Malibu Times Magazine: Malibu's Environmental Cape Crusaders

By Laura Tate

November/December 2006

He's a busy actor, first best known for solving clues as a hot detective and then later for saving the world as 007. She's an avid gardener and runs two households, one in Malibu and the other in Hawaii (she has also worked as a noted TV journalist). They're both parents of two young children, with three older children and grandchildren in the picture. On top of all that-Pierce and Keely Shaye Brosnan are on a crusade to save the Earth from its imminent demise.
The two Malibuites, despite their busy lives, work tirelessly as spokespersons for dozens of environmental and other organizations (twenty-eight alone are listed on his Web site), often appearing together to speak on behalf of causes such as saving the elephants and the whales, saving the ancient tree forests, fighting global warming, protecting the ocean's waters, children's welfare and women's health issues. They've appeared locally many times to speak about water quality issues for Heal the Bay, Oceana, the Santa Monica Baykeeper and others.
Most recently, the Brosnans have put their support behind a cause in their home town-one they say would affect more than just Malibu-the fight against a proposed liquefied natural gas facility that would be anchored fourteen miles off the western coast from Point Dume. 
Pierce appeared in Malibu at Bluffs Park in September, taking time from his family, who were ensconced at their other home in Hawaii for the summer, to speak out against the facility proposed by an Australian energy company. The Brosnans, and the California Coastal Protection Network which is spearheading the fight against the facility, say it would not only pose a safety hazard to those living along the coast, but it would also threaten the environment through such factors as air pollution, adding to greenhouse gas emissions and causing harm to the ocean's marine life.

In a recent interview with Malibu Times Magazine, Pierce explained why one of Malibu's highest profile couples devotes so much of their time and energy to such activities: "I strongly believe this earth of ours is in dire need of our help and our attention," he said. "Life is long and goes by short; I want to leave the planet for my children in a good state of affairs."
Pierce & Keely
Pierce, a Malibu resident for more than twenty years, moved here when his first wife, Cassandra Harris, fell ill with ovarian cancer. 
"It was during the experience of dealing with Cassie's cancer that I witnessed the deep connection that all people feel, no matter where they live, for the coast and the ocean," he said at his Bluffs Park appearance. "We are all delighted to watch our children play in the surf and content when we walk hand in hand with the one we love. The ocean heals us. We look to it for inspiration, recreation and solace." 
This love for the ocean is perhaps what inspires the Brosnans to strive to help protect its waters and the waterways that feed into it. It is one of the greater causes they have taken up. Pierce is a board member of Oceana, and a media and arts advisory board member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Keely Shaye and Pierce work closely with the Whaleman Foundation in the Save the Whales Again campaign, through video, Internet and other media, highlighting the continuing threats that whales and other seal life face from toxic and noise pollution, loss of habitat, over-fishing and commercial whaling. 

They have had great success from such efforts. In 2000, the couple was instrumental in helping to stop the building of a salt factory at San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, one of the last pristine breeding grounds of the Pacific gray whale. And they championed the protection of the northwestern chain of islands in their beloved second home of Hawaii. Pierce narrated the six-part series, "Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures." Part two, "Voyage to Kure," explored the Hawaiian territory and showed the effects of global pollution to the area, and also the beauty of the underwater forest of coral and plethora of sea life. The one-hundred- forty-thousand acre area of pristine marine habitat was given national monument status, providing it the strongest legal protections. The film was screened for the Bush Administration prior to its given monument status. 

While happy with the current administration's protection of this area of Hawaii, Keely Shaye said: "It was a commendable step toward environmental awareness; [but there's] still lots to be done. In terms of renewable energy, they don't seem to be making progress, as we should. Global warming is the biggest threat we face now." 

Hence the Brosnans' continuing involvement against the LNG plant (they participated in a paddle-out event at Surfrider Beach in late October with Malibu surfer Laird Hamilton and other local surfers to bring attention to the matter) and their championing of the Al Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." 

Pierce is passionate in his response to the doomsday message of Gore's film, which points to global warming causing" a tail-spin of epic destruction." 

"When you see this film, there is visual evidence of [a snowcapped] Kilimanjaro twenty to thirty years ago, and ... what is no longer a beautiful snowcapped mountain," he said. 

"[There is] strong evidence that this earth is hemorrhaging." 

The fifty-three-year-old actor became active in environmental issues, he said, when he met Keely Shaye. 

"Up to that point I had been nibbling around the cake," he said, with a still apparent English/Irish brogue. "I worked with Ted Danson, with Oceana, Heal the Bay... but nothing with clout until I met Keely, whose passion was tireless, inspirational. Her commitment was truly outstanding. So then, of course, you go on, create family, get an education ..." 

The environmental awareness education Pierce received has struck a strong chord within him. 

"When you're confronted every day by human mishaps and errors, from Exxon to what's happening [with] the rainforests, it kind of wears heavy on your heart," he said. "What do you do about it? You get up and do something about it, if it's really buggin' you. Sometimes it's straightforward and black and white, sometimes it's veiled in politics-this LNG [facility] is definitely politics." 

Keely Shaye, who recently turned forty-two, said she has been involved in environmentalism since she was a child in Orange County, growing up and watching the development there. She explored places like Death Valley and Catalina through field trips funded by recycling efforts that her school promoted. Her environmentalism was further nurtured, she said, by her career as a journalist. She created a weekly environment segment for ABC's Home Show, which garnered her two Genesis Awards and a 1991 Environmental Film Festival Special Achievement Award. She created and hosted Home Green Home for PBS, a show about eco-friendly living and gardening. Keely Shaye was also a correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today Show. 

