The name Pierce Brosnan may bring to mind images of a jet-setting James Bond in a tuxedo sipping a martini, but for his role in this month’s Matador—a traveling hit man facing a midlife crisis while tracking targets from Mexico City to Budapest—the actor trades martinis for margaritas and private jets for public transport. Travel + Leisure caught up with Brosnan to find out what prompts an Irishman to relocate to Hawaii and why a ukulele makes a great carry-on.
Courtesy Pierce Brosnan Pierce Brosnan
| Credit: Courtesy Pierce Brosnan

You spend a lot of time in Hawaii. What drew you to the islands? It’s like Ireland with the heat on. I love the culture, the landscape, the blue, blue water. You wake up in the morning and go fishing or sailing—or have a coffee on the beach. I paint and my wife gardens. It’s a beautiful place to watch our boys grow up.

Do you paint a lot on the road? My first career was as a commercial artist, and I’ve started plein-air painting—I travel with a little oil set. While filming The Matador in Mexico City, I set up a small studio at the hotel and did a self-portrait of my character Julian, a mustachioed vulgarian with a wonderful sense of humanity.

This was your first trip to Mexico City. Did you enjoy it? Quite frankly, the city has gotten a very bad rap. Even though we traveled with bodyguards—which was a giant pain in my neck—I still had chances to get out with the people, and thought they were absolutely magnificent. Yes, there’s pollution. Yes, you should be careful when going into certain neighborhoods—just as in any large city. But connecting with the passion of Mexico in the Catholic churches, eating at local restaurants, and seeing firsthand the works of Rivera, Kahlo, and Siqueiros made it a rich experience.

Much of the movie is spent in the bar at the Camino Real. What makes a great bar? It has to have that sense of camaraderie. I grew up stealing sips of Guinness from my uncles’ pints at pubs in Ireland. You can have a little bar on the beach with just a wooden plank and beaten up old logs and it can be the most amazing bar in the world, and then you can have an overly dressed stuffy bar that just doesn’t work. The people are what make it special.

What’s always in your carry-on? I bring my laptop, and I’ve recently taken up the ukulele. It’s the most humorous, charming instrument. It’s completely portable, and you can learn to play it in about 20 minutes. I also carry my family photos, which I keep in silver frames. As soon as I get into my hotel, I unwrap them and set them up on the desk.

Do you have any favorite hotels? The Hassler in Rome and the Ritz in Paris. I just love the romance, grandeur, and place in history of those hotels. They are the epicenters of the cities they inhabit. It’s as if they’re filled with the dreams of everyone who has walked through them.

What was the most memorable meal you’ve had while traveling? I had one of the best lunches on the back of a boat in Panama with a group of friends while filming the Tailor of Panama. The boat wasn’t fancy, but it was big and very handsome and it had an old frying kettle at the back. We opened several bottles of wine and cooked up a feast of calamari and shrimp and fish—all straight from the sea—for a wonderful meal. But I still love the down-home, wholesome food of my native Ireland: Irish salmon, vegetables, and lots of mashed potatoes. I love my spuds.

Bond is known for his gadgets; would you call yourself a technophile? I abhor gadgets. I had a BlackBerry, or a blueberry, or whatever you call the darn thing for half a day and then I gave it to my secretary. I do send e-mail, but I prefer to write in longhand. And I’m a sucker for beautiful fountain pens.

Are you ever able to “go local” and remain incognito? In Hawaii, people recognize me and I greet them as they greet me. I enjoy my life and the bit of fame that I have. It has enabled me to travel far and wide, and to enjoy every level of society. Whether you’re going to Panama City or Rajasthan or Nairobi or Rome, it’s about packing the suitcase and going off and sharing experiences with a bunch of great new people.

Museo Nacional del Prado
Paseo del Prado, Madrid

Honolulu Academy of Arts
900 South Beretania Street, Honolulu

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo
Reforma y Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City