Everyone wants to be remembered, and not just for the bad stuff they’ve done, a character admitted on the first season of The Son. In the Western genre of movies and film, cowboys have committed many memorable misdeeds, sometimes in order to rustle the deeds from rivals. The patriarch of AMC’s multi-generational epic Western series The Son committed all these crimes and more to amass his fortune and stature. Born on the same day his state became a republic, “The First Son of Texas,” Eli McCullough came a long way on a hard road. Kidnapped by Comanches when he was a child, he was raised by the tribe in the wild and brought ruthless survival skills to his role as a businessman and pioneer frontiersman. The actor who plays him committed outstanding works which will not be forgotten.
Pierce Brosnan is probably most famous for playing James Bond in in the films GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002). He is no less unforgettable as the foil in the 1993 comedy blockbuster Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams played an out of work voice actor in the film. As we can see in any episode of The Son, Brosnan is a generous actor who appears to be thrilled to let other players shine. He trained at the London Drama Centre and debuted in the theaters of London’s West End in 1976. Since his first film, The Long Good Friday in 1980, he’s done two Stephen King projects, the film Lawnmower Man and the miniseries Bag of Bones. He took on Steve McQueen’s role in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair; starred in the Roman Polanski’s political thriller The Ghost Writer; played nuanced spies in films like The Fourth Protocol and The November Man, and stepped up in time to walk his daughter down the aisle in Mamma Mia!.
Pierce Brosnan spoke with Den of Geek about the series and how it fits with the traditions of the genre.
DEN OF GEEK: Hello. First, I want to say thank you so much for doing this. I love your performance on The Son and I’ve forgiven you for trying to kill Homer on The Simpsons.
PIERCE BROSNAN: Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot. I played the house.
It’s been a long time since Remington Steele, and the TV landscape’s changed a lot, but besides the size of the camera, have the productions changed?
The quality of writing is far superior now and has a sophisticated edge and flair to it that has matured considerably since my day. It’s more audacious. It’s more brutal. It’s more in your face. It’s also highly entertaining and there’s more diversity, and the Internet has changed the way we see each other, interact with each other, and correspond with each other. Also, it has an expedience of drama and intellect that is just more kaleidoscopic than back in the ’80s.
The technology, the film technology you can shoot now a whole series on a telephone because they’re very portable, so it’s a lot faster, and people just don’t go to the movies as much. The theaters are dying out. It’s really the tempo of movies and the rest if TV.
You don’t have any scenes with Jacob Lofland, the actor who plays young Eli, but do you work with him?
No, we just hung out and played [along with] David Wilson Barnes, James Parker, Jess Wexler. We didn’t sit down and discuss the role of Eli. We really didn’t do that. I’m not sure if Jacob looked at my work. He may have done but we didn’t discuss how I portrayed or anything like that.
You were speaking of brutality. Last season you took the scalp a fantasia sequence in a dinner scene. Is there a special acting thrill in breaking out in a moment like that that’s different than say the scene where you are shaving your son in the opening episode of this season?
Not really. The scalping scene has such a theatrical, grandiose flair to it that you just allow yourself to go to that space and be as big and as bold and as brutal as you possibly can. And the man seethes with an anger anyway, and a ferocious animal instinct of self-preservation, Eli does, mixed in with a highly sophisticated, forward thinking man. It gives it a lovely complexity of intellect and then sheer animalistic theatricality, as it were.
I don’t know how to express it to you, really. It’s just one of those glorious moments that you have as an actor where you can just be as audacious as possible.
When you shoot a scene from this way and that way, how does the illusion that we’re seeing as an audience, how is that playing out in your head? How does it feed into it?
Well, you have to have come to the set or to the moment. I mean shooting TV, you’re basically shooting rehearsals. That’s all. It’s not like a stage play where you rehearse for five weeks, six weeks and you know every move, you know exactly where, you know the beats, you know the score.
You come to a scene like the shaving scene. You know the guy’s going to be in the chair. You’re there so it’s fairly static, but when you have a scene where you’re holding forth and you have to have your own blocking in your head. You have to come with an idea to the set and then it’s a collaboration with you, the director, and the other actors. And then you hope the director knows how to shoot it. And when you’re in the hands of a great director, you know the stage that you’re on. You can feel the moment of the master, should there be a master shot, you know the theatrical punch that it has, the angle of the camera has been organically and intellectually thought about in conveying the story.
So it varies, but when you work on TV it moves so fast. It devours everything. It’s a beast.
Do you have a favorite director that you’ve worked with?
Martin Campbell. He’s just a very fine director and we get on well together, and he knows how to tell a story, and he’s got a great work ethic, and he’s passionate, and it’s just a joy to work with the man.
Do you see Eli McCullough and J.R. Ewing connected as TV heroic villains?
Yes. Larry Hagman and his Dallas J.R. definitely came to mind, but no more than just a fancy, a thought, a folly of idea. This particular drama drawn out in the book by Phillip Meyer is far more nuanced and is much more reality based, or maybe that’s unfair to say against Larry because he was so bloody great as J.R., at the times I watched it.
You know, they both wore gray hats and are both egocentrics, and egomaniacs, and absolutely Machiavellian, and cut out of the pages of a Jacobean tragedy.
The Son has the feel of the classic Westerns with a touch of The Wild Bunch in it. What are your favorite Westerns and which cowboys have informed your role?
I would say The Searchers, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. I’ve been a huge fan of Clint’s work from day one. I grew up on a staple of Westerns as a young lad growing up on the banks of the River Boyne in Navan, County Meath. There were two cinemas in town, the Lyric and the Palace. The Place was the closest one to my grandmother’s house so I would go to the Palace and watch cowboys and Indians.
The Western has always been a part of my childhood mythology, but definitely Clint, John Wayne … Who else? I’m sure I’m missing out on quite a few. The Rifleman. I remember coming to England when I was 11 and watching The Rifleman. I watched Gilligan’s Island and The Rifleman.
I think Errol Flynn did some great cowboys.
Errol Flynn? Yes. I think for me it was all about Clint Eastwood really.
The Son is allowed to be more politically and socially critical than a lot more Westerns. It takes on racism, the Native American land grabbing, ruthless oil companies. How do you see that playing as an allegory for today, especially in the environments as the land dries out?
Well, I thought that was the beauty of the writing and the expert execution of our producers in delving into the duality of the times. I think the show has a great relevance to what’s happening to us politically, environmentally, and the kind of “sins of our fathers,” so to speak.
I thought that the book drew that out with great elegance. I think it will be well received on that level. I think it holds a great nuance, charm and intellect of storytelling that has relevance to today’s society.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.