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Thanks to his casual charm and self-deprecating comedic chops, Irish-born actor Pierce Brosnan firmly established himself as a commanding presence with his first introduction to American audiences as the sophisticated, but often inept con man-turned-private investigator, "Remington Steele" (NBC, 1982-87). Almost immediately, there were calls in the media for Brosnan to assume the mantle of James Bond from the aging Roger Moore. But strict contractual obligations for television actors prevented him from departing to take on the role many felt he was born to play. Once free of his contractual obligations, Brosnan made his first of four appearances as the debonair agent 007 in "Goldeneye" (1995), a high-octane adventure that revamped a franchise thought to be on its last legs. After three more blockbuster Bond films, "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), "The World is Not Enough" (1999) and "Die Another Day" (2002), Brosnan was unexpectedly cut lose by producers with little explanation. Brosnan managed to subvert his suave image with an uproarious performance as a brash hit man in "The Matador" (2005), which not only helped heal his wounds of losing out on Bond, but also allowed him to demonstrate a wider range...
Thanks to his casual charm and self-deprecating comedic chops, Irish-born actor Pierce Brosnan firmly established himself as a commanding presence with his first introduction to American audiences as the sophisticated, but often inept con man-turned-private investigator, "Remington Steele" (NBC, 1982-87). Almost immediately, there were calls in the media for Brosnan to assume the mantle of James Bond from the aging Roger Moore. But strict contractual obligations for television actors prevented him from departing to take on the role many felt he was born to play. Once free of his contractual obligations, Brosnan made his first of four appearances as the debonair agent 007 in "Goldeneye" (1995), a high-octane adventure that revamped a franchise thought to be on its last legs. After three more blockbuster Bond films, "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), "The World is Not Enough" (1999) and "Die Another Day" (2002), Brosnan was unexpectedly cut lose by producers with little explanation. Brosnan managed to subvert his suave image with an uproarious performance as a brash hit man in "The Matador" (2005), which not only helped heal his wounds of losing out on Bond, but also allowed him to demonstrate a wider range many before had thought he lacked.
Born May 16, 1953 in Navan, Meath, Ireland, Brosnan was raised in his early years by his mother, May, after his father, Thomas, left while he was an infant. When he was four, Brosnan's mother sent him to live with his grandparents, while she went off to London to study being a nurse. He was reunited with her when he turned 11, then attended the Elliott School in Putney, South London, where he earned the sobriquets "Irish" and "Spastic" for being the only kid from Ireland in school and for his willingness to fight. Brosnan left school when he was 16 and went to work as a commercial artist, a job he managed to wrangle with his gift of gab. He watered plants, made tea and occasionally drew. It was around this time that he discovered acting at the Oval House, a local experimental workshop where he developed a love for the craft and a desire to learn better technique. He auditioned at all the big drama schools, eventually landing at the Drama Centre in London on scholarship. After studying for three years, Brosnan made his stage debut in "Wait Until Dark" (1976), then was tapped by author Tennessee Williams to play McCabe in the British premiere of "Red Devil Battery Sign" (1977).
With a stage career in full swing - which included an appearance in Franco Zeffirelli's "Filumena" (1977), during which he met his first wife, Cassandra Harris - it was only a matter of time for Brosnan to make the jump to the big screen. After his television debut in "Murphy's Stroke" (1979), he made his feature debut with a bit part as an unnamed Irishman in "The Long Good Friday" (1980), acclaimed British director John McKenzie's gritty crime thriller about a successful gangster (Bob Hoskins) who suddenly finds himself losing control of his operations. In 1981, Brosnan was then convinced by his wife to move to America in order to better his career. Soon after landing in the U.S., Brosnan auditioned for the role that turned him into a star, playing the rakish con man/private investigator on "Remington Steele." Almost immediately, critics were calling for Brosnan to be crowned the next James Bond, thanks to his ineffable charm, dashing looks, proper accent and action hero promise. Popular as the show was, Brosnan was locked into a contract that afforded him little opportunity to break outside the "Remington Steele" confines, especially when he was actually considered for the James Bond role in 1985. Because of these strict contractual guidelines, Brosnan lost the role to Timothy Dalton.
