Pierce Brosnan likes to tell the story about how he turned down Tim Burton for the title role of Burton’s 1989 movie, Batman. It’s a self-deprecating story that basically ends with, “Well, who knew?” (Also, to be fair to Brosnan, if he becomes Batman, does he still make Goldeneye six years later?) But ever since, Brosnan says he’s been wondering if he’d ever wind up in one of these movies. And if so, out of all the superheroes out there, who would it be? It turns out it all came down to Fate.
Well, Doctor Fate, to be exact, aka Kent Nelson, who premiered in comics in 1940 and uses magic as his power. (And has one of the coolest superhero costumes going.) Brosnan, for his part, seems to be having the time of his life as Doctor Fate, zipping around, casting spells, but also always being the smartest person in the room because he can see the future. Brosnan, not surprisingly, is very good at playing the smartest person in the room.
In Black Adam, the title character (Dwayne Johnson) is resurrected after thousands of years and has a chip on his shoulder about some things. He’s not necessarily evil, but he’s also not a hero. He’s a pretty conflicted fellow. The Justice Society is called in to contain Black Adam, which doesn’t quite go as easily as planned. That team includes Doctor Fate, Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo).
Ahead, Brosnan tells us why he had so much fun finally playing a superhero. Also, how he honestly still can’t believe how popular Mamma Mia became and how kids only know him as Sam Carmichael. But, first, Brosnan wound up calling me earlier than expected and when I answered the phone I still had the Yacht Rocks channel playing in the background, a musical genre I found out Pierce Brosnan has never heard of before.
Sorry, I had to turn off the Yacht Rock station…
You had to turn off what?
There’s yacht rock in Black Adam. Player’s “Baby Come Back.” That’s yacht rock.
Okay. All right. Very cool. There you go. You learn something every day.
You’ve never heard of yacht rock?
It’s not on my radar.
It’s like Doobie Brothers, stuff like that. Ambrosia. Music that you would want to look at the water while listening.
Okay, well there you have it.
You saw the movie?
And I love Doctor Fate. I’m curious, how much did you knew about Doctor Fate before this came up?
I knew very little about Doctor Fate. I mean, I’d heard the name and I’d heard of the Justice Society and the Justice League, but I knew very little. And my agents just said, “You’ve been offered this role, Doctor Fate, in Black Adam.” I’d heard of Black Adam. I read the script. I loved the script. I loved the trajectory of Doctor Fate and what he stood for. And I don’t know, I think he and I found each other at the right time in life. And then Jaume Collet-Serra, I was aware of his work through Liam Neeson and the collaboration they made together. So I just said yes. I embraced it wholeheartedly. I often wondered if I was going to play in one of these movies. And if I were to play in one of these movies, who would I play? Doctor Strange was taken. Doctor Fate is a great balance to it all.
Well, Doctor Fate predates Doctor Strange by a good 20 years or so. So Doctor Fate’s been around a while.
Doctor Fate is, yes. I mean he’s as old as the hills really, in some respects. He’s years in the making. I think it was 1940 when he made his debut. And somewhat based on the Tut…of it all…it was Howard Carter who was the archeologist who went into the tomb and discovered the relics of a bygone era. Everything that happened to the men and women who came under a certain spell. So that was the genesis of Doctor Fate.
In the mid-’80s, I was reading a lot of Doctor Fate, who kind of had a comeback in All-Star Squadron. At the same time, Remington Steele was one of my favorite shows, so this all would make 10-year-old me very happy…
Well, that’s very kind of you. I’m happy that you are happy and I was very happy making the movie. It was a wonderful experience with everyone, with Dwayne and this monolithic man of entertainment, who has traversed so many fields of entertainment from the wrestling world. So to work with him was a joy and the cast, Aldis, Quintessa and Noah, they became good friends, and Sarah [Shahi] and Mo [Amer]. So we had our own little groove going out in Atlanta and just the joy of working together. Jaume Collet makes it very easy on the set. And we became a family. And so I’m very excited for all of them, and for us, for the world to see this film.
You mentioned earlier wondering if you’d ever do a superhero movie. Has this come close to happening before? There’s had to have been a conversation before at some point and over the last 15 years, right?
Well, I met with Tim Burton decades ago for Batman. That was as close as I ever got.
That’s surprising there’s been nothing since then.
Well, they’ve got me in the movie.
They did. You do look like you’re having the time of your life in this. I can tell you’re having a great time.
It was. It was really a wonderful experience. And the character, of course, you’ve seen the film so you know his story. And as an actor to be able to play a part like that, where you have a secret, then it makes it even more intriguing for hopefully the audience to say, “I wonder what’s going on.” And then when they put it all together they say, oh, that makes sense. But it was just the joy of working with Aldis and Quintessa and Noah every day and watching their work, seeing their creative skills up close.
Watching you play kind of an all-knowing character is great because I have a feeling you’re a little bit like that in real life. You seem to know what’s going on.
I know as much as the next man knows. I’ve lived a fair number of years now and I’ve been in this world of entertainment all my life and I can’t think of a more wonderful profession. And if you can get away with it, and you can make a living for your family, then what a great joy that is. It still exhilarates me, I still have a passion for it. And a desire to work and a want and a need. So there you have it. But thank you for saying so.
There’s going to be an entire generation who knows you as Doctor Fate.
To be Doctor Fate is nothing but a blessing to play the part. It’s such a joy. I’ve experienced it with Mamma Mia, there’s a whole generation of young folks that found me as Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia. And when I say young people, 15.
Oh yeah. People love those movies. Are you surprised how much people love those movies?
Yes. I didn’t think it was going to be such a mega hit as it has become. Such a phenomenal success. And there are movies that sit on the shelf back to back, beautiful bookends of movies and cinematic storytelling. So to be part of any movie like that, to have a few of them in your back pocket, that’s pretty memorable and impressive. Whether it be Mrs. Doubtfire, Mamma Mia, James Bond and now Doctor Fate, that’s beyond words.
Well, I’ll add Dante’s Peak, The Thomas Crown Affair. You’re being modest. You are in a lot of movies people love.
I started life wanting to be a commercial artist. So I ended up being a commercial actor. I think you want to do entertainment, you want to do stuff that is uplifting and lighthearted. And every now and then you can go dark. But people need the lightness of light. They need to be entertained. They need to be transported and come away with fond memories of the nights and the company of their loves.
Because obviously there’s been different incarnations of Doctor Fate over the years. So I hope for the rest of your career, instead of James Bond, people keep asking you who should be the next Doctor Fate.
[Laughs] Oh, I’m sure it will go on. It always does like that. I’m happy to be here now. In the moment.
‘Black Adam’ opens in theaters on Friday, October 21st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.