Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955), better known as Bruce Willis, is an American actor and producer. 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 critical and financial successes. He has also appeared in over sixty films, including Pulp Fiction, Sin City, 12 Monkeys, Armageddon, and The Sixth Sense.
Motion pictures featuring Willis have grossed US$ 2.55 to US$ 3.05 billion at North American box offices, making him the seventh highest-grossing actor in a leading role, and ninth highest including supporting roles. Willis was married to actress Demi Moore and they had three daughters, before their divorce in 2000 after thirteen years of marriage. He is a two-time Emmy Award-winning, Golden Globe Award-winning, and four-time Saturn Award-nominated actor.
Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany, the son of a Kassel-born German, Marlene, who worked in a bank, and David Willis, an American soldier. Willis was the eldest 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' father took his family back to Penns Grove, New Jersey, where he worked as a welder and factory worker. His parents separated in 1972, while Willis was in his teens. Willis attended Penns Grove High School in his hometown, where he encountered issues with a stutter. He used to be hatefully 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. He quit after a colleague was killed on the job, and became a regular at several bars. Willis learned to play the harmonica.
After a stint 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.
Willis returned to the bar scene, only this time for a part-time job at the West Bank Cafe in New York City's Manhattan Plaza. 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, entitled "No Exit." He auditioned for the role of David Addison Jr. of the television series Moonlighting (1985–89), while 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 alongside Kim Basinger and John Laroquette. Edwards would cast him again to play the real-life cowboy actor Tom Mix in Sunset. However, it was his then-unexpected turn in the film Die Hard that catapulted him to fame. 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 entitled 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. In the early 1990s, Willis' career suffered a moderate slump starring in flops such as The Bonfire of the Vanities, Striking Distance, and a film he co-wrote entitled 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 has become popular on video. However, 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. 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' second collaboration with director Robert Rodriguez, following Sin City.
Willis at the German premiere of Over the Hedge on June 28, 2006.
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 entitled 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 movies 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 alongside 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. His most recent role was in the film What Just Happened.
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' future projects include several films that will debut between 2009 and 2010. 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 and Willis took up the film, Surrogates, which is based on the comic book of the same name.
Willis will star alongside Tracy Morgan in a comedy with a working title of A Couple of Dicks, directed by Kevin Smith. The film is about two police detectives investigating the theft of a baseball card. Release is set for January 2010.
Willis is set to star alongside former Planet Hollywood co-owners and 80's action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2010 film The Expendables. The film, also written and directed by Stallone, will feature the three aging action stars on screen together for the first time. Willis will play Mr. Church, a mysterious man who hires The Expendables.
Marriages and family
At the premiere for the film Stakeout, Willis met actress Demi Moore, who was dating actor Emilio Estevez at the time. Willis married Moore on November 21, 1987 and had three daughters: Rumer Willis (b. 16 August 1988), Scout LaRue Willis (b. 20 July 1991) and Tallulah Belle Willis (b. 3 February 1994) before the couple divorced on October 18, 2000. The couple gave no public reason for their breakup. Willis stated that his divorce made him feel that "I felt I had failed as a father and a husband by not being able to make it work" and 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, fifteen years her junior. Willis has maintained a close relationship with both Moore and Kutcher, even attending their wedding. Willis and Moore currently share custody of their daughters.
Since the divorce he has dated models Maria Bravo Rosado and Emily Sandberg; he 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. Willis has expressed interest in having more children.