Pierce Brosnan attends the UK Premiere of “Black Adam” at Cineworld Leicester Square
He’s playing the mystical Dr Fate in the blockbuster new action adventure movie Black Adam, which opens in Britain today. There’s only one small problem: Brosnan can’t see a darn thing. “The helmet was just like putting a bucket on your head,” he laughs. “It was pitch black in there. Yet, I had faith they would make me look magnificent as Dr Fate.”
He has portrayed dashing spy James Bond, a singing Lothario in Mamma Mia!, and an international art thief in The Thomas Crown Affair, but Pierce Brosnan has never been a big-screen superhero – until now.
The Irish-born hunk, who turns 70 next year, plays the mystical Dr Fate, leading a band of superheroes battling Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Black Adam, an antihero with god-like powers, lifted from the pages of vintage DC Comics.
The pair wore pink this week at a photoshoot in London to promote the film, before its yellow “red carpet” premiere in Leicester Square.
And apparently looking like a superhero comes at a price: frequent humiliation on the movie set. In addition to being sightless when donning his golden helmet, Brosnan also filmed many scenes wearing a body-hugging motion-capture (‘mocap’) suit, covered with dozens of coloured balls that cameras could record and calibrate to reproduce him in CGI.
Aldis Hodge, Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock and Pierce Brosnan
“When you have the mocap suit that’s a story all unto itself,” he smiles, recalling being dressed like a cross between a mime artist and a clown. “It can be highly embarrassing. But thankfully I worked in the theatre, did pantomime, street theatre and circus work, so I can step out there and hold my head high.”
Like everyone, life has been returning to normalcy for Brosnan who spent much of lockdown on the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai with wife Keely Shaye Smith and their musician-filmmaker-model sons Dylan ‘helmet like bucket head. pitch and Paris.
The family quarantined after Brosnan, an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, came into contact with Prince Charles who tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after they met.
The star, who has his own studio, kept busy, using lockdown to paint. He has also been writing his memoirs.
But for now, he is delighted to have been invited to join a superhero movie after decades of being overlooked.
“I have wondered for many years: ‘Will I ever get a job in a superhero movie?'” he says. “And I think the timing was perfect for me. I would watch these films and say: ‘I wonder if I will ever be offered anything?’ And lo and behold, here I am now playing this legendary, iconic character Dr Fate, with the golden helmet which gives him these great powers.”
Brosnan’s wife of 21 years, journalist Keely says: “He’s a superhero at home, so why not on the big screen too?”
But even superheroes need help sometimes: last week Brosnan went to court to get a restraining order against a woman allegedly stalking the actor, his wife and their sons.
Michelle Mulready was living in her car outside Brosnan’s Malibu mansion, harassing and scaring the family, he claimed.
He is keeping busy, with eight films in development, and relishes the chance to make a third Mamma Mia!, now in the works, saying: “It’s criminal how much fun you have on that movie.”
He is also exhibiting his art in Los Angeles this month, having taken up painting to ease his grief when his first wife, actress Cassandra Harris, was dying of cancer in 1987. “Carrying the weight and pain and the fear of that illness, I took out the paints,” he recalls.
Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate
As for his new film, Dr Fate is not your typical eternally young, hard-bodied superhero, and Brosnan felt that he had grown into the role. “Dr Fate met me at a good time in my life, with the years I have on me, and the experience of life that I’ve lived,” he says.
It’s also the fulfilment of a childhood dream from his days reading superhero comics by torch under the bedsheets.
“I’ve always loved the comic book genre and I love these movies,” says Brosnan. “They’re spectacular, so to be part of Black Adam is just monumental. When I was offered this role I was so overjoyed, so overwhelmed, really.”
Superhero movies have become Hollywood’s biggest money-makers in recent years, with franchises including Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Justice League, and classics such as Superman and Batman. If successful, they can spawn lucrative sequels, and future Dr Fate appearances could give Brosnan his biggest payday yet.
Brosnan’s Dr Fate is also known as his alter ego, archaeologist Kent Nelson, who is a child when his father is killed as the duo uncover an ancient Egyptian tomb. Taking pity on orphaned Nelson, an Egyptian god trains him in arcane magic, giving him the mystical helmet and cape that transform him into a clairvoyant superhero.
The character first appeared on the printed page in 1940, only a year after Batman’s first appearance, and two years after Superman.
“Dr Fate is one of the oldest characters in the pantheon of DC Comics,” explains Brosnan.
“He’s a sorcerer, but first and foremost he’s a man: he’s Kent Nelson, he’s an archaeologist. And his entry into this world came with a sacrifice, and that was of his father’s death.
“But his powers are a blessing and a curse. This is a man who sees the future so he sees the death and the dying of people.And when you have those kind of secrets in your DNA as a character, then as an actor you can bring a subtext which is very personal.
“It takes great strength and courage to go into that helmet and into that world. There are demons within him, and yet he is a very kind and personable fellow.”
Brosnan even sees some of himself in the spell-spinning superhero, admitting: “Dr Fate is very close to me.”
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, 50, who stars as antihero Black Adam – a vengeful demi-god bent on justice at any cost, who was imprisoned for 5,000 years by ancient gods in punishment for his murderous ways – has high praise for Brosnan.
“The truth is, there was no one else on the planet who could have played Dr Fate other than Pierce,” says Johnson. “Pierce as Dr Fate is the anchor of our movie.”
Producer Beau Flynn agrees: “When we were able to secure Pierce, that was a huge win for us…Pierce was our first choice.
“He was so excited, because he said all of his peers had done superhero movies, or had done Harry Potter films, and he had not done one.”
Johnson also sees much of Black Adam in himself: “Flying, and being able to shoot electricity out my hands,” he laughs.
More seriously, he adds: “I would say conviction probably, and passion.”
The film introduces the Justice Society of America to movie audiences: one of the earliest superhero groupings in comic books.
“The JSA was the very first superhero group, even before the Justice League,” says Johnson. The group includes Black Adam, Dr Fate, Hawkman,Atom Smasher and Cyclone.
But unlike well-established superhero franchises, Black Adam could face an uphill battle to win over audiences who have never heard of the character created 82 years ago.
“It wasn’t an existing IP [intellectual property] that everyone was familiar with. All these characters are coming to life for the very first time in cinematic history. I’m proud and honoured to be amongst this group.”
Brosnan had to be carefully fitted for a flattering body-hugging suit that seems almost painted on, with golden elbow-length gloves and a heavy belt topped by a glowing mystical gemstone.
Decades since his days playing 007 in four movies, including GoldenEye and Die Another Day, Dr Fate’s muscular physique required a little help from padding.
By contrast, Dwayne Johnson’s body is so chiselled and super-sized by years of physical training that his superhero suit had to be designed to highlight every bulging muscle.
“You’re getting a real superhero body for the first time,” says costume designer Kurt of top Hollywood design duo Kurt and Bart – though Thor star Chris Hemsworth may beg to differ.
The real challenge was: How do we create definition in this suit? How do we keep the material really thin so we see the definition and curvature?”
Johnson was impressed: “The very first time I put that suit on… in that moment, I became Black Adam. It was very special.”
Brosnan, poised to star next in romantic comedy Not Bloody Likely and poignant Second World War veteran’s tale The Last Rifleman, relished his superhero debut as Dr Fate, and would welcome a sequel, confessing: “I really enjoyed playing him so, so enormously.”