Please See Parts 1 & 2
- The Complete Biography of Cassandra Harris (Part 1)
Part 1 of this series.
- The Complete Biography of Cassandra Harris (Part 2)
Part 2 of this series.
As her 8-year courtship with Dermot Harris ultimately proved unrequited, Cassandra found herself a single mother, with a young son and daughter to provide for. "I didn't know about social security or any of the ways I could have got help," she said, "so I went back to Lumley's and started modelling again."
Her acting career also saw a slight resurrection. After a long hiatus from the screen, Cassandra finally won a part in an episode of Gerry Anderson's space series, Space 1999. Without the financial security the Harris' afforded nor a father figure for her children, however, it was a very nerve-racking time.
Cassandra generally shied away from speaking openly about her break-up with Dermot Harris. "It was painful," was all she would say.
By January of 1979, the Daily Mail was eager to break the headline: "Actress Cassandra Harris Has a New Man in Her Life." This new lover would, years later, provide a more forthright description of Cassandra's emotional state at the time.
"When I met her," he recalled, "she was a woman who'd been hurt by a man who didn't quite know what he had in this wonderful lady and who was in pain himself. When I came along, a lot of animosity was generated."
The man was Pierce Brosnan, though his fan base who have grown to know him by his good looks and slick, debonair aura would hardly have recognized him. He had just been hand-selected by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli to star in a production of Filumena, opposite Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay, and when Cassandra first encountered him, he was very much in character. Their first meeting would be courtesy of David Harris, a nephew of Richard and former fiancé Dermot and, unbeknownst to Cassandra, a drama school classmate of Brosnan. David was living with Cassandra while completing drama school, and had invited Pierce over one night for a poker evening.
"She came home, and I was in the fridge mooching around for something to eat," Brosnan recalled. Cassandra caught him red-handed right as she walked through the door; he was eating the chicken she'd planned to feed her children the next day.
"I had no interest in him at all," Cassandra later said. "Here was this funny looking man with this short haircut, and definitely overweight although he is very slim now."
Brosnan would go on to validate Cassandra's reception -- numerous times. "I looked absolutely ridiculous," he would say. Nonetheless, he was determined to see that his bleak first impression would not be final.
"For me, at least, it was love at first sight," he later stated. "I fell for her hook, line, and sinker. She appeared like a vision before me: she was tall, she was blonde, she was bronzed, she was the most captivating woman I had ever met. I was absolutely bowled over by her beauty."
Later the two would have a chance to meet more up close and personal, at a party she gave, to which David Harris would ask Pierce along. The ice seemed to melt a bit, though Cassandra still showed no signs that the attraction was mutual. David Harris, who had by then become a close friend of Pierce's, however, saw her change of heart develop first hand. "My friend kept telling me she liked me," said Pierce, "so eventually I decided to do something about it and find out how she really felt." He bought a bottle of wine and some flowers, rang the doorbell, and never looked back.
In the weeks that followed, the 25-year-old Brosnan would wine and dine with Cassandra in the traditional style, almost going broke in the process -- he was still a struggling actor, after all. "She took some wooing," he admitted. "There were lots of candles and flowers and Van Morrison music..."
It didn't take long for Cassandra to come around. "Once I got to know him, I discovered we had so much in common -- acting, books, music -- and we never stopped talking," she said.
With both their acting careers in limbo, Cassandra encouraged Pierce to take any acting job he could, no matter how minor, and he, in turn, urged her to "start from scratch, go back to rep, and work really hard."
Upon acquiescing to his advice, Cassandra began to regain the reputation she'd brought with her from Australia a decade prior. She also added her first feature film to her resume when she landed a role in the £3 million motion picture The Greek Tycoon, which starred Anthony Quinn and was loosely based on the rags-to-riches story of Aristotle Onassis. Cassandra played one of his girlfriends. Unfortunately, however, that scene ended up on the cutting room floor according to a friend.
Following was a supporting role in an episode of the Thames Television series Shadows, an anthology of scary stories for children. Cassandra played Ismena, the biological mother of Merlin of Arthurian legend. Her statuesque figure and deep, seductive voice would emerge as her trademark qualities.
