Pierce Brosnan awarded at Chicago Film Festival
It was with great interest that I scrutinized the list of events for the 38th annual Chicago International Film Festival. A good friend of mine had told me that Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely would be attending opening night. I soon discovered that my friend’s information was not only correct, but also that Brosnan was to be the 2002 recipient of the Festival’s career Achievement Award. This tribute to Mr. Brosnan, and the preview of his newly released film Evelyn (2002), was to kick off the two-week festival.
The Brosnan’s were on-tour promoting “Evelyn”, the third film from his production company, Irish Dreamtime. In addition to having produced “Evelyn”, Brosnan also plays the lead role. The film follows the true story of Dubliner Desmond Doyle, a struggling single father, whose three children are taken from him by Catholic authorities. The Church had ruled Doyle was not capable of raising the children without their mother, who had deserted them some time ago. The story focuses on his oldest child Evelyn, and her difficulties in the church run orphanage, as well as her father’s long and desperate attempts to regain custody through legal channels. Doyle eventually triumphed in the Irish Supreme Court.
My excitement grew when I called the ticket hotline and was asked, “Do you have Bond fever?” The question gave me hope that my childhood dream of meeting James Bond might actually happen. That dream had begun some thirty years earlier, while growing up in a south Chicago bungalow. Festival goers were given the choice if attending the Tribute and film preview at the famous Chicago Theatre, or also attending the pre-film reception. Of course, I opted for the entire package, and to make it all the better, also fact found a great rate at the trendy and nearby Allegro hotel. I had high hopes of enticing my wife Kelly to join me on my pilgrimage.
A rainy Friday afternoon led into a cool and damp evening. Perhaps this was appropriate weather to premiere a film set in Ireland, I thought. At any rate, Kelly and I walked from the Allegro, and were invigorated by the excitement of the city, and the anticipation of what lay ahead. The reception took place on the 007th floor of the grand Marshall Field’s State Street store (Editors note: Today's location for Macy's). The former home of Field’s signature Frango Mint factory had been transformed into an elegant ballroom, complete with fountains, and the fifteen-foot windows overlooked the magnificent Chicago skyline. The crowd at the reception was an eclectic group, including office workers to people in elegant formal attire. Allow me to mention at this point, that the variety of dress just attests to my belief that many people have no idea how to properly dress for events. Waiters moved briskly about the crowd of 200, offering delicious variety of hors d’oeuvres, and of course, champagne. Several elegant cocktail bars were set up around the room, and a classic jazz band played, back-dropped by an illuminated view of the city. Kelly and I did our best impressions of jaded urbanities and not star-struck fans as we mingled about the room. About thirty minutes into the reception, my wife noticed several security guards were standing near a very comfortable looking, albeit empty seating area. It was conveniently adjacent to a set of double doors leading to an elevator. Our curiosity piqued, we discreetly moved nearer. Trying to be as nonchalant as possible, Kelly and I positioned ourselves near the doors. The security eyes us suspiciously, and began talking into their walkie-talkies. My wife, her boldness perhaps bolstered by a little bit of wine, decided to approach the friendliest looking of the guards. She asked him why they were protecting an empty space. After a moment’s hesitation that seemed to dismiss the possibility that we were stalkers, said, “I’ll give you a hint. Double-O-Seven.” Kelly asked, “You mean Pierce IS coming?” He just smiled and nodded. Kelly calmly held her excitement, and looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this top-secret conversation. Just then, additional security entered through the doorway, and the walkie-talkies became more active. We noticed that many more guests had begun to congregate around us. They newly arrived security began moving people away from the area; our friendly guard approached and said that we could remain as long as we stayed back from the door. I walked opposite the door, and Kelly remained next to it in an attempt to best position us for any photo opportunities.
With all the confidence and style of James Bond, Pierce Brosnan and Keely walked into the room. In addition to the obligatory bodyguards, their entourage included two other stars from the film, Julianna Marguiles and Evelyn herself, Sophie Vavasseur. Brosnan was dressed in a perfectly tailored black suit, white shirt and silver tie. Keely was classically dressed in a floor-length gown and a double stranded necklace of pearls.
I was lucky enough to be directly in front of the group, and promptly offered my hand with sincere congratulations to both. They were very gracious, and with firm handshakes, they thanked me for coming. The crowd swarmed around the glamorous group, and they tried valiantly to speak to each well-wisher. The couple even paused long enough to take some photos with fans, and enjoy a glass of champagne. I kept a good pace with the group (casually dodging bodyguards) as they were swept around the ballroom by the sheer momentum of the masses.
