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007 Interesting Things
About Pierce Brosnan


Esquire
Nov 2002

You know he’s the best 007 since the first 007.  But did you know that…
 

Pierce (click for larger version)
#1.  Pierce Brosnan can milk a nanny goat.

In my late teens, I started going to this theater club called the Oval House. There were poets, writers, dancers. There were Black Panthers in the mix. There were workshops, movement workshops in mime, in Lecoq, in Marcel Marceau mime. There were fire-eating workshops.

One year we did the Edinburgh Festival. We did a production of this Irish rock musical called Puckery. There was a lot of nudity and copulation and fake phalluses, strap-on tools, whatever. It was all about Puck Fair, which does exist in Ireland. Every year, down in Kerry, they get a wild goat from the mountains and put it on top of this huge plinth. It's very pagan. Basically all the Paddies just have a big piss-up around this thing.

Anyway, there were about twenty of us in the company, and we took our show to Edinburgh, and the director got a goat. But it wasn't a goat; it was a nanny goat. There was only one person who knew how 

to milk the goat, and that was me.  It had to be milked right after the show and first thing in the morning. So I'd give my all to this wonderful performance and finish the show and milk the goat and go to the pub and drink until the wee hours and get up in the morning and milk the goat and hang out in Edinburgh and do the show and milk the goat and go out and have a good time and then milk the goat. I was milking the goat, man, and learning the lessons of life.

#2.  Pierce barely knows Sean Connery.

I've met Sean only once, in the parking lot at Pinewood Studios in London. He had come down to the studio for a haircut. He'd come for a haircut! I love it.

We were shooting The World Is Not Enough, and I had just done this big fireball sequence. We shot it by about 12:30, and they told me, "That's it, you're done for the day." I was putting my stuff in my car, and suddenly it was like [adopting his best Connery burr], "Pierce," and I was like, "Connery!" I said, "Sean ..." Shit, I can't remember what I said to him! I mean, it was so quick. And I was flummoxed. He's a big fellow, Connery. I think he said something like, "I hope they're paying you well." Because he had just been inside, and he had visited the set and seen the playback of the fireball scene on the monitor.

Later, [director] Michael Apted told me his side of the story. Michael was watching the playback, and he looks up and Connery's standing beside him. Michael had the same kind of reaction that I had; he didn't quite know what to say. He was rather elusive, Sean. He kind of spooked Michael, and then he saw me and was gone before I knew it.

Sean casts a long shadow over the whole thing—and he knows that. He relishes that, I think. As much as Bond must have been a pain in the ass for him, he has the wisdom of his years and the strength of his own character to relish all the guys who have played him. And he knows that he still has the ownership there.

#3.  Pierce's childhood was straight out of Dickens.

When I was about seven or eight, I moved in with my aunt Eileen, this salt-of-the-earth woman who made the most amazing soda bread. She was an aunt in name, a friend of the family. My mom was in nursing school in London, and I had stayed behind in Navan, a small town in central Ireland. For a while I'd lived across the River Boyne with my grandfather and my grandmother, my black-veiled Victorian grandmother. After they died, I lived with an aunt and an uncle. But they were young and starting their own family, and it just didn't work out.

Eileen was very poor. She had a small home in a place called St. Finian's Terrace— what a fabulous name— and she had lodgers. There was a room upstairs with a few beds. One lodger was a businessman type, and the other guy wore a beret and worked in the sawmill. And I had a little bed at the end of the room, with newspapers pinned as a curtain around it.

It sounds kind of bizarre and bleak, but the reality was quite happy. There were many kids in the neighborhood, and all I can remember is that I was happy. I found a certain kind of family to belong to at that point in my young life.

#4. Pierce can get a little juju on the whole Bond thing.

I moved to London on the twelfth of August, 1964, which just happened to be the same day that Ian Fleming passed away, whatever significance that has. It was the day that I arrived.
 

#5.  Pierce has some issues with the Christian Brothers.

In the late fifties, the Catholic church still had Ireland in a half nelson. I was an altar boy, and I was in the choir. The convent was just down the road. And I was educated by the Christian Brothers, who were a bunch of brutal, mangled men—praying to Jesus with one hand and beating the crap out of you with the other. Some people say there was a great education to be had there, but I certainly didn't find that to be the case.

I left Ireland in 1964 and moved to London to live with my mother, and that was a joyous reunion.
 

