In Style: The Family Bond 


In Style: 1997 
The Family Bond
By Leslie Marshall

Midmorning on a very windy day, actor Pierce Brosnan sits in his garden, high in the hills of Malibu overlooking the ocean. His companion of three years, TV journalist Keely Shaye Smith, resplendent in an antique white dress despite a night of infant care, cradles their 1-month old son, Dylan Thomas.
 

Click for larger image Stationed around the happy if sleep-deprived couple, like beasts at a nativity scene, are four of their five dogs.  "Dylan is absolutely wonderful, he's a gorgeous little boy," enthuses the new father.

"You were playing with him at 3 last night, weren't you?" says Keely.  "Pierce does such a good job of diaper changing, Dylan actually likes it now.  And he gave him his first bottle, of breast milk, the other night."

"Oh, but one feels so redundant as a parent sometimes," protests Brosnan.  "When they're mewling and puking in your arms and Mother has gone downstairs and you've tried everything, you've changed the nappy and you've

bounced them and burped them, and they're still going and you're left there thinking ..."  He pauses and casts a quick look downward at a triangle of chest that is exposed above his half-buttoned fleece shirt.  "You're thinking, Where are my breasts?" he shouts.  "A breast, a breast. My kingdom for a breast !"

Bottles?  Burping?  3 A.M. diaper changes?  Breast envy?  These are hardly the issues the world at large would ever have imagined could occupy James Bond.  But for Brosnan, the 44-year-old star of Goldeneye, who is both the newest and biggest-grossing reincarnation of  Ian Fleming's dashing British agent 007, it is the adventure of fathering and family life that has always given primary meaning to the word bond.
 

Click for larger image "Since I was 23, I've seen myself being a father.  I love being a father, I guess," says Brosnan as he passes a hand through his famous black hair--hair that always, even now, seems to have just the right piece falling over his forehead. Five and a half years ago, when Brosnan's wife and companion of 15 years, actress Cassandra Harris, died of ovarian cancer, Brosnan became not just a father but a single parent to three children:  Charlotte and Christopher (then 19 and 18 respectively, her offspring from a previous marriage) and Sean (their son, then 8).

"Perhaps it was my destiny to be a father, never having had one myself," Brosnan says, referring to the fact that his own father left the family when he was an infant.  "Being a single parent can be so difficult--it is so terrifying at times," says Brosnan. 
 

"The fathering is constant, and sometimes it just wears you down.  You think you're very liberal and carefree, but then you realize that you have become quite conservative and maybe overly protective and cautious.  You hear yourself as all the people you never wanted to hear yourself as and you think, Oh my god! What have I become?"  He pauses and laughs.  "And then you read about yourself being a sex symbol, and it's What?!  Oh my god."

Indeed, it has to have been strange for Brosnan to have become a widower and a single parent during the same period that he soared professionally, moving from television star (Remington Steele) to film star (Mrs. Doubtfire, Mars Attacks! and the recently released Dante's Peak).  With two more Bond films (Tomorrow Never Dies is due out in December), a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, and various projects of his own under way, one might think Brosnan would be reluctant to escalate his fathering duties.  But no.
 

"This baby is definitely meant to be in my life, in our lives.  No question about it," says Brosnan.  "Before I met Keely I remember aching for an infant, aching for life, new life.  I thought, No, no, no--men surely don't go through this.  But then I'd think, Oh, it would be lovely to have a child."  Forget the bottles and the breast envy--this Bond even does baby lust.

Though both Brosnan and Shaye Smith enthusiastically welcomed the prospect of a new baby, the pregnancy itself was unplanned.  "I was pretty surprised, actually," says Keely, 33.  "I was supposed to be on my way to Africa for this amazing assignment when I found out I was pregnant.  It wasn't a hard choice, Africa will still be there.  But it was a surprise."  Keely returned to her job as correspondent for the television show Unsolved Mysteries three weeks after Dylan was born.  (She works two days a week, and Dylan accompanies her to the studio.)  She does not, however, seem to be moving as quickly toward marriage.

"Keely doesn't believe in marriage," says Brosnan.  "But we have a very strong relationship.  It's a good balance. I honestly can't say if we're headed toward marriage--but Dylan will figure it out, the school ground, other children.  Or life."
 

