Pierce Brosnan was self-assured and sexy as James Bond in four blockbusters. He warbled ABBA in the 2008 musical "Mamma Mia!" and played a former British prime minister in Roman Polanski's 2010 thriller "The Ghost Writer."
But be vulnerable? Not so much.
Enter Danish director Susanne Bier, whose complex family drama "In a Better World" won the foreign language Oscar two years ago. She was looking to do an unabashed romantic comedy.
"There are so many cynical films at the moment and cynical romantic comedies of various kinds," she said. "And the message is you might fall in love, but it's not going to last. I really didn't want to do that."
And she didn't.
"Love Is All You Need," which opens Friday, wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. Shot primarily in the picture-perfect coastal town of Sorrento, Italy, with Dean Martin's hit "That's Amore" prominently featured on the soundtrack, the romance finds Brosnan playing Philip, a wealthy Englishman living in Denmark. A middle-aged widower, he has shut down emotionally since the death of his wife several years earlier.
But his life changes when he meets Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a middle-aged mother of two who, after completing chemotherapy for breast cancer, learns that her husband is cheating on her with a woman their daughter's age.
Philip and Ida come together for the wedding in Sorrento of his son and her daughter. It isn't long before he is feeling emotions he thought no longer existed.
"I was wanting something like this to come along," Brosnan said in a recent joint interview in Beverly Hills with Dyrholm, a 40-year-old Danish actress who appeared in "In a Better World."
"I fell in love with the script," said Brosnan, who, just a few weeks shy of his 60th birthday, is still 007 handsome.
He could certainly relate to Philip. In 1991, Cassandra Harris, Brosnan's wife and mother of his two stepchildren and their young son Sean, died of ovarian cancer. Three years later, Brosnan met journalist Keely Shaye Smith. They married in 2001 and have two sons.
"I was acutely aware of the similarities between my life and Philip's life," he said softly. "I just surrender to the similarities, because they are meaningful to me as an actor, a father, a man who has lost his wife and being a single parent. All the ingredients made sense. I thought in the hands of Susanne Bier, who deals with her story lines with such nuances of complexity of character, I felt safe."
Ida was a challenge for Dyrholm.
"She is so complex," she said. "She has this loneliness, this melancholic side, and at the same time she is so positive and so strong. I have never done a character like this."
Because Ida is bald from the chemo treatments, Dyrholm cut her hair very short so she could wear a bald cap and a wig.
"It was as if that character was in the wig, actually, in a weird way," she said. "I want her to be very feminine. She is just moving all the time. She is alive in hair and body. She is just vibrating."
Brosnan's and Dyrholm's favorite scene is a touching encounter on the beach as Philip watches Ida emerge naked and bald from a swim in the sea. That chance meeting changes their relationship.
"I loved that scene for all of its elegance and eloquences," Brosnan said. "It's such a simple scene, but yet it carries so much poignancy in these two people's lives. He's touched by her courage and grace. She's naked and it's rather lovely."
"It is when they are both standing vulnerable, just as they are," Dyrholm said.
"As a man and woman," Brosnan said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times