The Transformation Of Pierce Brosnan From Childhood To 68 Years Old

Ever since donning the 007 tux, Pierce Brosnan has been a mainstay of our film and television screens, typifying the persona of a charming Irish gent. Having starred in a variety of films, such as the thrilling "The Thomas Crown Affair" and, contrastingly, the light-hearted romp "Mamma Mia!", Brosnan is clearly dedicated to his craft. But how did he warm his way into our hearts? Although the glitz and glam of Hollywood draws innumerable dreamers, only a lucky few make it. For Brosnan, getting to A-list status wasn't an easy ride.

The actor has endured immeasurable hardships throughout his life. From a troubled childhood to personal tragedy and even rancor regarding his own career, Brosnan has been through it all. Despite his remarkable success and having overcome darkness, there is a certain poignancy that seems to shadow the often solemn actor.

As he eloquently reflected in an interview with Haute Living, "My destiny is my destiny. ... I think you have to work hard and you have to dream hard, and you have to really, consistently do that. Fate for me has played many good hands. There's been a few devilish ones along the way, too. That's just life; everything happens for a reason."

Although his martini hasn't been shaken in years and his jet black hair has faded into a silver fox, Brosnan is as debonair as ever, always with that mischievous twinkle in his blue peepers. This is the transformation of Pierce Brosnan from childhood to 68 years old.

Pierce Brosnan had a lonely childhood

Pierce Brosnan was born in 1953 in Drogheda, a port town in the Republic of Ireland, as per the Irish Times. He was raised by a single mom and didn't meet his father as a boy. For Brosnan, this was a lonely upbringing. "Childhood was fairly solitary," he told Cigar Aficionado. "I grew up in a very small town in southern Ireland. I never knew my father. He left when I was an infant, and I was left in the care of my mother and my grandparents." 

Brosnan went on to highlight the oppressive nature of Catholicism in the 1950s and how his single mother was shunned by a patriarchal culture. "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. Consequently, there was a certain amount of early loss in that young boy's life," he explained.

Despite the small-minded bigotry his mother endured, she encouraged Brosnan to pursue his love of acting. "My mother was very supportive of it," he told the Irish Times. "She always said follow your dreams, and I had this crazy dream about making movies." So, what was Brosnan's inspiration? While he was a big fan of "cowboys and westerns," the "The Defiant Ones" with Sidney Poitier was also an important film for the youngster; "It stood out on the cinematic landscape for me so brilliantly and so captivatingly," Brosnan said.

Pierce Brosnan was a 'fish out of water' and was bullied

In 1964, Pierce Brosnan moved to London, where he was reunited with his mom after being raised by his grandparents for several years. However, the Londoners did not take too kindly to him, and he was viciously bullied for being Irish. At the time, tensions between the British and Irish were high due to the foreboding presence of The Troubles. Subsequently, Irish people were frequently subjected to racist abuse in England, as noted by the Independent

"I had my share of mockery, that's for sure," Brosnan recalled to Playboy (via Pierce Brosnan Files). "That's a painful one. ... In London, when I rejoined my mother in 1964 after she'd gone away to school, suddenly I was the true fish out of water. I was the token Paddy in this large school in Putney, South London. It was the first sting, the first whiplash of being in a strange land."

Brosnan said that he was also targeted due to his struggles with academia. "It started verbally because of my not knowing the language in some respects and also with the deep realization that I was lacking education," he explained to Playboy. "I couldn't read or write at the age of 11 when I came from Ireland."

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Pierce Brosnan started out in theater

By 1977, Pierce Brosnan was living in London and trying to make a name for himself as an actor. Like many other budding performers, he started out in theater. And then, the opportunity of a lifetime came when he got to meet lauded playwright Tennessee Williams, who is famed for works such as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." At the time, Williams was staging a production of "The Red Devil Battery Sign." When Brosnan discovered that an actor had pulled out of the production, he leapt at the opportunity. 

"It didn't work out for this other fellow," Brosnan told The Guardian. "I got the call: 'Tennessee wants to see you now.' I tore out of the flat and hopped on a bus. The bus was going too slow, so I got off and ran. My heart was pounding — Tennessee Williams wants to see me. I got to Tennessee's apartment, and we read through two very emotional scenes and just let it fly. And I got the job."

However, Brosnan's excitement for the stage has dissipated somewhat. "I might never go back to the stage. I enjoyed it when I was there. It's bloody hard work. Seven shows a week," Brosnan confessed to Esquire. "Maybe I'll just do a run for seven days. ... Yeah. That would be kind of cool."

