In his new film, “Matador,” a scruffy, puffy-eyed Pierce Brosnan curses a blue streak, boozes it up every night, kicks small dogs, is rude to children, regularly hires hookers, steals (and wears) one prostitute’s silver nail polish, tries to pick up Mexican schoolgirls, and coldly kills complete strangers for a living.

And the audience still loves him.

Greg Kinnear Pierce Brosnan

“That’s Pierce,” says Hope Davis, the former James Bond’s “Matador” costar, at the dark comedy’s after-party in a Regent Beverly Wilshire penthouse, high above the holiday twinkle lights of Rodeo Drive. “He plays a real bad guy, a very raw and strange character but despite all his really horrible flaws, you still end up being charmed by him.”

Well, not so much his other costar Greg Kinnear. “I had to suffer all his tantrums and erratic behavior, all the those things we know to be universally true about Pierce Brosnan,” revealed the actor who plays a downtrodden businessman who befriends the lonely hit man in a Mexico City bar, altering both their lives.

Oh, darn. Turns out he was just kidding. Kinnear likes Brosnan too, and really liked working with him. “You throw a couple of Irish guys in Mexico City for a few months and it’s a pretty good time.”

Brosnan was beaming at the after-party for his new about-face independent film. He’d taken a break from filming “Seraphim Falls” in New Mexico with Liam Neeson to appear at the Westwood premiere of "Matador," (opens Dec. 30th). Some say Brosnan’s role could snag him a best actor awards nod for his “Anti-Bond.”

“I didn’t do the film to be the anti-anything,” said a bearded Brosnan, sitting on a couch with his wife Keely Shaye Smith. “But I had a great time playing a really cool character.”

]]>The “Matador” script was sent in by young New York writer-director-producer-actor Richard Shepard as a test writing sample to nab a writing gig on the new “Thomas Crown Affair” flick. Brosnan’s producer/partner Beau St. Clair read it, loved it, gave it to the actor for a table reading and they both decided to make the film with Brosnan as Julian Temple, a degenerate hired killer.

Brosnan even got his Bond mate, “Die Another Day” director of photography David Tattersall (he shot the last three “Star Wars” films) to sign on and everyone headed to Mexico City for three months.

The film premiered at Sundance in January 2005, where Harvey Weinstein pulled “a Harvey” and swooped in to snag the distribution rights for his Weinstein Co., beating out several other bidders. “We showed it on Friday night, Saturday Harvey requested a copy and he flew in on Sunday. He’s pretty amazing when he does that,” recalls St. Clair. “But we also knew that Harvey would be fearless and would not make us cut or compromise the film.”

Thank god. It would have been a shame to lose the dog-kicking scene.

Photo: Greg Kinnear tests Pierce Brosnan’s beard at the Westwood premiere of "The Matador."
(Steve Granitz / WireImage)