42, was more ruggedly believable as 007 than he would have been, at 34, and Dame Judi Dench, 61, as the first woman 'M' (referring to Bond as a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur"), proved a perfect successor to the late Bernard Lee. Replacing Felix Leiter as Bond's CIA contact, Joe Don Baker (previously seen as a paramilitary megalomaniac villain in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), would provide a bit of "good ol' boy" humor, as Agent Jack Wade.

While the plot of the film, involving the master plan of a renegade Russian General (Gottfried John) and an assumed dead 006 (Sean Bean) to use an electronic warfare system (GoldenEye) against England was nothing new, Polish actress Izabella Scorupco, 25, Bond's latest leading lady, was pleasant to look at, and future X-MEN star Famke Janssen, 30, was the most lethal 'bad girl' since Grace Jones, with legs you WOULDN'T want around you! Pierce Brosnan's derring-do and one-liners (with humor restored to the franchise), as he proved his value in the new world 'order', found an audience 'primed' for James Bond's return...and the welcome cameo of the series' last original 'regular', "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn, 81, and as cranky as ever), cemented 007's links to both the past and the future.

James Bond's greatest crisis, whether he still had 'Box Office', had been overcome, and with audience favorite Pierce Brosnan in place, the adventures of 007 would continue.





Second Brosnan Outing Fast-Paced, if 'By-the-Numbers' Bond...

While the success of 1995's GOLDENEYE was gratifying for Eon Productions (particularly after a six-year layoff, and the replacement of virtually all of the 'key' players of the franchise), there was still an air of uncertainty over the future of the series; could Pierce Brosnan sustain his audience over several films, and could the filmmakers continue to make fresh, original films from a 35-year old 'game plan'?

TOMORROW NEVER DIES would not provide a satisfying answer to either question. While the 45-year old Brosnan looks more believable as Bond in his second 007 appearance (with shorter hair, deeper 'character' lines in his face, and a slightly thicker torso), he still lacked a certain depth in his characterization, and, for an agent that M considers nearly 'renegade', he seemed far more a 'company' man than either Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton. One critic made a 'classic actor' comparison that was quite telling ("If Sean Connery's Bond were 'Clark Gable', and Roger Moore's Bond, 'Cary Grant', then Pierce Brosnan's would be 'Fred MacMurray'...capable, but not charismatic..."). While younger audiences quickly accepted the 'new' Bond, older fans were still not convinced, and TOMORROW NEVER DIES would do little to change their opinion.

As for 'fresh' ideas, the concept of a villain being an international media mogul (a la 'Ted Turner'), using billion-dollar technology to bring the world superpowers to the brink of nuclear war to create higher ratings was 'new', if farfetched...unfortunately, the film became a routine 'by the numbers' generic 'action' film by the climax, little different than the "Die Hard" or "Lethal Weapon" films. The Bond formula had yet to have been "shaken, not stirred".

There were some good elements in the film, however; the pre-titles sequence, offering 007 mayhem at a weapons bazaar, complete with 'John Barry'-like music by David Arnold, is rousing; Judi Dench (returning as M), Desmond Llewelyn (the ancient but lovable 'Q'), and Joe Don Baker (back as Felix Leiter 'replacement', Jack Wade) are all wonderful; Jonathan Pryce, as the villainous Elliot Carver, gives a wryly intellectual 'spin' to his performance that lifts it from routine; and, best of all, the remarkable Michelle Yeoh, 35, makes a spectacular 'western' film debut as Bond competitor/love interest Wai Lin. While 33-year-old "Lois and Clark" star Teri Hatcher, as Bond's 'lost love', now involved with Pryce, gives an amateurish performance, Yeoh is beautiful, competent, and more than an equal to 007, combining dramatic skills and the astonishing martial arts prowess that would help make CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, released three years later, so unforgettable. Her scenes with Brosnan are by far the most enjoyable of the film.

While reviews for TOMORROW NEVER DIES were mixed, the box office totals were excellent, with the film breaking into the 'Top Ten' list of US releases for the year, much to the pleasure of financially troubled MGM/UA. Clearly, 007 still had an audience!

And the next production, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, would bring all the pieces together, for both Brosnan, and the franchise...






