In The Ghost Writer, based on the novel by Robert Harris and written/directed by Roman Polanski, Pierce Brosnan stars as Adam Lang, a former Prime Minister of Britain accused of war crimes, who hires a second ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to write his memoirs after the first one died in a mysterious accident. Adam Lang hides out secluded in exile at an oceanfront house on the small island of Martha’s Vineyard off the U.S. coast. Olivia Williams plays his wife, Ruth, while Kim Cattrall shows up as his assistant. Pierce Brosnan has starred in such films as Mrs. Doubtfire, The Lawnmower Man, Dante’s Peak, Evelyn, The Thomas Crown Affair, After the Sunset, The Matador and, of course, as Agent 007 in Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day. It was a real privilege to interview him.
Summit Entertainment releases The Ghost Writer limited on February 19th, 2010 and wider on March 5th, 2010.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you prepare for your role?
PB: I looked at the isolation of my character, an ex-British Prime Minister living in exile on an island, as a reference to Napoleon and Elba. I looked at Polanski and the life that he’s led and looking over his shoulder constantly in motion. His films always have the themes of isolation and claustrophobia and all-encompassing, foreboding atmosphere of life. I started reading his biography when I set forth with this film, but I had to put it down because I knew that it was enough that I wanted to know and I wanted to just come to the man on my own terms. He uses his life, his instincts, his persona of drama in life and his intelligence of drama which defines the material which he can chew the bone on.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would it be fair to compare your character to Tony Blair?
PB: When I sat with [director Roman Polanski] across the table for lunch one day, my first question was [whether] I’m playing Tony Blair because all indications and all roads seem to lead to one man and he said, “No, you’re not playing Tony Blair.” However, I have to start somewhere as an actor, so I looked at the performance of Tony Blair as Prime Minister [and] I looked at Tony Blair at public interviews. I was liberated, somewhat, by Roman saying [that] I wasn’t playing him. Then you have to find the emotion of the piece and I looked at the relationship between me and my wife, played by Olivia Williams. Then I began to look at her character and it was somewhat like Lady Macbeth. None of this was spoken of with Roman [or] with Olivia Williams. It was just the imagination and the ambiance that Roman created on the set. As I worked on the set, the weather that is always prevailing in Polanski movies certainly prevailed like a shroud of gloom and foreboding in this film. That gives you a certain feeling of aloneness and exile.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a political thriller into a classic?
PB: It finds itself front-row-and-center in a political time and a political character who is eluded to in the case of Tony Blair. You have a cinematic director who’s done many thrillers and this is his first political thriller. You have him taking shots at and eluding to [Alfred] Hitchcock who was the grand master of his own time and created his own world of drama, intrigue and the subtleties of life where, on the stage, the humblest of player comes central to something that could be quite malevolent. In the case of The Ghost Writer, the man who’s constantly sweeping the leaves up which are always getting blown away has some significance, but all he’s doing is sweeping the leaves up. We haven’t had that many political dramas of late that I could think of that comes with such a punch because of the director, because of its timing and because of the huge “What if?” theory of the story. This time that we’ve lived through politically is so charged with so many question marks that hang above us: the “Why’s” of the war, the [Twin] Towers that were destroyed, the lives that were lost [and] the huge rush toward the political future that we now find ourselves with. Artistically, these questions will resonate for quite some time now in films.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would you like to have an autobiography of yourself published some day?
PB: There have been a few articles and books and pieces that have been written without my consent. So I have started over the last few years to ruminate on who I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done and some tapestry of a life lived.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Who would you choose as the ghost writer?
PB: Oh, I think it would be my good wife, [Keeley Shaye Smith]. She’s a fine writer.