This must be a strange time to be Pierce Brosnan.

The former James Bond – whose last outing as 007 was in 2002's Die Another Day – has had to stand by and watch as the franchise clocked up its 50th anniversary while his replacement Daniel Craig helped usher Skyfall to the title of biggest film of all time at the British box-office. Does that feel strange? "Oh!" he cries. "There is that strangeness of heart, but you have to hold that really lightly, and celebrate it with everybody else."

Warming himself by the fire in the library of a discreet town house hotel off London's Sloane Square, Brosnan – at least on the surface – has no axe to grind now with Bond's producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (despite being none too pleased at the time with not being recalled for a fifth outing as the MI6 spy). "It's another man's job, his day in the sun, and onwards you go with gratitude for having been such a magnificent part of cinematic history."

Perhaps it helps that he's still enjoying a fine career of his own. He's mixed family blockbusters (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) with westerns (Seraphim Falls), musicals (Mamma Mia!) and even a thriller for Roman Polanski (playing a Blair-like PM in The Ghost). "These years, post-Bond, have been exhilarating," he nods. "As you get older, you have to find roles for yourself that are suitable – and luckily I've been doing that."

Case in point: Love Is All You Need, a delightfully summery rom-com from Danish director Susanne Bier that proves – despite the fact he turns 60 in May – the handsome Irishman still has what it takes to play the romantic lead. He plays Philip, an emotionally buttoned-down widower who arrives in the Italian town of Sorrento for his son's wedding. There he meets his future daughter-in-law's mother, Ida (Trine Dryholm), a cancer survivor who has just seen her idiot husband disappear with another woman.

So what drew him to the story? "There are certainly parallels within my own life," he admits, referring to his first wife, Cassandra Harris, who died of ovarian cancer in 1991, after 11 years of marriage. "I know what it's like to lose a wife to cancer," he continues, his voice soft and unwavering. "I know what that terrible area of the heart is, and the feelings that it brings upon you, and the numbness and the vagueness and the greyness of days where you just put one foot in front of the other."

While the death of Harris left Brosnan with their son Sean (now 29) and her two children from her first marriage, it understandably also left him devastated. It coincided with a difficult time in his career too after Brosnan found he was unable to accept his original offer to play James Bond and replace the retiring Roger Moore, due to his contract for TV show Remington Steele. But then, as Love Is All You Need suggests, life does have a habit of throwing up second chances.

"I could identify with this too," says Brosnan, who met his second wife, American journalist Keely Shaye in 1994, shortly before he finally got his hands on the coveted 007 role on GoldenEye. Happiness came when he least expected it. "Sitting in Mexico by a pool at 6.30 in the morning with my son there, around the corner came my darling love – Keely. [And it's been] 18 years now. A long time." They married in 2001, with Brosnan becoming a father twice more – to Dylan, now 16, and Paris Beckett, 12.

After being raised in Navan in Ireland, Brosnan moved to London when he was 12 to join up with his mother, who'd been forced to seek work there as a nurse. It was here that he first considered acting as a career, after training as a commercial illustrator at St. Martin's college – which, he says, he was never serious about. "I was just drawing straight lines and making cups of tea and watering the spider plants. That was the extent of my training. I had dreams of doing album covers."

Brosnan, who took US citizenship in 2004, a year after he was awarded an OBE, hasn't lived in Britain for years, preferring the sunnier climes of Malibu. But he's still drawn to working in Europe. He's just finished Love Punch with Emma Thompson, the story of a divorced couple who get swindled then scheme to get even. And we'll also soon see him in A Long Way Down, an adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel in which he plays a suicidal TV presenter. "It's very Nick Hornby-esque," he smiles.

He seems happy over the fact that Daniel Craig has become the most successful – in financial terms anyway – Bond of all time. There's not a shred of bitterness; just gratitude at the fact he's managed to ride out life's storms. "I'm having a good streak, and you have to grab it while the going is good," he adds. "But it's also come from hard work and tenacity, trying to find stuff that is the most interesting and challenging."

He's also hoping to act with his son Sean on a mooted film, Last Man Out, a Belfast-set drama co-written by Craig Ferguson. They'd play the same character, at different ages, so wouldn't appear together. With Sean recently starring in HBO drama Generation Kill, how does he feel with his son acting now? "I hold my breath and I pray that he will come through and do well." With Brosnan guiding him, there's no reason why he can't.

Love Is All You Need opens on April 19