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By Paul Majendie
LONDON, Dec 8, 1997 (Reuters) - Pierce Brosnan is the best James Bond since Sean Connery -- that was the verdict on Monday of the actors and director of Tomorrow Never Dies.
The world's most famous spy, his martinis shaken not stirred as always, hits the screen again on Tuesday for the 18th film in cinema's longest-running success story.
It is the second Bond film for Brosnan. His first, GoldenEye, was the biggest box office success in the 35-year history of the suave secret agent.
That gave him clout in Hollywood, as he readily admitted to author Garth Pearce in a new book The Making of Tomorrow Never Dies.
"The only thing film studios recognise is the ability for an actor to open a film and make as much money as possible," he told the author.
The latest film was bedevilled by script problems, with endless rewrites right up to the last moment. Tomorrow Never Dies had a 720-strong crew working in Mexico, the United States, France, Germany and Thailand.
Brosnan complained: "To have so many writers come on to this and then still throw the stuff out is just a joke. But from it all I think we have a really fine story."
Australian director Roger Spottiswoode was quick to praise Brosnan's performance: "He is the only person who has been able to play Bond since Connery. An actor who has such ease and grace as Pierce is a treasure and a pleasure."
True to the Bond tradition, Spottiswoode wanted a film packed with "Bond babes, faster cars, more gadgets".
GoldenEye was the first Bond film after a 6-year gap, and the producers had raised their antennae in a more politically correct era.
M, Bond's boss, was played by a woman for the first time. Judi Dench, returning for Tomorrow Never Dies, was enraged by the constant script changes but unstinting in her admiration for Brosnan.
"He really is the right man for the role," she said. "I have always been a huge Sean Connery fan and his films were superb for the 1960s, but Pierce is definitely right for the 1990s," she added.
Bond's car is packed with gadgets and this time he boasts a remote-controlled mobile phone that does just about everything bar fly him to the moon.
As always, he has the irascible Q, played by the 82-year-old Desmond Llewelyn, to explain what gadgets do what.
And no Bond film would be complete without a larger-than-life bad guy. This time it is Jonathan Pryce as a megalomaniac media mogul.
Brosnan, who has his own personal trainer, dietician and make-up artists, is well satisfied with the final cut: "Fortunately, we are going to get some good results with all the changes.
"I wanted a bigger story all round with more gadgets, more girls, more sex appeal and more action."
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) / November 27, 1997 -- James Bond has come up against a modern new villain -- the power-mad media mogul.
But Pierce Brosnan, who plays Bond, warned Thursday that people shouldn't read too much into that -- nor should they guess who the character (played by Jonathan Pryce) is based on.
"He could be a (Rupert) Murdoch, he could be a Ted Turner, a (Silvio) Berlusconi, whoever you want to pick out of the hat," he said. "Those fellows that are movers and shakers and have the wherewithal to manipulate and make lots of money in our society."
In Sydney promoting his second Bond role in Tomorrow Never Dies, due for U.S. release Dec. 19, Brosnan sees the story as timely.
With a flagship newspaper titled Tomorrow -- with a global daily circulation of 100 million -- and satellite systems able to beam into every TV set on Earth, the villain mogul prefers to profit from creating the news rather than reporting it.
"Could something like this transpire with any of those gentlemen I just mentioned? Yeah it's very possible," Brosnan said. "Turn up their characters 10 degrees and you could have something like Jonathan Pryce ."
Pierce Brosnan is interviewed in the October 1997 issue:
"The story here is a goodie and far easier to follow than GoldenEye that's for sure. Who knew what the f*** that was all about? Those scenes about finding the key. . .Excuse me! The premise here is wonderful and I used what little clout I have to ensure this Bond is more character-driven so I actually have something meaty to act..."
"I think we've got a bloody good film. We've gone further out on a limb than ever before to deliver the Bond excitement in some really different ways. The actual shooting has been a bit like pulling teeth and we had a few initial problems getting the script exactly right. But I've already seen 80 minutes of the film cut together and it really does kick butt. It has a faster pace and is a more muscular movie altogether."