Pierce Brosnan's first film was The Long Good Friday

In 1980, Pierce Brosnan scored a role in a major movie, gangster flick "The Long Good Friday," alongside British acting vets Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. While he was only in the movie for a few minutes, The Hollywood News notes that Brosnan's presence in the film, although fleeting, is instrumental to the plot. The fresh-faced then 27-year-old bore all the charm that would become his defining feature. "It was my first movie and I was just really proud to be part of it," Brosnan said during a making-of featurette

Playing an IRA hitman, Brosnan barely utters a word in the role, yet he's at once a menacing and beguiling presence. The camera was firmly focused on his intense blue eyes, "giving my best smile of malevolence," as the actor put it. "I hadn't a clue what I was supposed to do. I hadn't read the script. They didn't send me the script. There's no dialogue. I didn't have to read for this part!" Brosnan chuckled during the behind-the-scenes featurette. He continued, "John [Mackenzie] said 'You play an IRA hitman, you've got no lines, you kill people.' And I say, 'I'm in. Great!'"

In one scene, Brosnan is shown swimming in skimpy trunks, which, interestingly, foreshadows the pool scene he would film thirteen years later for "Mrs. Doubtfire." As that film's eponymous character would say, "Ooh by the looks of you, that water's so cold!"

Pierce Brosnan first met his father when he was 31

Just two years after we got a glimpse of his youthful countenance in "The Long Good Friday," Pierce Brosnan moved to California and was cast on crime series "Remington Steele," as per The Guardian. He plays the titular character, who embarks on sexual chemistry-infused capers with Stephanie Zimbalist's private investigator. With his steely blue eyes, the role rapidly propelled Brosnan toward TV stardom; one might even say that he was ready to Steele our hearts. He would devote himself to the role for five years, from 1982 to 1987.

Now that he was unquestionably on his way to becoming a Hollywood A-lister, Brosnan drew the attention of the man who sired him. In 1984, at the age of 31, Brosnan finally met his father, Tom. Speaking with Interview Magazine about the surreal and ultimately devastating encounter, Brosnan made a point of referring to his father as "Tom Brosnan" as opposed to "dad," and remaining stoic when discussing the matter. 

"[My grandfather] was my father figure because the old man split when I was an infant. I didn't really see Tom Brosnan until I was about 31," he explained. "I was shooting 'Remington Steele' in Ireland, and he showed up one Sunday. We sat down and we had a cup of tea, and after we drank all the tea, we went downstairs and started drinking Guinness. [laughs] Then he got on a bus, and I never saw him again. He died."

Tragedy struck in the late '80s

In 1980, Pierce Brosnan married actor Cassandra Harris, and they had a son together, Sean. Brosnan also adopted Harris' children, Charlotte and Christopher, from a previous marriage, as noted by USA Today. Sadly, Harris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1987, as per People

Watching Harris die of the illness led to Brosnan empathizing with the assisted dying cause. "I dealt with those issues on a very personal level with my wife," he told Playboy (via Pierce Brosnan Files). "She went on dialysis at the end. The dialysis was brutal. Finally I said, 'Stop it.' ... At the end it was very peaceful. ... People should be allowed to die when their bodies are wracked by disease." Cassandra Harris died in 1991, aged just 43.

As for whether witnessing his wife's suffering led to him wanting to follow a path of destruction, Brosnan emphatically told Playboy, "Never, because I had children, who push and spur you on. Nothing in life prepares you for going through a long illness that ends in death. Nothing gives you the vocabulary to deal with that grief or those emotions. You just have to go slowly." 

Tragically, their daughter Charlotte died of the same illness in 2013, aged 41. "Charlotte fought her cancer with grace and humanity, courage and dignity. Our hearts are heavy with the loss of our beautiful dear girl," Brosnan told People.

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Pierce Brosnan exhibited his silly side in Mrs. Doubtfire

After experiencing such a devastating loss, Pierce Brosnan decided to embrace his lighter side. When he was cast in a family dramedy in 1993, little did he know that the film would enjoy iconic status decades later, not to mention bountiful memes (who can forget the terrifying "Mrs. Doubtfire" horror movie trailer?).

"Mrs. Doubtfire" was the perfect opportunity for Brosnan to showcase his comedic skills, even if he did spend the majority of the film being tortured by Robin Williams. Reflecting on the role, Brosnan told Esquire, "[Robin] was brilliant. Sally was gorgeous. She and I got on like gas on fire. It was so delightfully enchanting. It was just delightful."

