Die Hard Facts About Bruce Willis

November 6, 2023 | Dylan Fleury

Die Hard Facts About Bruce Willis

"Yippee Ki-Yay"

In an era where jacked, macho dudes like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated action movies, Bruce Willis was able to sneak in at the tail end of the 80s and become the everyday, working man hero with a receding hairline that every average Joe without an eight pack could look up to. And sure, a bald head isn’t the joke it used to be—look at The Rock and Vin Diesel—but we can never forget that the OG bald boss is, and always will be, Bruce Willis. He's done a lot more than just star in an endless line of Die Hard movies though, so keep on reading and find out about a few hidden talents you may not have known this ol' cueball had! (And please don’t tell him that I called him a cueball).

1. If That’s Your Real Name?

It turns out Bruce Willis is only a stage name—it's a variation of his real name, Walter Bruce Willison. Walter is kind of an old man name, so I can see why he changed it. Sorry to all the young Walters out there.

Sherlock Holmes Facts

2. A Generous Offer

Willis was offered $5 million to star in Die Hard, which was considered a surprising amount back then, since Willis hadn’t been in many movies before and was seen as more of a TV actor.

Bruce Willis FactsDie Hard,‎20th Century Studios

3. The Immigrant Song

Willis may play the All-American hero in most of his films, but in reality he wasn’t even born in the United States. He came into this world in Germany to a German mother and American soldier father, moving to New Jersey when he was two.

King George V factsPixabay

4. The King’s Speech

Generally when it comes to public speaking, people will freeze up or stumble through lines, but the opposite happened to Willis. When he was a kid, he had a severe stutter, but it disappeared during an audition for a school play. Immediately after, the stutter came back, so Willis figured he should keep up with the acting thing.

Photocall : U.S actor Bruce Willis in Rome to present the film 'Die Hard 4'.Getty Images

5. Pluto’s Not a Planet, but Hollywood Is

It can be hard to successfully break into the restaurant business, but it definitely helps when the people opening the restaurant are four movie stars. In 1991, Willis helped open the chain restaurant Planet Hollywood with his then wife Demi Moore, and fellow action stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Bruce Willis FactsWikimedia Commons

6. Free Shot

Willis once got into an “altercation” with WWE Superstar Chris Jericho during a wrestling show in Hawaii. Willis was there filming a movie at the time and decided to check out the spectacle. During one of the matches, he was encouraged by The Rock to hit Jericho, so Willis head butted him in the chest. According to Jericho, he was expecting a punch or a strike to the face, and even though he portrayed the attack convincingly, he maintains it was relatively weak.Bruce Willis FactsWikimedia Commons

7. Speak Up!

Blank bullets may not kill you, but they can still cause damage if not used properly. Willis learned this the hard way while filming Die Hard. In the scene where he fires at a villain from underneath a table, the firearm was too close to him, and the noise from the blank rounds was so intense that it resulted in a loss of two-thirds of the hearing in his left ear.

Burt ReynoldsFlickr

8. Two Times

Willis is a two-time Emmy winner, once in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for Moonlighting, and in 2000 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, for Friends. Unfortunately, that success hasn’t translated to awards for his work on the big screen, yet.

Johnny Carson factsShutterstock

9. Snubbed 

Not only has Willis never won an Oscar, he’s never even been nominated! Sure, he’s known more for his action movies, but he has appeared in several Academy Award nominated films, such as Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and 12 Monkeys. Fortunately, the lack of recognition doesn’t seem to bother Willis. In an interview with GQ magazine he said "I don't think about it too much. It just always has seemed whimsical to me, to think about it. You don't get an Oscar for comedy, and you don't get it for portraying people being harmed".

Academy Awards FactsGetty Images

10. Pretend to be lifeless

Willis declined the lead role in the movie Ghost, believing audiences wouldn't flock to a movie about someone who's already departed from life. Interestingly, he would later feature in The Sixth Sense, but arguably, the audience is not made aware of his ethereal state until the conclusion (apologies if this ruins the plot, but truly, who has reached 2018 without knowledge of The Sixth Sense's finale?). Willis later admitted to being a "knucklehead" for turning down the role. Easy with the potty mouth there Bruce!

Bruce Willis FactsThe Sixth Sense, Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures

11. On the Other Side of the Desk

Willis was a guest host on the Late Show with David Letterman on February 26, 2003. He was only meant to be a guest on the show that night, but Letterman had a nasty eye infection and had to call in sick, so Willis was asked to fill in at the last minute.

