Pierce Brendan Brosnan OBE (born 16 May 1953) is an Irish actor and film producer. He is best known as the fifth actor to play secret agent James Bond in the Bond film series, starring in four films from 1995 to 2002 (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day) and in multiple video games.
After leaving school at age 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration and went on to attend the Drama Centre in London for three years. Following a stage acting career, he rose to popularity in the television series Remington Steele (1982–1987). After the conclusion of the series, Brosnan appeared in films such as the Cold War spy film The Fourth Protocol (1987) and the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). After achieving worldwide fame for his role as James Bond, Brosnan took the lead in other major films including the epic disaster adventure film Dante's Peak (1997), the remake of the heist film The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), and the musical comedy Mamma Mia! (2008), and its sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).
Brosnan has received two Golden Globe Award nominations, first for the miniseries Nancy Astor (1982) and next for the dark comedy film The Matador (2005). In 1996, along with American film producer Beau St. Clair, he formed a Los Angeles-based production company called Irish DreamTime. He is also known for his charitable work and environmental activism. In 1997, Brosnan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry. In 2020, he was listed at No. 15 on The Irish Times' list of greatest Irish film actors.
Pierce Brosnan was born on 16 May 1953 at St. Mary's Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth, the only child of May (née Smith) and carpenter Thomas Brosnan.
For 12 years, he lived in Navan, County Meath, and said in 1999 that he considers it to be his hometown. His father abandoned the family when Brosnan was an infant. When he was four years old, his mother moved to London to work as a nurse. From that point on, he was largely brought up by his maternal grandparents, Philip and Kathleen Smith. After their deaths, he lived with an aunt and then an uncle, but was subsequently sent to live in a boarding house run by a woman named Eileen. He later said, "Childhood was fairly solitary. I never knew my father. He left when I was an infant. [...] My mother was very courageous. She took the bold steps to go away and be a nurse in England. Basically wanting a better life for her and myself. My mother came home once a year, twice a year."
Brosnan was brought up in a Catholic family, and left Ireland on 12 August 1964 and went to Scotland to be reunited with his mother and her new husband, William Carmichael, at their home in Longniddry. when he was 11 years old, his step father Carmichael took Brosnan to see a James Bond film for the first time: Goldfinger. They later moved back to London. When discussing his transition from Ireland to England, he said, "When you go to a very large city, a metropolis like London, as an Irish boy of 10, life suddenly moves pretty fast. [...] And you're Irish. And they make you feel it." His nickname at school was simply "Irish".
After leaving school at 16, Brosnan decided to be a painter and began training in commercial illustration at Saint Martin's School of Art in London. While attending a rehearsal for a workshop at the Oval House, he saw a fire eater teaching people how to eat fire and decided to join in. He later trained for three years as an actor at the Drama Centre London. Describing the feeling of becoming an actor and the influence it had on his life, he said, "When I found acting, or when acting found me, it was a liberation. It was a stepping stone into another life, away from a life that I had, and acting was something I was good at, something which was appreciated. That was a great satisfaction in my life."
Graduating from the Drama Centre in 1975, Brosnan began working as an acting assistant stage manager at the York Theatre Royal, making his acting debut in Wait Until Dark. Within six months, he was selected by playwright Tennessee Williams to play the role of McCabe in the British première of The Red Devil Battery Sign (billed as "Pierce Brosman"). His performance caused a stir in London and Brosnan still has the telegram sent by Williams, stating only "Thank God for you, my dear boy"
Brosnan continued his career making brief appearances in films as well as early television performances. He became a television star in the United States with his leading role in the popular miniseries Manions of America. He followed this in 1982 with the BBC's nine-part miniseries Nancy Astor (which aired in America on Masterpiece Theatre) that dramatised the life of Lady Astor, the first woman to sit in the British Parliament. His portrayal of Robert Gould Shaw II garnered him a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1982, Brosnan moved to Southern California and rose in popularity in the United States playing the title role in the NBC romantic, often-comedic detective series Remington Steele. The Washington Post noted that same year that Brosnan "could make it as a young James Bond."
Pierce Brosnan met Australian actress Cassandra Harris through her stepson David Harris, the nephew of Richard Harris, shortly after leaving drama school.
They began dating and bought a house in Wimbledon.
The couple married in December 1980 and had one son together, Sean, who was born on 13 September 1983 and later became an actor. They also lived with Harris' children, Charlotte (1971–2013) and Chris, and Brosnan adopted them after their father Dermot Harris died in 1986; they subsequently took on his surname.
Early in their relationship, Brosnan worked in West End plays and television films.
Brosnan first met James Bond film producer Albert R. Broccoli in 1981 on the sets of For Your Eyes Only, where his wife Cassandra Harris appeared was cast as Countess Lisl von Schlaf, mistress to Milos Columbo. Broccoli said, "if he can act ... he's my guy" to inherit the role of Bond from Roger Moore.
Afterwards, the couple secured a bank loan and moved to Southern California, where Brosnan was cast in the title role of the TV series Remington Steele, easing their financial worries.
In 1986, NBC cancelled Remington Steele. As Brosnan was offered the role of James Bond, the publicity improved Remington Steele's ratings and it was renewed, contractually requiring Brosnan to return to the show. This caused Eon Productions to have to look elsewhere for the new 007. The producers instead hired Timothy Dalton for The Living Daylights (1987), and Licence to Kill (1989).
