SHOW UP at Pierce Brosnan's house
expecting martinis and bikinis, and you'll be disappointed. True, the man
who has played James Bond for seven years does live on an exclusive Malibu
beach. And, yes, there's a sports car in the drive. But instead of bad
guys and curvaceous spies, at the Brosnan household you're likely to find...a
stack of diapers. Because while Brosnan relishes the role of Bond—his fourth
outing, Die Another Day, just opened— that's not who he is. Given
the choice of fighting evil or staying home, he'll take the domestic option.
Like painting or picking tomatoes from his garden or fussing over his son,
Paris, 20 months.
According to Brosnan, those are the
things that make him a superstar in his role as family man. Now 49, the
actor says he feels compelled to provide for his children the childhood
he never had. Brosnan was born in Navan, County Meath, Ireland. When he
was just a baby, his parents split and his father, a carpenter, disappeared,
not to be heard from for nearly 30 years. Soon after, Brosnan's mother
left him in the care of relatives while she trained as a nurse in London.
She sent for him when he was 11.
After arriving in London, Brosnan
saw his first Technicolor film, Goldfinger, and felt the yearning
to be an actor. He dropped out of high school, ran away with the circus—he
became a fire-eater—and worked various backstage jobs before making his
London acting debut in 1976. His first wife, Cassandra Harris, an Australian-born
actress who appeared in For Your Eyes Only, introduced him to the
producers of the Bond films, though she didn't live to see him land the
title role. After a four-year battle with ovarian cancer, she died in Brosnan's
arms in 1991.
Suddenly he was a single parent to
Charlotte, now 28, and Christopher, 27 (from Harris's first marriage),
and to his son with Harris, Sean, 19. Contractual obligations to his NBC
series, Remington Steele, prevented him from taking the 007 role
when it was first offered, but in 1994, when he got the call again, Brosnan
That same year, he met television
journalist Keely Shaye Smith. The two wed last year in a lavish ceremony
in an Irish castle. They share a passion for environmental causes and take
huge joy in their two newest additions to the Brosnan family: Dylan, five,
and baby Paris.
RD: You've said the past year
was one of the most exciting of your life. Why?
Brosnan: It's certainly been
one of the most memorable years. There've been many productions. Production
of child—baby Paris. Production of marriage. Production of films—Bond and
It's been a celebration of life in every sense of the word. One of my old
teachers used to say, "Nothing comes from nothing." After a lot of hard
work, great happiness.
RD: Is that what it feels
like—hard work paying off?
Brosnan: I've worked hard
to get to where I am. Sometimes it just seems to go on and on forever.
The life of an actor is fickle and crazy, and full of neurosis and twists
RD: Die Another Day
is your fourth Bond movie. How do you keep your enthusiasm for the role?
Brosnan: I grew up on James
Bond movies. And I have had the time of my life playing this role. It brings
great pleasure to people around the world. You show up because you want
it to be the best, because you want to kick ass at the end of the day,
because Die Another Day is the 20th Bond film and—I don't know—just
because I love it.
RD: How much are you like
James Bond in real life?
Brosnan: I'm perceived as
this sophisticated, debonair, distant person. This macho guy. And I'm not
like that. Following me around a day in my life would be quite comedic.
I'm anything but Bond.
RD: Tell me a story that would
illustrate who the real Pierce Brosnan is.
Brosnan: I got a Porsche recently-a
loaner [from the dealer], a convertible, stick shift—and I stopped to buy
some chewing gum and a paper at the newsstand. I had just said hello to
some out-of-towners who think I'm James Bond, and I'm trying to be cool
and start the bloody car, and I stall it.
Or the time Keely and I went to [CAA
talent agency cofounder] Ron Meyer's house—this beautiful home off Pacific
Coast Highway, with this fantastic gate. I'm driving the Mercedes, and
we're talking away as we approach the gate. I take my foot off the brake,
and Keely goes, "Brake! Brake!" She just yanked the emergency brake. We
stopped an inch from the gate.