David Letterman factsGetty Images

12. Bruce Willis, PI

Willis worked several odd jobs before he decided to pursue acting, including in a chemical factory, as a security guard, and even as a private investigator. Even after he started his acting career, he still waited tables and tended bar before making it big.

Bruce Willis FactsWikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore

13. Too Cool for School

Willis attended Montclair State University in New Jersey to study acting, but must have thought he learned everything he could, because he ended up dropping out in his sophomore year to move to New York to try to make it as a professional actor. Bold move, Bruce.

Madonna FactsShutterstock

14. Bright Lights

Willis jumped from the screen to the theatre and made his Broadway debut in 2015, starring as Paul Sheldon in Stephen King's Misery. The reviews were what you would expect from a Willis performance nowadays—not bad, just tolerable.

Bruce Willis FactsFlickr,Gage Skidmore

15. You Have to Start Somewhere

Willis may be known for his action roles on the big screen, but he actually got his start in theatre, performing in off-Broadway plays in the late 70s and early 80s. He was even the understudy for, and ended up replacing, Academy Award nominated actor Ed Harris in Fool For Love.

Bruce Willis FactsWikipedia

16. One More Day Won’t Hurt

Willis was living in New York when he decided to road trip down to Hollywood to audition for a part in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan, starring Madonna. He didn’t land the role, but decided to stay one more day to audition for the TV show Moonlighting, which turned out to be a career-defining move.

Bruce Willis FactsMoonlighting, ‎ABC

17. Trend Setter 

Willis stuck out like a sore thumb when he auditioned for his breakout role in Moonlighting by showing up in an army uniform with an earring and spiked hair. If you’ve seen the show, you know his character ended up looking nothing like that, so I guess he must have blown the producers away with his acting.

Bruce Willis FactsMoonlighting, ‎ABC

18. Ratings Game

Since 2014, Willis has starred in three movies that have received a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes from the critics. The audience ratings are a bit more generous, but nothing to brag about. Ouch.

To Kill A Mockingbird factsShutterstock

19. Not Just a Pretty Face 

Willis has yet to step behind the camera and direct, but he does have a writers credit to his name, as he was given a Story By credit for the movie Hudson Hawk, meaning he didn’t exactly write the script, but he was part of the process, kind of like Ben Affleck for Good Will Hunting.

Bruce Willis FactsHudson Hawk, ‎Silver Pictures

20. Before It Was Cool

It’s common nowadays for established actors to lend their voices and likeness to video games, but that wasn’t always the case, which makes what Willis did in the late 90s so unprecedented. He starred in the 1998 PS1 game Apocalypse, lending both his voice and likeness, making him one of the first actors to do so.

Area 51 FactsPxHere

21. The Sound of Music

Willis took a small break from acting in the late 80s to pursue a career in music. You read that right: He released two albums, one in 1987 and one in 1989, and even had a song, “Respect Yourself,” make it all the way to number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Sure, it was a cover, but still, who knew Willis had pipes!

Facts About Adam LevinePIxabay

22. Alter Ego

Willis’s first album was released under his alter ego, and childhood nickname, Bruno, and was fittingly titled The Return of Bruno (though, as it was his debut, I'm not sure where Bruno was returning from). To accompany the release of the album, Willis starred in a mockumentary of the same name about how Bruno influenced other musicians in the 60s. It may be hard to track down, but it’s worth a watch!

Hoaxes FactsMax Pixel

23. For the Kids

In 2002, President George W. Bush named Willis the national spokesman for Children in Foster Care.

Bruce Willis facts Getty Images

24. Hi, I’m Bruce and I Like to Party

I’m sure Memorial Day 1987 is a day Willis would like to wipe from his memory forever. The day started off normal, with Willis throwing a party at his house. However, following a noise complaint from his neighbors and a subsequent visit from the law enforcement, Willis ultimately found himself detained! The charges were later dropped after he agreed to apologize to the neighbors.

Hardest News They’ve Had To Break factsShutterstock

25. That Minister Looks Familiar 

Most people know that Willis and Demi Moore were a power couple in Hollywood for the time they were married. However, not even the die hard—pun intended—Willis fans know that the wedding ceremony was performed by Little Richard.

