Bruce Willis is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most popular movie stars in the world, and he has been for more than three decades now that we’ve reached the 30th anniversary of his debut as John McClane. Most recently, Willis played the role that made Charles Bronson famous in a remake of his most iconic film and got roasted by some of the funniest stars in Hollywood on Comedy Central. Despite the fact that he has made a ton of terrible movies and has said some really controversial things in public, Willis remains one of the most popular and beloved movie stars in the world. Here are 10 reasons why people love Bruce Willis!
10. He has great chemistry with all his co stars
There are very few stars that Bruce Willis has starred alongside that he hasn’t shared great chemistry with on screen, and that’s either because he’s a great actor or because he’s a lot of fun to act with – although it is probably some delightful combination of both of those things. It started off with his Moonlighting co star Cybill Shepherd, with whom he is still friends – their pairing is what sold the whole show to its audience. When the third Die Hard movie, Die Hard with a Vengeance, changed the game by having a buddy cop story, Willis had terrific chemistry and hilarious banter with his comic foil Samuel L. Jackson. He had good chemistry with Joseph Gordon Levitt in the science fiction movie Looper, in which they played the same character at different ages who travel through time. He was also hilarious alongside his RED co stars Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and especially John Malkovich. He made a great pairing with Brad Pitt in the freaky deaky science fiction neo noir Twelve Monkeys, directed by Terry Gilliam. Plus, Willis has long maintained an off screen friendship with Edward Norton, his co star from both Moonrise Kingdom and the upcoming Motherless Brooklyn.
9. He has very cool, zen religious views
Bruce Willis might have very decisive views on politics and certainly doesn’t like to keep quiet about them, but when it comes to religion, he is much more chilled out and zen and cool about his views. He did say at one point he was a Lutheran believer – this was the faith that he grew up with when he was a kid, and he actually attended the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church throughout his childhood – but he has since stopped practising and now feels more laid back about religion. He doesn’t believe in the stories of the Bible, but he does believe that the freedom to believe that and the freedom to not believe that or to believe whatever you want to believe is “what makes America cool.” He explained in an interview back in the ‘90s, “Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms. They were all very important when we didn’t know why the Sun moved, why weather changed, why hurricanes occurred, or volcanoes happened. Modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology. But there are people who interpret the Bible literally. Literally! I choose not to believe that’s the way. And that’s what makes America cool, you know?”
8. He supports the men and women of the U.S. military
One of the most admirable things about Bruce Willis is his support for the men and women who fight in the American armed forces. He once sent 12,000 boxes of cookies to U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East and he has portrayed military characters as heroes in many of his movies. He also went out to Iraq to speak to some of the soldiers who were stationed out there and let them know that he appreciated what they were doing. When he was over there, he saw a side to the American military that you don’t get to see on CNN, and he used his celebrity to get the word out. He explained, “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 get the water turned back on, and you don’t hear any of that on the news. You hear, ‘X number of people were killed today,’ which I think does a huge disservice. It’s like spitting on these young men and women who are over there fighting to help this country.”
7. He’s candid about the pressures of celebrity
Bruce Willis has always been very candid about the pressures that come along with being a celebrity in the public eye. In a 1988 interview that has recently been uncovered from when he first went from being a TV actor to a movie star, he explained, “Tell me if I’m wrong, but when Moonlighting [the TV show that made him a star] first came out, so many said, ‘It’s a great show, it’s innovative, it’s so new…’ And after a while, you guys [in the media] said, ‘Wait a minute, let’s see what Bruce Willis is really about. Let’s find out what’s underneath all that.’ And they started looking. They wanted to see what makes Bruce Willis tick. The pressure that was involved with that is something that I was unprepared for. No one can say, ‘Here’s how you’re supposed to act, here’s how you’re supposed to behave,’ so I was kind of learning it as I was going through it. I have gotten through it, haven’t I? I learned a lot from the experience.” At the end of the day, no matter how many blockbusters movies Bruce Willis might have starred in, he is just a guy who was thrust into stardom at a relatively young age.
6. He was married to Demi Moore…
In 1987, Bruce Willis met fellow actor Demi Moore at a movie premiere, and later that year, they got married. The marriage would later end in divorce, but the fact that Willis dated her at all is impressive. After dropping out of high school at the age of 16 and leaving her trailer park in New Mexico to pursue a career in acting and modeling in Los Angeles, Moore became a teen idol in the 1980s and “the most sought after woman in Hollywood” in the 1990s. In the late ‘80s, Willis managed to lock her down early, and by the time that she became a sex symbol in the last years of the 20th century, many men were let down to find out that she was already taken. She was a part of the Brat Pack, the group of young actors who starred in some of the most popular movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s (including Emilio Estevez, who Moore was once engaged to, and Molly Ringwald). However, Moore hates being called a “brat.” She said, “I find it embarrassing, hateful, and demeaning. The man who wrote that seems jealous because we are young and talented, so he filled the article with lies. He implied we all hate each other.”
