Bruce Willis

The Whole Truth About

The scene is a cocktail party for 400 journalists at the Martinez Hotel, Cannes. A 15-minute show-reel from the upcoming erotic thriller ‘Colour of Night’, starring Bruce Willis and Jane March, is being shown. It’s somewhat jaw-dropping; highlights include an anatomy lesson on March and lingering close-ups of Willis.

In fact, it prompts one journalist to ask whether Willis feels guilty that people pay good money to watch stuff like that. The star naturally has a comeback and the incident is widely reported. But Willis really couldn’t give a damn; the following day, he puts it in context.

”There was a time when I used to let that sort of stuff affect me,” he said. ”But it would be ridiculous to think that everybody in the room will like what I do, like me as a human being, like my film, like what I have to say. People are going to not like me, that’s what happens. And we all have a choice – you can take US$ 7.50 out of your pocket to see me at the movies or not.”

Case closed. After a six-month hiatus, Willis is at a high point in his life and he’s not going to let the begrudgers drag him down. He has four quality films in the can, including a starring role in Quentin Tarantino’s Palme d’Or-winning ‘Pulp Fiction’ and Rob Reiner’s ‘North’. He is about to start work on ‘Die Hard 3′ in July and his wife Demi Moore has just given birth to their third child, a girl – she also happens to be the most powerful actress in Hollywood with her films grossing more than US$ 1 billion.

His Planet Hollywood restaurants are mushrooming all over the world – the first Asian outlet, in Hong Kong, opens on Sunday and he’s trying to match Sharon Stone’s leg-opening sensation in Colour of Night – or is he?

”Don’t judge it on the trailer,” he said. ”This is Cannes and people are trying to market the film. They put every love scene, every killing, death, violent scene into a 15-minute reel and it’s really not indicative of what this film is about.”
If you just read the words, an image of an aggressive, New Jersey-born loudmouth comes to mind (that’s certainly the perception of Willis in the tabloid press). But they’re delivered with a great deal of humour and honesty. He doesn’t avoid questions, doesn’t get annoyed, and certainly avoids delivering the standard actor’s lines – ”I was just honoured to be chosen for this part” is not in his vocabulary.

For example, he tracked down Tarantino for the part in Pulp Fiction. ”Harvey Keitel introduced us but before I met Quentin I read the script and I definitely asked him could I be in it,” he said. ”I wanted that part. I had seen Reservoir Dogs a few times; Tarantino has an edge. He has a take on things which I really appreciate.”

Tarantino is also one of the most overtly violent directors to emerge from America. Similarly, Willis plans to work with Hong Kong director John Woo (”I’m a really big fan of his”), another guns-and-gore merchant. The actor talks about nourishing a diverse catalogue of films he can be proud of, but the sum of all his parts is violence. With three young children toddling around, he still claims it doesn’t tickle his conscience.

”First of all, kids aren’t supposed to see these films; they’re meant for adults,” he said. ”When my kids are 18 or 19 years old, then they’ll be able to go and see them, if they want. But I think it’s rubbish, this whole thing that violence in films makes people go out and do violent deeds. What makes people do violent things? Seeing dead bodies lying on the ground with a chalk outline around them on live news. That bothers me more than anything I’ve seen in a film.”
”You know what scares me? The fact that these guys maimed and killed 250,000 people in Rwanda with machetes. You can take every heinous film that is the scariest, most violent film you’ve ever seen and nothing is as frightening as that. My point is we’re living in a violent world and we’re just kidding ourselves if we think that it’s not. Quentin says that if you believe his films are about violence, you’ve missed the point. It’s just a tool. It’s a mirror of what society is about right now.”

The tabloids will probably have a field day with the bash-and-bonk Colour of Night – in particular an erotic sequence which takes place underwater between Willis and March, who are close friends off set.

March is married to long-time Willis producer Carmine Zozzora, and the two couples spend a lot of time together. ” It was really very awkward,” said Willis. ”For example, the shot under the pool – you try it. Dive underwater, take a deep breath, don’t let any air come out of your mouth, sit at the bottom of the pool, kiss whoever you’re with, take their clothes off, take your clothes off, and try to have sex in the pool. All in one take. It’s impossible, we’d burst out laughing and we’d have to go at it again – take nine. It’s so far removed from anything real, it’s ridiculous.”
Willis’ life may also seem unrealistic to most of us, but he has a good grounding in commonsense. He refuses all temptations to boast about his work – ”you tell me what my talents are, that’s your job” – and after grudgingly admitting that he has a ”flair for comedy”, he instantly exclaims ”don’t print that”.

When asked what is the one thing he wants to pass on to his children, the actor instantly replies “self-esteem”. ”When we were kids, nobody talked about that,” he said. ”Nobody said that this was important, that there is a concept called self-esteem and it will make you feel better. If you can give them that, then they’ll be OK in the world.”

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