Motion pictures featuring Willis have grossed US$2.55 to US$3.04 billion at North American box offices, making him the seventh highest-grossing actor in a leading role, and eighth highest including supporting roles. He is a two-time Emmy Award-winning, Golden Globe Award-winning, and four-time Saturn Award-nominated actor and has publicly shown his support for the United States armed forces.
After high school, Willis took a job as a security guard and he 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 and joined an R&B band called Loose Goose. 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. After countless 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, an appearance on television's Miami Vice, and in a Levi's commercial.
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 and The Fifth Element. 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. He once had to appear in the sitcom Friends without pay, because he lost a bet to Matthew Perry, his co-star in the comedy The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel The Whole Ten Yards. He won a 2000 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. He recently 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 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. He interviewed Dan Rather in what he would later call "the most serious conversation of my entire life". 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 20 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, optimizing the car for sale, with the backing music of Jade from Sweetbox, "Addicted" and "Hate Without Frontiers". 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.
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)".
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 instead joined the film, The Surrogates, which is based on the comic books of the same name.
Empire.com states that it is possible that in the near future, Bruce may direct a fifth installment of the Die Hard series. The last film of the series was released last summer and had great success in its box office performance.
In early 2006, Willis, who usually lives in Los Angeles, moved into an apartment located in the Trump Tower in New York City. Willis also has a home in Malibu, California, a ranch in Montana, a beach home on Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, and multiple properties in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Willis owns his own motion picture production company called Cheyenne Enterprises which he started with his business parter Arnold Rifkin in 2000. He also owns several small businesses in Hailey, Idaho including The Mint Bar and The Liberty Theater and is a co-founder of Planet Hollywood along with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. His dog, a Yorkshire Terrier is named Wolf Fishbein ("Wolfie") after a character in the Woody Allen movie Deconstructing Harry.
Willis, an avid New Jersey Nets fan, made controversial comments on April 29, 2007 during a live broadcast of a Nets home playoff game vs. the Toronto Raptors on TSN by saying a catch phrase from his Die Hard films, "Yipee-ki-aye-ay motherfucker", at the end of the interview. Reacting to the backlash, he later blamed his actions on jet lag, stating: "Sometimes I overestimate my ability to function under duress with less than enough sleep".
Prior to the the online chats listed below @ Ain't it cool news Willis operated his own website www.brucewillis.com (now defunct). He would chat with fans on a daily basis. His screen name was KingB. Many of the people he interacted with were invited to a mass 50th birthday celebration in Vegas. Archived versions of many of the chats and comments are available through the way back machine.
On May 5, 2007, someone using the screen name "Walter_B" started posting detailed responses onto Ain't it Cool News, where people were discussing the fact that Live Free or Die Hard received a PG-13 rating, instead of an R rating like the earlier three Die hard films. The responses included detailed information on Live Free or Die Hard, which was yet to be released; the theme of the Die Hard film series, direct criticisms of other movie crews and casts, and many movie trivia answers. "Walter_B" was Bruce Willis himself, directly posting his opinions. Many people were skeptical that "Walter_B" was indeed Willis, but on May 9, Willis revealed his identity on a video chat session (using iChat).
Willis is an avid fight fan and often attends boxing matches. He has attended both the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe v Bernard Hopkins fights, which have come to be known as the 'British Invasion' fights, after the popularity of the 'British Invasion' bands of the 1960s to the late 1970s in America.
Having begun to suffer from Male Pattern Baldness at a relatively young age (his receding hairline is visibly starting by Die Hard), Willis chose to shave his head once the loss was too severe to stylistically hide. However, he has worn a hairpiece or a toupee for several of his roles - but only when the character is known to have hair (such as in Sin City). He is one of the very few actors in Hollywood who has not pursued hair replacement in his personal life, and this has endeared him to the millions of men who themselves suffer from hair loss.
Willis is close friends with Matthew Perry.
In several June 2007 interviews, he declared that he still maintains some Republican ideologies but is currently an independent. In an interview for the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, Bruce Willis said he was skeptical that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and suggested that some people involved in the assassination are still in power today.
In 2006, he proposed that the United States should invade Colombia in order to end the drug trafficking. In several interviews with USA Weekend, Willis has said that he supports large salaries for teachers, and says that he is disappointed in the United States' foster care and treatment of Native Americans. Willis also stated that he is a big supporter of gun rights:
"Everyone has a right to bear arms. If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who have guns are the bad guys." Even a pacifist, he insists, would get violent if someone were trying to kill him. "You would fight for your life."
Throughout his film career, Willis has depicted several military characters in films such as The Siege, Hart's War, Tears of the Sun, and Grindhouse. Growing up in a military family, Willis has been publicly supportive of the United States armed forces. In 2002, Willis' youngest daughter, Tallulah, suggested that he purchase Girl Scout cookies to send to troops. Willis purchased 12,000 boxes of cookies, and they were distributed to sailors aboard USS John F. Kennedy and other troops stationed throughout the Middle East at the time. In 2003, Willis visited Iraq as part of the USO tour, singing to the troops with his band, The Accelerators. Some reports from military officials suggest that Willis tried to enlist in the military to help fight the second Iraq war, but he was turned away because of his age. It was believed he offered US$1 million to any civilian who turns in terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; in the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, however, he clarified that the statement was made hypothetically and not meant to be taken literally. Willis has also criticized the media for its coverage of the war, complaining that the press were more likely to focus on the negative aspects of the war:
Willis has said that he wants to "make a pro-war film in which American soldiers will be depicted as brave fighters for freedom and democracy." The film will follow members of Deuce Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, who spent considerable time in Mosul and were decorated heavily for it. The film is to be based on the writings of blogger Michael Yon, a former United States Army Special Forces Green Beret who was embedded with Deuce Four and sent regular dispatches about their activities. Willis described the plot of the film as "these guys who do what they are asked for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom." Mr. Willis does not appear to have spoken publicly about his plans for this movie since 2005.