5. …and they’re still on good terms after the divorce
At the time that his divorce from Demi Moore was finalized, Bruce Willis was very open about his emotions and said candidly, “I felt I had failed as a father and a husband by not being able to make it work.” He credits fellow A list movie star Will Smith with helping him get through that dark time in his life. Eventually, Willis was able to get over the fallout of his marriage with Moore and managed to rekindle a kind of friendly relationship with her. They never got back together and both remarried, to other people, but they are still on good terms. In fact, when Moore was getting remarried to Ashton Kutcher, Willis was so cool with it and such good terms with her that he actually went to the wedding and sat there and watched her marry another man. In Willis’ recent Comedy Central roast, in which Moore made a surprise appearance to make fun of her ex husband, one of the roasters joked that Willis’ gift at the wedding was “a toaster and $90 million.” But all joking aside, it takes a strong man to be able to patch things over with his ex wife and attend her next wedding.
4. He’s the master of delivering iconic lines
Bruce Willis is one of those actors whose delivery style has made some lines of dialogue that might otherwise be unmemorable into iconic moments in cinema history. For starters, of course, there’s “Yippee ki yay, motherfucker!” But there are a bunch more than that. Admittedly, a lot of them came from the same franchise, like “Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister,” and “Who’s driving this car, Stevie Wonder?” and “Welcome to the party, pal!” In the second one, he has the meta line, “I don’t fucking believe this. Another basement. Another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” And in the fourth one, when Justin Long’s Matt Farrell says with disbelief, “You just killed a helicopter with a car?” and then Willis deadpans, “I was out of bullets.” The one time he worked with the auteur Quentin Tarantino on his Oscar winning masterpiece, Willis’ character Butch Coolidge says, “Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.” He also uttered the classic, darkly comic line, “I ain’t gonna kill him, I’m just gonna take a foot off of him. A man can work with one foot.” And with his classic sarcastic wit, he once said, “Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for conversation, but maybe you could just shut up for a moment.”
3. He can take a joke…
Any celebrity who agrees to take part in one of the Comedy Central Roasts – yes, even Donald Trump – is inherently a good sport. Trump, of course, was only a good sport because he enjoyed listening to people talking about him and he also enjoyed bragging about how much money the roast had raised for charity. But Willis did it because he can take a joke and laugh at himself. He was surrounded by some of his closest friends and colleagues, including Edward Norton and Cybill Shepherd and even his ex Demi Moore, who made a surprise appearance. Joseph Gordon Levitt joked, “Bruce, you were so good in The Sixth Sense. How did you pretend not to care while a ten year old acted circles around you? And I loved the twist at the end of The Sixth Sense, when Bruce goes back to making shitty movies.” Dennis Rodman said, “Bruce has five daughters and no sons, because God hates Bruce Willis movies. At least Kim Jong-un [Rodman’s friend] is smart enough not to release his bombs.” Shepherd japed, “The last time I saw Bruce Willis’ face was when I was shopping for DVDs at the gas station.” And Willis took it all in his stride.
2. …and he can fire them right back!
At the end of the recent roast, as with all the Comedy Central Roasts, the roastee got a chance to get his own back by roasting everybody who had just spent an hour and a half roasting him. As Willis himself put it as he took the podium for the final segment of the broadcast, “If you are a fan of Bruce Willis movies, and I know you are, I get the shit beat out of me for an hour and a half, and then I come back and beat everyone’s ass. Buckle up, it’s ass whippin’ time!” He said to his friend and co star Edward Norton, “I love you, Ed, but you have a rep of being hard to work with. You’ve rubbed more people the wrong way than Harvey Weinstein.” He said to his oft co star and master impressionist Kevin Pollak, “Kevin Pollak has made more money doing Schwarzenegger than his maid.” He also joked, in the company of his ex wife Demi Moore, “Joseph [Gordon Levitt] played a younger me in Looper. He couldn’t pull it off. There is one actor who successfully played me. It was Demi Moore.” It’s very admirable and, well, awesome that Bruce Willis can not only take a joke, but then proceed to fire some right back.
1. He’s John McClane!
“Yippee ki yay, motherfucker!” All kinds of actors were considered for the part of fish out of water cop John McClane in what is now considered to be the greatest action movie of all time. If Frank Sinatra and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford and Don Johnson and Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone hadn’t all turned down the role of John McClane, then Willis might not be such a huge movie star today. The producers came to him as a last resort, since he was only known as a TV comedy actor back then. However, this last resort would later go on to be called “an excellent casting choice as a sardonic action hero.” Willis nails every one of McClane’s lines with humor and conviction, not least his iconic catchphrase. Everybody loves John McClane, because he is always swept reluctantly and unexpectedly into dangerous situations, which is inherently humorous and sympathetic at the same time, and by extension, they have come to love Bruce Willis, too. An MTV survey found McClane to be the “Greatest Movie Badass of All Time,” as he takes western motifs and attitudes and brings them into the modern day as a wisecracking lone wolf who is constantly up against all odds.