Redbook: Pierce Brosnan's Second Chance at Success and Love 

December 1997 
Photos by: Greg Gorman
 

He's faced a tragedy of the darkest kind, but now the sexy actor is learning to love life again with the help of a beautiful woman, a new baby, and the role of a lifetime
 

PIERCE BROSNAN IS RELAXING ON A WEATHERED plastic lawn chair outside his one-room rented trailer on the set of Tomorrow Never Dies. His feet are propped up on another chair to avoid the muddy ground-it's been very rainy in London lately. Clad in black head to toe, including his Nike high-tops, he looks more like a burglar than the dapper international agent he is playing in the eighteenth installment of the James Bond movie series. 
 

His oldest son, Christopher, 24, an assistant director on the film, comes by to ask his dad to sign a baseball cap for a crew member. "Sean just called," Brosnan says to Christopher, referring to his l4-year-old son, who is also in England to be with his dad. "He said that he's at a friend's house. Do you know where that might be?" he asks in a tone that says he's more interested in his son's safety than his actual whereabouts. Christopher answers, "Yeah, Dad. Don't worry. He knows to be home in time to see you." 
 
Wait a minute. Plastic lawn chairs? Rented trailer? Nike high-tops? Daddy duties? This hardly seems like the same man who survives a parachute plunge from an airplane at 30,000 feet, seduces gorgeous women on every assignment, drinks martinis (shaken, not stirred, of course), and saves the world from World War III-all without getting a wrinkle in his tuxedo or a scratch on his face. But despite the seductive, sultry accent and that perfect hair, Pierce Brosnan isn't James Bond. In fact, he's much, much more.
 
"What Do You Mean, Pregnant?" 
 
Unlike other actors who might relish the image that comes with playing a sexy character like Bond, Brosnan looks upon his alter ego as a means of providing for his children. His last 007 film, 1995's GoldenEye, grossed over $375 million worldwide, making it the most successful Bond film of all time. Now, with Tomorrow Never Dies set to open this month, all eyes are focused, once again, on the most memorable Bond since Sean Connery. And although he counts himself lucky for the opportunities this role has brought him, he says of his famous character, "It's him and me, Jekyll and Hyde. Dealing with that character, it's pretty obvious I want to get away from him." And for Brosnan, that means spending time with his ever-growing family. 
 
To see Brosnan describe the day in May of 1996 that he and his girlfriend, television journalist Keely Shaye Smith, found out they were going to have a baby is like watching a little boy unwrap presents on Christmas morning. Although the couple had been dating for two years, they had never discussed the possibility of having a child together, nor did they have plans to marry. Brosnan was overjoyed, yet surprised. "At first I said, 'We're pregnant?  You're pregnant?  I mean, how pregnant are you? Fully pregnant?  I mean, pregnant?  A little bit pregnant?  I mean, what do you mean you're pregnant?''' he recalls. "And then there was this incredible kind of joyous feeling like, We're pregnant, I'm going to have a child. Oh my God, oh my God!"'

So at 44, Brosnan is now immersed in diapers again. His son Sean is from his marriage to actress Cassandra Harris, who died in December 1991 of ovarian cancer. Brosnan is also the adoptive father of Charlotte. 25, and Christopher, Harris's children from her previous marriage to Dermot Harris, a British producer who died of a heart attack in 1986. But this time was much different for Brosnan, especially because Smith, 34, is a first-time mother. 

After he got over the shock of the news, Brosnan enjoyed being a part of each phase of the pregnancy: "Keely bought all of the books and gave me a blow-by-blow account of what was happening to her body and to the child. I felt greatly involved." Smith laughs, "Well, Pierce called me Textbook Mom because, being a journalist, I pored over books on pregnancy throughout my entire term." But since Dylan Thomas's birth on January 13, 1997, Smith has cut down on her "how-to" reading. Besides Smith's strong belief in the importance of breast-feeding she has adopted a new philosophy about parenthood. "We're making it up as we go," she says, "and our big expression now is "So far, so good."

