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Bye, Bond

updated 01/23/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dismissed after a decade as James Bond, the actor who played him is getting used to a new identity: Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan. Playing against longtime type, he's leaving critics shaken and stirred in his role as a sleazy assassin for hire in the black comedy The Matador. Nominated for a Golden Globe (his first nod since 1985), “I'm over the moon,” says Brosnan, 52. “I wish all of this happened sooner. But there's no time like the present.” Over a pot of tea, Brosnan told PEOPLE correspondent Natasha Stoynoff about life after Her Majesty's Secret Service.

HOLD THE MARTINI

I'm free at last. And as much as I liked playing James Bond, it was a shackle. The day the phone rang and it was my agent saying, “It's over. Negotiations have stopped,” I was shocked. It was a bit of a body blow. They had invited me back and then uninvited me. Then I felt a great sense of liberation, a mild euphoria that I was free of it and could do anything I wanted. I was an actor again. I've had 10 years and four films that were very successful and a whole generation grew up with me playing Bond. And I made a great living from it. So I look at it positively. Anything else would be detrimental and negative and soul-destroying.

AND NOW, THE ANTI-BOND

I read The Matador script and I howled. On page one, the guy gets out of bed with a girl. Okay, I've done that a million times. And then he paints his toenails black, tells a little boy off, tells a woman he'd like her if she lost 30 lbs., and then blows a guy up. And that's all in the first page! He is really outrageous. At one point, I panicked. I was a little nervous going off and doing something so different.

STROLLING THROUGH A HOTEL LOBBY IN BOOTS AND BRIEFS

We shot the scene [above right] at 11 a.m. I had five pairs of underpants on the bed, all black, laid out for me. I had a beer first. Yeah, I did. I stood there in my dressing gown and knickers, thinking, “Should I do this?” And I'm checking myself out from the side, from the front, and I'm going, “All right, okay, just remember … suck in the gut!” It was hysterical. The extras were agog. You can see the women laughing. It skewers people's perception of me.

AT HOME IN MALIBU

I make my kids [Dylan, 9, and Paris, 4] breakfast most mornings [when I'm home]—soft-boiled eggs and oatmeal—and I watch The Today Show. I pack their lunch…. I make banana and honey sandwiches without the crusts. They don't like crusts. Then I drive them to school, and maybe I'll go for a jog or a swim if it's warm. We live a pretty domestic and normal life. My wife [environmental activist Keely Shaye Smith, 42] and I go down to the tide pools and walk. Or we ride our bikes down to Zuma [Beach] and have coffee and watch the whales. My wife likes to garden. She's beautiful—sensuous, gorgeous, intelligent, funny and has a good heart. Everything's better with her. It's wonderful plotting and scheming life together.

HIS OLDER CHILDREN

Sean [22, his son with first wife Cassandra Harris, who died of ovarian cancer in 1991] is an actor, and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't seen him onstage yet. He just completed three years studying in London, and he's got three films under his belt already. Christopher [33, Harris's son whom Brosnan adopted] has gone through agony [he was arrested in London in June for suspected heroin possession]. The disease of drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent in our society, and it's been a hard road for him. But now he's healthy and he's good. And we all love and adore him. [Brosnan also has an adopted daughter, Charlotte, 34.]

TIME FOR A TRIM

I have this beard for the film I'm shooting now, Seraphim Falls, a Civil War western. I can't wait to shave it off. People have compared me to Saddam Hussein. It looks good when I'm on a horse, but my wife hates it. She wants her man back.

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