With such a hostile political climate existing beyond the scope of cinema, it takes a good deal of skill to keep the spy genre of today feeling exciting, original, and up-to-date. Director Roger Donaldson aims for this with The November Man, a film that draws from the best traditions of the genre — packing twists an employing none other than James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, to play the lead role — and employs new devices as well (this might be the first film we ever saw to use drone technology to catch a criminal). We chatted with Donaldson about the state of the genre, what role it plays in contemporary pop culture, and how films like November Man reach beyond the screen to contribute to the political scope.
Roger Donaldson: I’ve done a few films in the genre. I did No Way Out many years ago, I did The Recruit with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell. I think what I love about making these sort of films, as well as seeing them, is the suspense. I'm intrigued by characters [pretending to be] somebody other than they really are ... Espionage is very much a part of our world, the real world.
Where does the real world meet the world of the spy genre?
RD: I think the two are sort of intertwined. I was definitely intrigued by the idea of shooting this film in Serbia. Serbia having been at the crossroads of history, monumental moments of history, for many years. You know, the Ottoman Empire up against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now the influences of Russia South, various parts of Europe moving towards the East. Turkish influences. Muslims moving up from Albania, Turkey. It’s still right at the crosshairs of international politics as part of the world.
And yet I was sort of appalled at how ignorant I was about Serbia and Belgrade, having not been there. I’ve been to Croatia before, but my knowledge sort of came out of reporting that happened around the war 10 or 15 years ago. The reality now is very different. They’ve moved on, Croatia is now in the EU. Serbia will soon be, probably. There are still those underlying currents that are still working their way — Hungary is up against Serbia, and Austria, and Slovenia… so it’s still a fascinating part of the world.
Do these kinds of movies work to teach us anything about our political climate?
RD: Well, I think political thrillers often have a sense of irony, and they’re a little cynical about the goings on of how countries and interact with another. When we made this film, it was a year ago. Just in that last year, the geopolitical events that have been happening… while this movie is not ... 100 percent [reality, it] speaks to the monumental changes that are always ongoing in the world of politics.
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Speaking of real world advancements, this might be the first movie I have ever seen to use drones.
RD: I know. As a matter of fact, when we decided to put drones into the film, it was stuff that wasn’t quite like it is right now. I anticipated, I guess, that this sort of technology was going to become more and more important. Both in filmmaking and in [politics]. That’s one of the reasons I put it in the film; I thought it was technology that we’d see more and more of.
That’s the challenge of making films about what’s happening right now. The technology is such a part of a spy story, one has to try and embrace it. You know that the technology is probably ahead of where we are already. Now, when I did No Way Out, we talked about a stealth submarine. That was just pure fiction that came out of writing the script. Some time later I was talking to somebody who was in the know, and he was like, ‘How did you know about this stealth submarine?’ Well… we didn’t! We just assumed that there would be that sort of technology and development, and that you’d try and keep things a secret. One tries to guess, sometimes, what’s out there, and sometimes when you think of the need, what technology could provide, you put it into the story… and suddenly, it does exist, because there is that need for it ... There was a period of time when military would talk to filmmakers and say, “Hey, what bright ideas have you got that could become of interest to us?”
You mentioned earlier your love of twists. Is it difficult to pull off movie twists when audiences are so savvy now, and are always expecting them?
RD: It is a challenge to surprise. When [people] sit down to watch a movie like this, they know there are twists in the story, and they know that twists can only come from characters that are in front of them. So they start to try and put together the scenarios of who’s going to do what to whom. So it’s a challenge as a filmmaker to keep the audience guessing, and part of the pleasure of watching a film like this is trying to be ahead of the story. “I know where it’s going to go,” and when it doesn’t go there that’s always a feeling of satisfaction from the audience, like, “I didn’t see that coming!” And yet, you also try to do it with logic, so that when it does happen, they don’t go, “Well, that was a load of bulls**t, wasn’t it?” It’s got to make sense as well as surprise them. How do you surprise the audience, how do you entertain them? And how do you, at the very end of a movie, keep it going right through?
Was there ever a twist that didn't work out for you?
RD: There was a twist in [No Way Out], after I had made the film, a studio executive said, “If you didn’t have that twist on the end I think you would have done more business.” And I was like, “But I wouldn’t have made the film!” That twist was what I was attracted to about doing the film. Maybe he just felt like it just didn’t need that extra twist on the end. But for me, that was the pleasure of that whole film. It surprised right up to the end.
Did you ever worry that a Pierce Brosnan spy thriller would suffer from the shadow of Bond?
RD: I hope it doesn’t. To me, this film has nothing to do with Bond. Pierce has real star attraction. I think there’s a side to Pierce that hasn’t been exposed in his work, and I think this film shows what an interesting, complicated character he can pull off onscreen. That was the appeal to me about working with him on this movie. Of course, that's why he's a star. Bond's one of those movies [that made him a star], and he was a spy in that movie. But the truth is, this is a very different sort of spy movie to a Bond movie.
He's playing a character who's got sort of a dark side to him, too. He's been through hell and seen all sorts of things. That sort of cynicism comes to the forefront. In the scene where he's confronting the [character] that he's got hostage, that's a very demanding scene to do as an actor. I think that scene really helps the movie [become such that] you don't really know where the movie's going to go.
The November Man is in theaters now.
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A designer suit worn by Pierce Brosnan in his role as superspy James Bond is expected to fetch more than $12,000 (£7,000) at auction.
The charcoal-coloured, two-piece wool suit by Brioni was sported by Brosnan in 1999 movie The World Is Not Enough and is to go on sale on Thursday (28Aug14).
The lot includes a Turnbull & Asser shirt, a blue silk tie, and a pair of Church's shoes, and has a starting price of $12,000.
