USA Weekend: 1997: Pierce and man's best friend
USA Weekend: Bonding, Family Bonding
Pierce, Sean & Chris on Pierce's self designed and tiled pool
By: Stephanie Mansfield
Cover Photograph by: Wayne Stambler
February 7-9, 1997

A new baby and a booming career make Pierce Brosnan feel "glorious" after years of private tumult. Pierce Brosnan is calling from the maternity ward, his voice almost a whisper. His 2-day-old son, Dylan Thomas Brosnan, born Jan. 13, is sleeping in the room, and the Irish-born actor is understandably gooey. 
 

"He's bonny," the proud father gushes. "Nine pounds. Mother and child doing very well. He's got black hair, and he's 20 inches long. I think he looks like Keely, and Keely thinks he looks like me." Dylan's mother is Keely Shaye-Smith, Brosnan's girlfriend. "In the last 2 1/2 years, I couldn't have wished for a better person beside me, and the baby is a testament to our love," he adds. "This is a continuation of my family, and it's glorious." 
It's not quite what you expect from the steely, elegant actor, whose license plate reads ICY CALM and who has made a career of playing unattainable heartthrobs. But in truth, Brosnan - aka Remington Steele, aka the most Gen X-friendly James Bond - is a 43-year-old widower with four kids, four dogs, a steady girlfriend and a cozy house in pricey Malibu. 
 
It's also quite a shock to Brosnan. "I didn't expect to end up a widower at 38, and I didn't expect Bond to come around again in my life at all." 
 
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. 

BITTERSWEET FAME

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."

Pierce & Cassie

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. 
 
Pierce and Keely (1996)
YOU CAN LOVE AGAIN
 
When his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1987, the actor took six months off to nurse her through surgery and chemotherapy. He turned down offers for three major movies. His only concern was seeing his family through the crisis. 
 
"When I met Cassie, I was 23. She was older than me and had two children. It took courage for her to be with me, this guy who was bopping around London. But I just knew. It felt good. I was happy," he says, exhaling a steady stream of smoke. "You commit." 

But apparently Brosnan is not willing to commit again, though he and Shaye-Smith will live together in Malibu. Brosnan's art studio - he began his working life as a commercial artist in London - has been turned into Dylan's room. "He's surrounded by all my paintings. I hope he doesn't have nightmares." 

Brosnan says he was deeply hurt by tabloid reports that he had forced Shaye-Smith to take a paternity test and that young Sean was distraught over the prospect of his father taking a new wife. By phone from the maternity ward, the actor points out that his three children all were at the hospital within hours of the baby's birth. "Sean was the first one to pick up his baby brother. He was so excited. He said, 'I've got a baby brother at last.'"

Asked on the set whether he expected ever to fall in love again, he says, "I think you can have true love more than once.'" His chambray-blue eyes water slightly. "If you don't let your heart close down. I think you can keep an open heart. It's very difficult to do. It's certainly difficult in any walk of life, but when you're in the public eye as an actor you can be so mercurial. Suddenly. people want to know you and be with you." 

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." 


Interview transcription and Cassie scan courtesy of Ellen


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