Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955) is a German-born American actor, producer, and musician. His career began in television in the 1980s and has continued both in television and film since, including comedic, dramatic, and action roles. He is well known for the role of John McClane in the Die Hard series, which were mostly critical and uniformly financial successes. He has also appeared in over sixty films, including box office successes like Pulp Fiction (1994), 12 Monkeys (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), Armageddon (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Sin City (2005), and Red (2010).
Motion pictures featuring Willis have grossed US$2.64 billion to 3.05 billion at North American box offices, making him the ninth highest-grossing actor in a leading role and twelfth highest including supporting roles. He is a two-time Emmy Award-winning, Golden Globe Award-winning and four-time Saturn Award-nominated actor. Willis was married to actress Demi Moore and they had three daughters before their divorce in 2000, following thirteen years of marriage. He is currently married to model Emma Heming, with whom he has one daughter.
Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. His mother, Marlene K., was German and born in Kaufungen near Kassel, and his father, David Willis, was an American soldier from Southeastern Idaho of English ancestry. Willis is the oldest of four children: he has a sister, Florence, and a brother, David. His brother Robert died of pancreatic cancer in 2001, aged 42. After being discharged from the military in 1957, Willis's father took his family back to Carneys Point, New Jersey. Willis has described himself as having come from a "long line of blue collar people"; his mother worked in a bank and his father was a welder, master mechanic, and factory worker. Willis attended Penns Grove High School in his hometown, where he encountered issues with a stutter. He was nicknamed Buck-Buck by his schoolmates. Finding it easy to express himself on stage and losing his stutter in the process, Willis began performing on stage and his high school activities were marked by such things as the drama club and student council president.
After high school, Willis took a job as a security guard at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant and also transported work crews at the DuPont Chambers Works factory in Deepwater, New Jersey.
After working as a private investigator (a role he would play in the television series Moonlighting as well as in the 1991 film, The Last Boy Scout), Willis returned to acting. He enrolled in the drama program at Montclair State University, where he was cast in the class production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Willis left school in his junior year and moved to New York City.
After multiple auditions, Willis made his theater debut in the off-Broadway production of Heaven and Earth. He gained more experience and exposure in Fool for Love, and in a Levi's commercial.
Willis left New York City and headed to California to audition for several television shows. In 1984, he appeared in an episode of the TV series Miami Vice, titled "No Exit." He auditioned for the role of David Addison Jr. of the television series Moonlighting (1985–89), competing against 3,000 other actors for the position. The starring role, opposite Cybill Shepherd, helped to establish him as a comedic actor, with the show lasting five seasons. During the height of the show's success, beverage maker Seagram hired Willis as the pitchman for their Golden Wine Cooler products. The advertising campaign paid the rising star between $5–7 million over two years. In spite of that, Willis chose not to renew his contract with the company when he decided to stop drinking alcohol in 1988.
One of his first major film roles was in the 1987 Blake Edwards film Blind Date, with Kim Basinger and John Larroquette. Edwards cast him again to play the real-life cowboy actor Tom Mix in Sunset (1988). However, it was his then-unexpected turn in the film Die Hard (1988) that catapulted him to movie star status. He performed most of his own stunts in the film, and the film grossed $138,708,852 worldwide. Following his success with Die Hard, he had a supporting role in the drama In Country as Vietnam veteran Emmett Smith and also provided the voice for a talking baby in Look Who's Talking, as well as its sequel Look Who's Talking Too.
In the late 1980s, Willis enjoyed moderate success as a recording artist, recording an album of pop-blues titled The Return of Bruno, which included the hit single "Respect Yourself", promoted by a Spinal Tap-like rockumentary parody featuring scenes of him performing at famous events including Woodstock. Follow-up recordings were not as successful, though Willis has returned to the recording studio several times. See Discography below.
Willis acquired major personal success and pop culture influence playing John McClane in 1988's Die Hard. This film was followed up by Die Hard 2: Die Harder in 1990 and Die Hard with a Vengeance in 1995. These first three installments in the Die Hard series grossed over US$700 million internationally and propelled Willis to the first rank of Hollywood action stars.
