ruggedly handsome and strong in mind and deed, he's Brosnan. Pierce
"Do you think I enjoy this
being flung into the world of hot tubs and saunas, being surrounded by
women, subjected to casual, meaningless sex?" he once asked his brainy
sidekick Laura Holt (played by Stephanie Zimbalist). As Holt rolled her
eyes, the ratings headed skyward as well, mad as viewers were for the
I zip through the hills of Malibu on my way to the beachfront home of
Brosnan, I envision being in a sleek British roadster, tearing up the
of Monte Carlo. Of course, the other drivers on the road are oblivious
to my fantasy and see my rental car for what it really is — a Japanese
compact that's thrifty on gas. But that matters not to me. With the
Bond theme resounding in my head, I gear up to meet 007, the world's
Most of us know
better than to imagine
that actors are anything like the characters they play on-screen.
in certain instances, it can be fun to ponder where— if at all — the
ends and the person begins. Could Marilyn Monroe have been so different
from the blonde vamp of How to Many a Millionaire or Jimmy
altogether distant from the grapefruit-squashing villain of The Public
Enemy? And so it seems with Pierce Brosnan.
From the moment he
lit up American
TV screens as private detective Remington Steele in 1982,his portrayal
seemed lifted straight from the pages of a James Bond script. Steele
suave, born to wear a tuxedo and had a winsome way with women—a trait
he could at least pretend was a burden.
On-screen and off, Pierce
is clearly the same person; I'm certain of it. And thus, as I arrive at
his home and the driveway gate glides back to reveal a Range Rover, two
BMWs and an Aston Martin Vanquish—each of them a glistening silver—I
that my suspicions are correct.
Casually dressed in jeans
and a black
zip-front sweater, Brosnan comes outside to welcome me to the home he
with his wife, former TV journalist Keely Shaye Smith, and their two
sons. He sports the look of a man unwinding on a well-deserved
he's unshaven (several days' worth of growth, I estimate), with a
relaxed glow. And though his coif is perfect down to the last hair, a
of grays have invaded his casual stubble and trademark jet-black locks.
He invites me inside, and
in our surroundings. Colorful contemporary artwork adds interest
walls, filling the open-plan home with lively focal points. Sliding
doors off the cathedral- ceilinged living room lead to a small deck —
access point for what I soon learn are frequent ocean adventures.
a solitary easel braves the wind outside, just waiting for an artist to
take his place at the canvas.
"It might look like
I put that out
there for effect," says Brosnan, "but I actually planned to do some
the other day." Apparently, before Brosnan decided to become an actor,
he wanted to be an artist. Only when a friend encouraged him to come
to an audition did the teenager shift gears. He honed his acting in
and film in Britain for twelve years before leaving for Hollywood.
thereafter, he landed the career-making role of Remington Steele. He
looked back since.
I suggest that our
setting on the
Pacific is a far cry from Navan, Ireland, the rural community where he
was born fifty years ago. He agrees. "It's flat, flat land," he recalls
of the town on the River Boyne, "but the river had its own wealth of
and magic for me as a boy."
Romantic though it may
mid-20th-century Ireland was not terribly hospitable to the struggling
Brosnan family. Thomas Brosnan, a carpenter, left his wife, May, while
their son was just an infant. That left young May — who was in her
twenties—in a precarious spot. "If you were a single mother in Ireland
back then, you were ashamed," says Brosnan. "The community let you know
that what had happened was not decent, and they would speak of it
from the pulpit." By the time her son was four, May decided that she
little choice but to seek her fortune in London, leaving Pierce in the
care of her parents. In a tragic turn of events. his grandparents died
two years later, and for the next several years he bounced from
to relative. At the age of eleven, he finally joined his mother and her
soon-to-be new-husband in London.
Much has been made of the
Brosnan faced as an Irish schoolboy attempting to fit in among his
classmates. Though he says those tales have been overplayed, he admits:
"They adorned me with the nickname 'Irish,' possibly as an insult in
realms of their young world." In fact, he claims, "They couldn't have
me a better name. It was the essence of who I was at that time." And in
many ways, it is the essence of who he is today. No matter that he has
built his career playing dripping-with-charm Englishmen. He declares
"I'm an Irish actor."
Brosnan and I have what the Irish might call a "soft" day as the
for our conversation. It's overcast, a bit too cold to sit on the deck,
but the blaze that crackles in the fireplace more than compensates for
the gray skies outside. Over a couple of glasses of wine, we enjoy our
lunch: a hearty salad followed by grilled salmon, perfectly prepared by
a chef brought in just for the afternoon. Jessie, the family's dutiful
Australian heeler mix, settles in next to us.
And then we bond.
Or, at least, we
talk about Bond. After having to pass up that role in the mid-eighties
(his Remington Steele producers steadfastly refused to release
from his contract), Brosnan imagined that the part was gone for good.
ten years later, opportunity knocked again, and he assumed his rightful
place with 1995's
GoldenEye. That blockbuster was followed by three
more: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997); The World Is Not Enough
(1999); and Die Another Day (2002). The venerable series,
which was all but washed up after the tenure of Brosnan's predecessor,
Timothy Dalton, is now enjoying its best-ever box-office
(The four latest Bond films are closing in on $1.6 billion worldwide.
surprisingly, he has recently signed on to do a fifth.)
