Pierce Brosnan Blew His Batman Audition By Making A Dumb Joke To Tim Burton

Pierce Brosnan seems to have had several notable false starts in his career. In what might be an infamous story, Brosnan was to play James Bond in the 1987 film "The Living Daylights" right after production was set to wrap on the fourth, and presumed final, season of his modestly successful TV series, "Remington Steele." The story goes that "Steele" was to be replaced by the Fred Dryer cop show "Hunter," freeing up Brosnan to step into the high-profile role of 007 and his co-star Stephanie Zimbalist to take the role of Anne Lewis in Paul Verhoeven's "RoboCop" (the part that would eventually taken by Nancy Allen). Ironically, Brosnan signing onto play James Bond saw a sudden new wave of interest in "Remington Steele," and NBC unexpectedly renewed the show for a fifth season. As Brosnan told the Irish Times

"I'd done all the photos with the iconic gun pose. And my late wife and I were about to toast our new life with a bottle of Cristal when my agent called and said, 'It's fallen through.' It was because I couldn't get out of 'Remington Steele.'"

Ultimately, Timothy Dalton would get the gig and Brosnan would have to wait an additional eight years before appearing in the 1995 film "GoldenEye." At the end of the day, however, it might have been for the best. "GoldenEye" is one of the best James Bond movies and Pierce Brosnan is the best James Bond. (Arguments will not be heard at this time.)

The actor also had one other notable "false start" in his career. After "Remington Steele" finally wrapped, the actor auditioned to play Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton's 1989 film "Batman." As he admitted on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," however, his audition didn't go too well.

Joking with Tim Burton

It's impossible to understate the scope and hype surrounding "Batman" in 1989. It was a marketing bonanza the likes of which the world hadn't previously seen. Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker, famously negotiated top billing and a cut of the film's merchandise, making him a very, very, very rich man. Those who were alert enough to be paying attention in '89 also likely recall the controversial casting of Michael Keaton as the title hero. At the time, Keaton was better known for comedy films like "Mr. Mom" and Burton's "Beetlejuice." The film's poster was famously minimalist, featuring only the Batman logo and a release date, with no title. "Batman" was a big, big deal. 

Many, many people were approached about playing the role: Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, and even Bill Murray. It was under pressure from Warner Bros. that Burton was asked to consider a more typically dashing hero type, leading him straight to Brosnan. In the past, Brosnan said that he turned the role down, being uninterested in playing a comic book character. But according to a story he told on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," it seems that, in addition to his disinterest, he also appears to have adopted the wrong attitude in the audition. Joking about the inherent ridiculousness of superheroes in general, it seems, wasn't something Burton was interested in doing. As Brosnan put it: 

"I remember saying something stupid to Tim Burton, I said: 'You know, I can't understand any man who would wear his underpants outside his trousers.' But there you go. The best man got the job and, you know, Doctor Fate and I were meant to meet on the same page, I think." 

No hard feelings

In other words, Brosnan and Doctor Fate were fated to meet. Doctor Fate is a DC comic superhero whose origins stretch back to 1940. The character is a sorcerer, a medical doctor, a martial artist, and a professional archaeologist. Doctor Fate is also immortal, giving him the time and energy to pursue these hobbies and skills. The character, played by Brosnan, will soon appear in Jaume Collet-Serra's superhero film "Black Adam," a spin-off from the characters in the 2019 film "Shazam!"

As for Tim Burton, there doesn't seem to have been any lasting animosity between the actor and director. They would eventually work together on the 1996 kitsch classic "Mars Attacks!" in which Brosnan played a smug, pipe-smoking scientist named Dr. Kessler. Dr. Kessler is bright-eyed, confident, and assumes the film's Martians are peaceful and enlightened. Luckily for lovers of adolescent, laser gun mayhem, he was quite wrong. Come to think of it, perhaps there were hard feelings from Burton. Dr. Kessler was eventually kidnapped by Martians and medically disassembled on a gurney, his various body parts kept alive by monstrous tubes. Half of Brosnan's scenes involved his still-living severed head conversing with Sarah Jessica Parker, who's head had been installed onto the body of a chihuahua. 

"Black Adam" hits theaters on October 21, 2022.