Screens Trisexual and on a tear

Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, and Richard Shepherd laugh about their Matador antics

Pierce Brosnan looks like a youngish Don Quixote these days; his once crow-black hair is now charcoal, and his sunburned face is masked by a tangled, pointed beard and bulging mustache. Sure, his dark denims and designer dress shirt muck up the imagery, but, at 52, the recently retired Bond is as striking as ever. And as cool as ever.

Pierce Brosnan, sans his black underwear and ankle-high, zip-up Chelsea boots, plays a hitman in The Matador, while Greg Kinnear portrays his foil: a failing businessman with a mortgage that’s smothering him.

With a smooth, laid-back Irish drawl that almost makes you wonder if the Emerald Isle boasts hidden surfer hideouts, he lays out the very simple reason why his production company Irish DreamTime took on The Matador and why he took on the role of the ironically named hitman Julian Noble. “I never knew where it was going from page one,” he says of the buddy comedy co-starring Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis. “You know: Guy wakes up with girl in his bed. That’s going to be me. Guy paints his nails...” He gives a little shrug. “I thought, ‘I’m in.’”

The opportunity to play against type was too much for Brosnan to turn down, especially considering how synonymous the type was with his entire American acting career: Remington Steele, James Bond, Thomas Crown. Julian, a fashion victim with a thick mustache, buzz cut, bad accent, and tri-sexual appetites (tri-anything), is everything Bond is not. Consider one of the film’s best lines, slurred by Julian in a Mexico City hotel bar to an equally inebriated Danny Wright (Kinnear): “The margaritas always taste better in Mexico. Margaritas and cock.”

Not quite “Shaken, not stirred.”

A character like Julian can’t work without a foil and in Matador that’s Danny Wright. A failing businessman from Denver, Danny has a loving wife and a mortgage that’s killing him slowly. “He’s in a desperate place, bordering on ruin,” Kinnear says of his character. “It’s kind of an awful place to be.”

Kinnear’s good-guy charm and ability to blend his dramatic chops with his bumbling comic persona make him the real-world opposite of Brosnan as well. In person, he’s humble and soft-spoken, only occasionally pumping up the volume of his voice to deliver a punch line. As Danny, he’s every bit as reserved, holding his cards close to his chest while his day-in-and-day-out poker face insists everything’s hunky-dory. Typical suburban schmuck.

Brosnan proves himself more than willing

to assassinate his own on-screen reputation

for a few laughs

When Julian enters Danny’s world, the thrill that naturally accompanies the brazen, know-no-fear assassin’s sociopathic lifestyle rubs off on Danny and he leaves Mexico City a new man. Six months later, Julian shows up in Denver and discovers just how big of an impact he’s had; he greets the change in Danny’s appearance with a weasely snicker.

“My favorite joke in the movie is that Julian’s mustache has found its way onto me,” Kinnear laughs, stroking his now-shaved upper lip.

“I wanted Pierce to have a mustache, that was immensely important to me,” The Matador’s writer and director Richard Shepherd says. “Then Greg was like, ‘Maybe I should have a mustache, too.’ So then I thought maybe we should all have mustaches, so I literally demanded everyone grow mustaches.”

This sort of outrageousness attracted Brosnan to the project in the first place. “This is a throwback to where I started as an actor and that audaciousness of performance,” he explains. “Had I not had my own company, I don’t think anyone else would’ve given me this. Had someone else been producing, I doubt ‘Brosnan’ would’ve been at the top of the list.”

The Matador

Dir. Richard Shepard; writ. Shepard; feat. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis (R)

Which would be a shame, considering that Brosnan proves himself more than willing to assassinate his own on-screen reputation for a few laughs, whether that involves fainting into donkey shit (OK, it was fake), performing airborne splits while dressed as a cheerleader, or, in a scene that has come to represent the film, strutting across a hotel lobby dressed in nothing but black underwear and ankle-high, zip-up Chelsea boots. If a cigarette counts as adornment, that too.

Shepherd insists the scene was a last-minute addition to the filming schedule. “I said, ‘Pierce, this is a really good lobby. Do you have any interest in walking across it in your underwear?’” Then, in his best Brosnan impersonation: “‘Can I wear me boo-oots?’”

“Well, it was in the text. I had no choice,” Brosnan counters, holding up his hands in mock deference. When Shepherd’s claim of improvisation is thrown out there, Brosnan seems totally befuddled and his laid-back, Southern California-via-Ireland drawl begins to seem more like the outcome of medication.

“I thought it was in the script,” he laughs. “Maybe I’d had too much tequila the night before.”

By Cole Haddon

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