Before he was James Bond, he was Remington Steele and he's also a Stephen King fan, a boon to Pierce Brosnan in his return to television.
In recent years a star of such movies as "Mamma Mia!" and the Roman Polanski-directed "The Ghost Writer," the actor had a previous link to the iconic horror novelist through some aspects of the 1992 film 'The Lawnmower Man." He revisits King territory by playing an author literally haunted by a tragic loss in the new A&E Network two-part movie "Stephen King's Bag of Bones," airing Sunday and Monday, Dec. 11 and 12.
Brosnan channels King in portraying a writer, but the fictional wordsmith's circumstances differ. After his wife (Annabeth Gish, "The X-Files") is killed in an accident, creatively blocked Mike Noonan (Brosnan) retreats to Maine -- famously King's own stomping grounds -- and becomes enmeshed in a custody battle between a child's (Caitlin Carmichael) mother (Melissa George, "Alias") and grandfather (William Schallert, "The Patty Duke Show").
"Beverly Hills, 90210" alum Jason Priestley appears as Noonan's agent, who hopes his client will start turning out books again soon. That could be helped or hindered by the supernatural experiences the writer begins having, some involving the spectre of a blues-era singer (Anika Noni Rose, "Dreamgirls") with a traumatic history of her own.
"It wasn't anything that was conscious; it was just the way it worked out," Brosnan says of tackling another King tale. "This fit in really nicely with my schedule. Having said that, I'm a fan of Mr. King's work. I hadn't really thought about 'The Lawnmower Man' until I was reminded of it on the first day of doing this."
Nearly every familiar King storytelling element is present in "Bag of Bones," all the more cause for Brosnan to reason, "When you come to play King, you have to go full-tilt. You can't shy away from what's on the page, and if you look at the actors who have played King characters, they're usually pretty assertive with their performances."
Especially in the first half of "Bag of Bones," when Brosnan has long sequences built largely on reactions to what his alter ego sees -- or believes he's seeing, whether he's looking at a refrigerator or a coffin -- his work is largely wordless and reactive, rather than holding to the tradition of delivering information to viewers through dialogue.
"For the first four weeks, almost, I was just by myself," Brosnan confirms. "There were no other actors involved, and that was the challenge of the piece. How do you keep it in play with just one man and his fears and foibles and the persecuted state of his own mind?"
"Stephen King's Bag of Bones" was executive-produced and directed by Mick Garris, a longtime keeper of the King flame in putting the author's stories on film ("Sleepwalkers," ABC's versions of "The Stand" and "The Shining"). Brosnan says Garris "was a great companion to have. It was a pretty intense 38-day shoot, and there was little time in many respects, so you couldn't second-guess the material.
"Mick Garris is a seasoned and much-loved director of Stephen King's work, so I had him on my side. I knew I was safe with somebody who was going to look after my back, and his own take on the material was evident from Day One, even at the frantic pace at which we worked. We also had a fantastic crew, so most scenes were done in just two takes, three takes tops. It really did fly."
To his pleasure, Brosnan learned he was requested personally by King to be the central "Bag of Bones" star. "I was told he wanted me, and
well, he got me, and I was very proud to do it. You say yes to something, but then you have to go and do it, and the enormity of the responsibility to the King world came crashing down.
"I'd spent two weeks between my previous project and this one with my family in Hawaii, and I looked at just about all the film work there was to see of King's. I also dipped into the books. This is somebody who is much-loved as a writer, so I invested as much as I possibly could.''
While his credits include the miniseries "Noble House" and "Around the World in 80 Days," the Irish-born Brosnan hasn't done television in nearly 20 years. He's kept active primarily through movies that also have included an update of "The Thomas Crown Affair" (a sequel to which is still possible, he reports) and this year's "I Don't Know How She Does It." He could return to the home screen again soon: With producer Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), he's developing a series about an international private eye.
For now, Brosnan sums up making "Stephen King's Bag of Bones" as "a fantastic experience. With this piece, you really put yourself in the most vulnerable experience possible as an actor. To say I created a character might be stretching it a bit, because so much of it is just my own being, but I do think there's a character in there."
A King's suspense greets Brosnan's return to TV in 'Bag of Bones'
Pierce Brosnan stars in "Stephen Kings Bag of Bones," airing Sunday and Monday on A&E Network.