"Life is so simple. It is so goddamn simple. You breathe in, you breathe out. You breathe in, you breathe out, and you try to do your best by your fellow man." There aren't too many A-list Hollywood stars with that homespun philosophy? But Pierce Brosnan, the Irish-born actor who has taken James Bond to a whole new level since he started playing the suave secret agent, is one of Tinseltown's least complicated leading men in spite of a life marked by tragedy.
Pierce Brendan Brosnan was born on May 16, 1952, in the Irish town of Navan, to May and Thomas Brosnan. He was just an infant when his father "went out the back door," as Pierce describes it. May managed with difficulty, but when her son was four, she left him in the care of her parents, Philip and Kathleen Smith, while she headed for London to train as a nurse.
School was an unhappy experience for the young Pierce who retreated into a world of Norman Wisdom movies, Westerns and comic-book heroes. When he was six, both his grandparents died, taking away what little sense of security he had had. In the wake of their deaths Pierce stayed with various relatives before ending up under the roof of Eileen Reilly, who took him into her boarding house. When he was ten, his mother was finally able to take him with her to London. "I arrived with an aspirin bottle filled with holy water, one suitcase with all of my possessions, and a crew-cut," he says.
At 16, Pierce, who admits that he wasn\'t a good student, dropped out of school to try and make a go of it as a commercial artist, but when a friend introduced him to a theatrical group, the young Irishman immediately felt he had found his metier. Performing wherever he could on the street and even as a circus fire eater Pierce honed his craft and managed to win a place at the Drama Centre of London.
After graduation, the tall, blue-eyed young man became an assistant stage manager, then an understudy for the lead in a Tennessee Williams play. When the main actor stepped down before opening night, Brosnan stepped in, delivering a performance which the play\'s author himself applauded. It also brought him to the attention of legendary director Franco Zeffirelli who cast him in a West End play.
It was during this period in the mid-Seventies that Pierce met Cassandra Harris, the woman who was to become his first wife. Wandering into the kitchen in her home, he was caught eating chicken Cassie had planned to feed her two children, Charlotte and Christopher, the next day. The Australian model and actress delivered a sharp dressing down, along with a hefty dose of sexual chemistry. The two were married in a registry office ceremony in 1980 and son Sean was born three years later.
It was Cassie, who had had some success as an actress, even appearing as a Bond Girl in For Your Eyes Only,
who persuaded Pierce he would be a hit in Hollywood. So in 1981 they sweet-talked their bank manager into giving them a home improvement loan which they spent on cheap airline tickets to LA. Two weeks later the chisel-jawed actor landed the role of suave private detective in Remington Steele,
a prime-time NBC show which was to embed him in the consciousness of US TV audiences.
Pierce came to the attention of Cubby Broccoli who was eyeing him as a replacement for Roger Moore
\'s 007. But not even Bond could have got out of the Remington Steele contract, and the role eventually went to Timothy Dalton. Although disappointed to have missed out on the role of a lifetime, Pierce was not unduly bothered he was sure there would be other opportunities.
But in 1987, tragedy struck. Cassie, who had been complaining of fatigue and a swollen stomach, was diagnosed as suffering from ovarian cancer. When she died in his arms four years later, Pierce was devastated. "Cassie has made me the man that I am, the actor I am, the father I am. She\'s forever embedded in every fibre of my being," he told HELLO!
in 1992. "She\'s there with me every day. I was so blessed to have met someone like that."
Lesser men might have cracked under the strain of bringing up three children when Charlotte and Christopher\'s father died in 1986, they were adopted by their stepfather combined with a burgeoning acting career, but Pierce soldiered on. Parts in Lawnmower Man
and Mrs Doubtfire
helped his Tinseltown profile inch upwards, but it wasn\'t until he landed the Bond contract in 1994 that he became a household name.
His interpretation of 007 in GoldenEye
breathed new life into the James Bond oeuvre
and the role obviously fitted like a glove. His personal life also took a turn for the better when he met Keely Shaye Smith, an environmental journalist, in Mexico. "I found a great woman in Keely," he recalled. "Not if I searched a million times over would I find one as good."
Their first child, Dylan Thomas Brosnan was born in 1997, and Paris Beckett followed four years later. Pierce and Keely tied the knot six months after Paris\'s arrival, in a fairytale wedding in Ireland. The family now live in a sprawling house on Malibu Beach.