Sitting down with one of the biggest action film stars of all time to talk about his new film and the possibility of a fourth Die Hard film
Bruce Willis has my respect. The majority of press junkets are pure fluff, publicity events meant to promote a movie. It's extremely rare that a movie star, especially one as big as Bruce Willis, comes out and speaks their mind. He dropped the hammer on anything and everything that was bothering him that day. Seriously, when was the last time someone had the cojones to criticize Oprah Winfrey and tell major magazine publications to f**k off in a press conference. It's almost never done. Read and enjoy because Bruce is on a roll here.
You've portrayed so many different kinds of cops, why do they fascinate you?
Bruce Willis: It's partly because I'm from South Jersey and I have a strong affinity towards working class people. I believe that any job that requires you to possibly get shot at or get shot dead; you should be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for. These guys don't get paid anything. Yet they go out there and do it. They are the last line between us and the wolves and the chaos that's out in the world.
This is a great character role, the mustache, the gimpy leg, the booze, and the paunch. Would Clint Eastwood do this? Is there too much of a de-glamorization going on? Do you can consider that a big risk?
Bruce Willis: I never consider any of those things. They're all elements in the script. It never said that I had to be overweight, but I've known guys who are capable of drinking a bottle and a half of Scotch a night; and they're a little overweight. Everything else, the limp, the attitude, how beat up he is; were all written by Richard Wenk, the screenwriter. It could have just been another stupid run-down Bruce Willis film. This film didn't really come together till Mos Def showed up with the character. No one knew what he was going to do. We were fortunate enough to get him. And he showed up with a character that was just genius. He is an actor and he's a very creative guy. And everybody benefited from his performance in this film, especially me.
You are one of the few stars that are proud to be a Republican...
Bruce Willis: Let me stop you right there. I'm a Republican, and everybody write this down because I'm sick of answering this fucking question. I'm a Republican only as far as I want a smaller government, I want less government intrusion, I want them to stop pissing on my money and your money. I want them to be fiscally responsible and I want these goddamn lobbyists out of Washington. I want the government to take care of people who need help, like the kids in foster care, the half a million kids who are in orphanages right now. I want them to take care of the elderly and give them free medicine, give them whatever they need. There's tons, billions and billions of dollars that are just being wasted. I hate government. I'm apolitical. Write that down. I'm not a Republican. I just need to get that Republican shit out of the way.
Is it legitimate to use violence to do the right thing? Like the bad cops in this movie...
Bruce Willis: Occasionally, when push comes to shove. I'm not a violent man or advocate violence. I will say this. I think what the United States and everyone who cares about protecting the freedoms of the free world should do whatever it takes to end terrorism. And not just in the Middle East. I'm talking also about going to Columbia and doing whatever it takes to end the cocaine trade. It's killing this country. It's killing all the countries that coke goes into. I believe that somebody's making money on it in the United States. If they weren't making money on it, they would have stopped it. They could stop it in one day. By the time it gets here it becomes a billion-dollar industry. And I think that's a form of terrorism as well. I don't know what this has to do with 16 Blocks. (laughs) But I'm in the mood.
You've done quite a few films with numbers in the title. Do you have an affinity for numbers?
Bruce Willis: It's getting sickening, isn't it? It's just a coincidence. It's easier for people to remember the names I guess. Although they're doing good with Brokeback Mountain. People seem to know that name.
Dick Donner describes you as very brave actor that's chosen the right time to play this part. Do you agree with him?
Bruce Willis: Well, that's a very nice compliment. I don't think I could've played Jack Mosely ten years ago. I knew when I was in my 30s, that by the time I got into my 40s and late 40s that I would grow into it. I would know so much more about life. It just allowed me to give this character a different worldview than I had when I was in my 30s. And there are just such better parts now. There's just so much cooler things to be able to do. You've all seen the little things trying to make you feel less of a man because you're losing your hair, but they can all suck my...you know what I mean? I'm a man and I will kick anybody's ass who tries to tell me that I'm not a man because my hair's thinning. I like fooling around with looking different ways. I wear makeup in films. I don't wear makeup in real life. Its just part of the gig, that's all. Jared Leto, that cat just put on 60 pounds to play Mark David Chapman, who should never get out of jail by the way. That's not politics.
Your eyes look so weary in this film. How do you prepare for that?
Bruce Willis: You just heard ten minutes of it. I don't like the world. I don't think it's being run correctly and I think it could be done a lot better. I remember when the news was just "here's what happened and we're going to show you what it is''. Now the news is manipulated and managed. It's all meant to scare you. They don't show you anything good. They don't show you anything good coming out of Iraq, all they say is this many dead since Bush took office. Things ARE happening today, I went over and saw things for myself and there's a lot of jacked up things. So that's where that look comes from. I don't have to look too far to find it.
