Pierce Brosnan Interview, Seraphim FallsPosted by: Sheila Roberts
Movies Online recently sat down with actor Pierce Brosnan at the Los Angeles Press Day to promote his new film, "Seraphim Falls,â€ a taut psychological action film, an epic chase and primal battle set in the breathtaking landscape of the West. The Civil War has ended but Confederate Colonel Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson) is on one final mission: to kill Union Captain Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) no matter what it takes. Launched by a gunshot and propelled by rage, the relentless pursuit takes them both far from the comforts and codes of civilization into the bloodiest recesses of their own souls.
Starring Academy Award nominee Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan, "Seraphim Falls,â€ is directed by David Von Ancken from the screenplay he wrote with Abby Everett Jaques. The film is produced by Bruce Davey and David Flynn, and executive produced by Stan Wlodkowski, and Academy Award winning cinematographer John Toll, ASC ("Braveheart,â€ "Legends of the Fall,â€ "The Thin Red Lineâ€) is the director of photography. The film also co-stars Angelica Huston, Michael Wincott, Ed Lauter, Robert Baker and John Robinson.
There is an underlying anti-war theme in "Seraphim Fallsâ€ focusing on the destructiveness of war upon the individual. For director Von Ancken, it was on some level a reflection of whatâ€™s happening in our present world with the wars we are and have been engaged in, and the futility of such conflicts when you step back and look at them.
"On either side of the conflict in the Civil War or in the war in Iraq for that matter, the individuals who are at play ultimately are not responsible for the reason theyâ€™re there. In â€˜Seraphim Falls,â€™ individuals can perpetuate horrible acts on each other whether itâ€™s by circumstance, coincidence or accident and still be good people. Itâ€™s really the construct of men â€“ their wills coming together and fighting. And at the end of the day, when you take that away from them, theyâ€™re just two people out there who probably could get along. Ultimately, Carver and Gideon are both good men. One is on the North, one is on the South and either could be the other. The only thing that separates them is circumstance. They are both halves of the same individual,â€ he concludes.
In writing the screenplay, Von Ancken and Jaques gave a great deal of thought to the types of actors they envisioned playing the lead roles of Carver and Gideon. The screenplay was sparse on dialogue with the story forwarded through the actions of the actors rather than through words. "There is a soulfulness to certain actors that this script needed because what I was going for in telling the story was essentially little dialogue, stripping away the white noise of conversation. Carver and Gideon are not talkative individuals as characters,â€ says Von Ancken.
Soon after Liam Neeson was on board, Pierce Brosnan joined the project as Gideon, a casting choice that will give audiences added admiration for the actorâ€™s remarkable talent and range and in a role which audiences might not expect for the Golden Globe nominated actor. Like Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan has had a deep longing to appear in a Western. Brosnan says that his fascination with the old West goes back to his childhood days when he would stand in line to see the latest Western at his local cinema at home in Ireland. "There are murky memories of black and white movies at the Palace Cinema in Navan,â€ recalls Brosnan. "But I supposed Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name movies â€“ "A Fistful of Dollarsâ€ and "The Good, The Bad and The Uglyâ€ -- had the biggest wallop for me as a cinemagoer. By then, of course, the Western had moved on from the guy in the white hat to the guy in the black hat and the hats never fell off. The John Ford/John Wayne movies like "The Searchersâ€ also made an impression.â€
With this love for the genre, it is no surprise to hear Brosnan admit that making a Western has always been at the top of his list. "I have always wanted to do one and who better to do one with than to be opposite someone like Liam Neeson,â€ he says. "Liam was of the same cloth as I was; we both wanted to do Westerns. We had both been brought up on them in our Celtic backgrounds. And the piece written by David Von Ancken had a real elegance to it. It had something to say for itself. In some respects it is an anti-war film. Then you throw into the mix John Toll and Santa Fe, New Mexicoâ€¦those were all the great ingredients for wanting to do it.â€
What attracted director David Von Ancken and producer David Flynn most to Pierce playing the part of Gideon was that they had never seen him in a role like this. They were very excited about the idea of casting someone you wouldnâ€™t normally visualize in this role. "I remember first seeing Pierce on television and watching him transform into the Bond character. Thereâ€™s always a control to the characters that he has played,â€ says Von Ancken. "Itâ€™s not a coincidence that he was so believable and great as James Bond because heâ€™s a very physical actor and very controlled. Yet when you get close to him, his eyes belie the fact that thereâ€™s something seething going on underneath. I knew he was Gideon from the moment I met him.â€
"I havenâ€™t seen Pierce in anything like this role before,â€ continues Von Ancken. "Heâ€™s a very primal actor, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to really let loose. Pierceâ€™s performance in "The Matadorâ€ opened the door to a new era in his career and in "Seraphim Falls,â€ we took the door off its hinges. Itâ€™s much more fascinating and interesting to me to watch Liam as controlled, seemingly evil and irrepressibly angry and to watch Pierce let go than the other way around. When I explained it to each of these gentlemen, they actually agreed,â€ concludes the director.