While filming The Deceivers in Rajasthan in 1987, Brosnan's wife Harris became seriously ill. She was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
After Brosnan left school, he pursued a career in art and began working as an illustrator, but eventually he abandoned his artwork to pursue a career in acting. Brosnan took up painting again during his Harris's illness as he found it therapeutic. "Sometimes dramatic moments affect the way you see yourself in the world…from a very hard time in my life, I started painting again and out came every colour I could imagine." Citing his influences as Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard and Kandinsky, Brosnan spends much of his free time between film shoots in front of his easel. "I am self taught, an enthusiastic painter as a friend of mine likes to say." He has continued painting since then, using spare time on set and at home.
Cassandra Harris died on 28 December 1991 at age 43. Brosnan struggled to cope with her death:
"When your partner gets cancer, then life changes. Your timetable and reference for your normal routines and the way you view life, all this changes. Because you're dealing with death. You're dealing with the possibility of death and dying. And it was that way through the chemotherapy, through the first-look operation, the second look, the third look, the fourth look, the fifth look. Cassie was very positive about life. I mean, she had the most amazing energy and outlook on life. It was and is a terrible loss, and I see it reflected, from time to time, in my children."
On meeting her, he said, "What a beautiful looking woman. I never for an instant thought she was someone I'd spend 17 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."
Since Harris' death, Brosnan has been an advocate for cancer awareness and, in 2006, he served as spokesperson for Lee National Denim Day, a breast cancer fundraiser which raises millions of dollars and raises more money in a single day than any other breast cancer fundraiser.
Legal disputes between the Bond producers and the studio over distribution rights resulted in the cancellation of a proposed third Dalton film in 1991 and put the Bond series on a hiatus for several years. After the legal issues had been resolved, Dalton decided not to return for a third film.
On 7 June 1994, Brosnan was announced as the fifth actor to play Bond.
Brosnan's wife Cassandra Harris had always wanted Brosnan to play James Bond. Four years after her death, Brosnan secured the role.
Brosnan was signed for a three-film Bond deal with the option of a fourth. The first, 1995's GoldenEye, grossed US$350 million worldwide, the fourth highest worldwide gross of any film in 1995, making it the most successful Bond film since Moonraker, adjusted for inflation.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, saying that Brosnan's Bond was "somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete" than the previous ones, also commenting on Bond's "loss of innocence" since previous films. James Berardinelli described Brosnan as "a decided improvement over his immediate predecessor" with a "flair for wit to go along with his natural charm", but added that "fully one-quarter of Goldeneye is momentum-killing padding."
In 1996, Brosnan formed a film production company called Irish DreamTime along with producing partner and longtime friend Beau St. Clair. Brosnan and St. Clair released Irish DreamTime's first production, The Nephew, in 1998. One year later, the company's second studio project, The Thomas Crown Affair, was released and met both critical and box office success.
Brosnan returned to James Bond movies in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999's The World Is Not Enough, which were also successful.
In 2001 Pierce Brosnan married American journalist Keely Shaye Smith at Ballintubber Abbey in Ireland. They had met in Mexico in 1994.
The couple have two sons together named Dylan and Paris. They reside primarily in Malibu, California, with a second American home in Hawaii and Irish residences in Dublin and County Meath.
In 2002, Brosnan appeared for the fourth time as Bond in Die Another Day, receiving mixed reviews similarly to the former two, but was a success at the box office. Brosnan himself subsequently criticised many aspects of his fourth Bond movie. During the promotion, he mentioned that he would like to continue his role as James Bond: "I'd like to do another, sure. Connery did six. Six would be a number, then never come back." Brosnan asked Eon Productions, when accepting the role, to be allowed to work on other projects between Bond films. The request was granted, and for every Bond film, Brosnan appeared in at least two other mainstream films, including several he produced, playing a wide range of roles.
Shortly after the release of Die Another Day, the media began questioning whether or not Brosnan would reprise the role for a fifth time. At that time, Brosnan was approaching his 50th birthday.
In October 2004, Brosnan said he considered himself dismissed from the role. In February 2005 he posted on his website that he was finished with the role.
On 14 October 2005, Daniel Craig took over the role.
In 2009, Brosnan finished the well-received The Ghost Writer, playing a disgraced British Prime Minister, directed and produced by Roman Polanski. The film won a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Brosnan has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001 and recorded a special announcement to mark the launch of UNICEF's "Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS" Campaign with Liam Neeson. He also would give to a trust to benefit "environmental, children's and women's health charities." through the sales of his artworks.
In 2002, Pierce Brosnan was awarded an honorary degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology and, a year later, the University College Cork.
In 2003, Brosnan was rewarded the Irish Film and Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Irish Film.
In July 2003, Queen Elizabeth II made Brosnan an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his "outstanding contribution to the British film industry". As an Irish citizen, he is ineligible to receive the full OBE honour, which is awarded only to a citizen of the Commonwealth realms, but he is still allowed the letters "OBE" after his name.
On 23 September 2004, he became an American citizen while retaining his Irish citizenship. He said, "My Irishness is in everything I do. It's the spirit of who I am, as a man, an actor, a father. It's where I come from."
In May 2007, Brosnan and his wife Smith donated $100,000 to help replace a playground on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where they own a house.
In February 2013, Brosnan was awarded honorary patronage of the Dublin University Players society at Trinity College, Dublin.
On 11 February 2015, Brosnan's $18 million Malibu home caught fire and sustained $1 million in damages. During the 30 minutes it took firefighters to extinguish the fire, flames destroyed the contents of the garage, including Brosnan's 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, and spread to a bedroom above it; no injuries were sustained.
In 2021, Brosnan launched his first-ever NFT collection of digital artworks "Big Noise" - on a digital platform focusing on artist empowerment, sustainability and technical innovation - inspired by his painting "Earplugs" which he painted while filming the James Bond film GoldenEye, incorporating abstract movement, self-recorded sound elements, including his voice, and bespoke visuals.