Willis, Bruce

▪ American actor
in full  Walter Bruce Willis 
born March 19, 1955, Idar-Oberstein, W.Ger. [now Germany]

      American actor best known for his performances in blockbuster action films, particularly the Die Hard series.

      Willis was born in West Germany, where his father was stationed at an American military base, and the family moved to New Jersey in 1957. After high school graduation he took a series of odd jobs before studying theatre at Montclair State College. He dropped out of college and moved to New York City where he began his acting career with Off-Broadway roles and appearances in television commercials.

      Willis had a number of small film roles in the early 1980s but became known as a comedy actor after he was hired as a wisecracking detective opposite Cybill Shepherd in the television sitcom Moonlighting (1985–89). The show made Willis a household name and helped to launch his film career, which began in earnest with Die Hard (1988). In the film, Willis portrayed the cynical but good-natured New York City police detective John McClane, who finds himself embroiled in a terrorist attack on a Los Angeles office building. The film was a major box-office success and helped establish Willis as a leading action hero. It also spawned three sequels: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), and Live Free or Die Hard (2007).

      Willis took roles in a number of violent and darkly comedic films, including Pulp Fiction (1994), in which he played a professional boxer who double-crosses a mobster after agreeing to throw a fight; 12 Monkeys (1995), about a convict sent back in time to investigate a virus that devastated humankind; and The Fifth Element (1997), a visually impressive science-fiction action film. While he continued to act in large-budget action films—including Armageddon (1998) and Tears of the Sun (2002)—Willis also appeared in comedies, including The Whole Nine Yards (2004). In 1999 he starred in The Sixth Sense as a psychologist who counsels a child who claims to see dead people. The drama, which was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was a critical and commercial success. Willis reteamed with Shyamalan on the supernatural thriller Unbreakable (2000). In 2005 he starred in the stylistic Sin City, which was adapted from the graphic novel series written and illustrated by Frank Miller. Willis's later films include Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and 16 Blocks (2006).

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Universalium. 2010.

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