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mainly gossip about Bruce Willis

Just die already

Posted by Janett on August 10, 2007

Bruce Willis looks polished to a Beverly Hills shine. He’s trimmer and less bulky in person than you might expect. There doesn’t seem to be a gram of excess fat anywhere on his 52-year-old frame. He’s wearing an expensive-looking grey suit and a crisp white shirt.He has that air of effortless authority that can be cultivated only through years of being treated like the most important person in the room. When, for instance, he forgets the name of a stunt person he worked with on the third Die Hard film, he asks a publicist to make a few phone calls to Los Angeles to find out. Not unlike Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, he doesn’t need to raise his voice to make it clear that he expects this information to be retrieved immediately. Willis is calm, cool and collected.

And try as you might to penetrate his guard – to get him to reflect on his long career in Hollywood or consider that he has never received the credit he deserves as a serious actor – he will steadfastly resist your efforts.

“Fifty per cent of the time I’m right, but 50 per cent of the time I’m just as wrong,” Willis says in response to a question about his knack for choosing hit projects such as Die Hard (1988) and The Sixth Sense (1999). “I’ve made just as many mistakes in choosing as I have successes. I really don’t know more than anyone else does.”

When you ask him when he began to develop such evident confidence as an actor – a confidence that has allowed him to take some vastly underappreciated risks, in movies as far ranging as Nobody’s Fool (1994), Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Unbreakable (2000) – Willis even more quickly dismisses the question.

“I still don’t know what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m still learning how to act. Every film … you have to put on a different set of clothes, a different set of armour, a different set of acting muscles. I’ve learned that that’s the process.”

Willis plays hero cop John McClane again in Die Hard 4.0, the new instalment of the Die Hard franchise (and the first Die Hard movie in 12 years). It sounds like one of those ill-fated attempts by a fading star to rekindle his past glory, the kind of movie that could turn an icon into a laughing stock.

The thing about Willis, however, is that he has never really faded, despite having appeared in bombs such as The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and Hudson Hawk (1991) and despite the fact that he hasn’t had a huge hit in years.

Instead, his brand of simmering American cool only seems more appealing in our modern era of the pretty-boy, eager-to-please action hero. Willis’s work in dramatic roles has proved even more remarkable, being both understated and unpredictable.

Willis would probably never confess to this himself. It would require him to let down his guard – and that’s clearly not something he’s about to do. However, there are watermarks in his career that he remembers clearly, such as his original Die Hard payday.

“The day after Fox agreed to pay me $5 million to do that film, every male actor’s salary in Hollywood rotated up to that number,” Willis says of his record-breaking salary for the original Die Hard. “I didn’t get any cards, no thank-yous, no Christmas presents. There were studio heads who predicted that it would be the end of film, to pay an unproven TV actor that much money for a film. They were predicting doom.”

At the time, the studio’s concern seemed legitimate. Willis was known mostly for his role opposite Cybill Shepherd on the TV series Moonlighting. The idea that this likeable but fundamentally lightweight TV actor could anchor a major summer movie seemed hard to fathom.

Willis proved the naysayers wrong – and then some. Funny, gripping and breathlessly paced, Die Hard was a hit. Willis flaunted the same smirky charm he displayed on Moonlighting, but he also showed something new, a kind of blue-collar tenacity that made the McClane character tremendously appealing.

However, Die Hard 4.0 arrives in theatres after a string of disappointments for Willis. Some of these films, such as Hostage (2005) or this year’s Perfect Stranger, were ill-conceived from the start; others, such as 16 Blocks (2006), never found the audiences they deserved.

Willis insists that he is not reviving the McClane character out of desperation; in fact, he says it took the studio years to persuade him to do it.

“There was a lot of trepidation when I was considering it,” he says. “The potential to fail was really high. We had to have a great script and we needed to get a great director.”

Will Die Hard 4.0 appeal to today’s bigger-louder-noisier action fans, mostly teenage boys who were still in nappies when the last Die Hard movie opened in 1995?

If he’s worried, Willis certainly isn’t about to let you see him sweat. Quite the contrary: he seems so relaxed and authoritative talking about Die Hard 4.0 that the eventual success or failure of the film almost seems beside the point. You get the sense that, one way or the other, Mr Cool will weather any storm.


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