Meanwhile, she and Pierce moved in together within weeks of meeting. They rented a semi-detached Victorian house in Wimbledon and began to pose as man and wife. "... and suddenly I had a family and two children," said Brosnan. "It didn't feel like that. It just felt so right only because Cassie (as he affectionately referred to her) had such faith in me and we had such a wonderful outlook on life."
Pierce hit it off with Cassandra's children straight away. "When we first started living together, I was 'Pierce,' to them, then I became 'Daddy Pierce,'" revealed Brosnan. Daughter Charlotte, however, remembered differently. "From the beginning, Pierce was just Dad," she said. "I can't honestly say either Christopher or I had any difficulty adapting to a stepfather. We all had a lot of laughs."
Neighbor, Jean Kirton, had a daughter Charlotte's age and got to know the couple well. She remembered them as very loving, but also as the very archetypes of the "starving artist." She recounted: "Pierce was strikingly good looking and Cassie was tall and willowy -- they made the perfect couple. They were very much in love and Cassie made the house very cozy inside."
They did not have much money, however, and Pierce would take any work he could get in between acting jobs. One such job was at a green grocery in London. "I'd get up at five each morning, open the store, put out the vegetables and sell them," he told Ladies Home Journal in 1985. "Cassie would bring the children round after school and I'd slip vegetables into their baskets on the sly... we ate nothing but chili and vegetables for months."
Cassandra picked up clothes for her children at opportunity shops and stuffed newspapers into the gaping holes of their old Ford Anglia, which Pierce had purchased from his stepfather for a mere £50 back in 1971.
The Anglia was a story in and of itself, seemingly from the pages of a Dickens novel, as recounted by Brosnan in PlayGirl Magazine in 1986:
"It's a winter's morning. I get up, make the kids breakfast, get out into the old Anglia -- the doors were welded on -- the kids are in the back, it's freezing, and the car won't start. I could never bump start it myself, so I go back upstairs, get the wife out of bed. She's still in her pajamas. I wrap fur around her -- the only thing we'd managed not to hock in those days, this silver fox fur -- and I'd push the car while she'd start it and then she'd go back to bed."
"In the beginning, it was terrible," Cassandra said. "We were both in repertory earning a pittance."
The financial strain worried Brosnan, in part because he wondered if Cassandra might grow tired of their predicament and seek a more secure future. After all, she could have had anybody. "There were lots of men around her at the time I met her," Pierce said. "Merchant bankers. Actors. She moved in circles which I was not accustomed to."
By 1979, however, their fortitude began to slowly pay off. Acting jobs started to pour in for both Pierce and Cassandra. Pierce starred in Brian Clark's award-winning play, "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" at Palace Theatre, Westcliff, earning £85 a week. It was almost double what he was being paid during his initial stint in the business. His first small screen roles included an episode of the long-running British cop series, The Professionals, and a tiny speaking part in an episode of Hammer House of Horror, both airing in 1980. He also landed his first (albeit, non-speaking) film role in the British classic, Long Good Friday starring Bob Hoskins.
Cassandra, the more well-known of the two at the time, guest-starred in four episodes of the new television adaptation of Dick Barton Special Agent as the red-headed villainess (for which she donned a wig), and also appeared in what would go on to become a very popular American Express commercial. In addition, she landed another guest-starring role in an episode of Enemy at the Door, a television drama about the German occupation of the Channel Island of Guernsey during the second World War. In this role, she portrayed a representative of Germany's Ministry of Propaganda, who travelled to the island with a Swedish journalist to make sure everything he saw and heard was sympathetic to the Nazis.
The latter role in particular proved pivotal.
Enter James Bond
Shortly after completing her role in Enemy at the Door, Cassandra received a call from her agent informing her of an audition opportunity at the National Theatre. And after that, could she "pop along and audition for a James Bond movie?"
It turned out the James Bond producers had seen her performance as the Nazi sympathizer in Enemy at the Door and were impressed. "They just rang and asked for me," Cassandra recollected.
Both the National Theatre gig and the Bond role were offered, and she opted for the movie. "It gives me a chance to have a go at a fairly large part for the first time," she said.