... Pierce Brosnan called from Hamburg, Germany, to assure us that all rumors of trouble on the set of his latest Bond flick, Tomorrow Never Dies are "a lot of twaddle . . . absolute rubbish!" (In showbiz, you'll notice everything is always "absolute")
Brosnan says he can't understand the British tabloids, which printed tales of dissension between him and director Roger Spottiswoode, as well as with his leading lady, Teri Hatcher. "Don't they realize how harmful this stuff is? Does anybody realize what hard work moviemaking can be?"
The super-suave Pierce says his 2nd 007 adventure will be "even better" than his first, and he predicts Tomorrow Never Dies might rank with some of the best of the Sean Connery/Roger Moore entries of the '60s and '70s.
From The Express [London] (June 23, 1997)
by Mark Porter
Brosnan earns $1m for being the Omega man
His name is Bond. James Bond. And he's licensed to tell you the time.
This, rather disappointingly, is apparently the new function of the silver screen's most dashing super-hero -- as portrayed by Pierce Brosnan.
Or so I discovered, not in a casino in Monte Carlo, but in a steamy tent in a muddy field in West Sussex.
Sadly, the man who should raise his arm to a stranger only to land a deadly karate chop is now more likely to be showing off his posh wristwatch.
The reason is, of course, money. In Mr Brosnan's case, lots of money. He is reportedly being paid $1 million -- more than £600,000 -- to help launch a new timepiece by Swiss firm Omega.
The watch is called Dynamic. My meeting with Mr Brosnan wasn't.
Perhaps it was all due to the stiffling confines of the tent, packed with journalists eager for Mr Brosnan to spill the beans about his latest Bond adventure, Tomorrow Never Dies.
However, I fear it was because of the star's dogged insistence on fulfilling his promotional brief, rather than to talk about his derring-dos as 007 (or should that be at precisely 007?)
Certainly Mr Bosnan looked the part as he entered the canvas venue. Clad in rakish black, he made the women gasp and the men envy his perma-tan.
Outside the tent, there was the fitting roar of fast cars. This was, after all, part of the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The acoustics, at least, augered well. All it needed now was for the man himself to release his laconic charm..."Thanks everyone for showing up for the launch of Omega's new watch. I do wear Omega, oh yes I do," he began, brandishing a bronzed and bewatched forearm.
"I have long been a friend of Omega...timekeeping is very important on the set."
This was hardly the hard-nosed talk of a Sean Connery (the "greatest" Bond, Mr Brosnan was later to admit.) Still, we strained to hear more of the curious transatlantic-Irish accent.
"These are wonderful and handsome timepieces but I'm afraid I won't tell you how much I make from deals -- I don't like to discuss finances. But I can certainly afford to pay the mortgage for the next couple of years."
Oh dear. Not a word about M or Q, or those villains behind SPECTRE. This was more like a cosy natter with Miss Moneypenny.
He even went on to heap praise upon the deep sea watch he wore in GoldenEye. Then he plugged BMW, providers of the film's car, and one of many sponsors of the film.
"We have got a BMW back there. The BMW is a wonderful car." Etc.
Mr Brosnan, it transpires, has joined supermodel Cindy Crawford, motor racer Michael Schumacher and golfer Bernhard Langer as Omega watch "ambassadors."
A little boy with crayon-painted face sits cross-legged on the floor near the microphones and looks bemused, if not crestfallen. Surely this is a joke, a Bondogram? No 007 would be so blatant and uncool as to be a salesman?
Even a child knows that if he wants to know the time, he can always ask his mother.
From USA Today (July 23, 1997)
By Marco R. della Cava
ST. ALBANS, England - Cocooned in his high-tech lair, the evil Carver, a media mogul with global warfare on the brain, turns away from his wife, Paris.
"Answer me!" screams Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce). She has been with James Bond. He knows it.
Paris, played by Teri Hatcher poured into black velvet and dotted with diamonds, tries to embrace her hard-boiled hubby. She is rebuffed, offered mumbled words of warning, kissed brusquely then abandoned.