Since March 2008, Bruce Willis has been playing the role of the 'Child Catcher' in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium.
In 1998 Willis participated in Apocalypse, a Sony Playstation game. The game was originally announced to feature Willis but was soon discovered he appeared as a sidekick, not as the main character. The company reworked the game using Willis' likeness and voice and changed the game to use him as the main character.
|1980||The First Deadly Sin||Man Entering Diner as Delaney Leaves||extra|
|1982||The Verdict||Courtroom Observer||extra|
|1985||A Guru Comes||Unknown role||extra|
|1987||Blind Date||Walter Davis|
|1988||The Return of Bruno||Bruno Radolini|
|Die Hard||John McClane||US$5 million salary|
|In Country||Emmett Smith|
|Look Who's Talking||Mikey||voice|
|1990||Die Hard 2||John McClane||US$7,500,000 salary|
|Look Who's Talking Too||Mikey||voice|
|The Bonfire of the Vanities||Peter Fallow||US$5 million salary|
|1991||Mortal Thoughts||James Urbanski|
|Hudson Hawk||Eddie 'Hudson Hawk' Hawkins||also co-wrote plot and theme music|
|Billy Bathgate||Bo Weinberg|
|The Last Boy Scout||Joseph Cornelius 'Joe' Hallenbeck|
|Death Becomes Her||Dr. Ernest Menville|
|1993||National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1||John McClane||uncredited cameo|
|Striking Distance||Tom 'Tommy' Hardy|
|Color of Night||Dr. Bill Capa|
|Pulp Fiction||Butch Coolidge||salary of US$1,685 a week and percentage of the US$200 million profit|
|Nobody's Fool||Carl Roebuck|
|1995||Die Hard with a Vengeance||John McClane|
|Twelve Monkeys||James Cole|
|1996||Last Man Standing||John Smith|
|Beavis and Butt-Head Do America||Muddy Grimes||voice|
|1997||The Fifth Element||Korben Dallas|
|The Jackal||The Jackal|
|1998||Mercury Rising||Art Jeffries|
|Armageddon||Harry S. Stamper||US$20 million salary plus percentage of profits|
|The Siege||Major General William Devereaux||US$5 million salary|
|Apocalypse||Trey Kincaid||Voice and likeness in videogame|
|1999||Franky Goes to Hollywood||Himself||Short subject|
|Breakfast of Champions||Dwayne Hoover|
|The Sixth Sense||Dr. Malcolm Crowe||US$100 million salary (includes salary, gross, & video revenue); highest earnings for any actor at the time|
|The Story of Us||Ben Jordan|
|2000||The Whole Nine Yards||James Stefan 'Jimmy' Tudeski|
|The Kid||Russell 'Russ' Duritz||US$20 million salary|
|Unbreakable||David Dunn||US$20 million salary|
|2002||Hart's War||Col. William A. McNamara||US$22,500,000 salary|
|2003||Tears of the Sun||Lieutenant A.K. Waters|
|Rugrats Go Wild!||Spike||voice|
|Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle||William Rose Bailey||cameo|
|2004||The Whole Ten Yards||Jimmy 'The Tulip' Tudeski|
|2005||Hostage||Jeff Talley||US$25 million salary, co-producer|
|Sin City||John Hartigan||US$5 million|
|2006||Alpha Dog||Sonny Truelove|
|16 Blocks||Jack Mosley||Producer, US$20 million salary|
|Fast Food Nation||Harry Rydell|
|Lucky Number Slevin||Mr. Goodkat||US$7 million|
|Over The Hedge||RJ||voice US$10 million|
|2007||The Astronaut Farmer||The Colonel||uncredited|
|Perfect Stranger||Harrison Hill||US$15 million|
|Grindhouse||Lt. Muldoon||US$1 million|
|Live Free or Die Hard||John McClane||US$25 million +20% of all gross|
|2008||Assassination of a High School President||Principal Kirkpatrick||awaiting release|
|Kane & Lynch: Dead Men||Kane||pre-production|
|What Just Happened?||Himself||awaiting release|
|2009||The Surrogates||Agent Greer||filming|
|1984||Miami Vice||Tony Amato||episode "No Exit"|
|1985||The Twilight Zone||Peter Jay Novins||episode "Shatterday"|
|1985-1989||Moonlighting||David Addison Jr.||67 episodes|
|1996-1997||Bruno the Kid||Bruno the Kid||voice|
|1997||Mad About You||Amnesia patient||episode "The birth part 2"|
|1999||Ally McBeal||Dr. Nickle||episode "Love Unlimited"|
|2000||Friends||Paul Stevens||three episodes|
|2002||True West||Lee||television movie|
|2005||That '70s Show||Vic||episode "Misfire"|
|2002||The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course||producer|
|2007||The Hip Hop Project||executive producer|
|Live Free or Die Hard||producer|
Willis has won a variety of awards and has received various honors throughout his career in television and film.