Sunday 22 April 2018

Orla Healy: Stars' grief as 'wretched disease' takes loved ones

After Pierce Brosnan's wife, Cassandra, died and before he became James Bond, Orla Healy spent some time with him

Pierce with daughter Charlotte, who died of cancer aged 42
Pierce with daughter Charlotte, who died of cancer aged 42

Orla Healy

More than two decades before Angelina Jolie forced us to look at the daring pre-emptive strategies that are evolving to fight cancer, Pierce Brosnan was quietly trying to figure out what he could do to prevent his twenty-something step-daughter Charlotte falling prey to the same harrowing disease that had claimed her mother's life. Brosnan's wife, the actress Cassandra Harris, had just passed away after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer, an illness he had single-mindedly worked through as chief nurse, cook and bottle-washer in the family's Malibu beach ranch house.

Charlotte and her brother Christopher, who Brosnan had officially adopted after their biological father Dermot Harris died in 1986, had both moved out of home by the summer of 1992 and the actor (in a post Remington Steele/pre-Bond phase) was spending most of his energy looking after the couple's youngest son Sean who, quite understandably, pulled a spectacular strop when it was suggested I join them on their long-planned afternoon hike.

Spending time with Brosnan back then involved lots of fresh air. There were nerve-pinching climbs up hills, saunters along gated beaches and garden dinners when he talked, very simply, about the awful ache that comes with watching someone you love die painfully.

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