Is this the same old Bond fare being shot at Eon Studios, a converted supermarket warehouse an hour north of London?
On the surface, of course. Why mess with a formula that can generate cash faster than Auric Goldfinger? GoldenEye, the 1995 Bond epic starring Pierce Brosnan, grossed a series record $350 million worldwide.
But 2 days on the closed set of Tomorrow Never Dies, the 18th Bond film scheduled to open stateside Dec. 19, reveal some subtle, progressive changes in the formula.
First, the Bond girls become women with substance.
Hatcher's character has defied the odds and had a meaningful relationship with Bond, while Hong Kong martial arts maven Michelle Yeoh plays agent Wai Lin, capable of laying out 5 bad guys in a single scene.
"She's a woman of the 1990s, on a par in every way with Bond," says Yeoh, best known for co-starring with Jackie Chan in a number of his action films.
Second, after complaints from fans that GoldenEye skimped on car-power, Bond upgrades from a cute but anemic BMW Z3 roadster to a 7-series sedan armed with enough fireworks to kick-start World War III.
And third, our villain is believable. With the Cold War thoroughly thawed, Bond's nemesis is not some far-fetched lunatic with a Napoleon complex, but a brash communications baron ripped from today's headlines.
Elliot Carver thinks he would sell more copies of his newspaper, Tomorrow, and pull more viewers to his cable channel if he could only, oh, start a war between England and China.
"Carver hooks into the fear that people have about the consolidation of power among the few. And we do nothing to allay those fears," laughs co-producer Michael Wilson, who again teams up with Barbara Broccoli, daughter of late 007 series producer Cubby Broccoli.
But trotting across the globe to foil Carver is only one of Bond's missions in Tomorrow Never Dies. If anything, his other mandate is more fraught with peril.
"Bond must beat the boat and save the lion," Variety's Rex Weiner says.
A quick translation: This Bond film, MGM's only Christmas present to moviegoers, is likely to open against James Cameron's delayed epic adventure, Titanic.
Given MGM's tender financial situation following its recent sale from French bank Credit Lyonnais to a group of investors who include CEO Frank Mancuso and billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, Tomorrow is under pressure to repeat GoldenEye's success.
"If it doesn't repeat, it will be seen as a failure," says Weiner, who covers MGM for the industry journal. "Bond is the first test (of the newly configured studio). But MGM has no control over the production. It's in Broccoli's hands."
Both sides are politic about the situation. Producer Wilson admits the film carries a "big responsibility . . . the box office always depends on what else is out there."
Mancuso says volumes through one gesture: He is visiting the set. He says he makes a habit of stopping in on all films in production, but clearly Bond is close to his heart and the company's wallet.
"These films have always been important," says Mancuso as Pryce and Hatcher rehearse behind him. "It's a 35-year-old franchise. The film has a ready audience. If we please them, it will do well."
The selling of Bond 18, the bland code used for Tomorrow, is well under way.
A short video made by Eon Productions after GoldenEye and aimed at potential product collaborators touts Bond as a marketing superman. Testimonials from BMW and Omega watch officials note increased showroom traffic and surging sales as a result of the spy-turned-pitchman.
Eon Studios, newly minted for this project, welcomes a steady stream of movie theater owners from across Europe. Like kids at Disneyland, they dutifully line up for photos with the cast.
While many Bond fans would consider a set visit the equivalent of a trip to Mecca, the truth is less dramatic. Inside the vacated warehouse, small Vietnamese shops have been constructed from plywood, impressive on screen but forgettable in person. Outside, on a former airplane landing strip, the crew has erected a street scene on which a climactic motorcycle chase will unfold.
The scene likely will be seared into viewers brains; Bond is on the cycle with Yeoh, and they're being chased across rooftops by nothing less than a helicopter. It's just hard to imagine with the sleepy English countryside a few yards away.
Which is where Roger Spottiswoode comes in. The man behind the lens of Tomorrow is new to the Bond series, replacing GoldenEye director Martin Campbell.
A Briton who has lived for decades in Los Angeles, Spottiswoode has directed Air America, Turner and Hootch and the Showtime documentary Hiroshima.
