Yippee, Willis is back
Bruce Willis, action hero and a dad who likes to make his girls laugh, returns in A Good Day to Die Hard
Hollywood has embraced Bruce Willis as an action hero, hard-hitting and straightforward. He usually plays a two-fisted tough guy who takes no backtalk or sass. His Die Hard films have cemented that big-screen legacy, and Willis still embodies that persona with his role as John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard, which debuted in theatres in February. It’s the fifth in the film franchise that was launched 25 years ago.
The movie finished first in box-office receipts its first weekend in Canada.
Willis’s journey in the role of McClane, who has been married and divorced, has had trouble with alcohol, kids, and so much more, has been quite a ride according to Willis. “I remember every film, and I remember everything we did and the way we were, and how playing that role for 25 years has turned into a life in itself. I have very great memories and I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for making these crazy films.”
That tough guy persona is just his professional image, because in real life Willis enjoys his role as a typical family man. He’s a fun-loving devoted father for his three beautiful daughters with former wife, actress Demi Moore. In 2009 he married model Emma Heming, and last year the couple had a beautiful little girl, Mabel. He turns 58 on March 19.
Willis has an impressive acting resume, appearing in more than 60 films. Some of his favourite jobs have included being a prizefighter in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction; a Vietnam veteran in In Country; the troubled man in The Sixth Sense, which got the People’s Choice Award; Armageddon, and of course, all the Die Hard movies. Last year he did Moonrise Kingdom.
As a youngster, Willis was an Army brat, as his father was an American soldier serving overseas. Bruce Wilis was born in Germany but raised in a small New Jersey town, and went to school there. He stuttered as a boy and was taunted by his schoolmates. It was the slight defect that ultimately turned him to the theatre to improve his speech. After studying theatre at Montclair State College in New Jersey, he tried his luck on the New York stage. He wound up with a couple of minor appearances in various television series filming in Manhattan, but big parts eluded him.
Then in 1985 along came an audition for a new television series called Moonlighting, competing with many other hopefuls. Willis won the role of David Addison, the flippant, unconventional private eye. He had great chemistry opposite Cybill Shepherd and shot to fame overnight. Thanks to that role he earned several acting awards including an Emmy and Golden Globe.
In 1988 he originated the role of John McClane in Die Hard, which became a blockbuster. Ensuing sequels showed that McClane wasn’t going to die easy.
During the dedication of the soundstage at 20th Century Fox Studios where the Die Hard movies were made, Willis recently spoke about how he feels about his signature role over 25 years. “He is everyman who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but never, ever says die,” he explains.
There’s not a tremendous difference between doing the first Die Hard and the new one, notes Willis, “but there’s a very simple difference. I get up a little slower from the ground after I’ve fallen into something. It’s okay. I’m doing alright. I’m here today.”
At his age, Willis is in good enough shape to do the stunts required of a big-screen action hero. He pretends to be serious when he says, “The difference between trying to be fit and not being fit is the difference between life and death.” But then he laughs and says, “Nah, I just made that up. There is no life and death, there’s just life. And we had great technical stunt coordinators to keep us safe.”
Talking about his signature line “Yippee-ki-yay!” Willis reveals it was an ad lib in the first Die Hard movie. “The bad guy, Alan Rickman, was picking on me and I just happen to let that line slip out, and it became part of the fabric of the film. It always comes at a moment of high danger. It’s just amazing that the line has lasted this long. Kids say it to me on the street, and grandmas. Sometimes it’s a little awkward, but I’m still happy that they say it.”
An astute film producer and businessman who has been a spokesperson for several major companies, he ventured into some small companies on his own. But his main job is as an actor “and I’m always looking for the next script.”
Being a parent on screen and off is his “favourite job,” Willis insists, and he offers insight to the type of dad he is. “I have four girls now, and they are a captive audience. They can’t really run away from me if they don’t like my jokes. I just love making my kids laugh. I just enjoy it. And I still do the dumbest things in the world to make them laugh. I do that for my youngest daughter now to try to make her laugh. As a parent I want my girls to grow up to be women who have good morals, good intentions, and are nice people who are kind. I never knew until they got older that I was having any effect on them.”