RD: You had the loaner Porsche
because you're waiting for an Aston Martin. So you're not entirely unlike
Brosnan: There's a part of
me that is like him and a part that's completely unlike him. I don't have
a licence to kill, but I love vodka martinis, which are rather delicious
after a long day. I drank them before Bond, and I'll carry on drinking
them after Bond—in moderation.
RD: Keely, what's it like
being married to the man who plays James Bond?
Smith: It would be confusing
if he came home and thought he was Bond, but, thankfully, he doesn't. And
we met before the great mythology began. But Dylan has finally clicked
in to what his dad does and his character. This whole other persona has
been introduced to him, and he's spellbound. He's now Dylan's dad and his
Brosnan: What Dylan really
loves are motorcars. He came to the Bond set one day. The setting was the
bad guy's hideout, and the bad guy has all these Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Dylan sees Dad run through 500 Koreans and bullets and bombs with six cameras
rolling and helicopters exploding, Dad jumping onto a hovercraft and punching
the bad guy out.
I look across the set, see my son
and think, this is fantastic; my boy is here. I do my best James Bond impersonation,
run across the set, don't trip, don't get blown up. I say, "What did you
think of that, Dylan? Did you like that?" He looks at me and says, "Dad,
are the cars all right? Can we go see the cars?"
RD: So he'll be thrilled when
the Aston Martin arrives.
Brosnan: Tomorrow at ten o'clock,
I am Dylan's hero. His buddies will be over here tomorrow around eleven.
RD: Do you try to shield him
from your fame?
Brosnan: I don't sign autographs
when I'm out with my son.
Smith: Sometimes he'll sign
if it's for a child. We're trying to explain to Dylan that other children
may have only one opportunity to meet his father. I think it's hard for
him to share his father—harder for him than for me.
RD: A lot of Pierces films
are full of actresses running around in bikinis, Keely. Is that difficult
Smith: Dylan wants to know
about that. "Why are the bad girls chasing my dad? Why does Dad kiss those
girls?" All I can say is, "He comes home to me."
RD: And that's enough for
Smith: It's what he
does for a living.
Brosnan: And it's just acting.
Great acting. [Laughs.]
RD: Do you plan to do another
Brosnan: They have said the
role is mine as long as I want it. I'd love to do another. It's a wonderful
security in life. After Remington Steele, many years ago when I
was a widower... single parent— It sounds very strange to say "widower;"
I never used it—I remember thinking, I like security; I better go back
to TV But I and-shape family. I'm 49--50 is around the corner.
RD: What about your latest
Brosnan: Evelyn is
a true story about a man named Desmond Doyle, set in Dublin in 1953, the
year I was born. Evelyn's dad, Doyle, was left with the kids; the missus
left. And as did happen in those dark days of the '50s in Ireland, the
Church and state came in and took Evelyn and the two boys away. Evelyn
went into a convent, and the boys went into an industrial school.
Desmond fought tooth and nail to
get them back, took his case to the Supreme Court and won. It's a kind
of David-and-Goliath story.
RD: Were you drawn to the
project because of parallels to your own story?
Brosnan: I was drawn to it
because I'm a father, not because of what my childhood was about. Having
grown up in Ireland, I have had firsthand experience dealing with the Christian
Brothers, the nuns at the convent, that whole Irishness.
But for me, it was a story of a single
father fighting a good fight for his kids. And it just had balance in storytelling—that
the Church is not all bad; that you do have to have faith; that within
that system there are mangled human beings, but love overcomes.
||RD: What are
your own personal goals as a father?
Brosnan: I just want to be
there for my children, because my dad wasn't there for me. And if I'm not
there in body, then in phone messages or in letters. I want my children
to have love in their lives when they're young, to know the true meaning
RD: We all strive to be the
parent that we didn't have, don't we? Not to discard what our parents did...
Brosnan: Not at all. Well, I can discard what my father did, because he
did nothing. Let's not even go back to what he did or didn't do. I have
a great father—stepfather—in William Carmichael.
