Brosnan as Bond had the most number of kills at 135. He also brought a unique suaveness to the character. Off-screen, however, Brosnan is a devoted family man and environmentalist. Discover the man behind the 007 legacies and his phenomenal career so far.
Pierce Brendan Brosnan was born on May 16, 1953, in County Louth, Ireland, to Thomas Brosnan and May (née Smith). Brosnan never knew his father (a carpenter), who upped and left when he was an infant. After Thomas abandoned the family, his mother moved to London to find work as a nurse and provide for her son.
For most of his childhood, Brosnan lived with his grandparents and grew up in County Meath, which he considers his home. He would later describe this period as a happy but relatively solitary childhood.
Growing Up in Politically-Turbulent Times
Brosnan’s mother made the courageous decision to go away to London on her own when being Catholic was a dangerous thing. She endured plenty of hardship as an unmarried Irish Woman in the city.
But May was determined to make a better life for herself and her son. She worked hard, making up for the absence of a father figure in her son’s life. May visited once or twice a year to meet her son and his grandparents.
An Unhappy School Life
When his grandparents passed away, Brosnan lived with an uncle and aunt. Soon enough, his relatives no longer had room for him. A young Brosnan ended up boarding at a less-affluent part of town. During this time, he attended a school run by the De La Salle or Christian brothers, whom he would later call “bitter” and “dreadful human beings.”
He said he had learned nothing from the brothers except shame. A young Brosnan despised his education, particularly the institution’s hypocrisy and cruelty towards children.
He Leaves Ireland
On August 12, 1964, Brosnan left Ireland to reunite with his mother, who now lived in Scotland. She had married William Carmichael, a World War II veteran, and the couple lived in an idyllic Scottish village called Longniddrie. Brosnan and Carmichael warmed up to each other, and he quickly became the father figure the boy never had.
An 11-year-old Brosnan watched a James Bond film for the first time with his new dad. A few years later, the family moved back to London, where Brosnan attended Elliott School in Putney, West London.
His Move From Ireland to England
Life in England was remarkably different for a boy accustomed to a quiet life in rural Ireland. From a small school with about seven classrooms to one with over 2,000 children, city life proved surreal for a young Brosnan.
Things moved incredibly fast. Brosnan’s deep sense of being an outsider intensified since his schoolmates never let him forget he was Irish. “Irish” was, in fact, the nickname they gave him at school.
He Worked Unconventional Jobs Before Finding Theater
Brosnan left school at age 16, wanting to become an artist. He enrolled in Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design to train in commercial illustration. In 1969, Brosnan walked into the Oval House for training and chanced on an intriguing workshop.
A fire eater was training his women students to put flames across his chest. Brosnan was fascinated, immediately signing up to learn how to be a fire eater! His smoking hot act eventually caught the attention of a circus worker who hired him for three years. The same agent fixed him up at a drama center that would kickstart his acting career.
Brosnan Finds His Calling
After a wildly successful stint as a fire eater, the talented Brosnan trained for three years at the Drama Center in London. Becoming an actor would have the most profound impact on his life.
Even when he was starting, acting, for Brosnan, was freedom — his avenue into a new life. He was deeply passionate about the craft and enjoyed it. Brosnan knew he was born to do this, and soon enough, the world would know it too.
He Meets Cassandra Harris
Shortly after leaving drama school, Brosnan met Australian actor Cassandra Harris at a mutual friend’s house, and the two hit it off. Brosnan wanted to spend more time with her. He never planned to woo her, but their chemistry was undeniable.
The duo began dating and bought a small house together in Wembley. Brosnan and Harris married in December 1980 and 3 years later, welcomed a third member of the family – their son, Sean, who later became an actor.
Brosnan’s Early Acting Career
After graduating from the Drama Center, Brosnan took up an acting assistant stage manager job at the York Theater Royal. He made his acting debut in “Wait Until Dark” (1976). Six months later, the distinguished playwright Tennessee Williams selected Brosnan for the UK premiere of “The Red Devil Battery” (1977).
Brosnan portrayed the role of McCabe, and his stellar performance became the talk of London. Williams reportedly sent Brosnan a telegram after the show with just these words — "Thank God for you, my dear boy."
On Working With Tennessee Williams
What was it like working with Tennessee Williams? Brosnan recounted how the part did not work out for another actor. He received a call saying Tennessee Williams wanted to see him immediately. Brosnan ran out of his flat and onto a bus.
Halfway there, he got off the bus and ran since it was moving too slowly. Brosnan finally got to Williams’s apartment and read through two powerful scenes. Despite his heart pounding, Brosnan decided to let it fly – and he got the job.
