There are three characters I grew up reading as a child: Jason Bourne, Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. It’s why I have an affinity for anything involving those three; it’s a link to my childhood and Bond was something that bonded my father and me. He grew up reading the Bond novels, as well, so it’s kind of neat that we’ve had the ability to enjoy both the novels and the movies together. Neither of us are super fan types, of course, but a new Bond film is something we both get excited for.
It’s why I’ve always been curious about the careers of actors who played Bond. Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore had solid, if unspectacular, careers following their departures from the franchise. Neither of them escaped Bond’s shadow, which is the common way we describe their careers, but they reflected the careers of many modern actors. They were successful as a character; they weren’t successful because audiences specifically wanted to see them.
Sean Connery was the only actor to really escape the stigma, if you will, that playing Bond brings. Pierce Brosnan, on the other hand, is kind of an odd fellow after playing the character and it’s worth exploring this week. The careers of the men who’ve played Bond in more than one film can give us some insight into what will happen once the Marvel Studio first wave is over and new actors replace the old guard.
Once actors like Chris Hemsworth stop playing superheroes and have to carry films on their own without that chip to play. Hemsworth always has Thor sequels, as well as Avengers films, to keep him in the public eye. But he’s not developing drawing power on his own; it’s about the character of Thor bringing the masses out. Heck you could probably cast nearly any number of blonde actors who have the “genetics” to develop a huge hulking physique and not too many people would notice it.
Hemsworth isn’t a movie star … he’s just playing a popular character.
Understanding Bond and Dalton/Moore is like understanding the nature of fame between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in the ’80s. Stallone was never really a movie star; his biggest hits are almost exclusively films from his franchises. He had a string of flops that marked his projects between Rambo and Rocky franchises fairly consistently in the 80s and 90s. His time spent between Expendables sequels has been spent the same way to a lesser degree; those films haven’t been massive hits but they’ve been successful.
They just couldn’t sniff the jock of a lesser Rocky film in box office receipts.
Once Marvel opts to rebrand and reboot their signature franchises there will be a time when a bunch of people who’ve became profoundly famous in their films stop being nearly as relevant as they once were. My guess is that Robert Downey Junior winds up being the Sean Connery of that set, the one movie star among a group of peers who happened to be actors playing really popular characters. It’s what separates Connery’s post Bond career from his peers in the same way we’ll look at Downey at some point in the near future.
Connery was a movie star who played James Bond … Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore merely played the character. Pierce Brosnan, on the other hand … he’s kind of different and can’t be lumped into either “he was a star in the making, Bond made him into it” like Connery playing the secret agent is on a historical basis. But je wasn’t just a guy in a tuxedo either, which is why he’s so interesting.
The man who held the title of Bond immediately before Daniel Craig, however, is in an interesting gray area. He’s not quite slumming it down, like Moore and Dalton did, in the decade following Bond until he finds himself as another actor of note but not significance. But he’s also not the rock star and iconic actor that Connery is. People don’t do impressions of either of them unless it’s a “wacky antics of James Bond” montage. Everyone has a Connery impression, a lot of them quoting from The Rock.
Why? Because that film is awesome and his thoughts on winners, losers and prom queens is insanely quotable.
Brosnan is still a leading man, nearly a decade after finishing up with Bond, because he never had that fall down the slope that two of the other four former multi-film Bonds have had. Ten years after Timothy Dalton’s final Bond film, License to Kill, he was two years removed from Beautician and the Beast. The biggest film he had a substantive part in as of late was Hot Fuzz. A generation of nerds knows him better for being a Time Lord in Dr. Who. Moore was in the same spot as Dalton 10 years after A View To a Kill, making TV movies and unable to recapture his glory as a leading man. Moore has a substantive acting career but he never peaked again after playing Bond.
Moore and Dalton are forever guys who’ve played James Bond once they took the tuxedo off, nothing more. Connery is the movie star who crafted all the things we expect from the character and has a cinematic resume that’s spectacular. Pierce Brosnan? You could argue that being Bond has helped him continue his career as a leading man because he never just did Bond films; he was always doing other things and it’s part of the reason why we don’t view him exclusively as the character.
