Pierce Brosnan is arguably the most recognisable actor to come out of Ireland.
He was the fifth man to portray the British secret agent James Bond on the silver screen and also appeared in the worldwide mega-hit Mamma Mia, featuring songs from the Swedish pop group Abba.
Brosnan has used his influence as a Hollywood star to campaign for various good causes and charities throughout his career. He has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001, and has consistently involved himself in raising money and awareness for environmental organisations and cancer charities.
Brosnan was born in Drogheda, Co Leath in 1953, and was raised predominantly by his grandparents in his early years. His father had left and his mother moved to London to work as a nurse, to try and build a good life for herself and her son in England.
Circus performance gave him taste for show business
He joined his mother and her new husband in London when he was 10. He attended comprehensive school before leaving at the age of 16 with the intention of becoming a painter. A chance tutorial in fire-eating at his art school led Brosnan on the path to a career in show business.
He was talent spotted while busking and handed a three year contact to join the circus. After that Brosnan had a taste for performing and studied at the Drama Centre London.
After graduating from drama school, Brosnan got his first big break in acting when the legendary American playwright Tennessee Williams cast him in his play, The Red Devil Battery Sign. Brosnan wowed audiences with his performance and was beginning to make a name for himself amongst directors and writers in London.
Offers began flooding in and Brosnan had roles in films The Long Good Friday and The Mirror Crack’d. He also starred in television series The Professionals, Murphy’s Stroke, and Play for Today.
His first real starring role though came in Manions of America, a six part drama series about Irish emigrants settling in America in the mid-19th century.
His next major role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Robert Gould Shaw II in the 1982 Masterpiece Theatre documentary about the life of the first woman to sit in British parliament, Lady Nancy Astor.
Brosnan then moved to California and won his first lead role in an American television series. He played the title role in the popular comedy drama Remington Steele and the Washington Post commented that he “could make it as a young James Bond.” Remington Steele ran for five seasons and Brosnan was now a star of American TV.
Revitalising the worldwide image of James Bond
After his success with Remington Steel, Brosnan had roles in Hollywood films The Fourth Protocol, The Deceivers, The Lawnmower Man and Mrs Doubtfire. It was in 1995 when he was cast in the most famous role of his career. Brosnan was named as the new James Bond actor in 1994, taking over from Welshman Timothy Dalton. Brosnan had actually been offered the role eight years previously, but had to decline due to his commitment to the Remington Steele role.
The new James Bond movie Goldeneye was released in 1995 and was a huge success worldwide. Brosnan’s cool, suave portrayal of 007 led to a revival of the Bond franchise that resulted in million dollar deals in merchandise and video games to go with the box office takings.
Brosnan kept the James Bond role for a further three films; The World is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day. All were hugely successful and Brosnan had played a major part in revitalising the James Bond character across the globe. He also starred alongside some of the world’s most beautiful women, actresses Teri Hatcher, Denise Richards and Halle Berry.
Brosnan ended speculation as to whether or not he would return to play Bond a fifth time when he posted on his website that he was finished with the role in 2005.
Working with the biggest names in Hollywood
Brosnan had no problem in shedding the James Bond image in his following roles. He has appeared in several Hollywood movies since leaving, and has received praise from critics for his ability to play broad range of characters.
His most notable role since James Bond is that of Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia. Carmichael is one of three potential fathers of the lead character Amanda Seyfried, and Brosnan’s chemistry with on screen ex-lover Meryl Streep was one of the highlights of the movie.
Brosnan has worked with great actors such as Danny DeVito, Morgan Freeman throughout his career. He received rave reviews for his performance opposite Ewan McGregor in the Roman Polanski production The Ghost Writer, in which he played a disgraced British Prime Minister.
Brosnan has many more projects in the pipeline and plans to continue to acting. He will also continue his work to raise funds and awareness for various good causes.