Also up for grabs in the Nate D. Sanders online auction is a T-shirt, sweater, and fleece worn by Tom Hanks in hit 2013 film Captain Phillips, which is expected to sell for more than $3,500 (£2,050).
Pierce Brosnan has revealed he was in the running to play Batman for Tim Burton. The former James Bond met with the director while he was looking for his Caped Crusader for 1989's Batman, but he admits he couldn't quite see himself in the superhero role.
In a new Reddit.com chat, Brosnan recalls, "I just couldn't really take it seriously; any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously. That was my foolish take on it. It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I?
"Don't get me wrong, because I love Batman, and I grew up on Batman. As a kid in Ireland, we used to get our raincoats and tie them round our neck and swing through the bicycle shed."
The role was picked up by Michael Keaton, who played Batman in two Burton movies. The character has also been played by George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Christian Bale on the big screen.
Pierce Brosnan signed up for new spy thriller The November Man in a bid to conclude his journey as James Bond. The actor's run as 007 came to an abrupt end after four films when he was suddenly replaced by Daniel Craig, and he admits he never got the chance to get the franchise or the spy film genre out of his system.
So when producer pal Beau St. Clair presented him with the new film, Brosnan jumped on board, hoping it would help him exorcise Bond once and for all.
He tells WENN, "After my four outings as James Bond there seemed to be unfinished business in the way that the Bond films finished in my life and the demise of Bond going offstage left into the night; it seemed like there was a certain void there... The Bond was so big and mighty in my career.
"I wouldn't be in the company of you all, talking about The November Man if it hadn't been for James Bond. There was a desire, need and want to make this film. I love the title. It has a sensuality and a mystique to it. It has a complexity of character and a punch and a grit to it, which gave me the opportunity to really take the gloves off and be hard as nails and be ambivalent in my moral values as a character. There was a complexity there that was seductive and enticing."
Ironically, the new film also features actress Olga Kurylenko, who was a Bond girl opposite Craig in Quantum of Solace.
She says, "It feels like I've done two Bond films! It was wonderful working with Pierce; it was a gift. It was great with tons of action and we both already have certain skills so we were prepared with all our past and all the Bond movies."
Brosnan adds, "There was a similarity in the role because Olga had been with Daniel in the Bond movie. But it was Olga's work and her talent and beauty and vulnerability that just made sense."
And the film's stunt co-ordinator was Mark Mottram, who was Brosnan's James Bond stunt double.
The actor jokes, "He and I saved the world a couple of times."
"He (producer Avi Lerner) offered me this job and I said, 'Sure, why not have me read the script? Let’s talk money'." Former James Bond Pierce Brosnan reveals he's in talks to join Sylvester Stallone's Expendables action film franchise.
"I just wish I was as cool as they (James Bonds) are. If I got into a fight in a bar, I'd miss the dude by miles. I wouldn't know how to connect. It would be a comedy." Pierce Brosnan admits he's not as cool as 007, the role he played in four Bond films.
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Former James Bond Pierce Brosnan is developing a new TV drama series about The Crusades.
The actor has teamed up with Gladiator screenwriter David Franzoni and America's Spike network officials to go back in time for the new series, which will take place during the Third Crusade in the late 1100s.
The plot will centre on two Scottish knights fighting for survival in Jerusalem, according to multiple reports. It is not clear if Brosnan will appear in the drama.
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Bond star Pierce Brosnan is keen to return to action movies and is eyeing a role in blockbuster film franchise The Expendables.
The Irish star has been largely absent from action films since vacating his role as 007 in 2002, but he has been approached by Expendables producer Avi Lerner about joining the franchise's star-packed cast for a future installment.
Brosnan is eager to unite with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li in the series, telling ComingSoon.net, "I said to Avi Lerner, 'If it works out and you have a good script, Avi, you know where to find me if you still want me.' It's as simple as that really. I had a grand time in his company. Sylvester Stallone is the one that's given us these wonderful platforms for actors who have and had careers to go play and have fun and to entertain. To bring a bunch of guys together who saved the world, fought the bad guys, and put them all on the same stage, that's crazy good."
"It's just about entertainment. Avi is somebody I've heard about and his movies always have big brash entertainment value to them. You can really change the world and that's great, but The Expendables? Yeah, I'd love to do The Expendables. It's just a kick in the pants."
Brosnan also defends the casting of sitcom icon Kelsey Grammer in The Expendables 3, which is set for release in August (14), adding, "He's a fantastic actor, Kelsey Grammer. You don't have that kind of career without having a talent, without having something to say and to give to an audience."
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Monty Python funnyman John Cleese has revealed he was dropped as gadget expert Q in the James Bond films because Asians didn't like his character. The 74 year old, who starred in two 007 movies - The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day - tells Britain's Radio Times that Bond bosses wanted the films to be grittier.
He says, "I did two James Bond movies and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless. "Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that's why, in my opinion, the action sequences go on for too long, and it's a fundamental flaw. "The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes."
Cleese's character did not appear in the Daniel Craig Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, but Q returned in 2012's Skyfall. He was portrayed by Ben Whishaw.
Veteran actor Malcolm Mcdowell was stunned when he was offered a role playing Pierce Brosnan's father in new movie How To Make Love Like An Englishman, because he is only 10 years older than the former James Bond star. McDowell, 70, admits he was a little taken aback by the job proposal at first as there really isn't much of an age gap between the pair.
He tells the New York Daily News, "Can you believe that? When I was cast I said, 'What on earth is this? Do I look this much of a wreck? Does he look that good?'"
But the A Clockwork Orange star insists the actors hit it off and he had "great fun" with 60-year-old Brosnan offscreen.
The comedy stars Brosnan as a professor at Britain's famous Cambridge University who falls in love with a student.