His Early Film Career
Brosnan’s acting career continued to take off after his phenomenal stage debut, and it was not long before the actor caught the eye of film directors. He eventually moved to films and made brief appearances in movies such as “The Long Good Friday” (1980) and “The Mirror Crack'd” (1980).
Brosnan also made his foray into British television around this time. Some of his early works include appearances on “The Professionals” (1980), “Play for Today” (1970-1984), and “Murphy’s Stroke” (1980).
Pierce and Cassandra lived with Harris’s three children from her previous marriage – whom Brosnan later adopted when their father died. He worried about making ends meet and providing for his family. During this period, he supplemented his income by appearing in television films and working in a company called West End productions.
Things began looking up when Harris was offered the role of a Bond girl in “For Your Eyes Only” (1981). The couple took a bank loan and moved to Southern California, after which Brosnan auditioned for several TV roles.
Pierce Brosnan – U.S. TV Phenomenon
Brosnan’s career as a TV star took off in earnest with a leading role in the popular miniseries “Manions of America” (1981). The series showcased the story of an Irish farmer who immigrated to America following the Great Famine in England. In 1982, the actor followed this up with a stellar performance in a Masterpiece Theater documentary on Lady Nancy Astor – the first woman MP in the British Parliament.
Brosnan’s memorable performance as Robert Gould Shaw II earned him a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Brosnan as the Charming Remington Steele
The actor moved to Southern California in 1982, marking the start of his massive popularity in the United States. Brosnan played the leading role in the NBC detective series “Remington Steele” (1982), winning hearts and legions of fans as the charming detective.
That same year, the Washington Post prophetically noted how the actor could be a shoo-in to play a young James Bond. “Remington Steele” wrapped up in 1987, and Brosnan continued appearing in several films such as “The Fourth Protocol” (1987), “The Deceivers” (1988), and “The Lawnmower Man” (1992).
He Meets His Father
Brosnan briefly reunited with his father while he was filming for “Remington Steele” in Ireland. The two met at the hotel Brosnan was staying in at the time. The meeting was very public and did not allow them to reconnect as much as Brosnan would have liked.
He later expressed regret that he could not meet his father privately on his terms. Although circumstances were not ideal, it was a reunion for the ages.
The Rise of Pierce Brosnan
The ‘90s saw the actor consolidate his career in film. In 1992, he shot an NBC pilot called “Running Wilde,” where he played a reporter. The pilot featured Jennifer Love Hewitt as his daughter, but it unfortunately never aired.
In 1993, he played a supporting role in the hugely popular film “Mrs. Doubtfire.” The actor also appeared in several other films, including “Death Train” (1993) and “Night Watch” (1995), a thriller set in Hong Kong.
The Makings of James Bond
Brosnan and James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli first met on the sets of “For Your Eyes Only.” Roger Moore had played James Bond, and Broccoli was looking for another actor to inherit the role. On meeting Brosnan, the producer reportedly said that he might have found his guy – provided Brosnan could act.
Film circles were also abuzz about Brosnan inheriting another Roger Moore role – that of Simon Templar. The whispering and gossip continued, but nothing concrete happened on either front.
Brosnan Declines the Role of 007
Casting for the next James Bond kicked off in earnest by the later ‘60s. In 1986, producers approached Timothy Dalton for the role, but the actor declined due to ongoing commitments. Broccoli screen-tested several other actors without any success.
On learning that “Remington Steele” was about to end, Broccoli offered the role to Brosnan. The publicity ended up reviving “Remington Steele”, and Brosnan had to decline the role of James Bond.
Brosnan Becomes the Fifth James Bond
Since Brosnan was not available, Broccoli once again offered the James Bond role to Timothy Dalton, who subsequently appeared in “The Living Daylights” (1987) and “License to Kill” (1989). A third Dalton film was in the works, but producers had to cancel it over legal issues.
With that, the James Bond franchise went on a six-year hiatus. When producers finally began working on “Golden Eye,” they wrote the film with Dalton in mind, but the actor turned it down. The producers reverted to Plan A, and on June 1994, they announced Brosnan as the fifth actor to play 007.
A Second Chance at Love
Brosnan and Harris spent 17 beautiful years together until she tragically passed away in 1991. Brosnan found love again in 1994 when he met journalist Keely Shaye Smith during a trip to Mexico. The two crossed paths by chance and started dating shortly after.
After dating for three years, the happy couple welcomed a son, Dylan Thomas, in January 1997. Five years later, Smith gave birth to their second child, Paris Beckett. The pair finally tied the knot at Ballintubber Abbey, Ireland, in 2010.
