NEW YORK — Pierce Brosnan is one of those actors who needs no introduction, having played James Bond in four films, and thus having one of the more recognizable faces (and voices) on screen, where he’s been spending a lot of time lately. Besides devoting his usually suave, sophisticated self to “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (as the half-man, half-horse centaur), Brosnan plays the Tony Blair-inspired Adam Lang in Roman Polanski’s new thriller “The Ghost Writer.” And he’ll soon be a grieving dad in “The Greatest,” which he helped produce, and in “Remember Me,” in which Brosnan, 56, plays a New York mogul and father to Robert Pattison’s conflicted hero.
John Anderson spoke to him recently at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.
Q. What’s it mean that an Irishman and a Scotsman — yourself and Ewan McGregor — are in a movie that does such a job on an English prime minister?
A. Oh, that’s the Polanski sense of humor, an Irishman playing the ex-prime minister. That didn’t get beyond me. But I’m not sure why he wanted me, and I didn’t ask. I thought, let sleeping dogs lie. Let’s just have fun. Let’s just play. He likes actors from the British Isles.
Q. What made working with Polanski better, or different, than with other directors?
A. Well, for one thing we shot my last scene in the movie first. We rehearsed in Roman’s trailer and he said, “OK, let’s shoot.” And we did anything but shoot. He fussed with the props, he fussed with the computers, he fussed with the guns, he fussed with my security men and then, right before lunch, he said, “OK, Pierce, after lunch, 27 lens ...” and that’s a big lens, right in your face. And then we shot the scene.
Q. Did you eat lunch?
A. Oh, no! I didn’t eat. I didn’t eat breakfast. You’re at the top of the slalom. It’s the Olympics. There’s nowhere to run.
W. And why did you want to work with him?
A. The man comes out of such a turbulent past and such a history of cinema and tragedy. I’d never met him, but the day I went to have lunch with him in Paris, I already knew him — what he sounded like, what he looked like, his life. It was a great invitation, a wonderful time, a magnificent director. He’s a unique character and wonderful filmmaker, and this character that I play was a great way to step out and play a political thriller.
Q. Are you in fact playing Tony Blair?
A. That was the first question, and he said no — and yet all roads lead to one man. When Roman told me that we needed to do a book-cover shoot — my character, Adam Lang, publishes his memoirs — we went to a studio in Madrid and what Roman had sent me for models were seven or eight portraits of Tony Blair.
Q. “Remember Me” is a different sort of thing altogether.
A. I think it’s very good, beautifully shot and with the young Rob Pattinson working very hard, giving of himself. He has his head on his shoulders, so, really, hats off to him. I want the best for the lad, ‘cause I’m really fond of him. He’s a lovely lad. Has a huge following, and hopefully he’ll stick to his guns and not get overwhelmed by it all.
Q. Like Pattinson’s “Twilight,” you know a bit about franchises, no?
A. There are worse things (laughs). I have nothing but gratitude for the time spent as Bond and the life it gave me as an actor. And yet, in the realm of things, it’s just another character on the landscape of a career. Albeit a huge, iconic, symbolic character. You know going in you’re going to have the devil to pay to get out and try and create a career that still has resonance.
Q. What’s next? Not that you haven’t been busy.
A. We’re noodling around on “Thomas Crown 2” — the structure’s the best it’s been yet, the foundations, for all intents and purposes, look pretty solid. MGM is still behind us, or so they say, and I think they’re sincere. We have to get the characters right. I’m doing “Salvation Road,” in which I play a megachurch preacher; Greg Kinnear is my disciple. And there’s another big piece in the realm of the spy genre. That’s still a plausible field of employment. And why not?