The actor sheds the Bond image and gives Daniel Craig his blessing

Pierce Brosnan drops the shiny veneer of Bond and goes completely in the opposite direction in The Matador. He plays Julian, a wildly perverted hit man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The role is hideously obnoxious and Pierce eats up every minute of it. This is the fourth interview I've had with Pierce. He's a pretty laidback guy and always the consummate professional. He was sporting a massive Grizzly Adams-like beard for the upcoming Seraphim Falls with Liam Neeson.

That's a pretty manly beard...

Pierce Brosnan: My facial hair...this is a movie I'm doing with Liam Neeson. It's a post Civil War western. I play a Yankee Captain; he plays a confederate. My wife is not particularly partial to it at all.

How do you and Liam Neeson get along?

Pierce Brosnan: Liam Neeson and I are having the time of our lives. A couple of Irishmen, a couple of paddies on horses.

Was it fun playing a contract killer?

Pierce Brosnan: I love playing in this movie. Richard Shepard [the director] came bearing gifts. It happened at a very wonderful time in life. The script, the character, the performance. I thought it was wildly entertaining. It was a good read. I never knew when the story was going to twist and turn. I thought we could go away and make a cool, slick, hip independent movie and get away with it, and so far, so good.

What was it about the script and the character that jumped out at you?

Pierce Brosnan: It made me laugh and it surprised me. It had humanity and a certain sincerity to it. It was twisted and dark. And doing dark comedies are not easy, you are always pushing the audience away and bringing them in. Sometimes you can leave them out there hanging and you've lost them. The relationship with Danny (Greg Kinnear) and Bean (Hope Davis) was so idyllic, sweet, loving and tender. It juxtaposed between Julian's vulgar, twisted ways.

How do you keep us on your side? Julian says a lot of crazy things.

Pierce Brosnan: You try and get them from the very beginning. He's got an arrested development. Here's a little boy he tells to "f off". You're not sure what he's looking for. As an audience member your not even sure if Brosnan is in the right movie or not, or in the right theatre. I thought he was a charming character, he had great vulnerability.

Why play a womanizer again?

Pierce Brosnan: I get to live normal happy life with wife and children and then I get to go out to the world and live it in the movies. My first encounter with the movies is well documented. Bonnie and Clyde was one of the films. I suppose I dreamt of being a movie star before I became an actor. It was an amazing escapism for me, love, romance, getting the girl.

What was it like filming in Mexico?

Pierce Brosnan: There was such trepidation going down there because it has been painted in colors of violence and kidnapping. And there is an underbelly of civilization that is desperate and poor. We had bodyguards and armoured vehicles. That was a strange thing to be under. It was a fabulous experience, the overall package was just great. It was a small community of actors, we were all passionate for it. The Mexican crew embraced us and we embraced them back.

Had you seen a bullfight before?

Pierce Brosnan: Never have. I didn't see a bullfight in this film either.

The dialogue was very funny. Did you improv any of it?

Pierce Brosnan: Everything was in the script. Everything was there. The only line I adlibbed was the last line. I'll never do that again. If the text is good, why adlib.

What's your favorite part of the film?

Pierce Brosnan: I love the third act. I like the theatricality of it. It's the lines. A Vietnamese girl I once knew had her legs blah blah blah. It's not a one liner, it's a paragraph. I'm just trying to pitch those lines.

Have you ever had a strange encounter at a bar?

Pierce Brosnan: I had one when the Bosnian war was going on. The man was a solider and a hit man. He drank and he wept. He talked about the killings. He talked about being in Bosnia and taking people down. He was just crying and weeping. This was his war, the Serbs, etc. It was a pretty heavy night.

Did that help prepare you for this role?

Pierce Brosnan: Not really. That was a deep tragedy; that was a deep reality. This is a heightened theatricality. I gave the script to a friend in the LAPD. They gave me the foundation. Psychopaths are charming and the greatest actors of all.

What's next for your production company, Irish Dream Time?

Pierce Brosnan: "Butterfly on a Wheel", this thriller that we are going to try and do. We are going to shoot it in San Francisco. It's a small drama. I have no idea of where it's going. We have a film called the "True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" with Danny Devito and Morgan Freedman. Danny adapted the book. It's a period piece in 1832. Danny wanted me for the role of captain and asked me to produce it. Hopefully we will go off to New Zealand and make this.

Would you be a painter if you were not an actor?

Pierce Brosnan: I don't think I could make a living at it, but I would be in the arts in some way or another. It's just a hobby. I'm an enthusiastic painter. I like it. I think about when all this goes away, just sitting out there in Hawaii painting away.

What do you think of Daniel Craig taking over Bond?

Pierce Brosnan: I wish him well. There is a new chapter for Bond and a new chapter for Brosnan. He will be great. He's a fine actor.

The Matador is in NY & LA on December 30th, the top 10 markets on January 6th, 2006 and gets a wider releases January 13th and 20th.