It’s been 12 years since Die Another Day wrapped up Brosnan’s stint as Bond and while he still has the “played James Bond” on his resume he’s got a career of significance as a charming older gentleman in any number of films. He’s almost a British, low rent version of George Cloooney in a lot of ways. Brosnan’s still picking very interesting films; his post Bond career has been him riffing on the Bond character he played on a quasi-meta level (The Matador), singing and dancing poorly (Mamma Mia) and an Evangelist preacher (Salvation Boulevard) among others.
His resume since Bond is full of good leading & character roles; it’s the work of an actor who’s taking good parts first and foremost. After a while one imagines he’s probably happier taking parts in films he wants to make, as opposed to pay him the most ala Nic Cage.
Brosnan post Bond is interesting because he’s taking the roles of an actor who wants challenges, not paychecks. It’s the best way to look at his career because he’s done such a variety of roles. You don’t take a role in a film where you have to sing and dance, like he did in Mamma Mia, without wanting to do more than just take easy roles. He’s having fun and taking interesting roles and The November Man is another in a series of them.
His post-Bond career has been one where he’s just resuming where he was when he was Bond: a leading man of note looking for roles. And for the last decade he’s managed to hold onto an interesting piece of area among the dwindling property line of leading men in Hollywood. He’s never going to be counted on to move tickets en masse but if you have a film that’s in that 20-50 million dollar budget range and need someone on top Brosnan can be a guy you can throw in there if the part is right and you have a handful of similar actors to choose from.
That’s not a bad spot to be in. He doesn’t have first glance at the biggest roles out there … but he’s in that first wave of guys you look at when you need a leading man for one of a handful of genre film types Hollywood will regularly make.
Brosnan’s in that second tier of leading men. He can’t get a $200 million passion project off the books, which is the standard to really be the highest level of leading man, but he can be a solid supporting part in that film. He’s the actor good enough to be in big projects as a supporting piece, as someone you can hype for the international audiences he still courts well at the box office, but you don’t build a tentpole film around him anymore unless he’s coming back as James Bond. He’s been note perfect for a small role in a film like the first Percy Jackson, a nice addition but not someone needed to get the film into production.
If anything he’s provided Daniel Craig a great path to follow but the key thing remains. Pierce Brosnan took what could’ve been another story about an actor who couldn’t find a path after an iconic role and has crafted a second career of substance afterwards.
Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq
Mike Noyes gives The Raid 2 far more credit than it deserves.
I tackled The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Blu-Ray, Frankie & Alice on DVD and A Haunted House 2 on Blu-Ray as well.
Travis wrote about the skippable When the Game Stands Tall in theatres and I handled another passable film, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, in theatres as well.
And now on MMC … we go all conspiracy level. I was browsing on Reddit and saw something about “Why is all information on this disappearing” on a random Ask Reddit thread … I got curious and found this. Interesting view.
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
This week’s DVD – The Matador
Did you miss Pierce Brosnan going full comedian in 2005? Most people did. It was a great little film that went under the radar and didn’t quite find an audience on DVD like it should’ve. Thus, with Pierce Brosnan’s post Bond career on the mind, I opted to whip this out of my DVD collection for a spin.
Danny (Greg Kinnear) is in Mexico, trying to win a contract to save his business. Down there he ruins into Julian (Brosnan), a corporate hitter down there to take a couple jobs. They strike up a fast friendship, one Danny thinks will remain as one of his great stories. When Julian winds up on his door step some time later, and a contract out on his life, it’ll take the two of them to figure out things.
It’s a dark comedy, of course, but it’s really the tale of two people finding an unlikely friendship. Julian and Danny have an interesting friendship that develops over the course of a couple days in Mexico. Kinnear and Brosnan also have a great chemistry, as well, as they make for a fun pair of new found friends. They would wind up working together, and having the same chemistry, one more time in Salvation Boulevard and I wish they’d work together more. They have that quirky buddy chemistry that works on any number of levels.
It’s not on Netflix but it’s a reasonable blind buy. Highly recommended.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
As Above, So Below – A bunch of teenagers explore the catacombs underneath
The November Man – Pierce Brosnan is a hit man who gets into a cat and mouse game with his protégé. Comes Out Wednesday
See It – Brosnan’s post Bond career has been really interesting so far. This looks to be a good film, most likely.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Greg Kinnear, James Bond, Monday Morning Critic, Pierce Brosnan, The November Man