Dressed in jeans and a brown bomber jacket, Spottiswoode has the easy smile of a Berkeley professor. More cerebral than rah-rah, he runs a mellow ship that stands in contrast to the mayhem on the screen.
"Bond is such an institution that everyone you know gives you ideas. More action. Better girls. Faster cars," he says between sips of afternoon tea. "But you have to be careful. One would not like to be known as the guy who ends the series."
Realism seems to be one of his watchwords. Thankfully. Bond films had eroded from conceivable under Sean Connery to preposterous under Roger Moore.
Today, Spottiswoode is directing the bicycle shop action sequence in which Yeoh beats up her attackers.
The director already has chided the stunt coordinator for having too many villains bounce back. ("Once they get it," he grins, "they're out. OK?")
Twice he reshoots, making sure that Yeoh connects with a convincing kick to the gut that sends a man crashing into a balsa-wood post that snaps under his weight.
Next up, a scene in which Bond is beaten to a pulp by 3 goons in a recording studio . . . only to rebound and turn the trio into Larry, Curly and Moe.
Lurking in the shadows outside the studio is Pierce Brosnan. His tuxedo shirt is open, his jacket is off. Although off-camera and relaxed, he still exudes Bond's steely-eyed charisma.
Good thing. MGM could triple the budget and Spottiswoode could conjure up a film worthy of Orson Welles, and none of that would make a bit of difference if no one bought Brosnan as Bond.
The Irish-born actor savors his GoldenEye-minted success like a vintage cognac. "The part is mine, the shoes fit," Brosnan says. "I'm a lot more relaxed than on the first film."
The downside of being James Bond, he says, is the occasional razz, "having silly things yelled at you from inside pubs, that sort of thing."
The upside? "The role is all about being cool," he says, smirking. "Not that I am in real life. But it's really fun to do it here."
Spottiswoode signals for Brosnan. The man in the open white shirt strides away quickly like a cat heading for home.
Christmas will reveal whether Brosnan has earned another mission. Whether MGM becomes ripe for an attractive public offering. Whether James Bond will strut into the 21st century.
Whether, for one film series, tomorrow truly never dies.
From South China Morning Post, (May 30, 1997)
By Winnie Chung
Anyone who has met Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng knows that the actress' most striking asset is not the long silky hair or that lethal back kick, but that genuine, beaming smile she always has for everyone. These days, of course, there are more reasons for that smile to be even more radiant.
The action actress is in the midst of filming for her international debut, the latest James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, which stars Pierce Brosnan. And, she will be one of the first "Bond girls" who will probably shake and stir 007 quite a bit.
She has also been voted one of the Most Beautiful People in the World by People magazine. "Oh, no . . ." she groaned when the subject was brought up during a set visit in Bangkok recently.
"Pierce has been teasing me endlessly about it," Yeoh said.
"I don't know what I feel but I'm just very flattered and complimented that I am included. I guess now there is more attention and they notice me that's why."
But, despite her humility, one thing was evident during a visit to the Bangkok set: Yeoh was obviously quite a star already.
The Hong Kong actress has apparently charmed both cast and crew, and everyone - from the crew to producer Michael G Wilson - describes her with a unanimous "wonderful".
"She's a wonderful person to work with; she's always so cheerful and even-tempered. She's just great. You know as well as I do that stars can sometimes be very . . . difficult," said the film's director Roger Spottiswoode.
Wilson, a self-confessed fan of Hong Kong films, agreed readily: "She's very intelligent and charming, and she truly is a wonderful person to work with."
With such praise forthcoming, it is not surprising that Yeoh is happy these days. Talk of the "Bond girl curse" or the "short career span of beauty queens" fails to deter her.
"It's the 20th century; we don't believe in such things these days!" she exclaimed. She likes being called the new "Bond girl" anyway. "The Bond image is this gorgeous, beautiful woman who has a great figure. Why should I complain? I'm just not blonde," she laughed.
Besides, Yeoh intends to take her Bond girl into the 21st century as well.
