The Last Word: Pierce Brosnan

Credit: Jim Wright / Corbis Outline

What adventure or journey changed your life?
In 1981, I borrowed 2,000 pounds – a lot of money back then – paid 50 quid for a seat, packed my own sandwich, and hopped on a plane to America. It was a mighty leap, but one that paid off. A week later, I got a job called Remington Steele.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Joseph Sargent, a director and dear friend, said, "Just remember you're always going to have to test for someone." You're always going to have to prove yourself, because acting is such a capricious game. You have to stay strong and hungry, humble and courageous. And that doesn't change. If you get too nonchalant, then it just goes away. So I have to do as much today as I did when I was 24, 25. I just do it at a different pace with a little more knowledge in the back pocket.

You were raised by a single mother in 1950s Ireland and spent time living with a foster family. What did that teach you?
It's hard on paper, but it had its own beauty to it. There was the journey to England as a boy of 11, and that was a powerful landscape for me. You learn pretty quickly how to assimilate in a new territory. Certainly they never let you forget that you are Irish and you're an immigrant. When I was at school, they just knew me as Irish. You know, that was my name. Didn't want to say "Pierce," so I wore it as an emblem. It was great. I was in. I'm an Irish James Bond, and there's delightful irony in that.

You were raised Catholic – what role does religion play in a man's life?
Well, the Christian Brothers were quite ferocious, and yet the underlying faith was always so beautiful for me – serving Mass, the whole theatricality of it. You know, the adage "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic," I suppose. Ultimately it has to do with kindness. My religious philosophy is kindness. Try to be kind. That's something worth achieving.

What advice would you give to the younger you?
Don't worry – it's going to be OK. Honestly. I'll be right as rain. There's always anxiety – the anxiety of being an actor – and that goes with you every time you walk onto a set. Sometimes it comes easy; sometimes it don't. You learn to live with that.

Was James Bond hard to leave behind?
I don't want to get rid of him; it was the most memorable time, a truly life-changing experience. There was a certain wrench when it came to a rather abrupt end. But you just take that phone call, and you move on. And, you know, it's just business. It's truly that.

What role should vanity play in a person's life?
A healthy one. It's good to like yourself, and that only comes from hard work, from doing. But vanity is dangerous; it can trip you badly.

You've suffered terrible tragedies: Your first wife and your daughter both died of cancer. How should a person handle loss?
Well, it just endures. You learn to find a place for it, and you can always go to it. Hopefully you have good friends and family around, and I did. It's big. Life is charged with feeling and loss, and you know you're going to suffer one way or the other. You just hope you can find peace with the pain.

What's the best thing for a hangover?
Well, I think the Bloody Mary still stands tall on the top of anyone's list. But that's not how I'm starting my day.

In recent years, you've fought against whaling and climate change. When should a man take a stand?
It's essential that everyone take a stand for the Earth. It's essential that we stand up for the air we breathe, the water we drink.

How should a man handle getting older?
Stay fit. Stay constant. Stay in touch with your emotions. And have a sense of humor.