Next up in the never-ending series of fantasy adventures aspiring to be the next Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter is Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, opening in theaters Friday. And I have to say, if I was a little younger and saw the trailers for this thing, with a young Logan Lerman (a possible Tobey Maguire replacement for the Spider-Man franchise) sprinting to the top of the Empire State Building and being transported into the realm of the gods, I’d be pretty excited to join him for the ride.
That said, I haven’t read the books, I am a little older than the target demo, and I’ve been disappointed now by enough of these sweeping film fantasy epics (Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight) that I am always a little wary.
But there’s no denying that an A-list cast for the ages has signed up for Percy Jackson, eager to work with Lerman and director Chris Columbus, and to bring the books by Rick Riordan to life. At the core of the ensemble is Pierce Brosnan, James Bond himself, who has agreed to star as Chiron the centaur, something of a modern-day Obi-Wan Kenobi who mentors young Percy and preps him for battle. We were given the chance to chat with Brosnan about his latest departure into the realm of fantasy:
I’ve loved so many of the recent twists and turns in your career – when you look at something like The Tailor of Panama or The Matador. You’re definitely all about taking risks, what was it about this crew that intrigued you?
To work with these young people, they are very, very good. Logan has a rich life ahead of him, he has such focus and you look at his control of voice and the movement of his body, he as all the attributes of a good actor, so in control of his instrument.
Chris reached out to me to work on this, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be involved. But then I came home and when my sons heard that I was being asked to be Professor Brunner, they said, ‘This is a great role. You must do it.’ So I took my son Dylan Thomas’s words to heart and then Chris was very clever, he sent me the script and he had artists draw a strong and stunning rendition of me as Chiron and of course it was totally flattering and played with my ego. But then there was the reality on the set when I had to get into blue tights and learn how to walk on painter’s stilts and try to keep my dignity as I’m surrounded by 300 of these very youthful 18-20 year olds with walking on green fluorescent stilts.
I should get high praise, I think. I knew what was going to happen, and that was the challenge: To have some kind of dignity while not falling over.
But there’s been a long tradition of the great actors signing up to have fun in roles like this. I think back to Alec Guinness in Star Wars and the cast of Lord of the Rings, and things like that.
Star Wars, as you had mentioned, is one of my all-time favorites, but then you also go to see something like Harry Potter and there are all these great actors up there doing their turn. Alan Rickman is just delightfully, deliciously malevolent and cruel, and he plays his part to the hilt. And I wanted to get up there as well and get on the stage on par with them. And then Chris put together this very fine cast and hopefully we’ll find out fairly soon if we’re going to go again (I’ve made a commitment for three movies). But it’s always been one of the traditions of the movies, whether you’re talking Around the World in 80 days or Spartacus to really fill the stage with actors in supporting cameo roles, and its great to watch the characters grow through the franchise.
I did have a good old chuckle with myself, and I’m sure that plenty of people will too. They don’t exect to see Brosnan do such a thing, just like they didn’t expect Mamma Mia! This is all playing with the gods of acting, and I think it works really well in this film, all the physicality I tried to bring with it.
Is this all part of breaking out beyond the James Bond label? You’ve taken a lot of roles that go against that type.
Bond is really what’s allowed me to do all this. That was the great thing. Going in to the James Bond films, I had seen the road that others had traveled before me and I knew if I was going to pull it off the I would have to be conscious that I wouldn’t be Bond forever. So I was conscious of the fact that I had to get out of that straight jacket and that huge brand name. If I just kept going after parts like Bond or Thomas Crown, I would be doing a disservice to my own talent and my own piece of mind and how I was trained as an actor. So I’ve started going after many different roles, because that’s what I want to do. I want to play the king, the peasant, the servant, it was a conscious decision. I told my agents: Don’t let the grass grow under our feet, I’m an actor I want to work.
So have your children seen the final cut of The Lightning Thief – what’s the verdict, from the people who told you that you just had to take this role?
Yes, I saw the movie with my wife and my 13-year-old son and my 8-year-old boy and all the friends, and the 8-year-old said, ‘That’s the best movie you’ve ever been in!’ You can’t ask for a review much better than that.
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