For a man who has seen such dark days, such minute-by-minute living is more than enough.

Living with the Sharp Edge of Pain 

It was only six years ago that Brosnan found his life in complete disarray. His career hit an all-time low, and his personal life was shattered from watching his wife wither away from the agony of cancer. She was his best friend, the mother of his children, and his companion for 17 years. 

The couple met in the mid-seventies in London, introduced by a mutual friend. Brosnan, who was Irish-born and had lived in London with his mother since he was 11, remembers, "I was totally bowled over by this beauty." It didn't take long for her to feel the same. The couple lived together for almost four years before they were married in 1977. Their early years together were marked by career struggles as they both tried to forge names for themselves as actors while caring for her two children and, eventually, Sean, the son they had together. 
 
Harris's best-known part came in 1981 when she played Countess Lisl in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. It was Harris who first introduced Brosnan to Albert (Cubby) Broccoli, producer of the epic 007 series. Brosnan remembers, "We would joke about my being James Bond, as every man does, especially if you're an actor and playing with those famous words, 'The name is Bond, James Bond.' But never, never wanting it, never seeking it." Shortly thereafter, Brosnan received a call to screen-test for the miniseries The Manions of America. Getting that part took the couple to the United States. 
In 1982, Brosnan landed the role that was to make him a star. He signed a contract with NBC to play the namesake detective on Remington Steele, which ended up running for five years. The role made him famous in the U.S. and even gave him the opportunity to work on-screen with his wife for the first time. Harris was given a recurring role as an ex-lover of Remington's. He remembers the experience of working with his wife as "a bit of angst in the beginning. But then we realized it was great fun going to work together and coming home together." 

In 1986, Broccoli was looking for a replacement for Roger Moore in his James Bond series, and Brosnan became his first choice. But the deal that Brosnan had signed with NBC obligated him to finish out the season plus another year (because of the Bond discussions, NBC added one more season of Remington Steele), conflicting with the Bond shooting schedule. After extensive negotiations and a lot of heartache, the part went to Timothy Dalton. Brosnan remembers with great frustration how manipulated he felt at the time."The only thing I could think was that it was just business," he says, "and it wasn't until six months later that I began to think, I could have been there, I could have done that. But it also gave me a hunger and a desire to get there. I just thought, F- you, I'm going to get there." 

A year later, Cassie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "Life," Brosnan says. "turned around on a dime." With the same determination and love that Brosnan and Harris brought to their life together, they fought the debilitating disease. They tried various treatments, but to no avail. Ultimately, they spent the last four years of her life just being together as a family. Brosnan remembers, "Coming through an illness like cancer is dark and cruel, watching someone's life dwindle away. And yet at the same time it is intoxicating because every second is so precious. When you're away from the needles and away from the knives and the black tunnel as it were, you have a beautiful sunny day, and you just carry that with you." With Cassie gone, Brosnan found himself alone for the first time in 17 years, and a single father of three.
 
Would Have, Could Have, Should Have 
 
The Bond series shut down in 1989, due to a lawsuit over distribution rights, but finally, in 1994, the rumblings to restart the series gained fervor. At the time, Brosnan had just finished starring in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams and Sally Field-the role that reestablished him as a major presence. When popular opinion polls came out on who should be the next James Bond, suddenly Brosnan was on the top of the list. Brosnan jokes, "Wherever I went in the world, people said, 'You would have been a great James Bond, you should have been, you could have been.' In some parts of the world they thought I was-the Philippines I think it was." During this casting process, it didn't take long for the producers to make a decision, and the rest is box-office history. 
 
Around the same time, Brosnan met Smith. In 1994, they were both attending a fund-raiser in Mexico for Ted Danson's American Oceans Campaign. At the time, Smith was a reporter for the weekend edition of The Today Show and was covering the event. After catching each other's eyes, Smith made her move and asked Brosnan for an interview for an environmental story. Brosnan agreed and came up with some suave comment about recycling. 

