The World Is Not Enough (At Least, Not At That Price)

Off to Claridges, the smart London hotel, to meet Pierce Brosnan, the current James Bond. My heart is going "Dun-de-dun-dun-de-dundundun... daa-naa, daa-naa" in that powerfully rhythmic, 007 way. Up in the lift, which is marvellously old-style posh. All gilt and dark red velvet, with a little old man working a clanking lever. I don't think he is Q.

The publicity suite for The World Is Not Enough is on the fourth floor. It may even be the fourth floor. It is frighteningly huge, with what seems like 438 marble bathrooms and 587 lounge suites. The first lounge is filled with swish PR women in black ("Catherine, Pierce must have time for make- up before Clive Anderson, OK?" "Sure, Cynthia. I'll see to it.") and Barbara Broccoli. Barbara Broccoli! Daughter of that legend, Cubby Broccoli, who produced all the Bond films until he died. Now she does! Here's my moment. I will seize it. I sidle over.

"Hey, Babs!" I say. "Hi," she says. I tell her I was thinking of coming along in a bikini today. As a kind of Bond girl audition. I can be very Ursula Andress, you know. Indeed, last summer, during an Awayday to Clacton, I came out of the sea and actually heard someone whisper: "Goodness me. It's Ursula Andress." OK, I might have been mistaken. OK, they might have whispered: "Ughh, look at her undressed." But that's not very likely, is it? So, how about it, Babs?

This all goes down so well I am led to a side-room. Here, I am told, I can wait for Pierce on my own. I would have minded, I think, but there's a lovely big bowl of fruit in here. These Bond people certainly know how to do things! And the grapes are good. Not seedless, admittedly, but still good. I don't touch the bananas. Bananas are fattening, you know, and I have my new career to think of. I spit the pips into the bin - bing, bing, bing! My aim is shockingly accurate. I might make a better assassin than Bond girl, actually. Sod it, I think I will have that banana after all.

Finally - and four bunches of grapes, seven bananas, six kiwis and a plum later - I'm told Pierce is ready for me. My heart is racing wildly. My heart is going: "Baba-baba-bababa". I think I might have gone out of 007 mode and into Pearl & Dean mode, but these things can happen at times of great excitement.

Into yet another room, and there is Pierce. He is gorgeous. He is beautiful. He has very blue eyes. He has thick, tufty hair, that's spiked-up just right.

Apparently, though, Mr Brosnan is considerably more beautiful from the left than the right. "Take from the left, OK?" he tells the photographer. I tell him he looks perfectly symmetrical to me. He says: "This is the sort of thing you learn when you are in films."

"Excuse me!" I say, "but I finished a film just last week as it happens." "Oh?" he queries, raising a single eyebrow which, yes, he can do masterfully. "Yes," I continue, "and I'm expecting to get it back from Boots any day now." That put him in his place rather, I think.

He is divinely dressed: thick charcoal jumper; soft charcoal trousers; black leather, trendily moulded shoes. Where are your clothes from, Pierce?

"They're just clothes. Just grey slacks and a sweater."

"Where are they from?"

"I'm not telling."

"You might get a discount."

"I already get a discount."

"You might get a bigger one."

"I get them for nothing, OK?"

He is not especially easy-going. It is rather like meeting an expensively elegant yet tightly furled umbrella. I'm not sure he enjoys giving interviews. Do you enjoy giving interviews, Pierce? "I endure,' he sighs wearily. "I have to do so many..." Obviously, he suffers horribly for his art . "Can we talk about the film now?' he asks.

The film. You know, I don't think I've ever seen a Bond film from start to finish until now. This is unusual, I know. Apparently, half the human race has seen at least one. (The World Is Not Enough is the 19th). Mostly, I've just glimpsed bits of them on Christmas Day - snatches of huge explosions, and gold toothed baddies, and whooshing speed boat chases, and casino scenes, because there always seems to be a casino scene, and the gadgets like the watch that can turn itself into a missile launcher or a high- tensile grappling hook, but never anything useful like a new pair of tights for when you've just laddered the ones you've got on.

Plus, of course, the ravishing nuclear scientist whom Bond will get to have sex with in the very last scene. Usually, this is a woman. Usually, she has a highly punnable name, so giving Bond his witty, rather risque payoff line. In The World Is Not Enough this is Dr Christmas Jones, as played by top Hollywood babe Denise Richards. "So," Bond remarks, as they finally emerge from the sheets, "It isn't true what they say... Christmas doesn't come just once a year."

This joke, I feel, is almost up there with one of mine. I say, if he ever gets to star in the Jewish version - The World Is Not Enough (At Least, Not At That Price) - would he consider me as, say, Passover Jones? He raises an eyebrow. And smiles. Almost. An eyebrow and a smile might be quite hard to co-ordinate. It always flummoxed Roger Moore.

