12/19/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Whereas Sean Connery had a devil of a time back in the '60s avoiding being typecast as James Bond, his successor Pierce Brosnan seems to be having no such headache.
Brosnan's latest 007 adventure, "Die Another Day," has so far taken in more than a quarter of a billion dollars internationally -- but the 49-year-old former PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive also has just opened a modest period film, "Evelyn," set in 1953 Ireland.
In it, Brosnan eschews high-tech gadgets for warm-hearted family feelings. The true story is based on the exploits of Desmond Doyle, who fought the Irish legal system in order to regain custody of his children after they are made wards of the state.
"It is a small story," Brosnan tells Reuters, "with great significance ... completely 180 degrees from the way I'm perceived by audiences."
Reviews for the film were excellent, with critics accepting Brosnan as someone other than Bond.
"If I let it, I'd be shackled by this huge character," Brosnan says. "But that's either going to knock you down, or you accept it and embrace it and say, 'Okay, but what can I do with it? How can I create my own parts?'
"You want to have as many choices as possible as an actor. Sometimes you have to work harder to get there, or it takes longer to get there, or you find the confidence in yourself to go back to what you used to do."
Still, he is aware of the built-in audience for Bond, as well as the hard sell ahead for a small film set in Ireland nearly 50 years ago.
"I do hope people go to see the movie not thinking or expecting James Bond, because it ain't Bond," Brosnan says. "I hope when the curtain rises, they see a character that is different and a man that is like they've never seen him before."