Despite the major career setback, Brosnan still enjoyed success on "Remington Steele," while he managed to begin freeing himself from the show's restraints, though his choice of projects left something to be desired. Unable to capitalize on his "Remington Steele" persona, he starred in the flop supernatural thriller, "Nomads" (1986), playing a French anthropologist haunted by the evil spirits of an extinct tribe that follows him to Los Angeles. After the 1986-87 season, "Remington Steele" went off the air, leaving Brosnan a free agent. Unfortunately, the role of James Bond was unavailable at the time. Instead, he starred in a slew of made-for-television movies alongside the occasional feature film. After playing a Russian agent tasked with triggering a nuclear accident in England in "The Fourth Protocol" (1987), Brosnan starred in "Noble House" (NBC, 1988), a made-for-TV miniseries based on James Clavell's novel about romance and intrigue in contemporary Hong Kong. Following starring turns in forgettable films like "The Deceivers" (1988) and "Taffin" (1988), he stuck with familiar territory, playing a con man released from prison who plots a racetrack robbery as revenge against his former boss in "The Heist" (HBO, 1989). It was during his filming of "The Deceivers" that Brosnan learned his wife, Cassandra Harris, was stricken with ovarian cancer. She died in December 1991 at 43 years old, leaving the actor and their children devastated. Brosnan struggled all throughout her fight and well past her death, but in the end managed to cope partly by taking the role of James Bond four years later - a wish Harris had conceived of for years and was instrumental in pushing to producer, Albert R. Broccoli, in part due to her role as the Countess von Schlaf in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981).
Despite the consistency of work beyond his days at "Remington Steele," it was clear that Brosnan had found a tight niche playing charming rogues, which he was finding difficult to wriggle out from. After being cast as the urbane eccentric Phineas Fogg in the miniseries "Around the World in 80 Days" (NBC, 1989), he played a 1920s British officer trying to build his dream public works project in "Mister Johnson" (1991), and a professor who encourages his students to plot the perfect murder in "Murder 101" (1991). He explored his darker side as a man who kills his wife to be with another woman (Virginia Madsen) in "Victim of Love" (1991), then portrayed a demolitions expert with the FBI who tracks down a group of international terrorists plotting to blow up U.S. senators with an experimental bomb in "Live Wire" (HBO, 1992). After enjoying a measure of popular success playing a scientist in the special effects-laden "The Lawnmower Man" (1992), Brosnan was overshadowed by Robin Williams' over-the-top performance in "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993).
In 1995, the actor finally received his license to kill when he landed the role of James Bond a decade after first consideration. His first stint as 007, "Goldeneye" (1995), helped the sagging franchise rebound after two mediocre entries with Timothy Dalton. Brosnan's long-awaited casting created a renewed buzz and his solid performance as an elegant-but-hard-edged 007 - which combined the best elements of Sean Connery and Roger Moore's diverse appeals - revived the franchise into a major cash cow for MGM. With Brosnan commanding a role many felt he should have played years before, he returned with equal aplomb and enthusiasm for several more outings: "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), in which he displayed abundant charisma opposite Bond girl Michelle Yeoh; "The World is Not Enough" (2000), where he helped develop Bond into more of an action hero while sparking a connection with Sophie Marceau, and the 20th Bond outing, "Die Another Day" (2002), in which he and Bond girl Halle Berry delivered the most attractive pairing since the early days of the franchise.
His success as Bond also led to a renewed career in other feature films as well, first in typically debonair supporting roles in "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996) and "Mars Attacks" (1996), then as a leading man in summer action fare like the volcano thriller "Dante's Peak" (1997). He also demonstrated a fondness for smaller films with an Anglo-Saxon bent such the Irish-themed "The Nephew" (1998) and the Scot-centric soccer comedy "The Match" (1999). He also received kudos for his performance as Archie Grey Owl, a 1930s Canadian fur trapper who adopts the ways of the Iroquois tribe in Sir Richard Attenborough's little-regarded biopic, "Grey Owl" (1999). His most successful and delightful non-Bond outing came in 1999, when he played the title role of the millionaire art thief in director John McTiernan's classy remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair," a role in which he displayed considerable elegance, panache and palpable sex appeal opposite his age-appropriate leading lady Rene Russo. In fact, as he neared the age of 50, Brosnan was a bigger sex symbol than when he was in his 30s, culminating in 2001 when People magazine named him their "Sexiest Man Alive."