"In the old days, the Bond girl was the blonde girl in the swimming pool. We're going into the 21st century and women are not just gorgeous to look at but smart. They're intelligent and just as smart as Bond," she said.
In the film, Yeoh will play Wai Lin (originally called Lin Pao), an agent of the People's External Security Force in Beijing. She strikes up an unlikely partnership with 007 when the latter's search for a shadowy news mogul, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), leads him to troubled Chinese waters.
And if there's only one reason for the kung fu star to be frustrated these days, it would only be that she is being shackled and handcuffed - figuratively and literally - on the set most of the time.
She isn't really complaining about being handcuffed to "gorgeous" Brosnan for a lot of the scenes. Yeoh has a bigger problem dealing with watching her stunt double Wendy Leech doing the hair-raising stunts that she is itching to try herself.
"It's so limiting," she said of being sidelined. "I keep going [to Roger]: 'Come on, I can do it, let me do it . . .' and he'll say: 'The producers will kill me if I let you do it.' So we try and work around it. To me, it's very restricting."
Yeoh recalled a scene where she had to climb over Brosnan and sit on the front seat of a 364-kilogram BMW motorcycle but Spottiswoode foiled her by shouting "Cut!".
"In Hong Kong we would do that scene in one shot; it can be done. But the producers go: 'What if she slips and she falls or something happens?'
"So on these things they are very careful. In case of accidents, it can be disastrous," added the Malaysian, who recently appeared in her first non-action leading role in The Soong Sisters.
"But because I have done a lot of sequences before and I'm very confident, there are certain things I know I can do and certain things I can't. I was going to try and do it but Roger was very smart. Just as I was going to do it, he shouted 'cut!'."
Spottiswoode explained that insurance would not allow the stars to take such risks. After all, we are talking about a scene where Yeoh and Brosnan leap across two buildings on the heavy machine with handcuffs on.
"She argues [about doing her own stunts]," the director of Turner And Hooch and Air America conceded with a faintly indulgent smile. The does worry bother the film's star Brosnan, although he is not about to allow himself to be swept away by her enthusiasm.
"Well, obviously there is a lot more at stake with a movie like this with the big budget. An accident can hold things up a lot, but it doesn't bother me if Michelle wants to do her own stunts," Brosnan said smoothly.
Yeoh's double, Leech, who has worked on other Bond movies as well as the Indiana Jones trilogy, admits laughingly that she has more cause to worry.
"If she carries on this way, I will be out of a job," said Leech. "I keep telling [stunt co-ordinator] Jean Pierre Goy that he is very bad. He keeps allowing Michelle up on the bike. Maybe I shall have to handcuff her to something else instead of to Pierce."
Leech's husband, Vic Armstrong, is the film's second unit director who will be filming most of the stunt sequences. "You have to stop her from doing the stunts because of the insurance. She's a little like Harrison Ford. He also likes to try everything out himself," said Armstrong, who also worked on the Indiana Jones movies.
Yeoh is learning to grin and enjoy the safety of being in her chair.
"It's going to be quite difficult, I think," she said wistfully. "The stunts are going to be handled very, very carefully, so OK I'm just going to calm down."
But she quickly perked up at the mention of her [stunt] "boys" in Hong Kong, who will be joining her in London later when she will finally be able to get her hands dirty with some arm-to-arm combat scenes.
"We will have 6 of them and a stunt co-ordinator from Hong Kong.
"There's a style of fighting that we're used to and it's a lot easier when you work with people you're used to . . . the rhythm and the timing and when you're dodging and kicking," she said eagerly.
"So it's very good that MGM and Eon [Productions] have realised this and Vic Armstrong has agreed that I work with people I've worked with before."
But Yeoh might have to learn to ease up on the action anyway, even though she swears she will "never give up the action genre". Already her managers in the United States are looking at plenty of non-action scripts for her. "Some are very dramatic roles, there are some comedies and, of course, action films. It's something very diversifying for me," she said.
For the moment, however, Yeoh will concentrate on making Wai Lin the best 20th-century heroine she can because she knows Tomorrow Never Dies will have the power of carving a solid impression of her in the minds of people around the world.