The following day, at the final dinner, Brosnan asked Smith to join him at his table; fireworks went off for both. "That was it. We've been together ever since," says Smith, with a distracted look in her eye as she thinks back to that first night. Brosnan is equally dreamy about their early courtship: "I knew I wanted to be a part of this woman's life, and I wanted her to be a part of my life. It just felt wrong when she wasn't there."

But becoming a part of the Brosnan clan hasn't been the easiest thing for Smith. "It is not an easy position to be in with such a strong family who lost someone very prominent," he admits. Still, the kids adore her, no doubt in part because she's made it so easy for them to warm up to her. As Smith says, "I'm not trying to take anybody's place. I'm here to offer my love, understanding, and compassion to the mix of this family." Brosnan agrees, "I don't feel like a single parent. I have a wonderful partner now." 

An obstacle in their relationship has been dealing with the constant pressure from the public to get married. Brosnan says, "People think we should get married because we have a child out of wedlock. I think people just feel comfortable with the norm. It just works the way it works right now." He pauses for a moment, then says, "All I know is that we are very happy and that my children are happy too." As for Smith, she says simply, "I'm so happy with the way things are right now. He's my best friend, my partner, my lover, he makes me laugh, he excites me, and he's the one I want to spend all of my time with." 

For Brosnan and Smith, happiness means quite a bit of travel with kids in tow. Smith, who went back to work as a correspondent on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries three weeks after Dylan was born (bringing Dylan with her to the studio), recently left that show and started as a news correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. During the past year, with the making of Tomorrow Never Dies, Dylan and Smith traveled back and forth between California, England, and Ireland to see Brosnan. As for Sean, he stayed with Brosnan the whole time. "Sean is the main concern," Brosnan explains. "He is 14, a very vulnerable and tender age. He has gone through a lot, the loss of a mother and finding his position within the family." 

Brosnan's solution is to have Sean travel with him on all his movie locations; he has tutors who travel with them. "It is not the most satisfactory arrangement but, at the same time, he has a wonderful world of travel, different cultures, different people, and different walks of life," Brosnan says. "When you're away at the ends of the earth, when you're in a foreign country-as spectacular as these places are-you get very lonely, especially if you don't have your family with you."

Old Lessons Come in Handy 

However difficult it is to manage the logistics of a family with so many members at varying stages, Brosnan is finding that experience counts for a lot. "I have more patience now than when I was a younger father," he says. He also appreciates the wisdom-and perspective-that comes with age. "In your forties, when you've lived a life and you've experienced death and you've experienced birth, you cannot help but think about certain things. So, you change." 

One of the ways he's changed is that Brosnan doesn't feel the same pressure to prove himself on-screen -especially since the success of GoldenEye. Last November, he took a supporting role in The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. Then came Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! with Jack Nicholson, followed by last spring's Dante's Peak. And if all of that weren't enough to keep him busy, Brosnan has started up his own production company, Irish Dream Time, which is planning to remake the Steve McQueen/Faye Dunaway 1968 crime film, The Thomas Crown Affair, in which he'll star. 
 
Redbook Dec 1997 Alternate Cover
Brosnan's assistant comes by to give him the five-minute signal, so the actor looks over his lines for the next scene-lines that over the years have become as famous as the character himself. Of the notorious "The name is Bond, James Bond" phrase, Brosnan laughs, "I hear that Sean Connery took 35 takes to do that line." 
 
And like Connery, Brosnan wants his career to go far beyond playing an international spy again and again. "Oh no, I want it to be something more, there's got to be more than just Bond," he says. "I didn't work as hard as I've worked and do what I did when I was younger for just one thing. You are lucky if you have three characters in your lifetime. So far I've proven one, but I would like two-ultimately three." 
 
In the meantime, Pierce Brosnan can concentrate on the other two roles he handles so well: devoted father and loving companion. From the look of it, these are the roles he was born to play. "
 


Interview transcription and several scans courtesy of Ellen


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