Pierce Brosnan’s life has been struck by tragedy. Picture: UPPA Agency
Pierce Brosnan’s life has been struck by tragedy. Picture: UPPA Agency

Heartbreaking past of Hollywood star

HE'S a multi-millionaire actor with a chiselled jaw and smouldering eyes who landed the ultimate macho role of James Bond.

But as Pierce Brosnan's career was about to take off with his first box office hit, he suffered the first of a string of devastating tragedies when his first wife Cassandra Harris lost her battle with ovarian cancer, reports The Sun.

 

Pierce Brosnan lost his first wife to cancer. Picture: Francois Durand/Getty Images
Pierce Brosnan lost his first wife to cancer. Picture: Francois Durand/Getty Images

At that moment, he became a single parent to three children - Charlotte and Christopher, who he had adopted five years earlier after the death of their father, Dermot Harris - and Sean, the eight-year-old son he shared with Cassandra.

Pierce, who went on to have two more children with second wife Keely Shaye Smith, has often said his love for Cassandra, "made me the man I am".

While the actor's marriage to Keely is widely regarded as one of the happiest in showbiz, he hasn't been spared further sorrow.

Tragically, Pierce's daughter Charlotte died in 2013 at the age of 41, from the same cancer that claimed her mother.

Despite his best efforts, Pierce was unable to stop Chris from spiralling into a drug addiction which ended in the Bond star, 'cutting him off' 15 years ago.

 

Christopher at a Red Cross Charity Ball in London in 2002. Picture: Dave/Benett/Getty /Images
Christopher at a Red Cross Charity Ball in London in 2002. Picture: Dave/Benett/Getty /Images

This week Chris, 46, was pictured in London, looking pale and draw and bizarrely wearing three pairs of glasses near his North London home.

Yet Pierce spent years battling to save his adopted children and admitted he found it "painful" to admit defeat over Chris.

'GET BUSY LIVING, OR GET BUSY DYING'

Following the tragic death of his mother, Chris got hooked on cocaine and heroin and his life began to spiral out of control.

In 1997, he was handed a three-month prison sentence for drink-driving and, after reaching out with offers of help proved futile, Pierce took the difficult decision to walk away.

In an interview with Playboy in 2005, he said: "Christopher is still very lost. Shockingly so. I know where he is, but he's having a hard life.

"I can only have strong faith and believe he will recover. He has tested everybody in this family but none more so than himself. He knows how to get out. He doesn't want to.

"It's painful because you shut down. You never completely cut them off, but I have cut Christopher off. I had to say, 'Go. Get busy living, or get busy dying.' He has my prayers."

That year Christopher starred on the original series of Love Island alongside Paul Danan and Brendan Cole, coupling up with Sophie Anderton.

But his career sank without trace after leaving the reality show and, while Pierce and Christopher have occasionally spent time together, the pair have a difficult relationship.

BECOMING A DAD OVERNIGHT

But it wasn't always that way - Pierce doted on Christopher when he was a child, although he wasn't his biological father.

When Pierce Brosnan met Sydney-born Cassandra Harris, at the house of a mutual friend, in 1977, she was married to Dermot Harris - Richard Harris' brother - and had two children.

Pierce, then 24, arrived in bicycle clips and slicked back hair looking "ridiculous" but was "bowled over by the beauty" of the sophisticated actress, five years his senior.

The couple went on to marry, two years after her 1978 divorce, and in 1986 Pierce adopted Charlotte, then 15, and Chris, 14.

"We just clicked as a family," Pierce said in an earlier interview. "To begin with I was Pierce, then I was Daddy Pierce, and then I just became Dad. Charlotte and Chris have just been amazing in my life."

LOSING THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE

When baby Sean arrived in 1983, the family seemed complete but happiness was short-lived for the devoted couple.

In 1987, Cassie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer and the children faced losing a second parent just a year after their biological dad passed away.

The 43-year-old actress passed away in December 1991, close to the couple's 11th wedding anniversary, in what Pierce called "the longest night of my life".

Pierce was lying by her side in a hospital bed as she passed away and he later told People magazine: "I was in a helpless state of … confusion and anger. She was comforting me."

He added: "She has made me the man I am, the actor I am, the father I am.

"She's forever embedded in every fibre of my being. She's there with me every day. I was so blessed to have met someone like that."

TRAGIC DEATH OF HIS DAUGHTER

Pierce's heartbreak over Cassandra initially led him to think he would never find love again, but all that changed when he met Keely Shaye Smith in a Mexican bar in 1994.

 

Keely Shaye Smith and husband Pierce Brosnan. Picture: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Keely Shaye Smith and husband Pierce Brosnan. Picture: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

The pair tied the knot in a $2.7 million wedding in 2001 and went on to have two children Dylan, now 20, and Paris, 17.

The former model, who he calls my "North star" helped him move on but he is open about the fact Cassie remains in his thoughts.

"I know what it is like to be a widower and what it is like to find love again. So I know there's hope and that you have to learn to get on with it," he told the Mirror.

"But the memory of Cassie and her fight against cancer is never forgotten."

Tragically, those memories came flooding back with all too bitter clarity when Charlotte was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 22 years after her mother.

The mum-of-two passed away in June 2013, days after marrying partner Alex Smith, leaving behind daughter Sophie, then 15, and son Lucas, 10.

 

Charlotte Brosnan died of cancer at the age of 41. Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Charlotte Brosnan died of cancer at the age of 41. Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

In a statement, Pierce said: "Charlotte fought her cancer with grace and humanity, courage and dignity. Our hearts are heavy with the loss of our beautiful dear girl. We pray for her and that the cure for this wretched disease will be close at hand soon."

KEELY THE 'STRENGTH' THAT HELPS HIM THROUGH DARKEST DAYS

Pierce admits that losing the two women he loved so dearly had left him with bouts of depression.

"I don't look at the cup as half full, believe me. The dark, melancholy Irish dog sits beside me from time to time," he told Esquire.

"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."

But he says Keely helped though his personal tragedies with "a strength I wouldn't be able to live without".

 

Brosnan described Keely as his ‘North star’. Picture: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images
Brosnan described Keely as his ‘North star’. Picture: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

The couple now live as quietly as possible, away from the limelight, at their $23 million, eco-friendly Malibu mansion, which is made from recycled wood and has a Zen garden complete with intricately carved doors and Buddha statues.

And Pierce recently said that he still "fancies the pants" off his 54-year-old wife.

"I love her vitality, her passion. When Keely looks at me I go weak at the knees," he says.

On their 25th anniversary, Pierce shared a picture of him and Keely looking affectionately into each other's eyes alongside the caption: "Thank you for the love my love of these past 25 years onwards."

While the memory of first wife Cassandra is always there in the marriage, Keely had proved the rock Pierce needed to carry on.

"Keely has always been kind and compassionate and encouraged me to mourn Cassie," he said.

"I think of her all the time. I ­suppose Keely is my North Star, always looking out for me."

 

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission

Late actor Cassandra Harris.
Late actor Cassandra Harris.

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