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"I haven't seen a marriage yet that worked," Keely concurs.  "To me the quality of the relationship is the most important thing.  And love.  Am I in love?  Yes.  Happy?  Yes.  Supported, nurtured?  Yes.  He's my best friend, he's my lover, he's the father of my child, he's my companion, he's the person who makes me laugh, he's the one that I want to spend all my time with--and for me, that's enough right now."

"Likewise," says Brosnan, as he leans over for a kiss. "Likewise."

Brosnan and Shaye Smith met in Mexico in 1994 at a fund-raiser for Ted Danson's American Oceans Campaign.  Both she and Brosnan are active supporters of environmental causes, including ECO and Greenpeace.  Although much of their time together is now spent at Brosnan's Mediterranean-style villa, Keely still owns a house in Hollywood, and they have recently bought a beach house nearby. ("A real honey of a house, and it was in foreclosure.  Ah, God always provides," jokes Brosnan.)

"After Cassie died I thought of leaving this house," says Brosnan, who bought the four-bedroom home with his wife 10 years ago.  "I thought it was going to be oppressive to be here.  But it wasn't.  It was absolutely the opposite.  It's a very comforting house. It's not grand, it's a lived-in house--the dogs are everywhere, the sofas are chewed in all the right places, it's got a great energy to it.  There's life here."
 

Click for larger image Making room for baby necessitated some changes in the house.   Brosnan's studio, where he took up painting when Cassie was ill (an area that is essentially an extension of the master bedroom), has become Dylan's nursery.  A huge wooden rocking kangaroo in the nursery, originally a gift from Brosnan to Sean on his first birthday, has been passed along and sits beside the crib.  ("It was only last night that Sean told me that he was always very scared of it," says Brosnan.  "Oh, I've warped him for life.  I knew I'd do something wrong.")  Brosnan's vibrant and colorful paintings still hang in the room (over the changing table and the crib);  his easel, however, now sits on a nearby balcony, overlooking the pool and another creative effort. "Yes, I designed and tiled it myself," says Brosnan, gesturing toward a colorful tile mosaic that runs around the pool. 

Is there anything he doesn't do?

"I haven't cooked in years," states Brosnan.

"He does a beautiful breakfast in bed.  Don't let him fool you," says Shaye Smith.

"This woman had never been given breakfast in bed!  You'd been going out with the wrong kind of guy, for God's sake, woman," says Brosnan with perfect Cary Grant inflection.  "Of course, I don't do it every morning--God, no!  Phah!  Got to keep a bit of male chauvinist somewhere, you know.  Keep the image going."

The wind has picked up, and everyone has moved from the garden to the house.  Keely has carried the sleeping Dylan to his wicker bassinet in the master bedroom;  Brosnan is in the kitchen on the telephone.  "But darling," Brosnan says gently into the receiver to 13-year-old Sean who is playing at a friend's house.  "You really must come home now.  OK?  You have a big test at school tomorrow, darling.  We have to get your nose in the books.  All right?  Love you."  Brosnan hangs up and looks up at the ceiling.  "History test.  Tomorrow," he says.
 

Brosnan pauses for a moment in the family room off the kitchen, where the shelves and mantel are filled with dozens of family photographs, including several of Cassie.  "Yes, life can be so hard," Brosnan says as he turns from the pictures.  "But for me, it's so full just now--professionally, emotionally, family-wise.  I don't know how the hell I'm juggling it.  Sometimes you're just weaving in and out of the characters.  The actor, the movie star, the father, the lover, the boyfriend, the companion, the buddy."  He pauses and casts an eye out toward his capacious, well-groomed gardens.  "The gardener," he adds.  "Oh, and I've done the widower, thank-you.  Oh, that was a rough one."

It is time now for another role--chauffeur. Brosnan strolls to his garage and pulls the cover off a midnight-blue Porsche with the license plate ICY CALM.  "It's a nice car.  I haven't driven it in weeks," he says.  When he rushed Keely to Cedars Sinai hospital for delivery and, in a very 007-1ike maneuver, wound up driving down the center divide of the Pacific Coast Highway, they were in the BMW sedan.  ("I didn't fit in the Porsche," explains Keely.)  Today Brosnan climbs into his sports car, flashes his famous secret-agent smile, and he's off.

Bond voyage, Daddy.

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