Brosnan looks back with
maturity on the circuitous journey that finally brought him the part of
a lifetime: "I certainly hadn't waited for the role; I was getting on
my career." It's true. After Remington Steele ended its five-year run,
Brosnan showed his range in crowd pleasers like the sci-fi cult-fave Lawnmower
Man (1992) and the comic Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). He also
in several smaller films, including one of his personal favorites,
Mister Johnson (1990). But grabbing the golden ring
that was Golden-Eye was a very happy moment indeed. "There was
satisfaction that the part was mine, that it had come back," he says.
though it may have been, Brosnan admits that playing 007 did not come
"It took time for me to believe I could be this character, because I
identify with him." As the afternoon wears on, it becomes increasingly
clear that the man in front of me is quite different from his famous
ego. Though they do share the steely-blue eyes and dusky lilt, Brosnan
is vastly more introspective. He ponders each of my questions
pursing his lips and inverting his brows before replying, as if lost in
thought somewhere far away. When he does respond, he frequently refers
to himself in the second person, as if to distance himself from his
And though he says that he wouldn't mind having Bond's "sheer bravado,
confidence and ability to be so utterly in control," Brosnan boasts
he's "far happier" with his life than he would be with 007's.
happiness is fatherhood.
I consider this as his six-year-old son, Dylan Thomas, blue dinosaur in
hand, nestles under his dad's arm and loses himself in a prehistoric
And from inside the kitchen, two-year-old Paris Beckett is giggling
Perhaps because he didn't
own father until he was in his thirties, parenting is something that
takes very seriously. It's also an arena in which he's had plenty of
He has a nineteen-year-old son (Sean) and two adopted stepchildren
and Charlotte, both in their early thirties) from his marriage to his
wife, the late actress Cassandra Harris. He became a father all over
when Smith, with whom he has been for nine years, gave birth to their
sons. Summoning a palpable sense of pride, he says, "I'm having the
of my life being a father again. Dylan and Paris have just filled my
with the greatest glory."
Brosnan feels blessed to be a father, he also counts himself very
to have met and married two wonderful women, the loves of his life. His
eleven-year marriage to Harris ended in 1991, when she lost a long
with ovarian cancer. Three years later, while attending a fundraising
sponsored by the American Oceans Campaign, Brosnan met Smith, now
(The California-born beauty was there on assignment for the Today
"It was a delightful encounter in life when we least expected it," he
meeting, which culminated
in their exchanging vows at Ireland's Ballintubber Abbey in 2001, also
marked Brosnan's birth as an environmental activist. Together with his
wife, whose passion for the environment seems to know no bounds,
played a crucial role in a five-year campaign to prevent Mitsubishi
putting the world's largest salt factory in Baja California. That
in 2000, helped preserve the mating waters of the Pacific gray whale
"Traveler's Notebook," page 65). "I think the project planners
as if they were taking on James Bond," says a clearly satisfied Smith.
"Pierce is the one who
up, who makes the calls, who goes to a press conference or flies to
with the officials," she says, not concealing her disdain for
who sign on to promote a cause but do none of the work. "You have to
someone who puts a face to the cause."
"And a woman like you,"
adds. The couple's current mission is to lobby Congress not to relax
"dolphin safe" label standards imposed on tuna companies in 1990.
Doting father, loving
environmentalist. Okay, maybe Brosnan is not at all like the man who
a license to kill. In fact, he's quite happy to dispel that myth. "I
want to be shot at — or to shoot at people," he says. Perhaps he
want the gun, but I ask him about the one MI5 gadget he wouldn't mind
"The jet pack," he says. "Not the X-ray sunglasses?" needles Smith.
"I don't need them," he
a hint of a smile coming to his face.
In the 2002 film Evelyn,
barmaid played by Julianna Margulies makes an astute observation about
Brosnan's character, Desmond Doyle: "You know what your problem is?"
asks. "You think all you have to do is smile with that cheeky twinkle
your eye and everything will be grand." That may appear to be the case
with Brosnan, but his success has come more as a result of talent than
twinkle. (Anyone who doubts that should see the 2001 movie The
of Panama.) Demonstrating his passion for the business, he's even
his own film-production company. To date, Irish DreamTime has produced
three pictures: The Nephew (1998),
The Thomas Crown Affair
(1999) and Evelyn. Next up is Laws of Attraction, a
comedy in which he costars with Julianne Moore. Following that, he goes
before the cameras in Matador, his company's fifth film, set in
All of DreamTime's
been made "with heart, love and hard work," Brosnan says. "They also
a beginning, a middle and an end. That always helps in a story, but
gets forgotten in this foolish business."
Looking around him,
is thankful for his blessings. "I've found heaven many times over," he
says, "and certainly at this moment in life I am sitting at a heavenly
place." Being so content, he doesn't spend too much time dwelling on
past or thinking about the future. "The here and now and what I'm doing
as an actor, as just a guy in life, it ain't bad," he says.
As we head out to the
and say my farewells, I cast an envious last glance at the V-12
"Why don't you take Tom out for a ride?" Smith prods. My heart skips a
beat. "Oh, I couldn't," says Brosnan. "I've had a couple of glasses of
wine." I'm half tempted to suggest that I take it out for a spin
but I resist, instead climbing back into my white-as-snow econocar.
As I exit the rarefied
I realize that art doesn't always imitate life. And that life
or with out a fancy sports car—can be immensely richer than art.
BY: THOMAS P.