Brosnan is recognized internationally as one of the most dashing and skilled dramatic actors in Hollywood today. In 2005, he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor for his role as Julian Noble in the critically acclaimed film "The Matador.â€ In addition to his work in front of the camera, Brosnan has always had an interest in the art of filmmaking. Having achieved international stardom as an actor, Brosnan expanded the range of his film work by launching his own production company, Irish Dream Time in 1996, along with producing partner Beau St. Clair.
Apart from "The Matador,â€ Irish Dream Time has produced four films to date: "The Nephewâ€ (1998), "The Thomas Crown Affairâ€ (1999), "Evelynâ€ (2002), and "Laws of Attractionâ€ (2004). The companyâ€™s first studio project, "The Thomas Crown Affair,â€ was a critical and box office success and one of the best reviewed and highest grossing romantic thrillers in years. "Evelyn,â€ directed by Bruce Beresford, opened to critical acclaim at the Toronto and Chicago Film Festivals and also garnered rave reviews. "Laws of Attraction,â€ a romantic comedy, which teamed Brosnan with Julianne Moore, focused on dueling divorce attorneys who fall in love.
Shooting was recently completed on Irish Dream Timeâ€™s sixth production "Butterfly on a Wheelâ€ in which Brosnan stars with Maria Bello and Gerard Butler. The psychological thriller, shot in Vancouver, centers on a happy couple with a seemingly perfect life whose daughter is abducted. Over the course of a day, the kidnapper dismantles the familyâ€™s lives with brutal efficiency. Brosnan also recently completed filming "Marriage,â€ a 1940s-set drama about a married man who cheats. To spare his wife the shame of a divorce, he plots to kill her.
Perhaps best known worldwide as James Bond, Brosnan reinvigorated the popularity of the Bond legacy in box office blockbusters such as "Goldeneyeâ€ (1995), "Tomorrow Never Diesâ€ (1999), "The World Is Not Enoughâ€ (1999) and "Die Another Dayâ€ (2002). Brosnanâ€™s first three Bond films earned over a billion dollars at the international box office. His most recent Bond film, "Die Another Day,â€ was the most successful Bond film ever, garnering nearly a half-billion dollars worldwide. In addition to his four Bond films, three other Brosnan films â€“ "The Thomas Crown Affairâ€ (1999), "Danteâ€™s Peakâ€ (1997) and "The Lawnmower Manâ€ (1992) have earned hundreds of millions of dollars internationally, cementing him as one of the worldâ€™s most bankable stars.
Brosnanâ€™s other film credits include John Boormanâ€™s critically acclaimed film from the John LeCarre novel, "The Tailor of Panamaâ€ (2001), Bruce Beresfordâ€™s "Mr. Johnsonâ€ (1990) and Sir Richard Attenboroughâ€™s "Grey Owlâ€ (1999). In addition to "The Matador,â€ Brosnan has also shown his comedic skills in such films as "Mrs. Doubtfireâ€ (1993) and "Mars Attackâ€ (1996). He also had a supporting role alongside Barbra Streisand in "The Mirror Has Two Facesâ€ (1996).
Some of his many accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 Chicago Film Festival, the International Star of the Year at the Cinema Expo in Amsterdam, 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 the Queen.