Best Brosnan 007 Outing is Exciting, Suspenseful Thriller...

There is a legitimate argument that it takes three films for an actor to truly 'become' James Bond. GOLDFINGER was certainly a benchmark in Sean Connery's portrayal of 007, as was THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, for Roger Moore. (As George Lazenby only played Bond once, and Timothy Dalton, twice, they never had the opportunity to test the theory). However, with THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, his third 007 adventure, Pierce Brosnan, 47, would put most of his critics' misgivings to rest, once and for all. Strong, wry, dedicated though vulnerable, Brosnan WAS Ian Fleming's legendary secret agent, and the film stands as one of the most exciting, unusual adventures of the series.

From the pre-title sequence, offering a catastrophe and chase that destroyed much of Bond's headquarters, and turned the Thames into a spectacular battleground, TWINE knocked the standard 007 formula 'on it's ear', and challenged viewers to solve a puzzle that offered more twists than any previous entry.

As the identity of a nearly-superhuman villain, dying terrorist Renard (quite convincing Robert Carlyle) was revealed, Bond was assigned to protect oil heiress (and life-long friend of M) Elektra King (breathtaking French star, Sophie Marceau, 33), who had been once kidnapped by Renard, and appeared a likely target. The chemistry between Brosnan and Marceau was electric, and so powerful that it became obvious that Bond, despite his desire to separate 'duty' from his 'personal' feelings, would not be able to resist the sexual bonding they both desired, for long.

As the plot developed, revelations about Renard's ultimate goal, his accomplices (including the marvelous Robbie Coltrane, reprising his GOLDENEYE role of cynical ex-Soviet agent Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky), and the importance of M (Judi Dench, in her finest performance as Bond's boss) would offer a series of twists leading to a stunning ultimate denouement. Without revealing it, I admit that it was a 'first' for Bond's screen adventures, and that author Ian Fleming would have LOVED it!

Not everything 'worked'; the film jumped around excessively during the finale, with heroics that became a bit too far 'over-the-top', even for 007, and, as 'Christmas Jones', the very 'top-heavy' but dramatically-challenged Denise Richards, 26, established herself as the WORST Bond 'girl' ever. With her wide-eyed but deadpan delivery, she was so bad that she made Tanya Roberts and Britt Ekland look like Oscar contenders!

On a sad note, ancient Desmond Llewelyn, nearly 85, made his final appearance as 'Q' in the film, introducing a new 'assistant' (John Cleese). A few months after filming wrapped, the beloved Welsh actor would pass away in a road accident, marking the end of the final link to the 'classic' Bond films of the sixties.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH would not crack the 'Top Ten' list of U.S. box office hits in 1999, but still did very good business, worldwide, and gave the series, and it's star, Pierce Brosnan, a kind of credibility in the role that had been lacking since Roger Moore's days as 007. While 'purists' would still point to Timothy Dalton as 'closest' to Fleming's vision of Bond, and old-timers would still choose Sean Connery or Roger Moore as the 'best' screen 007, nearly every long-time fan would now say Brosnan was their 'Number 2' choice in the role...and for a new generation, NOBODY did Bond better than Pierce Brosnan!

And with the dawning of a new millennium, Brosnan's Bond would still be 'on duty', in DIE ANOTHER DAY.






Fourth Brosnan 'Bond' Starts Promisingly, but Falters...

Creating new, exciting adventures for 007 after 20 feature films in forty years is a difficult task at best, particularly as public tastes change, and the character of James Bond has to maintain at least a degree of the 'persona' created by Ian Fleming. While the heirs of Albert Broccoli, his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson, have done a remarkable job in keeping the series 'fresh', if DIE ANOTHER DAY was any indication, the creative forces surrounding the producing pair seemed to be losing 'touch' with James Bond, and his world.

After an astonishing pre-title sequence, climaxing with Bond being captured by the North Koreans, the film offered a horrendous montage of torture, with Bond only surviving due to a timely prisoner exchange (as an unsympathetic M remarked, "If it had been up to me, you'd have stayed in North Korea...", obviously forgetting that 007 had saved her life in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH). Pierce Brosnan, at fifty, was superb in this sequence, vulnerable yet defiant, and to this point, DIE ANOTHER DAY had all the makings of a first-class Bond entry.