When I was becoming an actor, I thought
of taking the name Carmichael but somehow hung with Brosnan. Bill Carmichael
is my dad. He and my mom are still living, in England. And he's taught
me a lot about patience and understanding and love, about family.
RD: After Cassie died, did
you expect to marry again and have a new family?
Brosnan: I was certainly not
seeking anyone at that time. Then to find someone who captivates you, who
you like being with, who you'd go to the ends of the earth with, who opened
your eyes to another part of your heart—to have all that great kinship
and love, and to have children, to make a new family, new life, and then
to see the mother she has become to our children is just astoundingly beautiful.
We knew we loved each other and wanted to be with each other.
RD: Keely, do you now go by
Brosnan or Shaye Smith?
Smith: I'm writing a book
about gardening and trying to decide which to use. A friend of mine said,
"When you're earning money, you should be Keely Shaye Smith; but when you're
spending it, you should be Mrs. Brosnan!'
RD: I understand you were
literally late to the altar because of your devotion to one of your children.
Smith: Yes, Paris wanted to
eat [just at the time the ceremony was to begin]. I was still nursing him.
1 took the gown off and nursed him and put it back on. To everyone at the
party later, I said, "This is why you have the children afterwards."
RD: You were married in the
Catholic Church. Are you practicing Catholics?
Brosnan: I'm always practicing.
I just don't go to church that often.
Smith: We say prayers
with Dylan every night.
The glory side of it, the good side of it, the honest side of the faith,
is really fulfilling. When you see it in people who practice it, it really
is just love and kindness.
RD: One of the things that
brought you together was a mutual interest in various charities and causes.
Why is that important for both of you?
Brosnan: Keely was an environmentalist
way before she met me. Because of my past life, I had done a lot of work
for women's health care. It's merged into an interest in the environment,
health care, health issues of children.
Smith: Our environmental activism
stems from a passion in two people who really care about our children.
Protecting the environment is really about protecting their future. I'd
like my children to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air
and live somewhere safe.
RD: What do you do when you're
Brosnan: I paint. And I kayak.
Basically we just have a regular life, you know? Play with the kids, do
a bit of gardening, a bit of swimming, a lot of reading.
RD: Pierce, will you ever
try fire-eating again? How do you do that? Brosnan: The last time I did
it was on The Muppets in 1996. You just have to be brazen enough
to put a flaming taper in your mouth and make sure that you close your
mouth fast. Blowing it is taking a mouthful of kerosene and blowing it
over a flame. I actually burned my mouth on The Muppets. The whole
half hour was about the Muppets thinking I'm James Bond, and me saying,
"No, I'm Pierce. I'm not Bond." All my gags go wrong. I tip the drinks
on the roulette table. I juggle with the pigs and knock the pigs out. Then
Gonzo says, "What do you do for an encore?" I've got a martini glass with
kerosene in it, and I say, "What about fire-eating?"
I did it in rehearsal—blew the flame—and
Gonzo and Fozzie went, "Hot, hot, hot." I brought my own kerosene, but
the prop guy said, "I've got this other stuff that is like water—no smell,
no taste." I said, "Brilliant." So we go to shoot the real thing. I use
his stuff, drink it, blow, and it's like rocket fuel. I blow this 12-foot
flame and am so shocked that I keep it there, and it traces back into my
mouth. Whew! Hot, hot, hot. I grab a handkerchief and we go quickly to
a break, at which time I say, "Give me ice cubes!"
RD: Pierce, you've had a hard
life in some ways—your childhood, losing Cassie. Have the blows made you
appreciate life more?
Brosnan: I don't think I've
had that hard of a life. I think I've just had a life which has had a few
rocky points to it, and I've managed to weather through when it has been
rough, knowing that it would get better and having faith in myself that
it would get better.
Smith: You did always have
faith in yourself. I don't think it occurred to you that you couldn't do
the things you wanted to do.
Brosnan: It's a healthy sense