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EXCLUSIVE: Is Brosnan too old to be 007?

From John Hiscock - The Mirror

YOU could forgive Pierce Brosnan for being both shaken and stirred. To millions of fans, he is James Bond.

But after playing the superspy in four hit films, the star may have lost his licence to thrill.

Brosnan has revealed that he has yet to be contacted by the producers about starring in the soon-to-be-shot fifth movie and doesn't know if they want him back.

But the thought of being a former 007 isn't keeping him awake at night.

"They know where to find me if they want me," says Brosnan, regarded as the best 007 since Sean Connery. "I'd love to do another but, if not, I won't be out of work."

The casually-dressed star, relaxing at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, gives a candid insight into the saga.

"The producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, asked me back when we finished the last Bond film. But I think now there is a sense of paralysis and they're not quite sure how to proceed."

Recent rumours suggest that a younger actor will take the role in the 21st film of the series, due for release in autumn 2005.

At the age of 50 there are worries Brosnan won't bring in younger fans. Names such as Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGregor and current bookies' favourite, Australian X-Men actor Hugh Jackman, have been floated as sexier, cooler alternatives.

The current incumbent is philosophical about a possible change.

"You know going in that your time will come to bow out, walk off and say goodbye. If that time is now, then it's been a glorious ride.

"But I'll always be James Bond because that is a role you live with for life."

It was Brosnan who rejuvenated the faltering franchise a decade ago. GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day have all been big hits and the actor's heroics appealed to a new audience.

In return, the role has been good to the Irish-born star, both professionally and financially.

"It's allowed me to participate in causes that are close to my heart and provide for my family in a very fine way," he says.

HE'D originally been offered the part in 1986, when Roger Moore gave it up, but he was committed to playing smoothie TV detective Remington Steele. He was offered it again in 1995, as Timothy Dalton's successor, and took it.

Things had gone smoothly until the recent death of Dana Broccoli, which threw the whole "Bond 21" project into turmoil - as have the "new 007" rumours. It's also not certain whether the chosen director, Martin Campbell, will be available.

But whatever happens, a decision on who will play 007 will have to be made soon as - despite the lack of a script or start date - the film is due out on November 18 next year.

And if the middle-aged Brosnan is no longer wanted, he has plenty of ideas about who could replace him.

"Colin Salmon would be a great Bond. Clive Owen is a very fine actor... Hugh Jackman... Gerard Butler... There are men out there and there will be another Bond, whether I do it or not," he says.

"Bond has been in the limelight for so many years he'll carry on."

Even if left to make the decision himself, Brosnan would know when to quit. Critics and fans agree that Moore's last appearance in the role at 58 was farcical - and Brosnan doesn't intend to end his tenure in the same way.

Yet the star, who had driven in from his home in Malibu to meet me, looks much younger than 50 - even with a wispy moustache grown for his next film, Matador, in which he plays a hitman in Mexico.

He has the appealing quality of seeming to not quite believe his good fortune and, he says, he gives thanks every day for that and his extended family.

He married TV journalist Kelly Shaye Smith in August 2001. They have two sons, Dylan Thomas, seven, and three-year-old Paris Beckett.

Brosnan also has a 20-year-old son, Sean, from his first marriage to Cassandra Harris, who died of cancer in 1991, and is the adoptive father of her two grown-up children.

Most of the time, Brosnan has a mischievous twinkle in his eye but he becomes serious when he talks of family life.

"The little boys are great," he says. "I'm relishing their company on a day-to-day basis. I'm a lucky man to have it all over again at 50.

"I'm old-fashioned and believe in marriage. I had a great marriage which, sadly, had its own ending and I was lucky enough to find love again.

"Being a father is a huge responsibility, even more so now than it was when I was in my 20s and 30s because then I was so full of myself and trying to be successful.

"Then suddenly you look around and you are successful and that gives you the luxury to spend more time with your children."

MARRIAGE - and divorce - feature in his latest film, the romantic comedy Laws Of Attraction, directed by Peter Howitt and produced by Brosnan.

He and Julianne Moore play divorce lawyers pitted against each other in a case. But they find themselves wed after a wild night of celebrating.

Meanwhile, the production company the star founded, Irish Dreamtime, has yielded three films and is developing several more which he is set to star in.

It all shows that he has no intention of sitting around waiting for Bond to come calling.

Through all this frantic activity, he exudes cool sophistication, causing his older children to nickname him Gentlemen's Relish, after a pricey pate he favours.

But, he now admits, he achieved his suave veneer simply by watching old films.

"I always thought of myself as a peasant but I created something for myself.

"I came to America 23 years ago, got lucky and landed the role of Steele. The director wanted it to be like an old film so I watched Cary Grant movies and the next thing I know, I'm Mr Sophistication.

"Yes, I like clothes and the good things of life, and I've been blessed with the good fortune to be able to afford some of them.

"But I don't know if it would have happened if I hadn't had James Bond in my life."

Unlike most of the villains who say "goodbye, Mr Bond", the future looks decidedly rosy for Brosnan.

The Mirror - click here to go there

23rd March, 2004