Other strong roles followed, including a well-received turn in "The Tailor of Panama" (2001), an under-appreciated espionage thriller that saw Brosnan portray a brash British spy who is banished to Panama, where he enlists the help of an unsuspecting local tailor (Geoffrey Rush) in trying to concoct a left-wing movement with the hopes of nullifying the Panama Canal treaty. He gave a moving performance in "Evelyn" (2002), playing a working-class, newly single Dublin dad who fights to regain custody of his children after they are placed in Church-run orphanages by the Irish courts in the 1950s. Next he had a turn in the romantic comedy "Laws of Attraction" (2004) opposite Julianne Moore. Returning more to classic form, Brosnan played a successful jewel thief struggling with retirement in the Bahamas and tempted by one more big score in "After the Sunset" (2004), which benefited from Brosnan's chemistry with co-stars Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson.
Shortly before the release of "Die Another Day," Brosnan announced his intention to star in a fifth outing as the suave secret agent. But in 2004, the actor revealed that he believed he had subsequently been "fired" from the role, despite, or possibly due to, his efforts to modernize and upgrade the franchise by recruiting edgier, A-list talent, like Quentin Tarantino as a possible screenwriter to adapt "Casino Royale" into a feature film. In 2005, the rumors of his imminent demise were confirmed; he told Entertainment Weekly that his role was ended with one telephone call. Brosnan went on to express that that he had always felt Bond was an uneasy fit for him, particularly the character's snarky one-liners. The franchise producers countered by saying that Brosnan asked for $30 million and gross points to reprise 007 - an exorbitant contract that had never before been granted to any other Bond actor. Nonetheless, the Brosnan era was officially over once it was announced that Daniel Craig had assumed the coveted role. Though initially dismayed, Brosnan later reveled in being freed of his burden, allowing him to pursue other films that helped him shake off his suave image.
In "The Matador" (2005), he played a chain-smoking, beer-swilling, foul-mouthed assassin who latches onto a family man (Greg Kinnear) and tries to become his friend after realizing he wants to live a normal life. Though made without major studio backing, "The Matador" benefited from Brosnan's tour-de-force performance as the frayed hit man suffering from a variety of psychosomatic illnesses that prevent him from doing his job. After narrating "Deep Blue" (2005), a documentary voyage through the last great frontier on Earth, Brosnan portrayed a man hunted down by a revenge-minded colonel (Liam Neeson) he wronged in the past in "Seraphim Falls" (2007). He next played a grieving father who, along with his equally grieving wife (Maria Bello), has his life ripped apart when a kidnapper takes their daughter in "Shattered" (2007), a tense crime thriller co-produced by Brosnan's own production company, Irish DreamTime. Though he continued to lay low with the independently produced black comedy, "Married Life" (2007), Brosnan sang and danced opposite Meryl Streep in the hit adaptation of the popular ABBA musical, "Mamma Mia!" (2008).
After starring opposite Susan Sarandon in the romantic drama "The Greatest" (2009), Brosnan delivered another sterling performance, this time as a former British Prime Minister who hires an unnamed ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to pen his memoirs, only to have his shady past uncovered in Roman Polanski's understated thriller "The Ghost Writer" (2010). From there, he played the centaur Chiron, who trains a troubled 12-year-old (Logan Lerman) into becoming a hero in the action fantasy "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (2010), and had a supporting turn as Robert Pattison's estranged father in "Remember Me" (2010). Brosnan served as the narrator for "Oceans" (2010), an unprecedented look at life beneath the waves as seen through the eyes of the creatures that inhabit the deep. Following a turn as Sarah Jessica Parker's flirtatious business associate in the ensemble romantic comedy "I Don't Know How She Does It" (2011), Brosnan turned to the small screen to star in "Bag of Bones" (A&E, 2011), a two-part miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's novel where he played a best-selling author grieving over the death of his pregnant wife. Brosnan followed this with the stylish romantic comedy by Susanne Bier, "Love Is All You Need" (2012) and a comedy match-up with Emma Thompson, "The Love Punch" (2013). He next anchored an ensemble cast including Toni Collette and Imogen Poots in the comedy-drama "A Long Way Down" (2013), based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Leading roles in the thrillers "The November Man" (2014) and "Survivor" (2015) bracketed the romantic comedy "Some Kind of Beautiful" (2014), which matched Brosnan with Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba. The following year, Brosnan co-starred with Owen Wilson in the thriller "No Escape" (2015).
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