In that same interview, he recalls his first encounter with Williams, in which the star "was sitting at the end of the trailer in his Hawaiian shirt and his big hairy arms, and his hairy legs coming out of his cargo pants. But he had the head of Mrs. Doubtfire." In the voice of his female alter-ego, Williams proceeded to ask Brosnan for a smooch. As he recalled, Williams trilled, "Oh, you're so handsome. Oh, look at ya, Pierce. Oh, give us a kiss."

Years later, Brosnan still misses his late co-star, who died in 2014. "His humanity was so far reaching, and joy of people, and love of life, bountiful. Oh, Robin, still, his passing still hurts deeply. I miss him," he reminisced poignantly to Esquire.

Pierce Brosnan found love with Keely Shaye Smith

Several years after losing his beloved wife Cassandra Harris, Pierce Brosnan found love again. In 1994, he met journalist Keely Shaye Smith in Mexico when she was set to interview another sex symbol of the era, Ted Danson. But her eyes were firmly on Pierce. "He was captivating," Smith told People. "Tall, dark and handsome — everything that everybody would immediately be attracted to. He had this mischievous sparkle in his eyes. I thought, 'Wow! Wow!'" 

Smith recalled their first date, reminiscing that the couple "sat down under the stars and he held my hand. There were fireworks going off over our heads, and Kenny Loggins was singing. We talked until 3 in the morning. I understand why women find him sexy, because he is an appealing man. He really likes and appreciates women." Meanwhile, Brosnan is equally besotted with Smith. "I found a great woman in Keely Shaye," he told People. "Not if I searched a million times over would I find one as good."

They wed in 2001 and welcomed two sons, Dylan Thomas, who is indeed named after Brosnan's favorite poet, and Paris Beckett.

Two decades later, their love is as strong as ever. In 2021, the actor paid a sweet birthday tribute to Smith on Instagram below a photo of her in a swimsuit, writing, "My beautiful luscious love Keely on her 58th trip around the sun yesterday ...apres swim, making coconut water," followed by various heart emojis.

The name's Bond. James Bond.

In 1995, Pierce Brosnan's boyhood dreams of becoming a major movie star materialized when he was cast as James Bond. Although he had big shoes to fill, having been preceded by the dashing Timothy Dalton, the handsome Irishman was more than up for the challenge. His first incarnation of the secret agent came with "GoldenEye," in which Brosnan flitted between fighting Russian spies and locking lips with Famke Janssen's sultry femme fatale, who eventually, erm, crushes him with her thighs.

Brosnan went on to sport the 007 tux three more times, last but not least with 2002's "Die Another Day," which features some unforgettably steamy sexual tension with the orange bikini-clad Halle Berry. 

The dapper Brosnan as Bond, slicked back hair and twinkly blue eyes, remains one of the most iconic images of the secret agent. But despite being immensely popular in the role, Brosnan has been pretty harsh on himself. "I never really felt as though I nailed it," he told Playboy (via Pierce Brosnan Files). "As soon as they put me into the suit and tie and gave me those lines of dialogue, I felt restricted. It was like the same old same old. I was doing Roger Moore doing Sean Connery doing George Lazenby. I felt as if I were doing a period piece that had been dusted off." Many fans would disagree, since Brosnan was voted third best Bond by RadioTimes. But perhaps for Pierce, the world is not enough.

Pierce Brosnan was soon too old for Bond

By 2005, a then 52-year-old Pierce Brosnan was told that he was too old to continue with the Bond role. Considering that Daniel Craig was 53 when he starred in his final Bond installment, Brosnan's exit was no doubt a reflection of the ageism of his era. This, it seems, is something Brosnan is all too aware of. "It was kind of shocking to have ageism come on me when I was just getting started," he raged to Playboy (via Pierce Brosnan Files). "It's shocking to be told that you're too old, that you're past your sell-by date." What made Brosnan particularly infuriated by the producers' decision to replace him was their assertion that the Bond cinematic universe was a family. 

"It's bloody frustrating that the f***ers pulled out the rug when they did," he continued bitterly. "It was like, 'Come on, we're family here. You talk about being a family. You knew my late wife; you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you've shut down negotiations because you don't know how, where or which way to go..?' What can I say? It's cold, it's juvenile, and it shouldn't be done like that, not after 10 years and four films."

His anger and indignation aside, Brosnan would go on to achieve great things. James Bond was by no means his Waterloo.

Mamma Mia, here we go!

"Singing is not necessarily my forte," Pierce Brosnan told Sky News. You're telling us, Mr. Bond. Brosnan got to showcase his singing abilities, or lack thereof, in the 2008 movie adaptation of "Mamma Mia!" He plays Sam Carmichael, one of three exes who may have fathered Meryl Streep's character's daughter. Infamously, Brosnan serenaded Streep with a rendition of "S.O.S."; or as critics might say, he stumbled through it and by the end the song itself was pleading "S.O.S." Some have been particularly extreme in reviewing his performance:

"I thought that Pierce Brosnan had been dragged to the edge of endurance by North Korean sadists in his final Bond film... but that was a quick tickle with a feather duster compared with the agony of singing Abba's 'S.O.S.' to Meryl Streep through a kitchen window," the The New Yorker asserted.

