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007 MAGAZINE Online
Issue #49 (August 2006)


GoldenEye Arrives
 Pierce Brosnan is announced as the new James Bond at a press conference held at the Regent Hotel in London on Wednesday June 8, 1994 | Brosnan as Bond by Terry O'Neill

ABOVE: (left) Pierce Brosnan is announced as the new James Bond at a press conference held at the Regent Hotel in London on Wednesday June 8, 1994. (right) The first publicity photo of Brosnan as James Bond by celebrity photographer Terry O'Neill.

Pierce Brosnan made his 1995 debut as James Bond in the film titled GoldenEye, the title paying homage to Ian Fleming’s Jamaican home where the Bond character was created. A lot was riding on this film. Would audiences still want to see a Bond film after a six year gap? Was the character still relevant in the post-Cold War era? Would a new Bond actor be accepted after the perceived failure of the previous actor?

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye (1995)

Luckily the filmmakers and studio realized all these concerns and delivered a film that brought the character back in style and substance and proved to be a financial mega-success, earning $350.7 million at the box-office. Learning from their prior mistakes with the Dalton films, MGM/United Artists assiduously marketed GoldenEye for maximum exposure.

Much of this credit could be claimed by Pierce Brosnan himself. Brosnan had to quickly own the role. With a 1990s size budget, the studio would not let the actor grow into the role after two or three films like it did with Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. With that much money riding on the investment, the actor playing James Bond had to sink or swim from the get go.

The first appearance of Pierce Brosnan as Bond in GoldenEye (upside down in a toilet) did initially raise concern of silly Roger Moore-isms right off the bat, but the action quickly settled into a tight traditional James Bond pre-credits adventure. Brosnan more than looked the part as he infiltrated a Russian nerve-gas plant. Watching his colleague Alec Trevelyan being executed, Brosnan registers the right amount of pain and surprise before making his escape with guns blazing.

GoldenEye (1995) United Artists trade ad

Even better though was Brosnan’s scene with the new female M played by Dame Judi Dench. A topflight English stage actress with relatively little film experience at that time, Dench made her mark as a ball-busting executive who is not enamoured of the Bondian mystique. It’s a credit to Brosnan that he could hold his own against the formidable Dame Judi in this scene. The sparkling dialogue and tense direction by Martin Campbell helped immensely as well.

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond on location in Monaco Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Goldeneye (1995)
Stuntman Wayne Michael Michaels with Pierce Brosnan in Monaco Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Goldeneye (1995)
Famke Janssen with Pierce Brosnan and GoldenEye director Martin Campbell Judi Dench as M with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye (1995)

Pierce Brosnan’s interaction with Desmond Llewellyn’s Q was also on the mark. Brosnan/Bond is respectful and playful with the aged Q in contrast to the snide and sarcastic turns by Connery and Moore in their Q scenes. Brosnan’s facial expressions convey a friendly bemusement at Q’s eternal fussing.

Some of Brosnan’s best work can be seen when he arrives in Russia. His first meeting with CIA contact Jack Wade, played admirably by Joe Don Baker showed us the Brosnan/Bond style. Verbally abused by the unkempt Baker, Brosnan takes it in with a blithe facial expression. When he gets a chance Brosnan amply shows his menace as he pulls a gun on Joe Don Baker. Turning the tables on the man, Brosnan forces him to finish the embarrassing recognition code to confirm his identity.

Brosnan’s scenes with Robbie Coltrane as the Russian gangster Valentin Zukovsky carry on this approach. Similarly mocked by Coltrane, Brosnan remains cool enough to deliver sarcastic lines even after almost being shot in the groin by the renegade Russian.

Another remarkable scene is a poolside run-in with Xenia Onatopp. Wearing only swimming trunks, Brosnan has to modulate between sexy, charming and dangerous all within a few minutes. He carries it off admirably. This is one of those Bond scenes that could easily be carried off by Sean Connery but probably not by any of the others. It’s hard to picture Roger Moore in trunks tussling with Xenia and certainly Timothy Dalton would look ridiculous in the same situation.

On the meatier side, Bond’s reunion with Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) is well executed by both Brosnan and Bean. Having learned that he has been betrayed by the colleague who he thought dead, Brosnan walks the thin line between pathos and professionalism. The Shakespearean trained Timothy Dalton (whom the scene was initially written for) could not have done it better than Brosnan does here.

Pierce Brosnan with Desmond Llewelyn, Joe Don Baker and Robbie Coltrane in GoldenEye (1995)

More controversial is the scene between Bond and love interest Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) on a Caribbean beach. Natalya chides Bond for carrying on a mission that only promises more death. Bond replies that that is what “keeps him alive.” This scene illustrates the 1990’s style Bond that the filmmakers promised. While not long, the scene hopes to point out those ‘demons’ that motivate Brosnan’s James Bond. On the negative side though, this scene veers towards the sensitive action hero stereotype that plagued Nineties’ era cinema; more in line with the Kevin Costner-type hero of Dances With Wolves, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves than James Bond. Neither Sean Connery nor Roger Moore would ever have to explain their motivations to a woman, especially with the whiff of vulnerability that Brosnan imbues in this scene.

Sean Bean & Pierce Brosnan | Pierce Brosnan with Izabella Scorupco & Famke Janssen GoldenEye (1995)