 I was happy to be in London. But there I had to learn a whole new set of rules. I went to a very large comprehensive school. There were about two thousand kids, and I think I was the only Paddy. I certainly felt like I was the only one. You're a little boy, and you're getting the brunt of it because you speak with a funny accent, you got a funny name, and it ain't fun for you because someone's shaming you. They push you and they push you, and there's only one thing you can do, and that's fight... and so you fight.

#6. Pierce can paint. (Self-portrait with fish) 

I did this about ten years ago. It's not finished. Maybe I should do a more recent one.

#7.  Pierce nearly gave a naked Halle Berry the Heimlich maneuver.

We filmed a pretty hot scene for Die Another Day. We really got some action going, bodily wise. It's not Monster's Ball sexy, but it's a bit more aggressive [than the typical Bond love scene], a bit more passionate, a bit more fire. We go at it, we vocalize. As opposed to the usual: a quick snog, 

a quick smooch, a nibble on the neck. Somebody said they might cut the scene, but I hope not. The man's supposed to be this great lover, but the love scenes are always so fucking boring.

Anyway, in this one scene, we're in the sack together and we're going for the take. She has this piece of fruit, and she gives me some and then puts it in her own mouth. I made a joke, and she started laughing, and then she gagged. And suddenly there was no sound coming out. She was on the bed, gagging and waving her arms, and I was banging her on the back. I was about to put my arms around her and start doing the Heimlich, but the both of us were kind of naked. And then she somehow expelled the fruit, which was a good thing because I had never given anyone the Heimlich before. And I was certainly in no position to give it to Halle at that moment. 

Pierce with Sean, Dylan and Paris click for larger version)

30 More Facts about Pierce Brosnan:

1953: Pierce Brosnan (yes, that's his real name) is born in Navan, County Meath, Ireland. 5/16/1953 

1957: Pierce's mother moves to London to study nursing, leaving the lad with his grandparents.

1959: After his grandparents pass away. Pierce moves into a lodging house owned by Eileen Reilly, a family friend.

1964: Pierce moves to South London and is reunited with his mother.

1964: The first movie he sees in London is Goldfinger, Honest to God.

1969: Finishes school and takes a job as a trainee commercial artist. "My job was to draw straight lines and draw circles and make the tea and water the spider plants."

1970-73: Tends bar, drives a taxi, and cleans houses to support fringe-theater habit.

1973: Wins scholarship for formal drama education at the Drama Centre; graduates in 1976.

1979: Plays an IRA terrorist in The Long Good Friday, his first film.

1980: Marries actress Cassandra Harris.

1980: Cassandra plays a Bond girl (Countess Lisl) in For Your Eyes Only, with Roger Moore, and Pierce meets 007 producer Cubby Broccoli

1982: Series premiere of Remington Steele

1983: Cassandra gives birth to Sean Brosnan.

1986: Pierce is offered, and accepts, the role of Bond I but eventually loses it because Remington Steele producers won't let him out of his frickin' contract. Role goes to  Timothy Dalton

1991:  Mister Johnson directed by Bruce Beresford.  “It’s a fantastic film.  Unfortunately, about 12 people saw it.”

1991:  Cassandra succumbs to Ovarian cancer; Pierce had previously adopted her two children Christopher & Charlotte.

1993:  Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams.

1995:  At long last Bond.  Goldeneye screams into theaters racking up $350 million in worldwide box office to date.

1996:  Forms his own production company Irish Dreamtime with partner Beau St. Clair

1996:  The Mirror Has Two Faces. Oy.

1997:  Child number four (a boy) Dylan Thomas Brosnan with girlfriend Keely Shaye Smith

1997:  Tomorrow Never Dies.  Worldwide box office to date: $335 million.

1999:  Plays an Englishman posing as an American Indian in Attenborough’s Grey Owl

1999:  The Thomas Crown Affair.  Delightful.

1999:  The World Is Not Enough.  Worldwide box office to date: $390 million.

2001:  Child number five (another boy) Paris Beckett Brosnan. 

2001:  Marries Keely.

2001:  Named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive

2002:  Die Another Day (eventual worldwide box office: $456 million)

2002:  Plays lead in Evelyn, a heartwarming Irish Dreamtime production about a cuckolded Irishman’s battle to win custody of his children in the fifties.  A bit treacly but 'tis the season.


  • As told to Brendan Vaughan
  • Photographs by Norman Jean Roy

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