In the early 1990s, Willis's career suffered a moderate slump starring in flops such as The Bonfire of the Vanities, Striking Distance, and a film he co-wrote titled Hudson Hawk, among others. He starred in a leading role in the highly sexualized thriller Color of Night (1994), which was very poorly received by critics, but did well in the home video market and became one of the Top 20 most-rented films in the United States in 1995. In 1994, he had a supporting role in Quentin Tarantino's acclaimed Pulp Fiction, which gave a new boost to his career. In 1996, he was the executive producer of the cartoon Bruno the Kid which featured a CGI representation of himself.
He went on to play the lead roles in Twelve Monkeys (1995) and The Fifth Element (1997). However, by the end of the 1990s, his career had fallen into another slump with critically panned films like The Jackal, Mercury Rising, and Breakfast of Champions, saved only by the success of the Michael Bay-directed Armageddon which was the highest grossing film of 1998 worldwide. The same year his voice and likeness were featured in the PlayStation video game Apocalypse. In 1999, Willis then went on to the starring role in M. Night Shyamalan's film, The Sixth Sense. The film was both a commercial and critical success and helped to increase interest in his acting career.
In 2000, Willis won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on Friends (in which he played the father of Ross Geller's much-younger girlfriend). He was also nominated for a 2001 American Comedy Award (in the Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series category) for his work on Friends. Also in 2000, Willis played Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski in The Whole Nine Yards alongside Matthew Perry. Willis was originally cast as Terry Benedict in Ocean's Eleven (2001) but dropped out to work on recording an album. In Ocean's Twelve (2004), he makes a cameo appearance as himself. In 2007, he appeared in the Planet Terror half of the double feature Grindhouse as the villain, a mutant soldier. This marks Willis's second collaboration with director Robert Rodriguez, following Sin City.
Willis has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman several times throughout his career. He filled in for an ill David Letterman on his show February 26, 2003, when he was supposed to be a guest. On many of his appearances on the show, Willis stages elaborate jokes, such as wearing a day-glo orange suit in honor of the Central Park gates, having one side of his face made up with simulated buckshot wounds after the Harry Whittington shooting, or trying to break a record (parody of David Blaine) of staying underwater for only twenty seconds.
On April 12, 2007, he appeared again, this time wearing a Sanjaya Malakar wig. His most recent appearance was on June 25, 2007 when he appeared wearing a mini-turbine strapped to his head to accompany a joke about his own fictional documentary titled An Unappealing Hunch (a wordplay of An Inconvenient Truth). Willis also appeared on Japanese Subaru Legacy television commercials. Tying in with this, Subaru did a limited run of Legacys, badged "Subaru Legacy Touring Bruce", in honor of Willis.
Willis has appeared in four films with Samuel L. Jackson (National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Unbreakable) and both actors were slated to work together in Black Water Transit, before dropping out. Willis also worked with his eldest daughter, Rumer, in the 2005 film Hostage. In 2007, he appeared in the thriller Perfect Stranger, opposite Halle Berry, the crime/drama film Alpha Dog, opposite Sharon Stone, and marked his return to the role of John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard. Recently he appeared in the films What Just Happened and Surrogates, based on the comic book of the same name.
Willis was slated to play U.S. Army general William R. Peers in director Oliver Stone's Pinkville, a drama about the investigation of the 1968 My Lai Massacre. However, due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, the film was cancelled. Willis appeared on the 2008 Blues Traveler album North Hollywood Shootout, giving a spoken word performance over an instrumental blues-rock jam on the track "Free Willis (Ruminations from Behind Uncle Bob's Machine Shop)". In early 2009, he appeared in an advertising campaign to publicize the insurance company Norwich Union's change of name to Aviva.
Willis starred with Tracy Morgan in the comedy Cop Out, directed by Kevin Smith and about two police detectives investigating the theft of a baseball card. The film was released in February 2010. Willis appeared in the music video for the song "Stylo" by Gorillaz. Also in 2010, he appeared in a cameo with former Planet Hollywood co-owners and '80s action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film The Expendables. Bruce Willis played the role of "Mr. Church". This was the first time these three legendary action stars appeared on screen together. Although the scene featuring the three was short, it was one of the most highly anticipated scenes in the film. The trio filmed their scene in an empty church on October 24, 2009. His most recent project was Red, an adaptation of the comic book mini-series of the same name, in which he portrayed Frank Moses. The film was released on October 15, 2010.