Talk about the idea of redemption in the film?
Bruce Willis: I am drawn to films that have the theme of redemption in them. Morality plays and these stories have been around since the Greeks were doing it in the amphitheater. It makes people feel good and it gives people hope. We hold out hope with this film and that's what people want. All you've got to do is turn on the news to get depressed. But there are some good things happening out there. I like films that deal with that theme.
I have another comment from Donner. He said you called Mos Def to bring him into the film. Were you familiar with his music? Why him?
Bruce Willis: We were friends. I've known him for a while. I first saw him in Monster's Ball. We were going through the casting process, I said 'I know this guy' and he said he passed. So I said, 'why don't I make a call?' I called him up. I think this is a career-making role for him. I think people are going to see him in a much different way. I love him. He's just like a little angel and in real life too.
Did you see yourself, early on, gravitating between different characters and being flexible?
Bruce Willis: I've done different kinds of films but not all of them get seen. In the last two years I've done a different bunch of films that all seem to be coming out in five months. Lucky Number Slevin is a really great movie. Wait till you see Alpha Dog, crazy, really represents what's happening in the Valley in California, these kids are getting high all day long. No Sin City 2, talking about a prequel. 16 Blocks coming out and I did Over the Hedge, which is really funny. It has jokes for kids in there, but also a lot of jokes for adults. They're all different. But I don't have a plan to say I want to do THIS film because I want to make THIS statement. I think my job is to be entertaining. If you're going to come out of your house, park your car, by food and popcorn and sit in a movie theatre, it's our job to be entertaining. I never gave any thought to messages I wanted for this film. I think messages are for documentaries.
Bruce Willis: Did you just say Entertainment Weekly? Do you work for them?
No, but they said one of the films they never want to see is Die Hard 4. Does that surprise you since all the fans want to see it? And would you still do it?
Bruce Willis: Entertainment Weekly hates me. They've hated me since they've been a magazine. Fuck 'em. And you can go and tell them that.
Bruce Willis: Because I'm a threat to them. Why does anybody hate anybody? Because they have some beef. Who cares? They can all blow me.
What's your take on Die Hard 4?
Bruce Willis: I would like to see Die Hard 4 happen, if they get the script right. I'd consider it. All those magazines, here's a good example. Look at what happened to James Frey in the last two weeks. That's a great book, so is the follow up book. And just because his publisher chose to say these are memoirs, it took it out of being a work of fiction, a great work of fiction, very well written, to this guy being sucker punched on Oprah by one of the most powerful women in television just to grind her own axe about it. Hey Oprah, you had President Clinton on your show. And if this prick didn't lie about a couple things, I'm going to set myself on fire right now. James Frey is a writer. He can write whatever he wants. It's fiction. It's just shameful how he was treated. It's just shameful and it's just not fair and not right. Justin Timberlake had a really good response when he was asked about that because I think he was asked to play Frey in the making of that book. "Have you heard of this magazine called In Touch Magazine? Or Us Weekly? Or People Magazine? Or any of these magazines. They lie about people and they just make up shit all week long. And you have to sue 'em to get it changed. This is the world we live in. So let's leave James Frey alone, how about it?" I'm pissed off today.
Didn't you think Oprah had to respond because people were coming down on her?
Bruce Willis: Hey, I know a lot of women respect Oprah and I do too, but I just think she did it because she got her feelings hurt. She took it a little deep. And you know what? He didn't know what she was going to say to him. She said, "Come on in, it'll be all right." And then she goes BANG. I'm a fan of Oprah's. She's doing great. She does great things. That whole book club thing is a really great idea, but I think James Fry got treated a little unfairly.
You jump between big budgets and Indies. Is there a greater chasm now between the films critics like and reward and those audiences go see?
Bruce Willis: Hollywood's changed a great deal since 9/11. It's a much more cautious time in Hollywood now and it'll come back. It'll change. When five different films of different genres come out and make $200 million each, it'll go back. They'll start spending money again. But it really is a cautious period of austerity in Hollywood. The Oscars, I don't know. I don't have any comment about the Oscars because the Oscars are people's opinions and I don't think it reflects public opinion all the time.
What about a Moonlighting movie?
Bruce Willis: It should be. They gotta get a young guy to play it.
What are you filming now?
Bruce Willis:Perfect Stranger with Halle Berry.
16 Blocks opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.