Pierce Brosnan did not quit his most famous role as agent James Bond, he was fired. And there is no going back, the 51-year-old, Irish-born, four-time 007 says.
"It's over, it's over, it's absolutely over," Brosnan says this week in Nassau, The Bahamas, where he sits with media to promote his latest film, After The Sunset, a heist comedy which slightly parodies his role as a super-secret agent.
Brosnan says he was willing, even eager, to do a fifth and final Bond, adding that 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson had asked him to return, although no contracts were signed. Brosnan's last Bond movie, Die Another Day in 2002, was the 20th official instalment in the franchise, which started with Sean Connery in Dr. No in 1962.
"They invited me back right before I went to present that film, before I went on the road with Halle Berry to sell the movie. They said: 'We're so happy with the success, we want you to come back!' I went on the road a happy man, you know. I thought we'd get a fifth and no more. That would be it, really.
"I'd done it. You get bored. You get older. You give of yourself to something and then you have no more to give. But I thought a fifth would be good.
"And then one day the phone rang -- I was here (in Nassau shooting After The Sunset) -- and my agents told me that the goal posts had moved and that they had changed their minds." Brosnan says this with a weary tone, with a sigh.
"It's very hard to find the truth in that town (Hollywood) or in this business at times," Brosnan says. "But it was their prerogative to change their minds. They can do it!" And they might have done it "to go younger," Brosnan says.
"It was disappointing. It was surprising. And I accepted the knowledge (that his run as 007 was over for good) after 24 hours of being in shock."
Brosnan has been extremely reluctant to go on the record about the Bond issue. For TV interviews in Nassau, Brosnan had publicists order TV hosts to avoid the issue.
No such orders were given to print media. Then, pressed by the Sun, Brosnan says: "To bring up Bond ... (he frowns) ... I did my time in the trenches on that movie (franchise) ..."
But offered a chance to finally put his version of the events on the record, Brosnan did. Part of the story, he says, is that he always knew the end was coming.
"If you have that thought ruminating in your head -- knowing that things are going to change, knowing that you're going to get older, knowing it only lasts a certain amount of time playing a certain role -- then you clearly prepare yourself for what's down the road, even though you don't know what's down the road. But you prepare yourself emotionally.
"(So) you know something's going to be finished, it's going to be over. And it comes with a great disappointment but it also comes with a great satisfaction of having achieved the success with it that I had achieved."
Brosnan claims he harbours no bitterness. "None, none, none! It's not worth having. If I did, it would make all the great decade, the four films, the lovely success, meaningless. Bitterness against whom and for what reason?"
But he admits there is some satisfaction in seeing the franchise stumble, with the next Bond movie postponed for at least a year. "Go figure!" Brosnan says with a wry grin.
"One does chuckle at it all. You don't gloat or anything like that, because that's equally meaningless. It's such a game, such a game, this business. So there you go, that's the story, as much as I know."
STAR PICKS NEW BOND
With the next James Bond movie postponed for at least another year before it even gets filmed, the franchise producers have plenty of time to find their new 007. And Pierce Brosnan will be watching the process closely.
"Oh yeah," Brosnan says of having an emotional stake in the awkward decision. "There will be a few hurdles to go through here, of letting go, and seeing the next guy do the piece, and who is it going to be?"
The target list -- it's all speculation -- includes Britons Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gerard Butler, Jude Law, Dougray Scott and Ewan McGregor, and Australians Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Eric Bana.
"I was on that list years ago and I was on it with a lot of other great actors," says Brosnan. "So I'm looking at the list and going: 'Hmmmm, he's interesting, no, he's interesting, no, no, no ... But there is one guy and it was 'Wow!'"
Unfortunately, Brosnan won't reveal who he's talking about but he saw him in a recent movie and was impressed. "He had a presence: Face, body, voice, the eyes. He would make a good one. But we'll see, we'll see."