People: Remington Steele: Unbuttoning TV's Hot New Mystery Man, Dashing, Debonair Pierce Brosnan
October 31, 1983
Written by Jeff Jarvis, reported by Suzanne Adelson
On TV he is Remington Steele. At least he says he is. His employer on the show, Laura Holt (played by Stephanie Zimbalist), made up the name-a touch of masculine class to put on the door of her one-woman detective agency. Then he walked in that door, took on the name and charmed his way into her heart. Together-with their romance finally making it to first base this season-they are a modern Nick and Nora Charles, forever flirting and fighting. She is the real detective. He bumbles his way through cases, comparing them to old movie plots from Key Largo to The Maltese Falcon. Always, Remington remains a mystery. No one even knows his real name.
And he is a shy man, says his wife, "the opposite of Remington Steele, very careful and conservative, very precise, not quick to take risks." But like Remington, Pierce just seemed to appear one day, popping out from nowhere. Americans saw him, briefly, in a bit part in the 1980 movie The Mirror Crack'd. In his one scene he played an actor "being clasped against Elizabeth Taylor's bosom, looking absolutely ridiculous. My hair is all frizzed up. I've got rouge on my cheeks and a beauty mark. I'm wearing this fancy silk shirt, and I was much heavier then. I looked like I didn't have a thought in my head." He later tried out for the role of Rory O'Manion in the 1981 miniseries The Manions of America. Its producers saw Mirror, Pierce says, and it nearly lost me the damned part." Luckily though, they saw something deeper than the beauty mark. He was hired.
Remington is also coming out of his shell this season. Pierce has never objected to playing second fiddle to a woman-"I don't have any kind of sexist problem," he says, "I think that's all hogwash, really." Still, he's happy to report that "Steele won't be so bumbling. He'll still miss a beat every now and then. But the man has had enough of tagging along." He adds: "More of my past will be revealed, much more." Maybe he'll finally tell his real name.
Just as TV is bringing out Steele's past, so has it helped bring out Brosnan's. Because of TV, Brosnan got to talk to the father he never knew, a carpenter who left his family when Pierce, an only child, was barely a year old.
was filming Manions in Ireland in 1980 when, he recalls, "a cousin
called me and said: 'I believe my uncle, Tom Brosnan, is your father.'
He said my father didn't know he was calling, but that he was sure he'd
love to see me. But I couldn't do it just then. We'd been too long a time
apart." A year went by, says Pierce, and "curiosity got the best of me.
I was thinking of my children as well; he is their grandfather. So I decided
to make contact and we spoke once over the phone." It was, understandably,
a difficult call. His father, who never remarried, broke down and, Pierce
admits, "I began to crack too." He wanted to get together with his father,
but work got in the way. "I plan to write him a letter about the new child,"
Pierce says. "I was truly sorry I wasn't able to get over there for our
When Pierce was 11, his mother - who had since married a kindly Scottish mechanic-sent for her son. He remembers his uncle putting him on a plane, asking a priest to look out for the boy. "I had a bottle of holy water in one hand in an aspirin bottle and rosary beads in the other. I was wearing these little short trousers and a bow tie and had a crew cut. It's so hysterical to think about. When we arrived in England, the priest said, 'God bless you, son' and walked away. I didn't know where to go. But my mother came soon, fortunately, and it was a joyous occasion. "
Pierce, an altar boy raised in a strict Catholic school where the slightest infraction would get you "strapped with a paddybat," could not believe the size and freedom of London's schools. "I kept waiting to get hit," he says, "and when I found out I wouldn't be, I had a whale of a time." He got A's in English and art and went off to become a commercial artist for department stores.
discovered acting at a theater club. "It was like more veils being lifted
off all those years of inhibitions," he says. He studied at the Drama Centre
in London and later made it to the city's West End theaters, playing in
the 1977 London premiere of Tennessee Williams' The Red Devil Battery
Sign. He still treasures a framed telegram from Williams that reads:
"Thank God for you, my dear boy." Though the show quickly closed, Brosnan's
reviews were good. "From then on," he says, "I was never out of work."
They started living together soon after they met. "That was an era when marriage didn't seem that important if one had a good relationship," Cassie says. "We saw nothing wrong with our arrangement. We were in love. We loved our children." But Pierce says that they decided to tie the knot because "finally my Catholic morality caught up with me." They married in 1977. By that time, they already had two children, Charlotte and Christopher. But Sean William's was the first birth Pierce got to witness. "The whole thing was so serene, so gentle," he says. "We both wept."
miss England and their home in Wimbledon, a Victorian with a picket fence.
It was all bare floors when they moved in, but they have slowly and lovingly
furnished it. And it's a great place for the kids. "They have a lovely
park and lots of children to play with," Pierce says. "Here, they have
only the pool." Here is a rented, five-bedroom home in the Hollywood Hills.
In a show of permanence, the Brosnans just imported their family dog, Albert,
from England. This could be their home for quite some time.