Now an American citizen, Brosnan was born in County Meath, Ireland and moved to London at age 11. At 20, he enrolled in drama school and while in London, performed in several West End stage productions including Franco Zeffirelliâ€™s "Fulimenaâ€ and Tennessee Williamsâ€™ "The Red Devil Battery Signâ€ at the York Theater Royal. Before landing the role of James Bond, Brosnan had achieved worldwide recognition as private investigator Remington Steele on the popular television series of the same name.
Pierce Brosnan is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. He arrived at our interview clean shaven and sharply dressed, sporting a black shirt, suede jacket, and cream colored pants. Brosnan, who plays a wounded man relentlessly pursued by a former Civil War adversary, proves himself to be one tough hombre in the wild west. Hereâ€™s what he had to tell us about his latest role in "Seraphim Fallsâ€:
Question: Good morning.
Pierce Brosnan: Good morning. How is everybody? Thank you for coming.
Q: You look different than the last time we saw you.
Q: When we interviewed you about a year ago for "The Matador,â€ you had the beard and everything and you said it was for a role. Now we finally got to see the movie. Was it a relief to get it all done and be rid of the beard and all that?
Pierce: It was a relief for my wife. I kind of rather liked it. I thought it gave me a certain gravitas -- be it that I look like a goat. I was talking to Liam Neeson. I said, â€˜Well Iâ€™ve grown a beard actually and itâ€™s kind of grey. Itâ€™s snow white. And he said, â€˜Oh, no, no, no. Iâ€™m not going there.â€™ â€˜Well,â€™ I said, â€˜itâ€™s too late for me. Iâ€™ve already been papped by the paparazzi. So there you go.â€™
Q: What was the appeal of a Western?
Pierce: Because I grew up on the genre, you know, in Ireland â€“ the Western, the John Wayne movies â€“ although we didnâ€™t get too many of those. But you know, cowboys and Indians, itâ€™s a deep seated part of oneâ€™s childhood. And then coming to England and Clint Eastwoodâ€™s spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leoni, my coming of age, and having a fondness for the films, for movies, and the dreaming of being up on the silver screen, and all of that, you know, in my teenage years. And Iâ€™d thought about it for some time and I kind ofâ€¦I put it out there I suppose to the agents and I thought about developing my own story about a bunch of Irish guys that show up in a Western.
But I was beaten to the post by, you know, David Von Ancken [who] sent me this script with Liam attached and the script just touched me and I thought it was very eloquently written and it had the challenges of the narrativeâ€¦so simpleâ€¦a chase sequence with the underpinnings of redemption of war, forgiveness of war, the brutality of war, the history of this particular war which tore this sunder apart, tore this world apart, the landscape of America I should say, and that is still going on to this day in its own disguised way. So that was it really.
Q: I felt cold watching you in this movie. The physical stuff seemed incredibly hard.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of the role?
Pierce: Staying on the horse. But I like horses. I love riding horses, but I hadnâ€™t ridden in about ten years, maybe more than that, and the last time that I had ridden I ended up with back surgery and stuff like that because of a jump I took. So there was a certain hesitation there and the first day out on the horses with the cowboys out there, the wranglers, there was Liamâ€™s stunt double and my stunt double. They said, â€˜Well, shall we take them up to the gallop?â€™ and we said, â€˜Letâ€™s go.â€™ And we were flat out, six of us. Thatâ€™s powerful when youâ€™re out on the prairie and youâ€™re riding flat out.
And we came out of this kind of canyon and I looked over and this horse just (makes crashing sound) went down and it was the stunt double, it was Liamâ€™s guy, and heâ€™s a big dude and heâ€™s built like a rock. He just went flying through the dust. He was okay. The horse was okay but it put the shits up me to no end and I thought â€˜Oh, good Lord!â€™ and Liam and I went back to the bar and said, (using thick Irish accent) â€˜We need a large whiskey, please!â€™ You know, this shooting was only four days away. So, you know, theyâ€™re fluky animals too. When you have to do a scene 20 times and youâ€™re half a mile away and youâ€™re up at the full gallop and youâ€™ve got long lenses on you, you just hope that you donâ€™t go down. Anyway, nobody did. But the rest was, you know, the challenge of acting without words. Thereâ€™s the challenge of your inner life. Do you have an inner life?