While critics were savage, Brosnan was defended by none other than ABBA's Benny Andersson. "Everybody complains that Pierce can't sing and it p****s me off," Andersson said, as per the Independent. "I think he has a great voice. He couldn't sing Nessun Dorma, but neither could I, and I was in ABBA."

Although the film was regarded as silly, Brosnan had a blast with it. "It was criminal how much fun we had on that movie. Once I got through the trauma of having to listen to myself sing, the rest was just sheer joy, especially in the company of Meryl," he enthused to Interview Magazine. A decade later, he got to reprise his role in the sequel, "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again."

Pierce Brosnan displayed his somber side in The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski is a highly contentious figure, yet he still manages to pull the biggest Hollywood A-listers for his films. He cast Pierce Brosnan in his 2010 political thriller "The Ghost Writer." In a divergence from his usual roles, the dashing Irishman plays a sinister and slimy figure, a corrupt former British Prime Minister.

In an interview with Slash Film, Brosnan highlighted the important political message of "The Ghost Writer," one which remains pertinent today. "Our leaders should be accountable for their actions in life, and the pitfalls and the dangers of politics," he said. "Someone like my character, who's very much a populist, is this man who you begin to feel is just a puppet of a prime minister. As sincere as he was when he started his career, he now finds himself to be maligned every which turn."

Films have always been a means of political expression, from Charlie Chaplin rallying against tyrants in "The Great Dictator" to, more recently, Jordan Peele's satirical horror film "Get Out." But while he acknowledges the relevance of the film's themes, Brosnan is firmly against movies being used as overt political platforms. "No. This is pure entertainment, this is no statement by me," he emphasized to Slash Film, adding, "This is just, as I said, one of these huge 'what if' stories. I mean, it will certainly be viewed and talked about, I presume, in political terms. But it's pure theatrical drama."

Pierce Brosnan is devoted to environmental activism

These days, Pierce Brosnan devotes much of his time to environmentalism and other causes close to his heart. But the actor is by no means hopping on a Hollywood bandwagon or influenced by the Greta Thunberg Effect; he has been a staunch environmental advocate for decades. In fact, he was hailed the best dressed male environmentalist by the Sustainable Style Foundation in 2004.

In 2019, he slammed then-president Donald Trump for being a climate sceptic. "We are on the precipice, over the precipice," he told France24. "But yes, the Earth is definitely hemorrhaging: the oil, the burning of the forests. It's upon us, and world leaders don't seem to want to try and come together. ... President Trump, what he's done for the environmental movement is shameful."

Brosnan further discussed his passion for environmentalism and social causes in an interview with Mashable Benelux in 2021. "I suppose, if I hadn't been an actor, I would have gone into social services or something like that... My environmental work is ongoing. I am in the middle of being part of a documentary about the saving of the San Ignacio Laguna, which was a breeding ground for the Grey Whale," Brosnan explained, adding that he and others "had the good fortune in stopping Mitsubishi from creating a salt mine... There is always work to be done when it comes to the environment, and we try to make a better world for ourselves."

Art has helped Pierce Brosnan cope with grief

Now approaching 70, Pierce Brosnan sports a bushy beard and a mane of silvery hair. But Dante most certainly hasn't peaked. The distinguished gent is keeping as busy as ever. While acting is still very much in the cards, including an emergence in the DC Extended Universe in "Black Adam," Brosnan is also exploring other creative avenues.

In addition to being a venerated actor, Brosnan is a skilled artist. Art has always been a refuge for the star, who has used painting as a means of coping with grief. His painting of Bob Dylan sold for $1.4 million at a charity auction in 2018, per The Hollywood Reporter. "I started painting in 1987 when my late wife had cancer. I had been painting out of pain, and now the pain sometimes comes through in color," he said at the auction (via The Guardian). 

In 2021, Brosnan decided to launch an exhibition of his work. "I've shown my work a few times here and there, but to have a show like this will really be putting my neck on the line. I think there's some progression and articulation of my work over the years, so maybe I'll make a book from it... But who knows? Don't give up the day job!" Brosnan joked to Haute Living.

Without a doubt, Pierce Brosnan has come a long way since that lonely little boy in Ireland, always innovative, and always with that signature twinkle in his Golden Eye.