Then Bond jaunted off to find the agent who betrayed him, becoming involved in an investigation involving diamonds, solar power, and a 'too-good-to-be-true' industrialist (smarmy Toby Stephens)...and all of the originality of the opening was lost, with the film becoming an uneasy mix of obvious 'lifts' from past Bond films and silly, unbelievable situations, sets and gadgets (culminating with an 'Ice Palace' and an 'invisible' Aston Martin).

As she had won an Oscar prior to filming DIE ANOTHER DAY, sexy Halle Berry, 36, was publicized extensively as Bond's latest leading lady, CIA agent 'Jinx'. Unfortunately, after a spectacular 'rising from the waves' introduction ('lifted' from Ursula Andress' classic introduction, in DR. NO), and a few nicely choreographed fights, she spoke...and lost all of her credibility in the role. While much of the problem was certainly in the script, she was never believable as Bond's 'counterpart' in the American intelligence community, working under Felix Leiter and Jack Wade's successor, Damian Falco (Michael Madsen). On the other hand, Rosamund Pike, 23, was both sexy and duplicitous as British double agent Miranda Frost, as chilly as her name, but capable of igniting under 007's gaze. In a part equally poorly written, she made far more of her scenes than the writers gave her.

The most interesting character in the film was certainly Rick Yune, as Graves' 'enforcer', Zao. Charismatic, ruthless, and nearly unstoppable, Zao was nearly a primal force, far more menacing than Graves at his worst.

While a spectacular sword-fight sequence between Bond and Graves provided a rare film highlight (offering a cameo by Madonna, who had performed the film's theme song), and certainly ranks as one of the film series' more memorable sequences, much of the rest of the story was patently silly, with the action set at a break-neck pace to 'hide' the absurdities. The climax, as a solar 'ray' destroyed the minefield between North and South Korea, allowing an 'invasion' to occur, as 007 and Jinx attempted to commandeer the aircraft controlling the 'ray', stands as one of the most ludicrous finales to a Bond film since MOONRAKER.

DIE ANOTHER DAY, despite heavily promoting Halle Berry's presence, failed to crack the U.S. 'Top Ten' box office releases (increasing ticket prices and 'saturation' openings of other heavily-touted releases quickly pushed the 007 film out of the spotlight), and the film, itself, disappointed many critics and fans, worldwide, although Brosnan received excellent reviews.

With the takeover of MGM by Sony Corporation, which had wanted to produce a Bond film for years (the studios were entangled in a legal suit that ended just as DIE began production), surprising changes were in store...CASINO ROYALE, the only Fleming title NOT owned by Eon Productions, was a Sony property (Columbia Pictures, which had released the 1967 spoof, had become a subsidiary of Sony), and the film was announced as the next 007 adventure, to be co-produced by Columbia and MGM (through Eon Productions)...then, in a stunning move, a decision was made to go with a younger actor as Bond, and Pierce Brosnan was unceremoniously DUMPED, replaced by 37-year old British character actor, Daniel Craig....

A sad finish for an actor who chosen his profession after viewing GOLDFINGER as a boy, had been forced to wait a decade for the role, and had still succeeded in making 007 viable for a new generation of fans, despite increasingly farfetched plotlines!

Quo Vadis, 007?


As for Pierce Brosnan...While being 'dropped' as Bond was a most unwelcome surprise (particularly as he first read about it in the newspaper, prior to receiving the 'official' telephone call), he quickly adjusted to his 'retirement' (even offering his blessing to Daniel Craig)...

Brosnan has devoted himself to his own very 'full plate' of projects, as both an actor and producer. Possibly the most prolific post-'Bond' actor since Sean Connery, he had already achieved a bonafide 'hit' with his remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, while still playing 007, and since Bond, he's garnered rave reviews in THE MATADOR and AFTER THE SUNSET.

An artist and poet as well as actor, Brosnan actively supports his native Ireland, and works for a variety of humanitarian causes...

With perhaps the most extensive and enjoyable Official Website of all the 'Bond' actors, Brosnan remains close to his many fans!



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