Willis will star in the movie adaptation of the video game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, named Kane & Lynch. He will also star in the upcoming movies Moonrise Kingdom, and Looper.
On October 12, 2011, it was announced that A Good Day to Die Hard would see a February 14, 2013 (Valentine's Day) release, with Willis reprising his most famous role of John McClane for a fifth time.
Sylvester Stallone revealed that he is talking to Willis about returning for The Expendables sequel. Stallone has said that he wants to expand Willis' role and that he wants Willis to play the villain in the next Expendables. Willis will be starring in the sequel on a more expanded role. They have talked about Willis' schedule and possible actors that could join the sequel.
Filming for a new movie, Moonrise Kingdom, starring Bruce Willis alongside Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand, is expected to begin in the first half of 2011. Filming will take place in Rhode Island under the direction of Wes Anderson.
Willis will team up with 50 Cent in a new film directed by David Barrett called Fire with Fire, starring opposite Josh Duhamel about a fireman who must save the love of his life. Willis will also join Vince Vaughn and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Lay the Favorite, directed by Stephen Frears, about a Las Vegas cocktail waitress who becomes an elite professional gambler. The two films will be distributed by Lionsgate Entertainment.
Willis owns property in Los Angeles, rents an apartment in the Trump Tower in New York City, and Trump Place, as well as a home in Malibu, California, a ranch in Montana, a beach home on Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos, and multiple properties in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Willis started his own motion picture production company called Cheyenne Enterprises, which he started with his business partner Arnold Rifkin in 2000. He left the company to be run solely by Rifkin in 2007 after Live Free or Die Hard. He also owns several small businesses in Hailey, Idaho, including The Mint Bar and The Liberty Theater and is a co-founder of Planet Hollywood, with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. In 2009 Willis signed a contract to become the international face of Belvedere SA's Sobieski Vodka in exchange for 3.3% ownership in the company.
Willis' acting role models are Gary Cooper, Robert De Niro, Steve McQueen, and John Wayne.
Marriages and family
At the premiere for the film Stakeout, Willis met actress Demi Moore. Willis married Moore on November 21, 1987 and had three daughters: Rumer Willis (b. August 16, 1988), Scout LaRue Willis (b. July 20, 1991) and Tallulah Belle Willis (b. February 3, 1994) before the couple divorced on October 18, 2000. The couple gave no public reason for their breakup. Regarding the divorce, Willis stated, "I felt I had failed as a father and a husband by not being able to make it work." He credited actor Will Smith for helping him cope with the situation. After their breakup, rumors persisted that the couple planned to re-marry, until Moore married the actor Ashton Kutcher. Willis has maintained a close relationship with both Moore and Kutcher, even attending their wedding.
Willis was engaged to Brooke Burns until they broke up in 2004 after ten months together. He married Emma Heming in Turks and Caicos on March 21, 2009; guests included his three daughters, Moore, and Kutcher. The ceremony was not legally binding, so the couple wed again in a civil ceremony in Beverly Hills six days later. The couple have one daughter, Mabel Ray Willis (b. April 1, 2012).
Bruce Willis was, at one point, Lutheran (specifically Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod), but no longer practices, after clarifying in a July 1998 interview with George magazine:
Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms", he says. "They were all very important when we didn't know why the sun moved, why weather changed, why hurricanes occurred, or volcanoes happened", he continues. "Modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology. But there are people who interpret the Bible literally. Literally! I choose not to believe that's the way. And that's what makes America cool, you know?
In 1988, he and Moore openly campaigned for Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis's Presidential bid. Four years later, he supported President George H. W. Bush for reelection and he was a outspoken critic of Bill Clinton. However, in 1996, he declined to endorse Clinton's Republican opponent Bob Dole, because Dole had criticized Moore for her role in the film Striptease. Willis was an invited speaker at the 2000 Republican National Convention, and openly supported George W. Bush that year. He did not make any contributions or public endorsements in the 2008 presidential campaign. In several June 2007 interviews, he declared that he still maintains some Republican ideologies.
