Pierce Brosnan is singing again in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." And that's a good thing.
As you get over the shock of that statement, let's just start with full-on kudos for the star's bravery. It took secret-agent mettle for the man who once played James Bond to jump into another round of singing ABBA classics for a let-it-all-go movie such as "Mamma Mia 2" (in theaters Friday).
Q himself couldn't invent a gadget that could bestow true musical talent upon the actor. But Brosnan, 65, goes all in again as Sam Carmichael, even singing the song that drew the most criticism in 2008's original "Mamma Mia!"
Purists will recall that he crooned enthusiastically but off-key, especially noted in his earnest duet with Meryl Streep's Donna on "SOS."
Some winced, others howled. Brosnan won a Razzie Award for worst supporting actor. But for many of us similarly encumbered with joy but little musical talent, the role amounted to Brosnan saying, "Come on, it's an ABBA musical. I'm singing, you can sing it."
As "Mamma Mia 2" director Ol Parker says, "That’s part of the glory of the first one, Pierce just going for it."
Brosnan never wavered about returning, telling USA TODAY before filming, "I'm looking forward to it enormously. ... I think the world is ready for 'Mamma Mia 2,' and I believe the world is ready to hear me sing once more."
He even tongue-in-cheek suggested opening the movie with Sam, as an Everyman, belting ABBA in the shower. "I don’t care what they say. I love to sing. People don’t necessarily employ me for my singing. But I chose to sing," he says.
In the new film, Parker makes a clear statement to critics (and fans) by having Brosnan singing "SOS" solo – it says that the star's song won't be silenced, but he will make adjustments.
With Parker coaching along with ABBA's Benny Andersson on piano, Brosnan slowed it way down and eased up on the vocal gusto as Sam wistfully thinks about his past love.
"The last take, the one we used, was probably twice as long as the others," Parker says. "When we finished, (Brosnan) said, 'That was something, wasn’t it?' I said, 'Pierce, it was wonderful.' "
Brosnan loved it so much, he brought his 84-year-old mother Mary back into the recording studio for an encore as the crew was departing.
"He said, 'Would you mind if we just played that for my mother?' We said, 'Of course,' " Parker recalls. "There was James Bond wanting to impress his mother. So we played it, and she cried."
It's a victory, even if Brosnan's singing on another song – "Knowing Me, Knowing You," with his screen daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) – was cut from the film. Parker falls on that sword, taking responsibility for the omission.
"I screwed (the scene) up visually," he says.
The song remains in "Mamma Mia 2," only with Lily James (young Donna) and Jeremy Irvine (young Sam) performing it. Brosnan's vocals are still featured on the version that appears on the soundtrack, for the truly committed.
But Brosnan belts in all the group song numbers, including the rollicking "Super Trouper" finale. He's dressed in full '70s jumpsuit finery, and you can definitely hear that voice.
Well played, Mr. Bond.