“Golden Eye” and Brosnan’s Debut as James Bond
Brosnan made his debut as James Bond in “Golden Eye” (1995) to tremendous critical and commercial acclaim. Critics praised the actor for his natural wit and charm, calling him “a decided improvement” over his predecessor, Timothy Dalton.
“Golden Eye” was the first of a four-film franchise starring Brosnan as 007. It grossed a whopping $350 million worldwide and became the most successful Bond film.
Subsequent Bond Movies and Other Projects
Apart from playing the iconic role of 007, Brosnan also formed a film production company during this period. The actor partnered with Beau St. Clair in 1996 and founded “Irish DreamTime.” In 1999, the company released its first project, “The Thomas Crown Affair,” which received rave reviews from fans and critics alike.
Brosnan obviously returned as Bond in the blockbusters “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) and “The World Is Not Enough” (1999). In 2002, Brosnan portrayed James Bond for the fourth time in “Die Another Day.” Would the actor appear in a fifth Bond film? When interviewed, Brosnan revealed he was keen to do another.
He Appears in Several Films
When Brosnan accepted the role of James Bond, he asked EON productions to allow him to work on other projects between the Bond movies. Subsequently, Brosnan appeared in other mainstream movies – including the ones he produced.
For every Bond film, the actor appeared in at least two other movies. Some of his appearances during this period included Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks” (1996), “Dante’s Peak” (1997), and “Grey Owl” (1999).
A Fifth Bond Film — Will He or Won’t He?
Soon after “Die Another Day” was released, media speculation was rife about whether Brosnan would reprise the role of James Bond for the fifth time. The actor was hopeful since there was precedent. Sean Connery had previously done six Bond films. Brosnan also knew that one actor playing the same role for too long wasn’t the best idea.
Case in point, Roger Moore, who played James Bond until age 58 – earning him flak from critics and fans. Still, Brosnan remained enthusiastic and touched by the overwhelming public support for a potential fifth film.
Pierce Brosnan, OBE
In 2003, Brosnan received an honorary OBE from the late Queen Elizabeth II for "outstanding contribution to the British film industry." Brosnan was not eligible to receive full OBE honors owing to his Irish citizenship. This honor is unfortunately reserved only for citizens of the Commonwealth countries.
Shortly after, Brosnan also received honorary degrees from two institutions — the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2003 and the University College Cork in 2004.
The 007 Video Games
During his time with the James Bond film franchise, Brosnan appeared not only in the films but also in several Bond video games. Game creators used Brosnan’s likeness for “Nightfire.” He became the face of James Bond in the popular video game while Maxwell Caulfield voiced the character.
In 2004, Brosnan starred in another Bond game called “Everything or Nothing.” The game used his likeness and voice work for the character.
Brosnan Is “Finished” With Bond
Throughout 2004, fans hoped to hear confirmation that Brosnan would reprise the role for the fifth time. Nobody could have anticipated what was coming. Rumors spread about negotiations breaking down. Producers allegedly wanted to bring in someone new, possibly younger, but continued denying the claims.
In July 2004, Brosnan officially announced that he was quitting, stating that he was moving on to new things and the role was another lifetime ago. Many people correctly presumed this statement was an outcome of failed negotiations.
He Was Fired Without Ceremony
Brosnan’s feelings about not reprising the role of James Bond emerged a few months later. In October 2004, Brosnan revealed that the producers had fired him — completely blindsiding the actor who, until then, believed negotiations were proceeding as planned.
Brosnan posted on his website about the end of his tenure as Bond but looked forward to seeing Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. Craig officially took over the role of 007 on October 14, 2005.
Why He Was Fired
The dismissal from the Bond films came as a shock to Brosnan. He was filming in the Bahamas when his agent called to say negotiations for the fifth Bond film had stopped. A few days later, Brosnan and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson spoke on the phone. They said they were sorry. He had been a great James Bond.
A shocked Brosnan slowly realized he had been kicked to the curb. Some sources believed the negotiations fell apart because Brosnan asked for too much money. The producers decided to take a new approach to the character, with Daniel Craig playing a grittier 007.
Post-Bond Film Appearances
Life after Bond was far from quiet for the inimitable Pierce Brosnan. He appeared in several films, playing roles distinctly unlike the character that had come to define him. Brosnan played Daniel Rafferty in “Laws of Attraction” (2004) – his first big film appearance after the Bond franchise.
Brosnan received critical acclaim for the role. The next film, “After the Sunset” (2004), opposite Salma Hayek, did not do as well and it received overwhelmingly negative reviews from fans and critics.