In 2006, he said that the United States should invade Colombia, in order to end the drug trafficking. In several interviews Willis has said that he supports large salaries for teachers and police officers, and says that he is disappointed in the United States' foster care and treatment of Native Americans. Willis also stated that he is a big supporter of gun rights:
"Everyone has a right to bear arms. If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who have guns are the bad guys." Even a pacifist, he insists, would get violent if someone were trying to kill him. "You would fight for your life."
In February 2006, Willis appeared in Manhattan to talk about 16 Blocks with reporters. One reporter attempted to ask Willis about his opinion on the current government, but was interrupted by Willis in mid-sentence: "I'm sick of answering this fucking question. I'm a Republican only as far as I want a smaller government, I want less government intrusion. I want them to stop shitting on my money and your money and tax dollars that we give 50 percent of... every year. I want them to be fiscally responsible and I want these goddamn lobbyists out of Washington. Do that and I'll say I'm a Republican... I hate the government, OK? I'm apolitical. Write that down. I'm not a Republican."
Willis's name was in an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times on August 17, 2006, that condemned Hamas and Hezbollah and supported Israel in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.
Throughout his film career, Willis has depicted several military characters in films such as The Siege, Hart's War, Tears of the Sun, and Grindhouse. Growing up in a military family, Willis has publicly sold Girl Scout cookies for the United States armed forces. In 2002, Willis's youngest daughter, Tallulah, suggested that he purchase Girl Scout cookies to send to troops. Willis purchased 12,000 boxes of cookies, and they were distributed to sailors aboard USS John F. Kennedy and other troops stationed throughout the Middle East at the time. In 2003, Willis visited Iraq as part of the USO tour, singing to the troops with his band, The Accelerators. Willis considered joining the military to help fight the second Iraq war, but was deterred by his age. It was believed he offered US$1 million to any non combatant who turns in terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; in the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, however, he clarified that the statement was made hypothetically and not meant to be taken literally.
Willis has also criticized the media for its coverage of the war, complaining that the press were more likely to focus on the negative aspects of the war:
I went to Iraq because what I saw when I was over there was soldiers—young kids for the most part—helping people in Iraq; helping getting the power turned back on, helping get hospitals open, helping get the water turned back on and you don't hear any of that on the news. You hear, 'X number of people were killed today,' which I think does a huge disservice. It's like spitting on these young men and women who are over there fighting to help this country.
Willis stated in 2005 that he wanted to "make a pro-war film in which American soldiers will be depicted as brave fighters for freedom and democracy." The film would follow members of Deuce Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, who spent considerable time in Mosul and were decorated heavily for it. The film is to be based on the writings of blogger Michael Yon, a former United States Army Special Forces soldier who was embedded with Deuce Four and sent regular dispatches about their activities. Willis described the plot of the film as "these guys who do what they are asked for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom."
Comments at playoffs
Willis, an avid New Jersey Nets fan, made controversial comments on April 29, 2007 during a live broadcast of a Nets home playoff game on TSN by saying a catch phrase from his Die Hard films, "Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker", at the end of the interview. Reacting to the backlash, he later blamed his actions on jet lag, stating: "Sometimes I overestimate my ability to function under duress with less than enough sleep".
On May 5, 2007, someone using the screen name "Walter_B" started posting detailed responses onto Ain't it Cool News, where people were discussing the fact that Live Free or Die Hard received a PG-13 rating, instead of an R rating like the earlier three Die Hard films. The responses included detailed information on Live Free or Die Hard, which was yet to be released; the theme of the Die Hard film series, direct criticisms of other film crews and casts, and many film trivia answers. Many people were skeptical that "Walter_B" was indeed Willis, but on May 9, Willis revealed his identity on a video chat session (using iChat).
In 1996, Roger Director, a writer and producer from Moonlighting wrote a roman à clef on Willis titled A Place to Fall. Cybill Shepherd wrote in her 2000 autobiography, Cybill Disobedience, that Willis was angry at Director, because the character was written as a "neurotic, petulant actor."
In 1998, Willis participated in Apocalypse, a PlayStation video game. The game was originally announced to feature Willis as a sidekick, not as the main character. The company reworked the game using Willis's likeness and voice and changed the game to use him as the main character.