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Pierce ('Steele') Brosnan upgrading his image

Von Roderick Mann
(Los Angeles Times, 9. April 1984)

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If it's true that inside every fat there's a thin one struggling to set out, then it may well be equally true that inside every television star there's an actor yearning to make the leap onto the big screen.

Pierce Brosnan, the handsome fellow in TV's "Remington Steele," is no exception. And now he's done it -- starring with Lesley-Anne Down in a new film "Nomads."

Brosnan, the 32-year-old Irish-born actor whose blue eyes and cut-glass good looks have made him a small-screen heartthrob, completed the movie during the hiatus from "Remington Steele" earlier this year.

"Now I want to do more movies," he said last week, relaxing on the balcony of his home in the Hollywood Hills.

"You get to the stage in a television series when you begin to wonder what you are -- actor, celebrity or just a face. You get so caught up in this business of looking good 100% of the time and falling into posturing. But there's a real fear that maybe you can't do anything else because you're really just an image. It's got nothing to do with acting."

When "Nomads" came along, Brosnan already was committed to a project for Norman Rosemont, a television remake of "The Corsican Brothers" to be filmed in France.

"I'd already begun preparing for that," he said, "but when I was in New York, Elliot Kastner ("Nomads" executive producer) got in touch with me. He'd originally wanted Gerard Depardieu for the film, but people had kept mentioning my name to him.

"So he asked if I was interested. It was just what I'd been waiting for -- a film. My wife Cassie (actress Cassandra Harris) and I were so excited we couldn't even sit through 'Death of a Salesman' (the Arthur Miller play on Broadway starring Dustin Hoffman), we left early to get hold of a 'Nomads' script.

"But what was I to do about 'The Corsican Brothers?' Careerwise, I knew I had to do the movie, but I dreaded facing Norman Rosemont and telling him. But the fates must have been on my side that day because when we met, he said 'Sorry, we just can't fit our project in within your schedule.' So everything worked out fine."

Brosnan's role in "Nomads" is that of a French anthropologist living in Los Angeles who gets involved in a mystery. He enrolled in a Berlitz class and got a dialect coach to get the accent right. He also grew a beard, let his hair grow and drank lots of beer to put on weight.

"I tried really hard to break away from 'Steele,' " he said, "and I hope I succeeded."

Brosnan and his wife now have formed their own company to explore suitable properties for future films.

"Since everyone keeps trying to fit me into the Cary Grant mold, we thought we'd see if we could get the rights to some of his older, less well-known films," Brosnan said, "but the rights are all tied up. So Cassie sat down and co-wrote a thriller for me, 'Time for Now,' and we just raised the financing for it. That'll be my next film."

Stories were circulating in London recently that he could be the next James Bond. It was even mentioned that he had installed a gym in his house to get in shape.

"Absolute fiction," he said. "After the story ran, I wrote Cubby (Albert Broccoli, the Bond films producer ) and explained that it had not come from me. Cassie was in one of his Bonds ('For Your Eyes Only' ), so we do know him."

Until "Nomads," Brosnan's movie experience had been limited to a couple of bit parts in films made in England. He did one day's work on "The Mirror Crack'd," the Agatha Christie mystery that starred Lizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Kim Novak.

"I didn't have one word in that," be said, "and I looked like a Chelsea hairdresser. Worse, I arrived late on the set for my one day's work, which was a scene with Elizabeth Taylor. It was a scene within a scene, and she had to crush me to her bosom and say 'Jamie, Jamie'.

"My second film was 'The Long Good Friday,' in which I played a hit man. I had no dialogue in that, either, but I ad-libbed a 'Hi' and it stayed in. All I had to do was turn up at the swimming pool and kill a man."

Those two tiny parts, coupled with London stage appearances -- including Tennessee Williams' "The Red Devil Battery Sign" -- landed him his role in ABC's "The Manions of America," which was filmed in Ireland.

Some of the 1984-85 "Remington Steele" production also was filmed in Ireland this summer, and it marked Brosnan's first return to his homeland as a celebrity.

"It was quite an emotional experience," he said. "The show is very popular there. I took my mother and stepfather with me as a treat, and they were quite impressed by all the fuss. Until then, I don't think they'd taken what I do very seriously."

Brosnan also saw his real father, who had walked away from the family when he was an infant. "He and a cousin came to see me on my last day in Dublin," Brosnan said. "We had photographs taken, but he was like a stranger to me. There wasn't much to talk about.

"I found out later that the cousin had given the story and pictures to a local newspaper, which I thought rather shabby. I deliberately kept quiet about the meeting, because I didn't want my stepfather upset."

Brosnan, who has three children, now has plunged back into the daily grind of his television series.

"The first season I would learn the entire script each weekend," he said. "I treated each segment as if it were a play by a major dramatist. The second season I learned my lines a couple of days before. This season I'm learning them the night before. You learn to relax a little. With luck, the work improves...."

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