Bruce Willis. Yes, THE Bruce Willis. The kind of person for whom you can capitalize all the letters of the word “the” because he’s that big of a name. I mean, we’re talking David Addison, Butch Coolidge, James Cole, Harry Stamper, Dr. Malcolm Crowe and, of course, John McClane, the trouble-prone protagonist of the “Die Hard” series. Willis was in Chicago last week promoting the fourth installment, “Live Free or Die Hard.” I can remember going to see “Hudson Hawk” opening weekend, and being one of the few to love it. And it still kills me that “Unbreakable” won’t be a trilogy because it only made $95 million.
When someone this big rolls into town, it’s hard to get a one-on-one. But I did join in on a round table, so instead of our usual format, I’m going to do my best to recreate the vibe of the experience (while leaving the garbage on the cutting room floor). I’m going to assign parts, too. There were radio people there and other print guys. Seven of us total (though some remained silent) with Willis.
Willis arrived with a shaved head, cap and seemed to have just woken up at about 12:30 p.m. But his Starbucks helped him shake off the “Ocean’s Thirteen” premiere the night before.
Bayer: In an interview recently George Clooney said you originally passed on the role of Danny Ocean in “Ocean’s Eleven.” Is that true? Willis: Not the Danny Ocean part, it was something else. Bayer: Is that why you did “Ocean’s Twelve”? Willis: No, no, I was just asked and it was a good opportunity to hang out with my friends and spend some time with those guys.
Radio girl 1: You only showed up the last 10 minutes. Willis: Where? Radio girl 1: At the premiere last night (“Ocean’s Thirteen” had its Chicago premiere June 7). Willis: Did I? Radio girl 1: Did you have a good time last night? Willis: I did. It’s actually a good thing they’re doing as well, raising money for Darfur. Trying to get some focus on Darfur. Anytime anybody gets some focus on that. It’s a good thing.
Radio guy 1: Did you have that, “nobody cares what an actor thinks” phase? Willis: … I didn’t think people cared what I was thinking. I think I’m out of touch with what people think … and what people think actors think.
Print guy 1: Why now for another “Die-Hard” movie? Willis: Why not? It was a long time coming. It was like 12 years to get a script, I thought it was a good time to go back to work and do one of these again. I didn’t have to do it, I didn’t have to do another “Die Hard.”
Print guy 2: There had been many rumors over the years about “Die Hard” movies. There was going to be one in the jungle, one with Britney Spears as your daughter. Willis: The jungle was supposed to happen, the Britney Spears thing, not so much. I read that, too. … This one was interesting to me, an analog cop trying to fight a digital problem.
Radio girl 1: Now that you’ve finished up the third … Willis: Third? I finished up the fourth. Radio girl: Fourth, yeah, which one’s your favorite now? Willis: The first and the last are the ones that are really most representative of the mythology of “Die Hard.”
Radio guy 1: When the first “Die Hard” hit, everything after that became “Die Hard, on a something,” how many of those did you see? Willis: … Eventually it came around and someone said to me, “It’s ‘Die Hard’ in a building, you’d be trapped in a building.”
Print guy 1: Were there moments while filming where you thought it used to be A LOT easier? Willis: Every day, almost every day, yeah. Any day we were doing stunts, it was an interesting day. Fun, still fun, just different.
Radio girl 1: Was there any point in this last one, maybe you would have done it 15-20 years from now, but not now? Willis: Actually, I did more because, just what you were saying, you’re older ... So much of what that first John McClane character was, that was me at 30. Coming out of New Jersey and New York, the disrespect for authority, the cussing all the time … It’s hard to do a “Die Hard” without cussing.
Bayer: I wanted to say thanks for all the Letterman appearances (Willis constantly attempts new things on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” such as wigs, stunts and dancing). Wills: Oh, thank you, thank you, yeah I love that stuff. Bayer: Are you going to be on to promote “Die Hard”? Willis: I’m sure I will. We started talking about me coming on when I was on doing press for “Perfect Stranger.” Thanks for noticing, I think now it’s representative of my sense of humor, and the fact that I really make fun of myself and send up the whole thing about being famous. Bayer: Any plans for this one? Willis: No, we talked about some stuff. I don’t know if you saw the last one, but we crammed a TON of stuff into it. Bayer: You had the montage. Willis: Always a better day when you have the video montage. But I didn’t remember a lot of that stuff, until I saw it. Someone asked, “Did you really dress as a woman?” But, I’m not the only one here that’s dressed as a woman. Bayer: No, of course not, just the only one on national TV. Willis: But, it really is a pleasure and Dave loves it if you come in and try. Bayer: Do you guys talk outside of the show? Willis: Yeah, we do … what’s that called, the telegraph? Bayer: You guys e-mail? Willis: Yeah.
Print guy 2: One of the things about “Die Hard” was that everything was real, most action movies now use CGI. Something like “Sin City” would be an extreme example. Willis: It’s a really different experience. “Sin City” and the use of digital technology and cameras that you would normally use for a home video. I think I’m lucky to do both. … This “Die Hard” we had the conversation to keep the stunts non-CGI, (but) they took it to some pretty extreme things. They really took a car and drove it into a real helicopter.
Bayer: You’re the cameo king right now, with “Astronaut Farmer,” “Fast Food Nation,” “Nancy Drew” and “Grindhouse.” Are you just building up an arsenal of people that owe you? Willis: Yeah, all favors, all debts that I’m going to call in later. I do films for a lot of different reasons, like this film. I wanted to challenge myself and take risks. Sometimes I do films because I’m returning favors or I wanted to work with an actor that I like. But last year (when he filmed them) did seem like a cameo year. I think I’m going to take a break, take a year off and be a normal human being.
Radio girl 1: I know you’ve done albums in the past, are you going to step away and do some more music? Willis: I’m going to play some music, I’m not going to step away from what I’m doing. It’s fortunate for me and my kids I don’t have to try and put them through school based on my singing talent. Nobody’s accused me of being a singer, but I do it for fun.
Radio girl 2: All the blogs and magazines are saying Rumer, your daughter, could be the next Paris Hilton. Do you have a comment? Willis: Fascinating. It’s just (BS), it’s just something to say. Radio girl 2: Do you not keep up with that? Willis: No. It’s all fabricated. It’s all just something to say today because a bigger crime didn’t happen. … All my daughters were raised outside of all that, and they know the difference between what’s real in Hollywood and what’s not.
And on that note, the interview wrapped up. I definitely didn’t get to all my questions, such as, “Do you have someone that shaves your head for you?” But I’m sure the world will still turn without us knowing that answer. Throughout the whole thing, Willis was calm, cool, collected. Never getting too excited, and dropping that classic stare down whenever he had the chance. And of course, flirting with Radio Girl 1 just to pass the time.