In some ways, youâ€™re being hunted so that gives you the inner life if youâ€™ve done youâ€™re homework. And I read the history of this war and spoke to professors at UCLA and I had a dialogue, and so I was fascinated by it. And being now an American citizen, a part of my heritage and my childrenâ€™s heritage, there was a real passion for it which carried me through each day. I just loved it and being out in the elements and going to work on this majestic landscape â€“ Santa Fe, New Mexico, Taos â€“ which is a very powerful, spiritual landscape. It was just great and getting paid for it.
Q: What about the knives? You appear to have a lot of skills with knives. Was it by chance or did you practice with the knives?
Pierce: Iâ€™ve done a bit of that over the years. You know, the knive is his own Holy Grail really. He lives by the knife, lives by the bullet, and heâ€™s fighting. Heâ€™s a field agent in many ways. He knows how to survive. Heâ€™s kind of his own iconic, mythological proportions. He went through the battle of Antietam and when you read about that battle, it was bloody and ferocious and a fever of war that has never been seen since. And for a man to survive that and yet lose two sons and the loss of losing a son and then losing a wife, thatâ€™s all great food for an actor.
So there wasnâ€™t a great skill really. You drop the knife, you throw the knife, you look like you know how to handle a knife. Itâ€™s simple. Itâ€™s very, very simple, but the complicated thing is how you put those pictures together and keep a rhythm of film going. And you know in many respects itâ€™s old fashionedâ€¦ old fashioned filmmaking. You went out there and you put the camera up on sticks but you have someone like John Toll behind the camera whoâ€™s a real master at the landscape and fate is on the landscape so you took comfort in that â€“ that your performance, your body language, your gestures would hopefully tell that moment of the story and hopefully they got the right angle on your face and your eyes. So, you know, itâ€™s a leap of faith always.
Q: As an actor you have little dialogue but a lot of physical demands in this movie. How was that for you?
Pierce: You donâ€™t want to die. When you kind of see someone die, you think (takes deep breath)â€¦they give you the gift of never wanting to die and also it gives you the gift of fearlessness for your own dying. But time goes on and time goes on in this manâ€™s life and he wants to live. As much as he kind of wants to put a bullet in his brain, heâ€™s scared. Heâ€™s scared of death, heâ€™s scared of the darkness, heâ€™s scared of the final breath, and heâ€™s scared of living and heâ€™s scared of dying and heâ€™s just scared.
Heâ€™s frightened, heâ€™s haunted, and he knows that maybe at some point in time that he will meet his maker or, in this case, meet the man whose life he fully destroyed before his eyes. But I think thereâ€™s just that animal instinct, you know, that your brain has programmed to your body and your lungs and everything to live. I mean he wants to live, you know, and in it comes the anger and the ferociousness of survival. That was me anyway. That was my interpretation. Go pick the bones out of that. (laughs) That was pretty good, wasnâ€™t it? (teasing using stage voice) Greatest bullshit ever! You know, just show up and donâ€™t bump into the furniture!
Q: You talked about some of the physically challenging scenes. What was the most emotionally challenging scene for you to do in the movie?
Pierce: Oh I think when I meet him and just what do I say to him? How do I say it? How do I position myself at the end of hisâ€¦ you know, at the end of a gun and the bullet thatâ€™s going to enter your brain? And because weâ€™re so separate in the movie and because I donâ€™t speak much and just as an actor when you come to do that scene and youâ€™re opposite Liam and the two of us meet for the first [time]â€¦ even though Liam and I got on really well together and we knew each other not too well before the film. But that particular dayâ€™s work is we now have to speak to each other and weâ€™re already into the film a good four or five weeks. So that was a challenge.
