Tuesday, September 8, 2009
“When I found acting, or when acting found me, it was a liberation. It was a stepping stone into another life, away from a life that I had, and acting was something I was good at, something which was appreciated. That was a great satisfaction in my life.”
While most are most familiar with Pierce’s role as the legendary secret agent, James Bond, he has played other very memorable roles on stage and on both the small and large screen.
Pierce was born in Navan, County Meath, Ireland on May 16, 1953. At the age of 11, he moved to London to be with his mother, who had moved there much earlier, and her new husband. He was enrolled in the Elliot School in Putney, West London where he excelled in art and English. At the age of 16, Pierce left school and started training as a commercial artist in a photography studio while attending Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Deciding that he wanted to pursue acting, Pierce enrolled in the Drama Centre of London where he studied theater. Graduating in 1976, he took the position of acting assistant stage manager at York’s Royal Theatre.
His professional acting debut was in the production of Wait Until Dark. His performance caught the eye of Tennessee Williams who cast him in the role of McCabe in his play, The Red Devil Battery Sign. During the next few years, he performed in the productions of Noel Coward’s Semi Monde, The Maid’s Tragedy, Painter’s Palace of Pleasure, No Orchids for Mrs. Blandish, and most importantly, Franco Zeffirella’s Filumena. Filumena, a London Lyric Theatre Production, ran for a year and a half. Based on his performance, he was cast in the BBC’s Murphy’s Stroke as a race-horse trainer. It was Pierce’s first foray on the small screen. Later that year, he appeared in his first film, a 26 minute short film Resting Rough.
A year later in 1980, Pierce landed his first full length big screen movie role, a non-speaking part in the thriller Long Good Friday. He also appeared in the Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d. But the good news for Pierce was that his performance in Murphy’s Stroke was seen by a group of American producers who were casting for the US TV mini-series The Manions of America, which followed two Philadelphia families, one English and one Irish, through the years. The mini-series was very successful in the United States and it also served to introduce Pierce to the American public.
Now was the time for him to check out the options in Los Angeles. Pierce and his wife took a 2 week trip to LA so that he could to do some auditions. The very first audition that he did was for the NBC series Remington Steele. He got the part, but had to wait six months for filming to start. During that period, he returned to London and played the role of first husband Robert Gould Shaw, in the Masterpiece Theater min-series Nancy Astor. (Lady Astor was the first woman to sit in Parliament). When the series finally made it to American TV in 1984, Pierce would be nominated for the first time for a Golden Globe.
Finally in 1982, Remington Steele began filming. Originally Pierce’s character, Steele was to be a mysterious partner who would only be on screen for a few minutes each episode, but due to his ever increasing popularity, his role became more and more prominent. Remington Steele lasted for five seasons, but when its run had finished, Pierce was still busy filming both feature films and TV films. During the next seven years he would star in a wide variety of projects. His TV work included the TV mini series Noble House (1988) where he played tai-pan of the trade corporation or “house” and Around the World in 80 Days (1989) where he played Phileas Fogg the man who travels around the world. His TV films include the HBO film, The Heist (1989) where he plays a framed con-man getting his revenge and the thriller Murder 101 (1991), where he plays an author framed for murder. During this time he also appeared in such TV films as Victim of Love (1991), Death Train (1993), The Broken Chair (1993), Don’t Talk to Strangers (1994) and Night Watch (1995).
Among his feature work at that time, was the thriller The Fourth Protocol (1987) where he played a KGB agent, the British action thriller Taffin (1988) in which he plays a tough Irish debt collector who tries to save the town, the adventure thriller The Deceivers, where he played a British tax collector who works to solve a series of murders, the horror thriller The Lawnmower Man (1992), where he plays the scientist whose VR experiment to enhance intelligence goes awry. In 1993, he starred in the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire along with Robin Williams and Sally Field, playing Field’s jerk boyfriend. His other films during this time include Mister Johnson (1990), Live Wire (1992), Entangled (1993) and Love Affair (1994).
Please stay tuned for Part 2 of Pierce's bio featuring James Bond and beyond.
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