- Mar 19, 1955
- Idar-Oberstein, West Germany
Born Walter Willis -- an Army brat to parents stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany -- on March 19, 1955, Bruce Willis grew up in New Jersey from the age of two. As a youngster, he developed a stutter that posed the threat of social alienation, but he discovered an odd quirk: while performing in front of large numbers of people, the handicap… More Bio:
Born Walter Willis -- an Army brat to parents stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany -- on March 19, 1955, Bruce Willis grew up in New Jersey from the age of two. As a youngster, he developed a stutter that posed the threat of social alienation, but he discovered an odd quirk: while performing in front of large numbers of people, the handicap inexplicably vanished. This led Willis into a certified niche as a comedian and budding actor. After high-school graduation, 18-year-old Willis decided to land a blue-collar job in the vein of his father, and accepted a position at the DuPont Chambers Works factory in Deep Water, NJ, but withdrew, shaken, after a co-worker was killed on the job. He performed regularly on the harmonica in a blues ensemble called the Loose Goose and worked temporarily as a security guard before enrolling in the drama program at Montclair State University in New Jersey. A collegiate role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brought Willis back in touch with his love of acting, and he instantly decided to devote his life to the profession.
Willis made his first professional appearances on film with minor roles in projects like The First Deadly Sin, starring Frank Sinatra, and Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. But his big break came when he attended a casting call (along with 3000 other hopefuls) for the leading role on Moonlighting, an ABC detective comedy series. Sensing Willis' innate appeal, producers cast him opposite the luminous Cybill Shepherd. The series, which debuted in 1985, followed the story of two private investigators working for a struggling detective agency, with Willis playing the fast-talking ne'er-do-well David Addison, and Shepherd playing the prim former fashion model Maddie Hayes. The show's heavy use of clever dialogue, romantic tension, and screwball comedy proved a massive hit with audiences, and Willis became a major star. The show ultimately lasted four years and wrapped on May 14, 1989. During the first year or two of the series, Willis and Shepherd enjoyed a brief offscreen romantic involvement as well, but Willis soon met and fell in love with actress Demi Moore, who became his wife in 1987.
In the interim, Willis segued into features, playing geeky Walter Davis in the madcap 1987 comedy Blind Date. That same year, Motown Records -- perhaps made aware of Willis' experiences as a musician -- invited the star to record an LP of blue-eyed soul tracks. The Return of Bruno emerged and became a moderate hit among baby boomers, although as the years passed it became better remembered as an excuse for Willis to wear sunglasses indoors and sing into pool cues.
Then in 1988, Willis broke major barriers when he convinced studios to cast him in the leading role of John McClane in John McTiernan's explosive action movie Die Hard. Though up until this point, action stars had been massive tough guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, execs took a chance on Willis' every-guy approach to the genre - and the gamble paid off. Playing a working-class cop who confronts an entire skyscraper full of terrorists when his estranged wife is taken hostage on Christmas Eve, Willis' used his wiseacre television persona to constantly undercut the film's somber underpinnings, without ever once damaging the suspenseful core of the material. This, coupled with a smart script and wall-to-wall sequences of spectacular action, propelled Die Hard to number one at the box office during the summer of 1988, and made Willis a full-fledged movie star.
Willis subsequent projects would include two successful Die Hard sequels, as well as other roles the 1989 Norman Jewison drama In Country, and the 1989 hit comedy Look Who's Talking, in which Willis voiced baby Mikey. Though he'd engage in a few stinkers, like the unsuccessful Hudson Hawk and North, he would also continue to strike told with hugely popular movies like The Last Boyscout , Pulp Fiction, and Armageddon.
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