Nationality: American. Born: West Germany, 19 March 1955. Education: Attended public school in Penn's Grove, New Jersey; Montclair State College, New Jersey—left in 1977 before graduating; studied acting briefly with Stella Adler. Family: Married the actress Demi Moore, 1987 (divorced, 1998), daughters: Rumer Glenn, Scout LaRue, and Tallulah Belle. Career : 1977—stage debut, off-Broadway in Heaven and Earth ; member of Barbara Contardi's First Amendment Comedy Theatre; 1980—film debut, The First Deadly Sin ; 1984–85—worked on TV: guest starred in Miami Vice ("No Exit"), Twilight Zone ("Shatterday"); 1985–89—starred in TV series Moonlighting (as David Addison); 1987—wrote, produced, starred in an HBO special, The Return of Bruno (as Bruno); 1987—first starring film role, Blind Date ; also has performed and recorded as a R & B singer; has done advertisements for Levi's jeans, Seagram's Wine Coolers (1987), and Sears (1995). Awards: Best Actor Emmy Award, for Moonlighting , 1987. Agent: Arnold Rifkin, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, U.S.A.
The First Deadly Sin (Hutton) (as extra, uncredited)
The Verdict (Lumet) (as a courtroom observer, uncredited)
Blind Date (Edwards) (as Walter Davis)
Die Hard (McTiernan) (as John McClane); Sunset (Edwards) (as Tom Mix, + co-exec pr)
In Country (Jewison) (as Emmeth Smith); Look Who's Talking (Heckerling) (as voice of Mikey); That's Adequate (Hurwitz)
Bonfire of the Vanities (DePalma) (as Peter Fallow); Die Hard 2: Die Harder ( Die Harder ) (Harlin) (as John McClane); Look Who's Talking Too (Heckerling) (as voice of Mikey)
Billy Bathgate (Benton) (as Bo Weinberg); Hudson Hawk (Lehmann) (as Hudson Hawk; + co-story); The Last Boy Scout (Tony Scott) (as Joe Hallenbeck ); Mortal Thoughts (Rudolph) (as James Urbanski)
Death Becomes Her (Zemeckis) (as Ernest Menville); The Player (Altman) (as himself)
National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (Quintano) (as Wrong Mobile Home Owner, uncredited); Striking Distance (Herrington) (as Tom Hardy)
Color of Night (Rush) (as Dr. Bill Capa); Nobody's Fool (Benton) (as Carl Roebuck); North (Rob Reiner) (as narrator); Pulp Fiction (Tarantino) (as Butch Coolidge)
Die Hard: With a Vengeance ( Die Hard 3 ) (McTiernan) (as John McClane); "The Man from Hollywood" ep. of Four Rooms (Tarantino) (as Leo, uncredited); 12 Monkeys (Gilliam) (as James Cole)
Breakfast for Champions (Rudolph); Le Cinquieme element ( The Fifth Element ) (Besson); Combat! (Hill); Firestorm (Andrew Davis); Last Man Standing (Walter Hill) (as John Smith); Beavis and Butt-head Do America (Judge and Kaplan) (as voice of Muddy Grimes); Bruno the Kid (series for TV) (as Bruno the Kid, mus, exec pr)
The Jackal (Caton-Jones) (as title role); Apocalypse (as Trey Kincaide)
Mercury Rising (Becker) (as Arthur "Art" Jeffries); Armageddon (Bay) (as Harry S. Stamper); The Siege (Zwick)
Breakfast of Champions (Rudolph) (as Dwayne Hoover); The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan) (as Malcolm Crowe); The Story of Us (Rob Reiner) (as Ben Jordan)
The Whole Nine Yards (Lynn) (as Jimmy Tudeski); The Kid (Turteltaub) (as Russ Duritz); Unbreakable (Shyamalan) (as David Dunne)
Interview with Lawrence Grobel, in Playboy (Chicago), November 1988.
"Bruce Willis Looks for the Man within the Icon," interview with Kenneth Turan, in New York Times , 1 July 1990.
"From the Top of the Heap, a View of the End of the Line," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times , 30 September 1991.
"Mr. Misunderstood? Willis Makes Himself Clear," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times , 21 September 1993.
"Finally, Bruce Willis Gets Invited to the Ball," interview with Jill Gerston, in New York Times , 2 October 1994.
"Bruce Willis in the Hot Zone," interview with Jay McInerney, in Esquire (New York), May 1995.
"Bruce Willis: Extreme Close-up," interview with Garry Jenkins, in Cosmopolitan , June 1995.
Interview with David Sheff, in Playboy (Chicago), February 1996.
Siegel, Barbara, and Scott Siegel, Cybill & Bruce: Moonlighting Magic , New York, 1987.