"With Supercop, Asia knows about it and in America, some people know of it. With Bond movies, a lot more people are going to know who I am. Hopefully from here, it gets bigger and better."
And Yeoh is confident that it will too.
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) / (June 20, 1997) -- Mounted on a motorcycle, handcuffed to a beautiful Chinese spy, Bond -- James Bond -- careens through a steamy Bangkok back alley. Coolies and noodle vendors scatter, gunshots ring out, the relentless pursuers close in.
After 17 films over 35 years will the world's most indestructible secret agent finally meet his maker in this, his 18th movie?
Or, as some say, will the longest series in cinematic history simply run out of steam?
"Hardly," says Pierce Brosnan, the 5th actor to play Bond, predicting that 007 will be using his license to wipe out bad guys and bed gorgeous women well into the 21st century.
"I'm sure there is already someone waiting in the wings to fill my shoes when I hang up my gun," adds the handsome Irishman, who has one Bond film, GoldenEye, under his belt, is contracted to play a 3rd and may exercise options for a 4th.
Roger Spottiswoode, who directs Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, agrees. He believes the basic character is strong enough to survive, as long as he's remolded from time to time, keeps pace with current issues and is supplied with topical villains to liquidate.
In the wake of communism's demise in the former Soviet Union, Bond had to make do with the Russian Mafia in GoldenEye, while his latest archenemy is an evil British media baron who, noting how TV and newspaper profits soared during the Gulf War, plots to increase already incredible ratings and daily circulation -- 100 million for his global newspaper Tomorrow -- by sparking a prime-time war between China and England.
Hoping Bondian gadgets prove mightier than the pen, London headquarters dispatch their man to Southeast Asia, while Beijing unleashes its own top spy. Trying to neutralize Bond is popular Asian actress Michelle Yeoh, whom Spottiswoode says comes across as a "Chinese-style 007, not a Bond babe."
Bond survives a Cruise missile, the mother of all parachute jumps and the blades of a helicopter that try to carve him up but instead demolish a bustling market. Bond and his now Chinese love mate escape by driving a motorcycle over Bangkok's rooftops (given the city's notorious traffic, going by road would have resulted in Hollywood's shortest chase scene).
In truth, the climactic pursuit and other episodes are set in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, but the filmmakers had to substitute Bangkok because authorities revoked earlier permission to film in Vietnam for still unclear reasons.
"They chickened out," says Spottiswoode, who suspects communist "old warriors" couldn't accept a big Western film company moving in. Other possibilities: Bond's earlier persona as an anti-communist crusader and Vietnam's weak filmmaking infrastructure.
Thailand on the other hand has served as location for such big productions as The Killing Fields, The Deer Hunter, Air America, Dumbo Drop, and the 1974 Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun, which starred Roger Moore.
Despite withering temperatures and some reports of friction between Brosnan and Spottiswoode, shooting in Bangkok appeared to go smoothly and on schedule.
"There was lots of pressure on the first film. I was the new kid on the block," said Brosnan, taking a break on the set. "Now, the part is mine. I'm just having a bloody great time."
The only apparent tension during one day's shooting came from the publicity team trying to stop a photographer from snapping Brosnan and Ms. Yeoh as they sat on a motorcycle mounted on a flatbed that was being pulled along.
Such fakery, they said, wouldn't be good for the macho Bond image.
Brosnan's co-star was equally relaxed, posing for photographs with kids of a neighborhood that literally reeked of exotic Asia. Vendors hawked food in narrow alleys that led to riverside tanning sheds and godowns exuding the smells of rice, spice and things less nice.
"She's a woman of the 1990s -- intelligent, aggressive and doesn't take any nonsense from anybody," said Ms. Yeoh of her character. "It's about time that you have a woman who matches up to Bond."
And not just in brains. The former Miss Malaysia is a martial arts expert who performs most of her own stunts and has starred opposite kung fu king Jackie Chan in several films.
"Making this movie is great fun," she said. "When do you get a chance to beat up 6 guys in one day?"
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