BALLINTUBBER, Ireland (Reuters) — A security operation worthy of James Bond swung into action this weekend as 007 actor Pierce Brosnan married former model and TV reporter Keely Shaye Smith at a romantic Irish abbey.
The fictional British secret agent has battled Oddjob, Goldfinger, and a string of other movie villains, but his current screen alter ego faced a new enemy, the world's media, as he tied the knot at 800-year-old Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo, western Ireland.
A crowd of around 300 local people and tourists Saturday had joined journalists outside the picture-postcard abbey, founded in 1216 by Cathal O'Connor, King of Connaght, and reputedly the oldest church in Ireland to have been in continual use.
But their hopes of catching a glimpse of the bride and groom were thwarted by a team of security guards employed to protect the exclusive picture deal Brosnan had struck with a glossy magazine reportedly paying close to $1 million for the privilege.
All the crowd saw of the groom as he arrived for the late afternoon wedding was a waving hand thrust through the tinted window of his dark Mercedes Benz as it swept through the gates of the abbey. They saw even less of the bride, who arrived in a white Rolls Royce limousine decked with white ribbon.
A wicker porch edged with cream and lavender flowers had been built around the entrance to the ancient stone building, and as the bride, groom, and bridesmaids stepped from their cars, minders draped sheets across the gap to stop anyone from stealing a picture. Particular care was taken to prevent the media from catching a glimpse of Shaye Smith's Richard Tyler-designed dress.
Around 100 guests were bused in by a fleet of buses and greeted at the gates of the church by a lone piper decked in the green and red of County Mayo.
License to Wed The hour-long Roman Catholic ceremony was performed by Limerick-born Monsignor John Fleming, rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, whom Brosnan met during the filming of the Bond movie The World Is Not Enough in Italy. The interior of the abbey had been decorated with pale pink roses, blue cornflowers, lilies, lavender, and ivy by a team from a London florist who moved in three hours before the service.
Afterwards, the groom's hand appeared again through the window of the wedding car to give a thumbs-up sign to the crowd as the newlyweds were whisked to their reception at the five-star Ashford Castle hotel 20 miles away in Cong, a grand Victorian pile on the shores of Lough Corrib.
Actor John Wayne stayed at the hotel during the filming of The Quiet Man in the village 50 years ago, and other guests over the years have included Britain's King George V, Princess Grace of Monaco, former President Ronald Reagan, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and movie stars Brad Pitt, John Travolta, and Sharon Stone.
A marquee had been erected in the grounds of the hotel, built on the site of a 13th-century castle, and guests were to be entertained by the couple's favorite band, the Chieftains, taking time out from a North American tour to play at the reception. But security was tight at the hotel too, with reports of security men in boats patrolling the northern shores of the lough to stop any photographers from getting too close.
Brosnan, 49, is the fifth actor to play Bond, the creation of former Reuters journalist Ian Fleming. The actor, born in Navan, north of Dublin, met Californian Shaye Smith, 36, when she interviewed him in Mexico in 1994.
The couple has two sons together, Dylan, 4, and Paris, who was born in February and christened in a ceremony at the abbey on the eve of the wedding. Brosnan's English first wife, Cassandra, died from ovarian cancer in 1991.