Her daughter Charlotte was especially excited with the news and arrived at school the following day boasting to all of her classmates that her mother was "going to play James Bond's girlfriend." Her teacher, convinced she was just telling stories, made her stand in the corner.
The Bond film was the twelfth installment in the series, entitled For Your Eyes Only. Cassandra's character, Lisl, is described in the script as "a willowy beauty in her early thirties, elegantly gowned and coiffed." As the story develops, 007 encounters her at a casino and offers to give her a lift home. She invites him in for champagne and oysters, and as customary for a Bond flick, the two become carried away by their passion for each other. The next morning, they are ambushed by buggy-driving baddies while strolling along the beach, and Lisl is killed.
Part of Cassandra's role was shot on the fabled Greek island of Corfu, giving her family a free 6-week holiday. For Charlotte, the earlier mishap by her school teacher had not dampened her excitement. "I remember Roger Moore sitting us all down and taking lots of photographs," she would later recall. "He always seemed to have time for us even though Mum told us not to pester him. I was allowed to watch some of the filming, and the bit I always remember is Roger sliding up to Mum and saying: 'Your nightie's slipping. And so is your accent, Countess.' I was in stitches."
Her mother would not be so at ease, at least at first. The first scene she would film with the dapper Roger Moore would be the one in which they had to kiss. "I remember walking down the beach, my legs actually shaking, and thinking, 'My God, how am I going to do this?'" Cassandra reminisced at the time. "I've never actually kissed a big movie star before. I was so nervous I literally grabbed him."
Luckily the jitters were short-lived; Moore's charm and humor quickly put the usually-effervescent Cassandra at ease. "He was so funny. They do call him Moore the Merrier on the set," she said. "I learned wonderful little techniques from him: how to flick my hair off my face, how to walk to show off my figure, things you wouldn't expect a man to know."
Director John Glen was pleased. "Cassie was a delight to work with and we had a ball," he said.
Jerry Juroe, publicity and marketing veteran of fourteen Bond films over a span of 25 years, got to know Cassandra particularly well during the filming. "She was truly a special person and proved to be of great value to us in promoting the film, particularly in Australia and New Zealand," he said.
Though nobody could have guessed it at the time, perhaps the most significant moment of networking between the cast and crew was when Pierce Brosnan, as a visitor on the set, met the series' longtime producers, the Broccoli's, for the first time while lunching with Cassandra during filming. Though no timeline was yet set in stone as to when Roger Moore's successor would be cast, Hollywood legend has it that Cubby Broccoli's impressions of Pierce during that meeting were, "If he can act, he's my guy."
Of course, he would have to make a name for himself first, and he just so happened to get his chance while holidaying with Cassandra and the children during the making of For Your Eyes Only, when he got word that he was being considered for the lead in Manions of America, a miniseries about an Irish patriot who becomes involved in the movement to free Ireland from British rule.
His agent telexed him the script, and Cassandra rehearsed it with him before he flew back to London for an audition. He got the job, while Cassandra, following her performance in For Your Eyes Only, was asked to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was an opportunity that, she felt, could have been the "absolute making" of her in legitimate theater.
"I couldn't believe it when I suddenly did a James Bond," she said. "I was so excited, but it's worn off slightly now. I'm beginning to expect bigger roles. My ambitions are getting higher and higher."
In retrospect, however, she proved to have been getting ahead of herself. Her newfound higher ambitions came to be reserved for helping her new love succeed.
- Cassandra Harris - Main IMDb
All of Cassandra's acting roles under the name Cassandra Harris are listed in this profile.
- "Cassandra's Career Set to Take Off... With James Bond" -- Australian Women's Weekly
Australian Women's Weekly feature on Cassandra, dated November 19, 1980.
- Ladies Home Journal Feature on Pierce Brosnan
From 1985, describes the early years of his courtship with Cassandra.
- PlayGirl Feature on Pierce Brosnan
1986, recounts the struggles with his old Ford Anglia.
- Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan. | Cigar Aficionado
Cigar Aficionado feature on Pierce Brosnan from 1997, which recounts the story of his marriage to Cassandra (though some of the dates are off).