Going down the rapids was a challenge. You know, that was a challenge of another order, you know, and one which one was very, very fearful of, very fearful of. I really was terrified. I was very scared by that just because things can go wrong and when they go wrong, they go wrong very fast. And the hydraulics of that water is justâ€¦itâ€™s unbelievable because itâ€™s in this canyon and it was just charging. You could hardly hear. You just had to shout. The whole day you had to shout and youâ€™re kind of on wires. To jump into the bottom of that water which is freezing, itâ€™s like, you know, a thousand knives in your head. Itâ€™s kind ofâ€¦ (laughs ) Itâ€™s fun though, you know, and if you get it right, itâ€™s exhilarating for an audience and Mark (Vanselow â€“ Pierce Brosnanâ€™s stunt double) who did the jump really did an incredible job on it. So itâ€™s just, you know, itâ€™s all a challenge and you want the audience to have a good ride.
Q: On a stunt like that, how much of it is you and where does the stunt person come in?
Pierce: I go down the river and you cut and he comes in. He comes in on a helicopter. They bring him in on a helicopter. They put him on a decelerator. That means the waterfall is here (motions with hands), they dropped him here, he goes down. Youâ€™re going down into nothingness. Youâ€™re going down into the ether of this water. They donâ€™t know how big the rocks are down there so it was just a gamble. And we stood there at quarter to four in the evening with eight cameras going. When the helicopter came in, we all waited. We waited, we waited. And they took him out of the car park on the end and he came in like this Christ figure, dropped him in, and I was standing beside David Von Ancken and you knowâ€¦ Iâ€™ve seen things go wrong and Iâ€™ve seen men be battered and he went into the hydraulics of it and disappeared and then came out and then came out at the end and everybody (applauds with hands) and David said, â€˜Letâ€™s go again. Letâ€™s go again.â€™ And I was like, â€˜Oh my god.
Oh my god. Oh Jesus.â€™ And they went again because he got too much into the waterfall and they wanted to see him just go like this (motions with flailing hands) so they just have to come out. And the guy whoâ€™s flying the helicopter heâ€™s just eyeballing it on a tree apparently. You know, thereâ€™s no computer or anything. Heâ€™s just eyeballing it. This man just drops him and then pulls out at the last moment. So that was that. And then the next day Iâ€™m on the wire and then weâ€™re at the bottom of the waterfalls and I have to jump into it. And when you jump in there, itâ€™s kind ofâ€¦everything closes down. Everything closes down. You just (sucks in breath) prepare for [it]â€¦you see nothing. You see nothing, you hear nothing, except just get in the water and hopefully the wires and the catches are going to be there and it just picks you up so fast and pulls you down and then just spits you. It was good fun though. When you go home from a day like that, itâ€™s like â€˜Wow! How wonderful!â€™
Q: Are you a fan of Westerns?
Q: Are there a lot of Irish Western movies or American movies?
Q: Did the director tell you to check out specific Westerns or to do other research on the Civil War?
Pierce: No, I didnâ€™t look at the Westerns. I looked at the history books. I just looked at the history books of what these men went through, the religion they found, the religion they lost, the lives they lost, the futility of it all, the sheer passion for killing each other, the heroics of these young men and old men who were in their winter years fighting battles, men who were just school teachers and accountants who went off to war.
So thatâ€™s what carried me through it and that weâ€™re still living this kind of â€¦ this passion for war and the mongers of war and this government that we have now who has just taken us into this confusing state of the mind and the heart and has left so many people angry and confused and bitter and you know, a country that was respected and admired as a great country is now kind of mired by this meaningless war. And how do we find our compassion again? How do we find it as a nation to do good things? So I thought it was relatable to this film.
Q: What about the relationship between war and personal responsibility?
Pierce: That war was such an ideological war and so passionate when you read the history books. It was a fever of war which has been in mankind since time immemorial and always will be. We're in the maw of war right now and the clutches of it and the confusion and the living with the consequences of the decisions of this country and the policymakers here who have taken us into this atrocious and meaningless war.
Gideon started the war with a passion and a belief that he was on the right side. The consequences of his journey and the battle where he loses two sons at the battle of Antietam pulls his heart asunder and leaves him bereft of any meaning in life and salvation in life, and he becomes a recluse in the mountains. His responsibility weighs heavy on his psyche, and I'm sure he wanted to put a bullet in his head many times but he hasn't because he's too fearful of it.