Parker, John, Bruce Willis: The Unauthorised Biography , Virgin Publishing, 1997.
Shepherd, Cybill, Cybill Disobedience; How I Survived Beauty Pageants, Elvis, Sex, Bruce Willis, Marriage, Motherhood, Hollywood & the Irrepressible Urge to Say What I Think , New York, 1999.
Williams, J. P., "The Mystique of Moonlighting : 'When You Care Enough to Watch the Very Best,"' in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Fall 1988.
Powers, John, "Look upon a Star," in Sight and Sound (London), July 1991.
Bart, Peter, "An Artful Gesture," in Variety (New York), 4 March 1996.
Appelo, T., "Fool for Fun," in Village Voice , 15 July 1997.
* * *
Bruce Willis has pioneered a character type that might be called the postmodern proletarian. When his seven years on-stage in New York led to television stardom with Moonlighting , all the elements of his arsenal were already on display. Like the show itself, Willis's David Addison was at once a generic staple and a parody. Sturdy physically but stunted emotionally, private-eye Addison is a working man's man as beleaguered as attracted by his nouvelle poor feminist boss (Cybill Shepherd). And yet Addison is also a self-aware, verbally hyperagile ironist—indeed, often a self-conscious media construct.
It is not surprising, given the loaded, conflicted range of emotions called forth from Willis by Moonlighting , that he has subsequently forged a multifaceted film persona: as an action hero, a comic foil, and a dramatic artist, a megastar and a supporting player. His pursuit of these many genres and modes of performance has resulted in some strikingly huge hits, and some flops of similar size. Blind Date , his first big-screen starring vehicle, faltered in its would-be comic reliance upon the smooth-talking, uneasily romantic side of Willis. ( Sunset similarly did not translate his comic appeal for movie audiences.) Die Hard also deployed his mastery of flippancy, but sparingly, accentuating instead his aura of besieged masculinity. The displaced cop John McClane is, like most of Willis's characters, a battling underdog. McClane, however, does not fight either against or beside a woman; with McClane, the class-edged wars waged by Willis's characters begin to play out centrally not "between the sexes" but upon Willis's ever more bruised, sweating (and even aging) body itself.
Having established himself as a bona fide box-office draw with Die Hard (thereby starting a franchise which went on to yield two lucrative sequels), Willis played a wrecked Vietnam veteran in the well-reviewed but little-seen drama, In Country . This sort of creative daring underpins the strain of slightly off-mainstream dramas which has combined with supremely mainstream action adventures and comedies to make up the three-pronged thrust of his post- Die Hard movie career. In Look Who's Talking , Willis brought his comic timing alone to bear on yet a second multiple sequel-spawning franchise, as the voice of a toddler. North five years later is of the same genre, although it does allow Willis on-screen in a bunny suit. From 1989 to 1994, Willis had only uneven box-office and critical success, with Hudson Hawk , The Last Boy Scout , and Striking Distance (all in the Die Hard mode, all flops), and Bonfire of the Vanities , Billy Bathgate , Mortal Thoughts , Death Becomes Her , and Color of Night (all stretches—in all but the last Willis sacrifices top billing for artistic satisfaction—but none hits).
In 1994, however, Willis's embrace of working acting and not just stardom paid handsome dividends in the capital of hip. As Butch Coolidge, doomed but unbowed boxer in wunderkind Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction , Willis is a perfect match for Tarantino's characteristic man-to-man battering, and bantering. By 1996, Variety would publish a column praising Willis's willingness to accept little money to do low-budget but high-quality projects; such publicity around films such as Pulp Fiction and Nobodys Fool countermanded the rash of earlier articles that had decried the "excess" of Willis's multimillion dollar per picture salaries.
His thinning hair shaved to the nub, Willis was not first-billed in Pulp Fiction ; but his performance in it surely helped win him the similarly coifed lead role of James Cole in Terry Gilliam's 1995 remake of the Chris Marker landmark La Jetée , 12 Monkeys . Cole allows all of Willis's talents to shine, in a way that not one of his projects has since Moonlighting . A man under attack from unknown quarters, very possibly from the very social forces that command him, Cole fights through abuse and confusion—at first against, then towards, and finally alongside a psychiatrist played by Madeleine Stowe. The moment when Cole hears a pop song on the doctor's car radio epitomizes what Willis brings to the film, and to film in general. Stress draining from his face, Cole's unwillingly assumed armor drops away for an instant as he connects to something of the best in human creation, trivial as it may seem to the unenlightened. Willis knows how to depict not only the fight but what the fight is for, and it is this that has made him one of the modern screen's most prominent artists of the ordinary man.