Bruce Willis FactsShutterstock

26. Friendly Wager

There’s a rumor (that has yet to be confirmed or denied) that Willis appeared on Friends after losing a bet with Matthew Perry in regards to the opening of their movie The Whole Nine Yards. Apparently, Perry thought the movie would open at number one at the box office and Willis didn’t, so when it did, he showed up on Friends and delivered an Emmy winning performance. 

Two and a Half Men factsGetty Images

27. Class Act

It was also believed that Willis appeared on Friends for free as a part of the bet, but in reality he did end up getting paid. However, in an act of kindness, he donated his entire paycheck to charity.

Bruce Willis FactsFriends, Warner Bros. Television

28. Scouts Honor

Willis once bought 12,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and believe it or not, it was't because he was hungry. His daughter and his nieces inspired him to buy the snacks to send to American servicemen and women overseas.

Bruce Willis FactsFlickr,Melissa Doroquez

29. Talking Dog

Willis isn’t typically associated with children’s programming, but he did once lend his voice to the movie Rugrats Go Wild, where he played the dog Spike. He even stuck around to drop a track on the album, too. Seriously, who knew Willis was such a music-man?

Bruce Willis FactsRugrats Go Wild,Nickelodeon Movies

30. Last Resort

Considering Die Hard came out in the 80s, it should come as no surprise that Stallone and Schwarzenegger were offered the lead role and turned it down before the studio came to Willis. In fact, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Dean Anderson were all allegedly offered the role and passed. Willis was so far down the list because at the time, he was more known for his comedy roles and wasn't thought of as an action star.

Bruce Willis FactsDie Hard,‎20th Century Studios

31. That’s Not Awkward at All

Even though Willis and Moore got divorced, the two of them harbor no ill will towards one another. Not only have they remained close, they each attended the other's second marriage, with Moore to Ashton Kutcher in 2005, and Willis to Emma Heming in 2009.

Bruce Willis FactsShutterstock

32. Enough for a Basketball Team

Willis has five children, three with his first wife, Moore, and two with his second, and current, wife, Heming, all of which are girls. No word yet if he's still trying for a boy.

Demi Moore FactsGetty Images

33. Animated

Willis made the transition back to TV in 1996 when he provided the voice for Bruno the Kid in the animated show of the same name about an 11-year-old spy. He brought along Bruno the musician as well, and sang the theme song for the show. Bruno the Kid ultimately wasn’t that successful—only lasting one season—and was cancelled in 1997.

Bruce Willis FactsBruno the Kid,Film Roman

34. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

In 2003, Willis ventured to Iraq and entertained at a US airfield with his band. A staunch supporter of the conflict in Iraq, Willis had notably offered a $1 million bounty prior to his visit, for the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Bruce Willis FactsShutterstock

35. Final Offer

Willis never returned for the third instalment in The Expendables franchise, not because he wasn’t welcomed, but because of his own greed. Willis was only required for four days of filming and was proposed a generous $3 million, but he demanded $4 million (I'm no arithmetic wizard, but I believe that equates to one million per day). Sylvester Stallone rejected the counter offer, and three days later replaced Willis with Harrison Ford.

Bruce Willis FactsWikimedia Commons

36. Hissy Fit

Willis was set to star in a hockey movie for Disney called The Broadway Brawler, but got into a fight with the filmmakers and used his producer credit to essentially fire everyone involved, resulting in the movie being shut down for good, even after $15 million of the movie's budget had been spent. Bogus move, but at least he would go on to make it up to Disney a little later.

Bruce Willis FactsShutterstock

37. A Willis Always Pays His Debts

To compensate for the cancellation of The Broadway Brawler, Willis reconciled with Disney by committing to star in two movies, The Kid and The Sixth Sense. One was a massive success, the other was a fairly forgettable kids movie. Can you guess which is which?

Bruce Willis FactsThe Sixth Sense, Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures

38. Male Bonding

I'm not sure even Die Hard can rescue Willis from appearing extremely geeky in a commercial he did for Seagram coolers in the 80s. The commercial features Willis and friends on a porch, melodiously vocalizing into their beverage cooler bottles. You know, just like what every guy does with his buddies. Sorry, but not even John McClane himself can make that look cool.

Bruce Willis FactsShutterstock

39. Bad Timing

Willis took part in the commercial since, during that time, he was an official representative for Seagram's flavorful coolers. That is, until he got apprehended for drinking and driving. He was dismissed from the company shortly after.

Said To Police factsShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29

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