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By Brad Balfour
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Posted: March 24, 2005.
Itís hard to believe that superstar Bruce Willis, a man often
heard over many explosions in his signature action adventure films like
those in the Die Hard series, should be so soft spoken. Yet after
his wildly successful career as a hardnosed hero, Willis still tries to
challenge himself and say so quietly. So now he starred back to back in
two very dark, film-noir styled variations on the action film, Sin City
Though your character is another hard-boiled copóSin
City is a three-part dark fantasy film?
There are only two groups of filmmakers right now, one being [Star
Wars director] George Lucasí team and the other being [Spy Kids
director] Robert Rodriguezí team who know how to use these digital
cameras. Itís shot completely green screen and everything you will see in
Sin City was added after the fact. I believe there were a couch and
a coffee table in my scene with Jessica Alba but other than that we had to
imagine everything that was there.
What were the advantages of having comic book creator Frank
Miller as a second director?
It was great having him there. Robert Rodriguez threatened to
walk out of the DGA (Directors Guild of America) because they told him
that Frank Miller could not direct this film. Robert just said, ĎĒFuck you
Iím gonna do what I wanna do.Ē After every take I would first look to
Robert and make sure that he got what he wanted and I would turn to Frank
and say, Ďwas that what you were thinking?í
Miller said he wrote
your John Hartigan sequence because he hated
The Dead Pool
(the last of Clint
Harry movies). Do you see
Hartigan as the last
No. I don't think so. I
never compared this to anything else. I just stayed within in the genre of
Frank's stories and as a pure film noir movie; Hartigan has a role to
fill. He's an honest cop and he goes up against
everyone else in this city who's not honest. And there's a romance to it
that is very interesting, and then Jessica Alba is really great. She did a
really great job in the film.
Will you forever be trying to break out of that action hero
I always thought that by the time I was 40 I would be given
better scripts and different scripts. Iím still learning how to act and
Iíve learned stuff every time from different films that I do. Iíve learned
more than anything from films that havenít been successful that bombed and
in some places just sucked. I try hard every time. I think that this film
will go a long way in breaking that [stereotype]. I was around when Mel
Gibson and I both did two films the same year; he did Lethal Weapon
and I did the first Die Hard. Both films set a template for 18
years of action films after that. The genre just kind of ran itself into
the ground. The ordinary guy thrown into extraordinary circumstances was
one template. The buddy movie with two cops ran itself into the ground and
ran out of gas. I was waiting for the genre to get smarter and go back to
find interesting stories and I think this is a really interesting story.
Itís as close as you can get to a Bruce Willis film without seeming like a
Bruce Willis film. There are a lot of things involved that make it not
Armageddon, not Die Hard, not ďoh Bruce Willis is in a film,
heís going to save the world again.Ē This guy is emotionally crushed and I
couldnít have done this film 18 years ago without having been a father or
being loaded up with that emotional weight.
There were some
exciting action sequences when your character saves the family from a
burning house. Did the fire scenes get scary?
I wasnít afraid. The safety screw and stunt coordinators and all
those guys and special effects team are complete pros. These guys kept us
safe at all times. It certainly looks scary. I think the kids were a
little scared because no one had ever been in a real fire before. There was a
guy who was shaking down little burning embers of wood and I had these
little burns all over my head by the end of that. (Bad guy psychopath) Ben
Foster almost got set on fire
when they tried to throw a real Molotov cocktail once and some of
the gas leaked out of the bottle and fortunately somebody saw that
happening and stopped it from happening. Other than that it was just hot.
Did you work with a hostage negotiator for the role?
There was a gentleman named Peter Weireter who was our
consultant. He is also a good friend of mine. He was the primary hostage
negotiator in Los Angeles for over 12 years. He was on the phone with me
every night and if I ever had any questions I would turn to him. Iíve
spent a lot of time with cops over the years and in this case the hostage
negotiator. Itís a pretty simple rule [for a negotiator], ďtry not to let
anybody get killed.Ē [In real life] I negotiate with three young women on
a daily basis but I wouldnít want to have that be my job.
You have this reputation as a tough guy on
screen but youíre very generous in real life with the cast and crew. You
have dollar day Fridays where you fill a bucket with dollars and literally
give money away. Where does this come from?
