Orange COAST: Family Man
A ROLE DASHING 007 Pierce
BROSNAN PLAYS WELL IN LIFE—AND ON THE BIG SCREEN IN HIS NEW MOVIE,
By Charles "Karel" BouleyPhotography by Greg Gorman
Pierce Brosnan is shifting into high gear, getting ready to go out and sell two films at once—his fourth James Bond film. Die Another Day, and a film by his own production company. Irish DreamTime. titled Evelyn. But before does, he's got some business at home to deal with.
"I'll wrap them, I look forward to it." says Brosnan to his wife, Keely Shay Brosnan. "My wife gave me her own birthday present to wrap for her," he says, laughing, as he settles down to chat. "What did I get you darling? Oh. I got her some beautiful pearls." He opens the box she just handed him. "Aren't I an incredible husband? Darling, you are blessed," he jokingly tells her. "I'll wrap them lickety split." Of course, that will have to wait until after he sends one child off for a nap and does the interview.
This is Pierce Brosnan. a far cry from the suave secret agent whose franchise he has single-handedly rejuvenated. He's a husband and father first, actor second.
"My family is my biggest achievement; they are the essence of my existence. I love working, but working for the sake of working is hollow without having a family, in my book. I'm proud of all my children and live and work to watch them grow."
That strong sense of family is what led Brosnan to choose the script for Evelvn. This historically based film tells the tale of Desmond Doyle, an Irishman who fought the system and the Irish Constitution to win custody of his children back from the child-care system after his wife deserts him. It is a story of a single father overcoming adversity and starting over against the odds.
That sentiment hits close to home for Brosnan. In 1991. Brosnan"s first wife. Cassandra Harris, died of ovarian cancer. Suddenly, he was left to raise their child. Sean William, and Christopher and Charlotte. Harris's children from a previous marriage
"Starting over was terrifying." he reflects. "It was a road that I knew nothing about. There was an emptiness and a great sorrow and a sadness, which was painful and also public. It had a certain comfort zone because it was public and the public, I must say reached out and was very comforting and understanding. And then you have to get on, move on. I dove in to work. I had to earn a living: I had three children to take care of as a single father. There were many aspects of the film with which I could identify."
It was the work that he began after Harris's death that brought him to his new wife. Brosnan became an activist for women's causes, especially cancer, and realized the link between cancer and the environment. He joined the board of the American Oceans Campaign, which led him and his son to Mexico. Brosnan"s first meeting with Keely sounds like a scene from one of his films.
"There was a great chemistry between us from the start," he says. Personally, I had had enough of the dating game. I was not looking. I was about to go off to Papua New Guinea and make a movie I stopped off in Mexico and Keely was there for the Today show, doing an environmental piece She didn't interview me, but I was sitting poolside at 9 am. There was nobody there, I was reading my script, and this beautiful woman walks around the comer, in a purposeful way. an attractive fashion, dressed in Armani, and I thought hmmm. interesting there was a long walk, she came by— we smiled. I looked over and she was sitting with Ted Danson. I realized she was a journalist.
"She finished her interview with Ted and had to come back the same way. I didn't move, we smiled again. I saw her again at the end of the day on the beach, at the cocktail hour, no one around. My son was having his bath time. We were both getting ready to go down for supper and I took out and there's this beautiful lady in a straw hat walking down and she jumps into the ocean. Then I saw her later that night, so three times in one day. We talked into the wee hours of the morning that particular evening and now. Here we are."
Having a solid foundation of family he and Keely have two young sons. Dylan and Paris on which to build has allowed Brosnan to quietly become one of the busiest actors in Hollywood Born May 16, 1953 in Navan. County Meath. Ireland. Brosnan moved to England with his family when he was 11 and took to the London stage at an early age He studied at the Drama Center for three years. Then after school took a job as an acting assistant stage manager for the York Theatre Royal. Six months later, he was chosen by playwright Tennessee Williams to star in the British premiere of Red Devil Battery Sign. From there he was off to television for the BBC. and in 1981 American acclaim came with the television miniseries The Manions of America This led to his casting in 1982 as TV's Remington Steele and he's been busy doing television and film ever since. And. unlike many major movie stars, he entertains the option of going back to the small screen.
"I want to be able to go back to TV with our company and find productions for television." Brosnan says "I enjoy television - I loved my time on Remington Steele it's a great medium. I would star in films for television, if the script was right. The stigma between film and television is gone; it must be gone If you're an actor and you're worth your salt you can go back to TV and do it. There's a certain kind of actor or people that have a snobbery about it and I don't. It's a great medium, if you have a story that has meaning."
Just as Steele made Brosnan a household name on television. Bond has made him a major international movie star. The first three Bond films starring Brosnan—Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough— have earned more than $350 million each, making his movies the most successful of the series.
