Pierce Brosnan seems to have it all, a 40-year career in movies that includes playing one of the most iconic screen characters, James Bond, and a loving family who support him all the way.
But in the early 90s, life was very different for the Hollywood actor. He had only been married for 11 years when he lost his wife to cancer.
When the then 24-year-old Irish actor met his first wife Australian actress Cassandra Harris, he was bowled over by her beauty and “never for an instant thought she was someone I’d spend 17 years of my life with.”
However, Cassandra had different thoughts on this rising star who at that point had recently graduated from drama school and had made a handful of stage appearances.
“Here was this funny-looking man with this short haircut. But we had much in common… and once we started talking, we never stopped,” she said of her first meeting with Brosnan, according to Lessons Learned in Life.
The two dated for three years and got married in 1980. They became inseparable and had a son together. Brosnan even adopted Cassandra’s children Chris and Charlotte from a previous marriage, after their father died in 1986.
Brosnan was a devoted husband, father, and stepfather, but at just 48 years old his world came crashing down.
While filming The Deceivers in Rajasthan, India, in 1987, Brosnan’s wife became seriously ill. Cassandra was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer and Brosnan then gave up his career to nurse Cassandra.
Pierce has often said his love for Cassandra “made me the man I am.”
Cassandra Harris finally succumbed to the disease in 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,” he said.
“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.”
Harris had always wanted her husband to play James Bond and four years after her death he secured the role. You could say this casting changed Brosnan’s life, but perhaps a meeting with a reporter the year before was the real life-changing moment in his life.
Journalist, author, and television host Keely Shaye Smith met Brosnan when she was sent to interview Ted Danson and ended up connecting with Pierce instead, meeting him at a bar in Mexico.
The couple began dating in 1994 and married 7 years later in Ireland in 2001. They have two sons together Dylan and Paris and move between their homes in California, Hawaii, and two homes in Ireland.
The two have a relationship that we can all aspire to, and it would appear that Brosnan is a natural when it comes to family life which may surprise many considering his upbringing.
The County Louth-born star endured severe hardship growing up in Ireland and then London after being abandoned by his father Tom Brosnan who was a carpenter and left the family home before his son turned one.
His mom Mary Smith left Ireland when he was just four years old, moving to London so she could train as a nurse, leaving Brosnan to be raised by his grandparents.
“Because I was so solitary,” he told The Guardian, “and we lived on the outskirts of town, across the River Boyne, I was an outsider. An only child.”
His life today couldn’t be more different as father of five, grandfather of three, and devoted husband.
But in 2013 Brosnan suffered another devastating loss when the disease which killed his wife also claimed the life of his adopted daughter Charlotte who was just two years younger than her mother was when she passed. Charlotte left behind her husband Alex and two children.
Speaking at a Stand Up to Cancer event Brosnan reportedly said: “To watch someone you love have his or her life eaten away bit by bit by this insidious disease, that kind of sorrow becomes an indelible part of your psyche.”
“I held the generous, strong, beautiful hand of my first wife Cassie as ovarian cancer took her life much too soon. And just last year, I held the hand of my funny, wonderful daughter Charlotte before she too died from this wretched, inherited disease.”
During the heartbreak in his life Brosnan says it’s his faith that got him through the pain.
“I would say faith, being Irish, being Catholic, it’s ingrained in my DNA,” he said.
Despite having painful memories of the brutal regime of his strict religious school where beatings were common and “religion was rammed down my throat,” he has never abandoned his faith.
“It always helps to have a bit of prayer in your back pocket,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to have something, and for me, that is God, Jesus, my Catholic upbringing, my faith.”
This man is a survivor; whatever horror life has thrown at him has made him stronger and closer to those he loves around him, he is an inspiration.
Despite many painful memories of his schooling he still leans on his faith to get him through the tough times. Please share.