I suddenly realized that I lost sight of Kelly, and began to wonder where she had ended up. There was a small break in the crowd, and I was amazed and surprised to see my wife shaking Pierce Brosnan’s hand and enjoying conversation. I strained to hear what they were saying, and Kelly expressed her enjoyment for The Nephew (1998), and how much we were looking forward to Evelyn. She was even able to mention that we had seen him at Pinewood Studios during the filming of Die Another Day (2002). Brosnan asked what is was he filming at the time, and told that he had just come from off the set wearing his camouflage wetsuit, he rather humbly replied, “Oh, then I really wasn’t at my best”, and they both laughed. Kelly noticed me then, and gave one of those urgent “Do something” looks, such as take a photo, that only a husband understands.
I asked Keely of she still enjoyed gardening, referring to her years as gardening expert on Good Morning America. She told me that she was not able to do as much as she would like, but she and the children tried to work in the yard at every opportunity. Before we said our goodbyes, I asked Pierce if he would be so kind to take a photo with me. He graciously accepted, and together we posed for photographer Kelly. It is a moment that she and I will cherish forever.
As we watched the bustling but polite crowd following the distinguished guests around the room, Kelly and I snapped photos of Brosnan and his wife. Then we celebrated with more champagne and cocktails.
The Brosnan’s eventually departed the reception, for the second segment of this special evening. A few moments later, all of us were asked to please begin making our way to the Chicago Theatre. Everyone patiently crowded into the bank of elevation escorted by Film Fest volunteers.
As Kelly and I reached the sidewalk, we spotted Brosnan and Keely in the side driveway, stepping into a sleek black Mercedes limousine. They waved to the cheering crowd as they were whisked away to the premiere. The rest of us walked to the nearby theatre in small and excited groups, in the refreshing cool night air.
As everyone entered the theatre hall, the wonderful music from the soundtrack of Brosnan’s Irish Dreamtime produced film The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) could be heard throughout. Our orchestra seats afforded us a fine view of the massive screen above the stage, and also of the notable attendees in the near-capacity theatre. When the hall lights finally went down, we viewed a taped introduction hosted by Chicago’s Bill Kurtis. Mr. Kurtis had sent the video while he was in the Middle East, explaining the International Film Festival’s history, goals, and accomplishments.
Michael Kutza, founder and art director of the Film Festival, then took the stage podium, and led us through the many notable career accomplished of this year’s recipient. Pierce Brosnan was chosen for the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award, based on his work in film, as well as his numerous charitable activities and humanitarian efforts. We viewed a video montage of much of Brosnan’s film work, and then Mr. Kutza asked Mr. Brosnan to come on stage. The man gracefully came to the podium from just off stage several of them to join him on stage, including his producer, Beau St. Clair, the screenwriter Paul Pender, Keely and Sophie Vavasseur. Brosnan spoke eloquently and passionately about the film, and of the years of work and research that so many had done to
bring “Evelyn” to the screen. He then graciously thanked the festival organizers for the award, and the audience for attending.
Kelly and I enjoyed the film immensely, and hoped that “Evelyn” would help others realize that while Pierce Brosnan is most famous for portraying the infamous James Bond, that he is truly a gifted and diverse actor. After the film, and as everyone was exciting the theatre hall, we both overheard man highly positive comments and few disappointing ones. This, of course, is to be expected of any film.
As we walked back to the Allegro, Kelly and I suddenly and somewhat sadly realized that our exciting night was almost over. Entering the lobby, we were glad to see that the stylish cocktail lounge was still open. We capped off the fantasy evening over a vodka martini (with the requisite twist of lemon), and a couple of cigars, as some great jazz played in the background. I ordered Ian Fleming’s “Vesper Lynd” martini concoction, and Kelly had a Tanqueray and tonic. We talked and revealed in this special night, and of our eventful year. Kelly and I are thankful for many things, but we reflected how especially grateful we were for the generosity of our great friend Doug Redenius, Vice-president of the Ian Fleming Foundation. In June, Doug had invited Kelly and I to visit Pinewood Studios outside London, and to participate in the IFF Gala at Stoke Park. We will never forget either.
Also, we realized how special it is live Chicago, a world-class city for the arts. We were truly exhilarated to realize that dreams such as these can come true.
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Written by Colin Clark © 2011 From Sweden With Love.