The first thing secret agents learn at spy school is how to hide feelings. Let your adversaries know only what you want them to know. These days, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig -- aka "Old Bond" and "New Bond" -- are putting their psychological cloak-and-dagger training to the test.
Brosnan is promoting "The Matador," a quirky comedy with Greg Kinnear, in which he plays a washed-up hit man on the brink of a mental breakdown. Brosnan laughs at how big a jump this take on international espionage is from his former days as Agent 007. But he's still not so eager to talk about his replacement and offers no advice to the new man with the golden gun.
"I didn't seek advice from any man before me, and I don't give any advice to any man after me. He'll find his own way," Brosnan said of Craig, the 37-year-old blond who will inherit the super spy role next year in a remake of "Casino Royale."
"He'll find his own way. He's a wonderful actor. I wish him all the happiness and success."
The 52-year-old Brosnan is a lot more diplomatic now than he was in December, when he launched into a tirade, both shaken and stirred by the way Bond producers tossed him from his Aston Martin.
"It's bloody frustrating that the [expletive] pulled the rug when they did," the Irish actor told Playboy magazine.
"It was like, 'Come on, we're family here. You talk about being a family. You know my late wife; you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you've shut down negotiations because you don't know how, where or which way to go and that you'll call me next Friday?' What can I say? It's cold, it's juvenile, and it shouldn't be done like that, not after 10 years and four films."
With an eye on snapping up some awards, both "The Matador" and "Munich" opened at a few select theaters in the final days of the year, and both have secured a handful of Golden Globe nominations. "Munich" was No. 9 at the box office last weekend, and "Matador" goes into wider release later this month.
It's perhaps a bit ironic that both actors are now playing assassins, but the two performances are in no way comparable. What Craig and Brosnan do share, however, is a tie to one of the greatest characters in Hollywood history. It's a role that comes with instant fame. Once you're a Bond, you're world famous. But it's also a mixed blessing. Once you're a Bond, it's hard to be anything else.
Connery Learns Never to Say 'Never Again'
Even Sean Connery, the most famous of the six 007s, has struggled mightily to resist being typecast. After filming such classics as "From Russia, With Love," "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball" in the mid-1960s, he handed the role over to George Lazenby, the star of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
Declaring himself a major star, Lazenby announced that this would be his only Bond film, even before the film hit theaters. He was subsequently featured in the daytime soap opera "General Hospital," along with a few TV movies and commercials, and now might regret having made that decision.
In the early 1970s, Connery returned to Bond with "Diamonds Are Forever," and promised his wife he would never do another Bond film. In the mid-1980s, however, he came back for one more spin in the Aston Martin with the appropriately titled "Never Say Never Again."
But Connery probably had a more successful post-Bond career than any of his successors, including Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. While some might think it's a professional dead end, the anointment of Craig as the new 007 was a major international news event, thrusting the relative unknown into the spotlight as the first blond Bond.
It's not hard to understand the hoopla. The 20 official Bond films are one of Hollywood's most successful and longest-running franchises, netting nearly $4 billion in global ticket sales, including Brosnan's last four, which racked up $1.5 billion.
Big Changes for 'New Bond'
For Craig, however, this means big changes. Up to this point, the 37-year-old has had a successful, but modest film career. He played Angela Jolie's boyfriend in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," Paul Newman's son in "Road to Perdition" and got good reviews for his starring role as a coke dealer in "Layer Cake." But Craig might be best-known as a former boyfriend to Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
Already, Craig is acknowledging that Bond towers over your career, and filming for "Casino Royale" has not even begun. He's currently starring in perhaps the most controversial film of the year. "Munich" is the story of an Israeli hit squad ordered to gun down the Palestinian terrorists who kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
Israel has never acknowledged seeking such reprisals, and the Steven Spielberg film has sparked criticism from all sides. But when Craig is before reporters, he is constantly being asked about Bond.
Among the biggest questions: Who will be the next Bond girl? At this point, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson and Jolie have all reportedly turned down the role.
"Well, I can't tell you, and I'm not going to, either, if I had the information," Craig said, trying to keep the focus on his current movie. This much he could say:
"Paul Haggis [the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 'Million Dollar Baby' and writer-director of 'Crash'] has done a rewrite of the script and has written great dialogue. The lead girl part is fantastic. The characters are fantastic. We're making a Bond movie first and foremost, but wait and see. I can't tell you. I haven't started shooting it."
Still, Craig is philosophical when asked whether he has second thoughts about his decision.
"If I don't take on opportunities that arise like this or challenges that arise like this, what am I doing?" he said. "Yes, I could fail miserably. But maybe I could do something that's different and make the franchise last another 30 years as opposed to another three."
If Brosnan is still angry about being abruptly relieved of his spying duties, it's not without reason. His last Bond outing, 2002's "Die Another Day," grossed $425 million internationally. And as recently as 2004, Quentin Tarantino was talking about filming a remake of "Casino Royale." The director told reporters at the Cannes film festival that he wanted Uma Thurman as a Bond girl and wanted Brosnan to return.
Bond producers, however, went with Martin Campbell as director, and they decided to go with a younger lead actor.
Now, a shaggy Brosnan sports facial hair that would probably get him immediately thrown out of Her Majesty's Secret Service. The new look is for his role as a crazed hit man who wanders into Kinnear's life, follows him home, and sleeps on his couch.
And now, Brosnan is adjusting and no longer sounds bitter.
"I was wondering, and had been wondering for a number of years, when would I find a part that was going to jolt my career in another direction and allow me to give a performance, which was different," Brosnan said.
"It came in the size, shape and color of this movie."