"Whatever you wish, darling. Whatever you wish." He is warming to me, I think. He may be unfurling a bit. I might be well in here. Consequently, I decide not to tell him that Passover lasts for seven days and is spectacularly boring. That the highlight is a boiled egg dipped in salt. I don't want to push my luck. He says: "Lets get back to talking about Bond, OK?"

No. I want to talk to him about his childhood, actually . I am quite interested in his childhood, which sounds as if it was one of those ghastly, Angela's Ashes Irish ones. Have you read Angela's Ashes? "Yes. Why?" Because I imagine it would interest you. "It resonated with me, yes. Why are you interested?" Well, I reply, as Tolstoy said on the opening pages of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." He is impressed. "My," he says,"aren't you well-read." I dare not tell him I also have a regular order for Hello!.

He grew up in the small town of Navan, 30 miles outside Dublin. His earliest memory is, he says, "of the River Boyne, the convent at the end of the road, watching the nuns make butter." He attended a very Catholic school "full of dark men in cassocks, carrying leather straps... a nasty bunch of men."

Could they be deliberately cruel? I ask. "Yes." In what way? "They were deliberately cruel in their beatings, which they did while pontificating about religion and the Lord." What did that do to your relationship with the Lord? "That is a very personal relationship. That is a very personal question, which I am not going to answer. Back to Bond, please."

Um... what sort of relationship does Bond have with the Lord? "I think he might have his beliefs."

His father, Tom, a carpenter, walked out when Pierce was two. His mother, May, left for London to train as a nurse, and Pierce

was left in Ireland to be bought up by his grandparents and various aunts and uncles. His mother kept in regular contact until he joined her in London when he was 11. She returned in her holidays, sent him his weekly pocket money taped to the back of a letter, and good presents, too. "I was the first boy on my street to have Go-Jo rubber-wheeled roller-skates."

His father never really reappeared. "I only saw him once. He came to visit me when I was a boy. He knocked at the door. I was sent upstairs. I could hear mumbling below. I looked out the window. I must have been seven or eight. I saw him walking away. Then, when I was 33, and had a career, had Remmington Steele [the American detective mini-series that made his name], I was filming in Ireland and Tom Brosnan just turned up one day."

And? "We went for afternoon tea. Then he left again." Did you connect with him? "Only in the most abstract sense. I looked at his face, trying to see mine. I listened to his voice, trying to hear mine. There was some echo, but it had been buried in time and absence." Was Tom's problem the drink? "He liked a drink, yes."

I wonder, naturally, how all this has affected him: "The lack of fathering has, I think, enabled me to be a better father."

His wife of 11 years, the Australian actress and one-time Bond girl Cassandra Harris, died of ovarian cancer in 1991, leaving him with three children to care for - two from her previous marriage, now in their twenties, one from theirs, Sean, now 15. Did she know she was dying when she was dying? "I believe she knew long before I did. She had enormous courage. The cup was always half-full for her, never half-empty. Now, I've said enough. Bond. Let's go to Bond. Do you have a fella?"

I have. And a son, too. But they mean nothing to me, Pierce. Nothing! I am entirely yours, if you'll have me. Look, I'll prove it to you. I pick up the hotel phone, affect to call home, and bellow into the receiver. "Sorry, won't be back tonight. In fact, I'm never coming back. It's over. Finished. And take the child with you. I could never stand him. I'm Pierce's from now on."

Yes! Pierce laughs! I got the umbrella to go up - so to speak - if only momentarily.

"My, you're a bold girl."

"I don't want to be a bold girl. I want to be a Bond girl!"

"You don't!"

"I do."

"You don't."

"Why not?"

"Because, darling, they never come back."

He now lives in Malibu with the environmental journalist Keely Shaye Smith, whom he plans to marry next year. They have a three-old son, Dylan Thomas.

You like Dylan Thomas? "Yes." My, aren't you well read? "Yes." And, as it happens, he is. He is currently reading Mental Fight, Ben Okri's long poem for the millennium, and "enjoying it very much."

Do you write yourself? "I keep a journal. I write bits of stuff. Poetry. Stories. Can we talk about Bond?"

The World Is Not Enough is his third outing as Bond and, yes, he thinks there will be a fourth. I tell him I enjoyed the film, which I did. You'd have to be pretty churlish not to enjoy, and admire, a Bond film. Still, I tell him, it's a good job he's always one step ahead of the explosions, otherwise the films might be rather short.

"Yes, they would, wouldn't they?" he says, adding "I think we've got to wrap up now." And: "You're a one, aren't you?"

One what? Bond girl, probably. I knew he'd see it in the end.

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