He Becomes a U.S. Citizen
Brosnan became a citizen of the United States in 2004 but chose to retain his Irish citizenship. During an interview, Brosnan shared that Irishness would forever be in his blood. He said the Irish spirit defines who he is as a man, father, and actor.
When a fan asked if it annoyed him that people thought he was English, the actor responded that it did not bother him. Yet, it amused him how a dyed-in-the-wool Irishman like him could be confused for an Englishman!
The Politics of Pierce Brosnan
When he’s not acting, Brosnan is a vocal advocate for numerous causes. He supported John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential elections and he is also an outspoken advocate for many controversial issues. Among the matters closest to him is environmental conservation.
The actor has worked closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He also partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to prevent the construction of a proposed salt factory at Laguna San Ignacio.
One Of His Best Performances Yet
Brosnan next appeared in a film called “The Matador” (2004). The film – a critical and commercial success – saw Brosnan play Julian Noble – a cynical assassin who encounters a traveling salesman in a bar. Critics went so far as to call his performance the best of his career yet.
“The Matador” earned Brosnan a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical Comedy. He eventually lost to Joaquin Phoenix, who won the award for “Walk the Line” (2005).
A Series of Hits And Misses
Brosnan's next film was “Seraphim Falls” (2006) in which he starred alongside fellow Irish actor Liam Neeson. Set in post-Civil War America, the film appeared to be an homage to old Western films, with the plot focusing on a bounty hunt for a Union soldier.
The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 and was released in US theatres for limited screenings in 2007. It received lukewarm reviews, despite the combined acting prowess of Brosnan and Neeson, who critics described as “fine adversaries” on screen.
Pierce Brosnan, the Artist
Most people know that Brosnan trained as an artist early on but shifted to acting, which was his true calling. But the actor took up painting again during his first wife’s battle with a severe medical condition. After withdrawing from acting to care for her, Brosnan began painting as therapy.
He continued painting even after Harris’s death. Profits from sales of his artwork have gone to a trust that supports environmental, women’s health, and children’s charities. To honor his wife’s memory, Brosnan is a passionate advocate for cancer awareness, serving as a spokesperson for various breast cancer charities and fundraisers.
Brosnan Campaigns for Marine Conservation and Wins
In 2007, Brosnan won a significant fight in the battle for the environment. The actor, with fellow celebrities such as Halle Berry, Daryl Hannah, and Cindy Crawford, successfully campaigned against the proposed Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas facility. The proposed plan to build the facility off the coast of Malibu posed grave threats to marine life in the area.
After reviewing the proposal, the State Lands Commission denied permission for construction. In May 2007, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger officially vetoed the facility.
Pierce Brosnan Cannot Sing!
In 2008, Brosnan starred alongside Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia!”, the film adaption of the ABBA musical. He played Sam Carmichael, one of the three men who could be Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) father. Brosnan allegedly trained for the role by singing karaoke while walking up and down the coast for weeks.
He followed it up with rehearsals in New York. Still, however, his singing was sadly not up to par with his acting talents. Critics disparaged his vocal abilities or lack thereof, saying that his singing sounded like a wounded raccoon or a water buffalo.
He Opens Up About Life After Losing His First Wife
Following his first wife’s passing, the actor opened up about coping with loss. In a 2008 interview, Brosnan explained that he began to view everything differently after his wife was diagnosed with her illness — from everyday routine to how he viewed life.
He shared how the family cherished every moment with her, and how she was incredibly positive and energetic until the very end.
Brosnan’s Troubles With an Indian Breath Freshener Brand
In 2016, Brosnan found himself embroiled in an unlikely controversy with an Indian brand called “Pan Bahar.” The actor had featured in an advertising campaign for “pan masala,” a traditional Indian post-meal breath freshener. The mixture usually contains spices, seeds, herbs, and nuts wrapped in betel leaf. His involvement became controversial because pan masala consumption had never been considered a healthy habit in India.
Many experts linked pan masala consumption to tobacco addiction which could cause medical conditions. Brosnan issued an apology, saying the company had never disclosed the harmful effects of pan consumption.
His Daughter, Charlotte, Passes Away
In 2017, Brosnan's daughter Charlotte tragically passed away from the same disease that had taken her mother, Cassandra, in 1991. Charlotte was 41 and left behind her husband, Alex, and two children, Isabella and Lucas.
A year earlier, Brosnan had opened up about starring in “Love Is All You Need” (2012). It was a hauntingly personal film where he played a widower in love with a hairdresser suffering from a disease.
