Who wouldn't want to play James Bond?

Ian Fleming's suave, sexy spy has been the epitome of cool ever since Sean Connery said yes to Dr. No in 1962.

Now, 18 films later, Pierce Brosnan straps on his Walther P99 and tugs on the tux for his third Bond epic, The World is Not Enough. It joins the other Bond films as part of the most successful film franchise in the history of motion pictures.

The tux, and the role, seem to fit Brosnan like a glove. In fact, it sometimes seems like the Irish-born actor was destined to play 007.

Brosnan was born in 1953, a year after Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale, hit the stands. Abandoned by his father before he was a year old, Brosnan moved with his family to London in 1964 - by one account, on the day that Fleming died. Around this same time, Brosnan saw his first film in a theatre - Connery's best-ever Bond, Goldfinger.

The film made such an impression that Brosnan vowed to become an actor. He quit school at 15, working briefly as a circus fire-eater before finding work as a commercial artist. At a friend's suggestion, he tried out for the Drama Centre of London where he studied for three years.

In the early '80s, Brosnan married Australian actress Cassandra Harris, who was once a Bond Girl, portraying Countess Lisl in For Your Eyes Only. A decade later, Brosnan broke through in North America with his portrayal of another slick spy, TV's Remington Steele.

Steele was a hit, and Brosnan's sophisticated elegance soon put him at the top of the list to replace a sagging Roger Moore as the British super spy.

When Remington Steele was cancelled after five seasons, Brosnan was ready to take over. But at the last minute, a sixth season of Steele was ordered, forcing the Bond producers to hire gruff and tumble Timothy Dalton instead.

This professional setback was compounded by personal tragedy seven years later when Brosnan's wife Cassandra died after a lengthy illness. She had two children from a previous marriage: Charlotte, now 29 and Christopher, 28, and together they had Sean, 16. (Brosnan also has a two-year-old son, Dylan, with journalist Keely Shaye Smith.)

Brosnan soldiered on, immersing himself in environmental causes. He once joined a group of other stars on ice floes near Prince Edward Island to protest the seal hunt. He also dedicated a whale watch memorial to his late wife off the coast of Malibu, California.

He continued to boost his box office appeal in a string of solid efforts, including Nomads, The Fourth Protocol and Bruce Beresford's Mister Johnson. He followed with the sci-fi adventure The Lawnmower Man and Mrs. Doubtfire, where he surprised many critics by turning in a sure-footed comedic performance opposite Robin Williams.

Ten years after the role was first offered to him, Brosnan was announced as the fifth actor to play 007 in June of 1994. He went on to star in the series' two most successful films, GoldenEye, which grossed over $350 million worldwide, and Tomorrow Never Dies, which grossed more money in the U.S. than GoldenEye.
The World is Not Enough puts Bond smack in the middle of an international power struggle over the world's oil supply. Naturally, there's also a woman to protect. This time it's exotic Elektra King (Braveheart's Sophie Marceau), the daughter of murdered oil tycoon Sir Robert King.Brosnan is on record as saying that a Bond girl has got to have a great body, or as he put it, "you just want to be madly in the sack with her." But he also insists that there's more to Bond than a parade of heavenly bodies.

Pierce wants to have good relationships and meaty stuff to play," says first-time Bond director Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, Nell). "With a good dramatic spine, you can still have the stunts, the girls, the effects - but it is more engaging for an audience."
By all accounts, Brosnan and Apted bonded over Bond. "Michael is superb, a really lovely man, I trust him," says Brosnan. "He's listened to what I have had to say about character, having dialogue you can believe in. So I've been having the greatest time on this film."
Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) plays villainous Renard, who has a bullet lodged in his brain rendering him unable to feel pain. Carlyle says he's thrilled to join the ranks of the Bond baddies. "It's a piece of history," he says. "This is number 19 and you look at all the great actors that have played villains over the years - Robert Shaw, Christopher Walken - folk like that. It's an honor to be part of that."

It all comes to an explosive head inside a nuclear submarine beneath the surface of the Bosphorus Sea. The film also stars Denise Richards as nuclear weapons expert Dr. Christmas Jones, Oscar-winner Judi Dench in her third spin as 007's boss, M, 83-year-old Desmond Llewelyn making his 17th appearance as Q, Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, Robbie Coltrane (first seen in GoldenEye) as Valentin Zukovsky and John Cleese (A Fish Called Wanda) as Q's assistant, R.

The demanding shoot for the film stretched from January to July, taking Brosnan around the globe, with stops in London, Turkey, Spain and the French Alps.

Brosnan continued to rack up the frequent flyer points throughout 1999, touring the world to hype The Thomas Crown Affair and then stopping in Toronto last month on a promotional blitz for the movie Grey Owl. His next film is The Nephew, which he also produced.

Brosnan became a grandfather in August of 1998 when Charlotte gave birth to a daughter, Isabelle Sophie. But don't look for him to hand in the keys to Bond's BMW yet. He says he'd like to do at least two more, telling journalists that he's "just getting the hang of it."

Bill Brioux