USA Weekend: Bonding, Family Bonding
These days, Brosnan says, he has put it all back together. His A-list career includes the mega-budget ($100 million) volcano adventure movie Dante's Peak, opening this weekend, and the top-grossing Bond flick ever, 1995's GoldenEye (more than $350 million worldwide).
When his wife, Cassie, died of cancer five years ago, Brosnan was left abruptly with two children from her first marriage (Charlotte, 25, and Christopher, 24), whom he adopted, and a son of their own (Sean, 13). After a well-publicized bout with bachelorhood, Brosnan found comfort in the dark beauty of Shaye-Smith, a 32-year-old reporter for TV programs such as Unsolved Mysteries.
There is a bittersweet quality to his newfound fame, and fatherhood. It's almost as if the pain and suffering were cosmic tests of his emotional strength. He is now putting together a movie based on his marriage to Cassie. The screenplay is being written, he says, and the story "is one that's been hanging in my heart for a number of years. It concerns some of my life experience. When I read it to Sean, it was as if the energy was still there with this piece. It will be healing and life-affirming, and hopefully entertaining."
Even in death, Cassie is still with him. Watching over the family, and the new Brosnan baby. "I've thought about it many times," he says quietly. "Her energy did not just disappear because she is dead. Cassie's energy is with the children and me and with Keely and me in our new life. 1 do believe that. Everything that's happened is what Cassie and I worked towards, and what she would have wanted for me as her partner in life. It's glorious that it has happened."
What won't happen any time soon, however, Brosnan says, is another trip to the altar. "Neither of us has talked about it," he says from Shaye-Smith's hospital room. "We're very happy. I have no desire to get married, and no one - friends, family or the media - is going to force or cajole us. It's not necessary."
Shaye-Smith also sounds content with the current arrangement. "I have the most wonderful partner and. best friend and lover and father to my baby," she says. "He's a wonderful father. The best."
Still, the new addition to his family was another thing Brosnan didn't quite expect. "I've been wanting one [a child] for a couple of years now," he said in an earlier interview. "Keely and I never discussed it. We were just happily going along and having a good old time and traveling as boyfriend and girlfriend and staying over at each other's house, and then suddenly..."
He blushed, slightly embarrassed, but not unwilling to add, "It was not exactly planned."
BROSNAN AND THE VOLCANO
His career, in contrast, isn't so spontaneous. A decade after starring in TV's Remington Steele, Brosnan now has leading-man status on the big screen. He's getting more than $5 million for Dante's Peak, about double his GoldenEye pay but still millions less than other actors demanded. He was director Roger Donaldson's first choice to play heroic volcanologist Harry Dalton.
We're on one of the movie's three sets, a muddy ranch in the mountains northwest of L.A. Brosnan has spent the morning huddled on the side of a man-made mountain while a deafening helicopter chums up office building sized swirls of dust. Tiny particles of sand and rock go flying.
"Here we go ..." the publicist warns, shielding his face with his arms as we approach Brosnan's trailer, the chopper's whir muffling the rest of his words. I take cover, crouching and burying my head in my arms. It does no good. The debris explodes like penny candy from a child's pinata.
On his lunch break inside the trailer, Brosnan wears an orange jumpsuit and brown boots, his black hair a sleek helmet. Handsome? Yes. Sexy, you bet. But there is a mischievous streak. A sly twinkle in the eyes. None of this is taken seriously.
He says he wished he had the "chops" of a Daniel Day-Lewis. Has he ever regretted not pursuing a more serious acting career?' "As a young actor, I wanted to be 'heavy'",he says, lighting up a cigarette. "But then you kind of get wise. Certainly Remington Steele was a godsend in my life. It gave me the career I've got now and provided for my family, and I had a great time doing it. I learned a lot."
Critics have pointed
out that having to pass up the chance to play Ian Fleming's superspy 10
years ago (producers would not let him out of his Remington contract)
may have been a blessing. Brosnan was furious at the time but now agrees
he would not have been a success.
Friends say a wary Brosnan is constantly accosted by women eager for a close-up of that divinely chiseled face, the slightly downturned nose and the almost feminine mouth. But spend any time in his presence and it's clear this physical perfection is tempered by a wry, self-deprecating humor. He's aware of his effect on women, which makes him irresistible.
Dante's Peak co-star Linda Hamilton disputes reports of tension on the set, describing Brosnan as "easy, charming, honest and real." But the five-month shoot was grueling. An earlier disc injury made every stunt a potential careerender. (The special effects will no doubt take top billing.) Brosnan was pulled over for speeding in his BMW Bondmobile several times while filming in Idaho, and the paparazzi were lurking. Shaye-Smith and the children visited him several times, but the situation was far from ideal. "I did have terrible morning sickness," Shaye-Smith recalls.
'HE COULD BE A BIG STAR'
Like it or not, Brosnan has become a player. "GoldenEye took him out and showed the world he could be a big star, says Dante's Peak director Donaldson.
"When you do a film like James Bond," Brosnan says, "which has been in the public consciousness for 32 years, everybody's waiting to see you up there. The margin for failure is wide."
But with success has come a loss of privacy. "You can become rather paranoid," he says. "You can close down. You get a rather mangled perspective of the world, because you're being looked at all the time. But I don't think that's going to happen to me."