Pierce Brosnan – The Irish James Bond

Pierce Brosnan. Photo: LBJ Library/Flickr.

By Martin Gleeson

Since the first James Bond film was made in 1962, there have been 24 more films about the secret agent and 7 actors have played the leading roles.

There have been three English Bonds (David Niven, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig), one Scottish (Sean Connery), one Welsh (Timothy Dalton) and one Australian (George Lazenby).

Surely, however, the favourite Bond for Irish cinema goers is the debonair Pierce Brosnan. Over the years, this superstar has played the leading roles in over 80 films. 

In 1994, he became the fifth actor to portray secret agent 007, starring in four Bond films from 1995 until 2002. These were ‘Golden Eye’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, ‘The World Is Not Enough’ and ‘Die Another Day’. These films took in hundreds of millions of dollars and made Pierce Brosnan a world-famous actor. The critics loved his more sensitive and more humane portrayal of the Bond character.

Early Life

Pierce was born in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in 1953. His father was a carpenter but he left home when Pierce was a baby. Pierce was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunts in Navan. When Pierce was four-years-old, in order to earn a living, his mother moved to London to work as a nurse. She came home once or twice a year. Pierce was educated in Navan’s Saint Anne’s Loretto Primary School.

When Pierce was eleven-years-old, he was reunited with his mother, who moved to Scotland. Later moving back to London, Pierce attended the Elliot School in Putney. Going to a school with 2,000 pupils in the London metropolis was a massive change for this boy from Navan and as student there, felt he was an outsider.

After leaving school at sixteen, Pierce decided to become a painting artist and began studying as Saint Martin’s School of Art. Even today, he still has an interest in painting.

One day in an art centre, Pierce met a fire eater and joined him in a circus. This was his introduction to the world of entertaining people. He later trained for three years as an actor at the the London Drama Centre. He felt that acting was a great liberation for an Irish boy from Co. Meath and it was something he enjoyed doing.

Pierce’s Career

When Pierce graduated from the London Drama Centre in 1975, he began working as a stage manager at the York Theatre Royal and soon made his acting debut in a Tennessee Williams’ play. This caused a stir in London and Pierce had many successes on the stage, on film and in television. 

In 1982, Pierce moved to Southern California. A major breakthrough came when he played the title role in the detective series ‘Remington Steele’. This TV series ran for five seasons, making Pierce a household name throughout the United States. One episode of ‘Remington Steele’ was filmed in Ireland, in Ashford Castle.

James Bond

Pierce had appeared in a Diet Coke advertisement on US television dressed in a white tuxedo and the critics described him as a “dashing Bond-like character”. In 1994, he signed a contract for his first Bond film ‘Golden Eye’. This film took in $350 million in 1995, the fourth highest gross for a film in that year.

Two years later, Pierce starred in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and later in ‘The World Is Not Enough’(1999), both great box office successes.

When Pierce had starred in his fourth bond film ‘Die Another Day’ in 2002, he felt that as he was now nearing fifty years of age, this would be his last Bond film. Both the critics and the box office receipts testify to Pierce Brosnan’s great success in his role as agent 007.

Personal Tragedy

Pierce Brosnan has carved out a dazzling success for himself since the Bond films. However, his life has had more than its fair share of tragedy.

In 1977, Pierce met the Australian actress Cassandra Harris. She had been married previously to Dermot Harris, a brother of Limerick actor Richard Harris and they had a son and daughter. Pierce and Cassandra got married in 1980 and had one son, Seán. They were extremely happy. When Dermot Harris died in 1986, Pierce adopted the two Harris children.

In 1987, Cassandra became seriously ill and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died in December 1991, aged forty-three, an indescribable loss for Pierce.

In 2013, Charlotte, Cassandra’s daughter from her first marriage, also died of ovarian cancer, aged forty-two. This was another appalling blow to Pierce.

Pierce met American journalist Keely Shaye Smith in 1994 and they married in 2001. The wedding took place in Ballintubber Abbey, Co. Mayo. They now have two sons, Dylan and Paris.

Wide Range of Interests

Pierce never lost his interest in painting. He said: “I always wanted to be an artist, a painter. I trained as an artist in a small studio in South London.” Pierce has exhibited his artwork in Paris and donated the proceeds to charity.

Pierce has been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2001 and worked with Liam Neeson to mark the launch of ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’ campaign and is involved in many environmental and charitable causes. 

Pierce was made a Freeman of Navan in November 1999. Even though he took out American citizenship in 2004, he still retains his Irish one.

A lifelong Catholic, he attends Mass regularly at his local church in Malibu, California.

Pierce Brosnan is a world-famous superstar and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that all Irish people ought to be very proud of him.