"It's very daunting to lake over the franchise." he confesses. "But I'm such a fan of the genre I wanted it to be successful. I want it to carry on and be successful when I'm finished with it. As far as I'm concerned, the cup is always half-full with any situation in life, it can only be that, because you have to rise to higher ground always. It has been the most glorious seven years playing this part. It has allowed me to create my own company ... and make films like [The] Thomas Crown [Affair] and Evelyn. It's allowed me to have choices."
As for being seen as only James Bond, Brosnan isn't worried. "There is always typecasting. I would have been typecast without Bond, so get over it. Get on with it. If you're an actor, you will be judged constantly—from the moment you say you want to be an actor you will be judged. So one is used to it. You have to be as tough as old boots."
And while Brosnan feels Die Another Day is the best film in the franchise, there are some parts that get a little old.
"I don't mind the selling part; it's what they pay me for. Michelle Pfeiffer said it before, and it's a good line: 'You're confronting yourself the whole time.' When I was a young actor. I thought it was great fun to do it but as you get older you get a little more sensitive to the whole issue of questions, the repetition of the questions. Certainly with the Bond films, well. I've said all I've got to say about it! I don't know what new I can add the fourth time around about me playing Bond." he says, laughing.
Success does bring freedom, and Brosnan is not one to squander it. He produced and starred in The Thomas Crown Affair, which earned more than $200 million. Now, there's Evelyn — a smaller film but one full of heart and excellent performances by not only Brosnan but also costars Aidan Quinn. Stephen Rea. Alan Bates, and Julianna Margulies. The fact that the film is set in Ireland and deals with Irish history is right up his alley, because if there's one thing he's proud of outside of his family, it's his heritage. And while the film stretches him dramatically, it also shows a new side of Brosnan he sings.
"I was mildly terrified by the prospect of singing in the film but Bruce Beresford, the director, said, well, just be mildly attractive while doing it. You're singing in a pub, just sing. There's a great Irish community here in Santa Monica and a couple guys came out to the house and we picked out some songs to work on and those are the ones that were in the movie. When you're using a different pan of your talent, like when you're an actor who now has to sing, you're very vulnerable. It taps into the center of your being, your diaphragm, to breathe, to belt out a song."
Brosnan, who is approaching 50, has much younger love interests in a majority of his films. Die Another Day features Halle Berry, while Margulies captures his heart in Evelyn.
"It doesn't bother me," he says, laughing, about the age of his leading ladies. "I'm very happy about it and I'm going to do it as long as I can get away with it. It hasn't gotten in the way yet"
Of course, the real opinion has to be heard as well.
"Wife, what do you think of me cavorting around with all these younger women on screen?"
"Hey, as long as you come home to me, we're fine." Keely says.
"And as long as I bring pearls," Brosnan says, starting to wrap the package. "Truly, though, there is an age double standard in Hollywood. I'm conscious of growing older in Hollywood. You think of it because you are constantly confronted by yourself on a movie screen, people are giving you photographs of yourself to sign or approve, you look at yourself on the rushes, so you're dealing with the self the entire time, sometimes 40 feet across. In an actor's life aging is more present. There are more roles for actors than actresses as they age. But you know what they say, you can worry about it and die. or not worry about it and die anyway."
One of the luxuries of being a man in Hollywood is that as you approach 50 you can still be voted the "Sexiest Man Alive," an "honor" Brosnan received in 2001. Critics often mention his maleness. his masculinity, and women (and some men) adore his rugged good looks, charm, wit. and style. But when asked to define true male qualities, the conversation turns away from looks.
"Sexiest Man Alive", he says, laughing. "Well, if it gets them to see the picture. I suppose it's fine. What is it to be masculine and sexy in today's day and age'. To me. it's honesty, truthfulness, dignity, a strong sense of self, humor, and grace about who you are. what your intentions are in life. It's a hard one. The whole issue of sexiest man alive, it's taken with a pinch of sail. One sits back and smiles "
There is definitely a lighter, more philosophical side to Brosnan, one he'd like to show more on celluloid. As he looks for future projects, he wants to concentrate next on a romantic comedy. He's done well in several comedies, including Mrs. Doubtfire.
Brosnan is also looking for some time off when the Bond flurry dies down. Having been trained in the commercial arts, he wants to continue one of his passions — painting
"I find it a great source of relaxation" he says. "I do oil and acrylics. I started as a commercial artist and kept up with the painting and drawing over the years. I've been asked to exhibit, but the work needs more maturity before I do that. There's two paintings I've sold, and one hangs in the Essex House in New York."
In a career that has gone from stage to television to screen, Brosnan has seen quite a bit—but what has been the most thrilling aspect of his almost three-decade career".'
exciting thing about working in the film industry right now is that I'm
in it." he concludes, getting up to find a bow. And with that. Brosnan
actor is finished. There's a birthday to celebrate.
Charles "Karel" Bouley is a radio talk show host and a contributor to Billboard magazine, as well as a columnist.