"The more I learned, the more I was compelled to do something important," she said. "To educate myself, to bring to viewers [this information]. Now, as a mother, it's more important-from a philanthropic standpoint-to stay involved in the community." 

"It's chilling," Keely Shaye continued, "People think we've saved the whales, got clean air ... it's a fight we have to continue to wage, to continue to engage in constantly." 

While Pierce often mentions his first wife in interviews as an inspiration for much good that has happened in his life, it is clear that he is devoted to Keely Shaye, mother of their two young sons, Dylan Thomas, nine, and Paris Beckett, five. 

In his opening speech at the Bluffs Park anti-LNG rally, which she couldn't attend, he said: "There's one person missing tonight, and that is my beautiful wife Keely Shaye. She is with us in spirit, however, and it is her spirit that brought us all together tonight," again crediting their environmental work to her influence. 

Pierce and Keely Shaye met in Mexico in 1994. They became an item immediately, and three years later Dylan was born. Six months after Paris was born in February 2001, they married in Pierce's homeland at a private ceremony at Ballintubber Abbey, Ireland. 

Paris, Keely, Pierce, Dylan

Despite his busy environmental activism, the actor, who most people now identify with the James Bond character, continues to work constantly. He just wrapped his latest film, "Marriage," costarring Chris Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Patricia Clarkson, which shot in Vancouver, and before that, "Butterfly On A Wheel," a psychological thriller, which was produced by Pierce's production company, Irish DreamTime. He also costarred earlier this year with Liam Neeson in the Civil War-era film "Seraphim Falls," written and directed by David Von Ancken. 

While many might consider Brosnan extremely lucky to have landed a starring role on his first audition (for "Remington Steele") during his first trip to the United States, he did cut his acting chops working in theater in London prior to moving here. 

Working as a commercial artist in a small studio in Putney, South London, a coworker, who belonged to a small theater company, invited Brosnan to join him one evening at the theater. The future 007 became hooked and started going to the company's workshops, first twice a week, then three and eventually every night, quitting his artist's job. (Brosnan still paints. He took it up again when Harris became ill, finding it therapeutic. He paints landscapes and portraits of his family, and has recently started selling his work to raise funds for his favorite charities.) He attended the Drama Centre London for three years, did repertory theater and slowly started working in television and film.

Brosnan met his first wife, Harris, in London in 1977. Struck immediately by her beauty, he said in an interview with Cigar Aficionado, "I never for an instant thought she was someone I would spend seventeen years of my life with ... I didn't think of wooing her, or attempting to woo her; I just wanted to enjoy her beauty and who she was." 

The two married in 1980 and Brosnan adopted her two children, Charlotte and Christopher. 

It was Harris who convinced Brosnan to try out America. The ABC miniseries "The Manions of America," about the Irish potato famine and which he starred in, was about to be released here, and Harris suggested they go to Los Angeles for the premiere. He arrived in 1982, and the rest is history. 

Shooting to television stardom, secure with money, a family and a home, Harris and Brosnan had their son, Sean, in 1983. 

And it was the series that brought him so much success in America that caused him to lose out at first on the much-coveted Bond role. NBC, which renewed the "Remington Steele" series the same year it canceled it in 1986, refused to let Brosnan out of his contract to do the role. 

But losing the Bond role was nothing compared to what came next. Harris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after they went to India in 1987, where he filmed "The Deceivers." 

Talking to Cigar Aficionado about being at her side during the four-year struggle Harris went through fighting the disease, Brosnan said: "It came with a certain grace. Actually, life was sweet. Life had an incredible peace to it, because you cherished every moment. The ordeal of going into the doctor's for the examination, to see if the white [blood cells] were up, or to see if there's anything there. And then the joy of it being all right, and coming back out and going down to the beach. Those moments were just intoxicating." 

Harris died in 1991. 

Brosnan cites what Harris went through as one of the reasons he's involved in women's healthcare. He is the current campaign chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which strives to help raise awareness and funds for a variety of causes such as childhood hunger, cancer research, creative arts, education and cardiovascular research. 
Pierce and his art at the Malibu Gallery
Being the sole caregiver for three children, Brosnan kept working steadily in film after film. 
Then, Brosnan, one of the most popular actors to play Bond since Sean Connery, was offered the role again in 1994, the same year he met Keely Shaye. 
Brosnan went on to film "GoldenEye," which launched him to superstardom and then started Irish Dream Time with a longtime friend, Beau St. Clair. The next ten years have brought him a string of projects, including another Bond film, several movies by his production company, and his marriage to Keely Shaye and their two children. He also has two grandchildren by his stepdaughter Charlotte. 

And together, Pierce and Keely Shaye continue in their efforts to bring awareness to the public about the dangers the earth and its environment faces, and the demand for action to be taken to stop the hemorrhaging. 

As Keely Shaye told the Malibu Times Magazine about what she would like to see when she looks back twenty years or so from now: "I would like to see a healthier planet-for our children, our children's children. I would like to see world government working together, in unison, to protect this small earth of ours."

And Pierce's closing comment at the anti-LNG rally in September at Bluffs Park: "For our children's sake we must be global patriots fighting for all the Earth and all its people. Because if we have learned anything ... it is this: we all live downstream and downwind ... and we do not inherit the Earth from our parents ... we borrow it from our children." 


Interview transcription courtesy of Ellen

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