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Brosnan, Pierce (1951-)


Main image of Brosnan, Pierce (1951-)

Suave and self-assured, with a fine line in dry humour, Pierce Brosnan won plaudits for his performance as the fifth official James Bond, being judged one of the most successful actors in the role. More recently, he has been increasingly active behind the camera, as a producer and environmental campaigner.

Born in County Louth, Ireland, he never knew his father, and was initially raised by grandparents before reuniting with his mother at the age of 11. Moving to London, he left school at 16 to train as a commercial illustrator, but switched careers to become a circus performer after attending a workshop on fire-eating. After training at the Drama Centre London he graduated in 1975, working as assistant stage manager at the York Theatre Royal before making his stage debut in 1976 in Wait Until Dark; he won admirers as McCabe in 1977's London Roundhouse production of Tennessee Williams' The Red Devil Battery Sign.

Film work followed, including brief appearances in The Long Good Friday (d. John Mackenzie, 1980) and The Mirror Crack'd (d. Guy Hamilton, 1980), plus a more substantial role in Murphy's Stroke (ITV, tx. 21/5/1980). Small screen appearances included episodes of The Professionals (ITV, 1980), Hammer House of Horror (ITV, 1980), and 'The Silly Season' (Play for Today, BBC, tx. 9/2/1982), but his sudden popularity as Rory O'Manion in Manions of America (US, 1981) spawned a burgeoning career stateside; the following year he relocated to California.

He followed a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Boston socialite Robert Gould Shaw II in Nancy Astor (BBC, 1982) with a career-defining role in Remington Steele (US, 1982-87). As the debonair titular conman, hired by detective Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) to front for her investigative agency, he displayed a hitherto untapped flair for comedy which brought him to the attention of Bond producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli, who was looking to replace the retiring Roger Moore. Such was Remington Steele's success, however, that he would wait a further nine years before bungee-jumping spectacularly into service for the pre-title sequence of GoldenEye (US/UK, d. Martin Campbell, 1995).

Meanwhile he continued to impress: opposite Michael Caine as KGB agent Valeri Petrofsky in cold war thriller The Fourth Protocol (d. John Mackenzie, 1987); as explosive Irish debt collector-turned-vigilante Taffin (UK/US, d. Francis Megahy, 1988), and misguided scientist Dr Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man (UK/US, d. Brett Leonard, 1992). Following his Bond debut he co-founded LA-based production company Irish Dreamtime, producing The Nephew (Eire, d. Eugene Brady, 1998), set in his homeland of Ireland, and Scottish comedy The Match (UK/US, d. Mick Davis, 1999). He also returned to Britain to play conservationist Archibald Belaney in Richard Attenborough's affectionate biopic Grey Owl (UK/Canada, 1998).

He continued as a more cerebral, even vulnerable 007 in his three further Bond outings, Tomorrow Never Dies (US/UK, d. Roger Spottiswoode, 1997), The World Is Not Enough (d. Michael Apted, 1999) and Die Another Day (d. Lee Tamahori, 2002). In the same year as his Bond swansong he co-produced and starred in Evelyn (Germany/US, d. Bruce Beresford, 2002). This fact-based tale of unemployed single father Desmond Doyle, struggling to regain custody of his children from the Irish courts, was close to Brosnan's heart, and he delivered one of his most moving performances.

Subsequent roles have mixed light and dark. Laws of Attraction (Germany/US, d. Peter Howitt, 2004) was an underwhelming romantic comedy, but his dissolute hitman in The Matador (Germany/US, 2005) was judged by some among his best performances. He enjoyed himself as one of Meryl Streep's ex-suitors in the musical Mamma Mia! (US, 2008), and was impressive as former prime minister Adam Lang (modelled on Tony Blair), living in remote exile in The Ghost (France/Germany/UK, d. Roman Polanski, 2010).

An Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001, he was made an honorary OBE in 2003 for his extensive charity work and his distinguished film career.

Richard Hewett

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