On Being a Family Man
During a 2018 interview with Closer, Brosnan shared his views on finding the right partner. He opened up about being a married man for most of his life, and that’s how he liked it. Contrary to his 007 persona, Brosnan had always been a one-woman man.
He shared how he’s all about trusting and following his heart and relying on a strong woman in his life. His equally-smitten wife said that the best part about Brosnan was his intelligence and beautiful soul.
His Take on a Female 007
In 2019, Brosnan caused a stir for endorsing the idea of a female 007. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if he thought men should get out of the way, he agreed unequivocally – saying the guys had done it for over four decades. A female 007 would be exhilarating.
But Brosnan believed the idea might not see the light of day under the present custodians of Ian Fleming’s character. He was referring to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of EON Productions.
His Foray Into OTT
Brosnan’s next appearance was for a supporting role in Netflix’s “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” (2020). The film was supposed to coincide with the 2020 contest but production stalled. Given his infamous performance in “Mamma Mia!,” some quarters were keen to know if he would sing again.
Brosnan’s singing had been so memorable that it earned him the 2009 Razzie for worst supporting actor. In an interview for the Guardian in 2020, Brosnan good-naturedly quipped that he was “crestfallen” at not getting the chance to sing on screen again.
On Mrs. Doubtfire and Robin Williams
During a 2020 interview, Brosnan shared how he found the strength to keep acting after his wife died. Landing a role in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) was a pivotal moment. Any actor would want to look back and have a handful of films they were proud to participate in.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” was that film for Brosnan. He spoke fondly of the late Robin Williams, who greeted him in a makeup trailer in full Mrs. Doubtfire makeup!
On Working With Roman Polanski
In 2010, Brosnan portrayed the role of a fictional British Prime Minister accused of war crimes in Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer.” Brosnan took on the part due to Polanski’s body of work as a director and artist.
In an interview decades later, the actor was asked whether he would make the same choices. He said he did not know. Back then, he did not allow the director’s personal life to influence his artistic choices. Things were different today.
He Stars in “Cinderella”
In 2021, Brosnan played the role of King Rowan in “Cinderella” – Amazon Prime’s bold retelling of an ancient tale. In an online interview, Brosnan shares how he loved the fresh take on his character. The actor believed producers had taken an old story and created something empowering and beautiful for the modern woman.
The musical featured the likes of Camilla Cabello, Idina Menzel, and Billy Porter. Despite the star-studded cast, there were sadly no takers for the girl power version of “Cinderella.”
His Advice to Daniel Craig
“No Time to Die” (2020) was Daniel Craig’s fifth outing as Bond, with previous films being “Casino Royale” (2006), “Quantum of Solace” (2008), “Skyfall” (2012), and “Spectre” (2015). During a 2021 interview, Craig revealed that Pierce Brosnan’s advice saw him through every Bond film.
All he said was, “Enjoy it. It’s a ride.” Craig quickly realized that was all he could do while embodying the iconic role. Brosnan also congratulated Daniel at a watch party for the film, saying he had done a magnificent job.
He Defends His Wife Against Body Shaming
Brosnan has never shied away from expressing his love for his wife. And he does not take kindly to people bullying her. Social media trolls discovered this the hard way when he defended Smith from fat shaming online. A Facebook user shared two before and after pictures of the couple, with some comments suggesting weight loss surgery for the mother of two.
Shockingly, the comments advocating surgery came from friends and family. The user deleted the post, but not before Brosnan rose to his wife’s defense. He wrote how he always sought to be worthy of her love, calling her “the most beautiful woman.”
James Bond Joins the DC Universe
In 2022, the DC Extended Universe announced the release of the highly anticipated “Black Adam” movie, with Dwayne Johnson in the starring role. Pierce Brosnan was joining the DCEU as the magical superhero, Doctor Fate. The former 007 is no stranger to action-oriented work. But his role as the Kent Nelson incarnation of Doctor Fate was intriguing.
Producers knew Brosnan was perfect for the part. “You need a special actor to play, basically, a legend. Dr. Fate is a very powerful being, so you need someone like Pierce who can play powerful without it being overly done,” said director Jaume Collet-Serra.
Pierce Brosnan Is Unrecognisable in “The Rifleman”
In 2022, online publications released the first pictures from the set of Brosnan’s new film, “The Rifleman.” Brosnan plays an 89-year-old World War II veteran who escapes from his care home in Northern Ireland. His character journeys to France to pay his respects to his wife, who lost her life during the war.
Pictures showed Brosnan in facial prosthetics and a balding, grey wig for the part. The film is based on a true story about Bernard Jordan, who made the pilgrimage to France in 2014.