Itís a little bit more than a dollar! Iím going to get in trouble
with the government if you mention the amount! Itís a tradition that Iíve
been doing for about 15 years. Itís hard work making films; not hard like
carrying bundles of shingles up a 20-foot ladder but itís hard in a
different way. Thereís a lot of waiting around and a lot of down time and
when itís time to actually work and shoot you have to be ready from an
acting standpoint to commit something to film history and itís just my way
of just getting us all on the same team. I think it comes from having
worked in films for 21 years. I think being a father has something to do
with it. I was kind of the dad on Hostage.
Was it inevitable that your daughter Rumer go into acting?
donít think it was inevitable. I think that it was always a fun thing and
the rule in our family is that if they want to act in films they have to
do it with their mom or me. Because I produced this film I told Rumer
when she expressed an interest in the film that she would have to audition
which she did.
She came in and did a
and won the part.
How did it go?
She was very prepared.
She improvised a bit where she said, ďIím not gonna fuckiní take this
anymore!Ē It was great and the line actually stayed in the film in that
scene. She came to play. In our house the kids are now saying the line
thatís been around for a while Ďgo big or go home,í [from
Die Hard] and she really nailed it.
What was it like acting with her?
It was really fun. I didnít direct her in any of her scenes; I
left that to [director] Florent [Emilio Siri]. It allowed me to reach a
much higher point of departure emotionally as opposed to me working with a
young actress I didnít know. I carried around my little Polaroid that the
guy who plays the FBI guy gives me in the movie [of Rumer and her film
mother bound and gagged] every night of shooting and I would look at that
and it took me right to the horrific idea of what it would feel like to
actually have your children taken away from you.
Do you have any reluctance about her becoming an actress?
Not at all. If she wants to do this when sheís on her own, I
would support that. Theyíre all going to college, so their desires and
goals might change once they go. Iím not sure if Rumer, Tallulah or Scout
[his other two daughters] will think about this now but when theyíre 30
years old and look
back to when they were 16, they can say, ďWow I looked like that when I
was 16.Ē Itís just kind of cool to have that mark of their life [on film]
at that time. My daughters have all been raised in whatís almost like
circus life. My kids say to me all the time, ďDad weíre set rats.Ē They
know the difference between the real world and the illusion of what films
Now that youíre a father was it easier imagine something so
There are a lot of people who will see this film that donít have
kids. If you donít have kids you do not understand what itís like to have
kids. I can talk about it for 10 years and you wouldnít understand what it
is like to have kids. Itís a different feeling. I canít stress enough the
horrific image of having your children taken away from you. Before I had
kids I didnít want to have anything to do with anybody elseís kids. My
three daughters are my three favorite people on earth to talk to and hang
out with and spend time with. I would step in front of a truck for my
Because Hostage fits in the action genre, did you ever see it
as a Die Hard 4?
No I think this character is very far away from John McClane.
John McClane is a wisecracking cop from New York that I did 18 years ago.
I donít think I couldíve played Jeff Talley [his character in Hostage]
18 years ago. But you canít put anyone into an airshaft, or an air duct
[as happens in one scene where the young boy escapes] and not conjure the
image of John McClane in the first film.
Youíre known for some strong positions in politics and the Iraq
War in particular:
Nobody is pro-war. I am against terrorism. I
would like to see terrorism stopped. Those are my politics as it concerns
the world. I went to Iraq to see for myself what was going on over
there. I donít watch the news, I donít read newspapers; I donít rely on
what I feel is a manipulated form of information from reading newspapers
and the electronic media. That theory was confirmed when I went to Iraq
because what I saw when I was over there was soldiers, young kids for the
most part helping
people in Iraq; helping getting the power turned back on, helping get
hospitals open, helping getting the water turned back on and you donít
hear any of that on the news. You hear Ďxí number of people were killed
today which I think does a huge disservice. Itís like spitting on these
young men and women who are over there fighting to help this country. I
know a lot has been said about war for oil, blah, blah, blah. You know
what? I disagree with that. Hitler was only in power ten years. Saddam
Hussein was in power for thirty years and did terrible things to his own
people. There are people that survived Saddam Husseinís regime but it was
a good thing that Saddam Hussein was taken out.
Justin Timberlake makes his acting debut with you in the upcoming film Alpha Dog. Being a musician yourself, can rock stars make the
transition to acting?
heís great. I didnít have many scenes with him but from what I was told by
[director] Nick Cassavetes he did a great job. I donít think anybody can
automatically become an actor. I think that acting is a craft and you have
to learn the tools of that craft before you commit anything to film
history. We live in a pop culture world where they want everybody to be an
actor. They want Britney Spears to be an actress. I donít think anybody
could just be thrown into that world and become one.
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