Interviews


Pierce Brosnan


Occupation: Actor
Date of Birth: May 16, 1952
Place of Birth: County Meath, Ireland
Sign: Sun in Taurus, Moon in Aquarius
Relations: Fiancée: Keely Shaye Smith (journalist); late wife: Cassandra Harris (actress); stepchildren: Charlotte, Christopher; sons: Sean William; Dylan Thomas (with Shaye Smith)
Education: Attended The Drama Centre in London

 

LORE surrounding Pierce Brosnan and his inevitable casting as James Bond gushes readily from fans, and from the reporters sent to size up this latest 007. His family moved from his native Ireland to London the exact day Bond creator Ian Fleming died. The first Technicolor film he ever saw was Goldfinger. In the early eighties, he was one of a handful of young actors brought in to audition as a replacement for the soon-to-retire Roger Moore. A nationwide poll by US magazine revealed that Brosnan, known better in the States as Remington Steele, was America's first choice to renew Moore's expired license to kill. But the original affinity between Brosnan and the British superagent was first kindled by Cassandra Harris, Brosnan's late wife. Harris was a Bond girl, you see  she played Countess Lisl in 1981's For Your Eyes Only  and Brosnan owes his career and his eventual assumption of the Bond mantle to her. Brosnan recalls the occasion that he and Harris first met legendary Bond-film producer Cubby Broccoli: "Cassie and I came over [to the United States] for two weeks in 1980 to look for work, and we met the Broccolis and went up to their house in Bel Air. I remember driving back in a rented lime-green Pacer, humming the Bond theme music, joking around about being Bond." Brosnan will thus always associate the character with his late wife: "I don't know where we go [after death], but [Cassie's] spirit's with me through all of this. It makes you want to get it right. For her memory, and for the kids too."

Brosnan's own father let him down before he had even celebrated his first birthday. The elder Brosnan skipped town on Pierce and his mother, and didn't turn up again until his son was well into his thirties. Between the ages of four and eleven, Brosnan lived with his grandparents in Ireland. He was then reunited with his mother in London, but the mother-son bonding would only last a few years: Brosnan dropped out of school and left home at fifteen to seek his fortune as a fire-eater, illustrator, and actor  in that order. He joined an experimental theatre group, and eventually found his way into The Drama Centre of London, where he studied for three years. The trained thespian went on to triumph on the London stage, most notably in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Filumena, and he was personally chosen by Tennessee Williams to recreate the role of McCabe for the British premiere of Red Devil Battery Sign.

Brosnan first caught America's TV-viewing eye in 1981 with his performance in the U.S.-filmed mini-series The Manions of America, a gig that gave him the opportunity to take his new wife, Cassandra, to Los Angeles for two weeks, where they intended to audition for more parts. Brosnan got lucky  he was offered the lead in a detective drama called Remington Steele. (Don't think it didn't help considerably in his bid for the role that he told the show's producers that he was being considered as the next James Bond.) Brosnan was nevertheless hesitant to accept the job  he held hopes of snagging a role in a film version of The Saint  but his wife convinced him to accept. She knew intimately the sting of rejection, as she had been turned down for Bond Girl assignments in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Man With the Golden Gun before getting her big break in For Your Eyes Only. Brosnan scored high marks with viewers in the role of the sophisticated supersleuth Remington Steele, and it wasn't long before critics began touting Brosnan as the Bond apparent.

As the ratings of Remington Steele dipped, things began looking up for Brosnan. Looking up, because after NBC got around to canceling the weary series after its fourth season, the producers of the next Bond film swooped down on him with a multi-million-dollar contract in hand. It was a great stroke of luck for the actor, and an instance of impeccable timing. The press engine revved up into high gear, and the excitement surrounding his casting was palpable  so palpable, in fact, that NBC took notice and realized it had just canceled James Bond's show. The lawyers scrutinized Brosnan's contract and exercised a sixty-day recall option to hold him to his series commitment. Brosnan was forced to step back into the small-screen detective's role, and Timothy Dalton  the lucky bastard  stepped into the idling Bond vehicle. Once again, Brosnan was the man who could have  and should have  been James Bond. Brosnan finished out his NBC contract, and appeared in numerous TV and feature films, in which he specialized in playing Bond-like characters or "the other man." In 1987, Brosnan's wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; she battled for four years before succumbing to the disease on December 28, 1991. As she lay dying, the last words she whispered to Brosnan were "always an actor." Brosnan took her words seriously.

He bided his time playing boyfriends in Mrs. Doubtfire and Love Affair before getting the call that would finally, ten years after he had first won the role, make him James Bond. The franchise was left limping by the two films Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights, License To Kill) made  after all, he was always seen as the second choice  but Brosnan's Goldeneye rejuvenated its appeal. The six-foot-one, slight-of-build actor projected a lighter, nineties-friendly Bond, one who didn't smoke or over-imbibe, and the film went on to gross $350 million worldwide. He signed on to reprise his winning characterization in three more features, the first of which was the highly pyrotechnic Tomorrow Never Dies, a film that had Brosnan's Bond joining forces with beguiling Hong Kong action heroine Michelle Yeoh's ass-kicking Chinese operative. The next installment, The World Is Not Enough, which was released in fall 1999, had the dapper secret agent assigned to protect an emotionally vulnerable oil heiress (Braveheart's Sophie Marceau) from a Bosnian baddy (The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle) who is impervious to pain.

After mourning the loss of his wife, Brosnan adopted at least one of the bachelor sentiments of his alter ego James: "Great sex, like great performances, certainly comes from relaxation. . . . There's nothing like having great sex. It's poetry." After a few ephemeral romances, Brosnan took up with reporter Keely Shaye Smith of the Today show. In January 1997, the couple welcomed a son, Dylan Thomas; after making a show of disavowing any marriage plans, the couple announced their engagement in fall 1999.

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