Too fearful of dying, having seen so much death. You become immune to it and yet your own death, you don't wish or want and you're fearful of it. Death can give you great courage at times, seeing someone die, and you think I'll never be scared again, but then that wears off and comes the time of your own and you think, â€˜Oh, I want to live. I want to have more breath.â€™ There's a conflict there in his heart.
Q: This was Von Anckenâ€™s first major feature. Was there a learning curve involved at all between you and him?
Pierce: Well we hit the ground running. I mean heâ€™s a very erudite fellow and I think he has a glorious career ahead of him. I went into this [based] on the script and to work with Liam Neeson who was attached and a small film that David had made called "Bullet in the Brainâ€ which is like a haiku of a film. Very eloquent. Itâ€™s only 12 minutes. And I enjoyed his company and his passion for film and storytelling and it is old fashioned in many ways. You put the camera up on the sticks and point the camera. And I watched him every day draw on strength.
He was a general and he was somebody you could trust and he had the most wonderful grace under pressure as a young filmmaker and making decisions on the fly which is not easy â€“ you know, being tested and tried by producers and time and budget and weather. And the weather gods were with us and likewise the movie gods were with us because there was no room for error in the time table. There were no winjers or moaners on it because it was hard. Youâ€™re out in the heat all day, in the middle of nowhere all day. It was just you under a tent flap and that was it from sun up to sundown. That was the good thing because you watched the sun (laughs). You didnâ€™t have to look at the clock, you just thought â€˜cold beer and a large whiskey.â€™
Q: You've got a couple of films coming out including one through your Irish Dream Time productions. Can you talk about those?
Q: You're trying to off your wife in that one?
Q: A few months ago Maria Bello had a lot of really positive things to say about your performance in "Butterly on a Wheelâ€ so thatâ€™s why we were kind of excited about it.
Pierce: Ah, well thatâ€™s very nice. Making movies yourself is always â€¦as Iâ€™ve come toâ€¦ you knowâ€¦ You read it, you say, â€˜Alright, letâ€™s go. Letâ€™s do it.â€™ and then about a month later Iâ€™m kind of second guessing myself. How do I dig myself out of a commitment and Iâ€™m back up there and itâ€™s been like that always with producing because youâ€™re the one that said yes to it. And then you suddenly have these wonderful actors and wonderful DP, wonderful sound person, costume person and youâ€™re going, â€˜Oh god, is this going to work?â€™ And that one was a really â€¦ you want to be ahead of the audience the whole time with these kind of thrillers. Weâ€™ll see. Weâ€™ll see.
Q: Arenâ€™t you also working on a project with the Maloofs (the Maloof family, owners of Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and the NBAâ€™s Sacramento Kings)?
Pierce: No, James Bond was just a job in life that I got as an actor and Seraphim is just another job. Itâ€™s another acting role. Thatâ€™s all it is really. Itâ€™s as simple as that, you know. Itâ€™s as simple and as complicated as that because growing the beard, I grew the beard for the specific reason that if I played the role like this (meaning shaven), the physiognomy would just kind of â€¦ and because heâ€™s, like I said, a field agent in many ways, he gets himself out of situations with a knife and his kind of mind set is so sharp.
Itâ€™s like kind of a James Bond character. But I didnâ€™t want the confusion. I wanted a character there of the piece, of the period, and if you look at your history books you seen men with facial hair. But you know that chapter is past, over, but forever I will be a Bond, one of them. James Bond, one way or the other.
Q: What did you think of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond in "Casino Royaleâ€?
Pierce: I havenâ€™t seen him. I havenâ€™t seen him. But Iâ€™ve been living down in Hawaii, been off the Carib for the last six months. But Iâ€™m very happy for him, you know, because he came in for a lot of flack and I thought a lot of unnecessary flack. And you know heâ€™s a superb actor and so all glory to him. Great!
Q: Thanks very much.
Pierce: My pleasure. See ya.
"Seraphim Fallsâ€ opens in theaters on January 26th. Pierce Brosnan will be seen next in "Butterfly on a Wheelâ€ and "Married Life.â€ His future projects also include "The November Manâ€ and "Caitlinâ€ which are currently in production and "The Topkapi Affairâ€ which was recently announced.