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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK

Brosnan bonds with McQueen role

Russo and Brosnan: Onscreen romance

By BBC News Online Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

Pierce Brosnan, best known onscreen as James Bond, has taken on 1960s US screen icon Steve McQueen by starring in a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

McQueen played the title role in the original released in 1968. It was hardly a masterpiece - a crime caper best remembered for the supposed sexual chemistry between McQueen and his glamorous co-star Faye Dunaway.

[ image: McQueen: The original Thomas Crown]
McQueen: The original Thomas Crown
Viewing it today, it seems rather dated and the much touted risqué 70-second kiss between the stars looks uncomfortable and tame.

The remake starring Brosnan as Thomas Crown is more of a romance than the original.

Brosnan portrays the ultimate Manhattan material man who has everything money can buy. What he doesn't have is a woman partner who is his equal. To him life is a game, so he decides to steal a Monet painting from the Metropolitan Museum just for a lark.

This act of larceny brings him into contact with an insurance investigator, Catherine Banning, portrayed by Rene Russo, who is more than his match.

Admiration for McQueen

At the film's New York premiere, held in the ritzy Hamptons - a weekend getaway for wealthy Manhattanites, and therefore an appropriate launching pad for the movie - Brosnan recalled that his interest in the role stems from the time he saw the original in 1968 when he was 15 years old.

[ image: Russo follows in Faye Dunaway's footsteps]
Russo follows in Faye Dunaway's footsteps
"Steve McQueen was one of these guys whose work I always admired - he was probably one of the reasons why I became an actor," he said.

Brosnan also worked as a producer of this film. He says he went ahead with the project after he and his film business partner both decided they liked the film and there was "room for embellishment".

But the actor admits making a remake is nerve-wracking: "I was terrified. I knew I was going to be putting my neck on the block because it is going into McQueen territory and he is one of America's cinematic icons."

Brosnan acquits himself admirably in this role. Although he lacks the charismatic edge to make his performance spellbinding, he certainly does just as good a job as McQueen.

A glamorous fantasy

[ image: Steamy couple: Russo and Brosnan]
Steamy couple: Russo and Brosnan
Some critics have found The Thomas Crown Affair a disappointment just because it is a remake, but I thought it was better than the original. It is a glamorous fantasy, and the cat and mouse game acted out by Brosnan and Russo is definitely compelling.

In a way it's surprising to find that such a stylish and classy looking picture is the handiwork of John McTiernan, who is best known as a hard core action director of blockbusters like Die Hard.

The remake does have its weaknesses. The biggest is the thinness of the story and the script, although reworked for the 1990s, still seems outdated.

Thomas Crown resembles an old fashioned version of an international playboy who belongs more to a Hollywood fantasy from the 1960s. But this is not a film that needs to be taken too seriously.

Sexy in her mid-forties

The best thing about The Thomas Crown Affair is Rene Russo, who as Catherine Banning has been given her best part in quite a while.

What she does is defy those narrow-minded Hollywood producers who jettison actresses once they get past their mid-thirties arguing they have passed their prime.

Rene Russo is in her mid-forties, yet she presents a self-confident woman who is every bit as glamorous and sexy as an actress half her age.

If the legacy of this fantasy is that it improves the longevity of women's screen careers in Hollywood, then that will surely compensate for any of its artistic shortcomings.

The Thomas Crown Affair opens in the UK on 20 August.

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