Urban Cinefile
"..it's quite painful yet tantalising, seeing myself at age of eight, despite having my wrinkles and double chin!"  -Franco Zeffirelli on making his autobiographical film, Tea with Mussolini
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, November 16, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR AN INTERVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

WILLIS, BRUCE: UNBREAKABLE

BRUCE THE BLESSED?
Bruce Willis is fascinated by the paranormal on a daily basis. He often wonders why his life seems blessed, he tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo, as they discuss his latest film, Unbreakable.

By Hollywood standards, Bruce Willis really is unbreakable, so itís fitting that Unbreakable is also the title of his latest film, in which heís reunited with The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan.

In Unbreakable he plays David Dunn, a man who is the sole survivor of a devastating train wreck. Samuel L. Jackson plays a mysterious stranger who offers a bizarre explanation as to why he escaped without a scratch, an explanation that threatens to change Davidís family and life forever. The paranormal, he says, has always fascinated him Ė still does.

Recently divorced from actress Demi Moore, with whom he has three daughters ages 6 through 12, Willis is surprisingly forthcoming on the subject of his own life and career.

Was it the director or the subject matter that attracted you?
I didnít know what the subject of this script was going to be when I agreed to do it. Night told me that he had an idea for a script for me and I said OK, Iím in. We were almost done shooting The Sixth Sense and we had had a really good time on that one and developed a friendship and a high level of trust, so I didnít have to know what the subject matter was going to be. The fact that it deals in the realm of paranormal, that happened to be a coincidence. But once youíve seen both of his films, you know theyíre not the same. Once I read the script I was thrilled at how well it was written and the fact that I was going to get to work with Night again as a friend and collaborator, and that allowed us to start at a much higher jumping-off point in terms of our communication about story-telling.

What were your first thoughts after reading this script?
I was once again fooled by the ending of the movie. I didnít expect that. I didnít see it coming. I was thrilled with my character. It was such a great character, so challenging to play and with messages that for whatever reason, I think resonate in my own life. Itís not difficult for me to understand a character that is searching for a reason as to why something phenomenal has happened to him.

Youíve had as much luck in your career as this character has in the train wreck. Did you see a parallel?
Iím very pleased with what I do for a living. For me itís very rewarding to entertain people and Iím still a big fan of the magic of film, which if you break it down to its essential components really is just a group of strangers coming into a dark room and sitting next to each other and looking at flashes of light on a screen for a few hours. If the movieís good enough and interesting enough within fifteen minutes, youíre drawn into that world and that is a magical thing.

This film also looks at heroes and for a lot of us, we look to our fathers as heroes. Did you have that hero worship growing up and do you see yourself as a hero to your own kids?
I accept that responsibility fully with my kids. I think raising children is not only the hardest job in the world but the most rewarding thing in the world. As an adult whose job it is to teach kids right from wrong, to teach them how to move through the world as adults eventually, I think thatís a really good goal. Somebody recently asked me how I see myself and I have to say I see myself as a dad first and an actor and everything else second. My father was a hero to me and I grew up in a situation where I was around not only my father but uncles and a grandfather who all lived in our area, so I had a lot of men who were role models to me.

In terms of Unbreakable, how were you growing up?
Kids have this impervious sensibility until they actually fall out of a tree for the first time. You donít know that itís going to hurt. I have scars all over the back of my head. I broke bones, fell out of a lot of trees and broke ribs. I used to scare my mom a lot.

Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
I think weíre all familiar with paranormal occurrences, things that canít be explained, things that are beyond the realm of our understanding. I think Iíve seen UFOs but there is no way to confirm it. I think they exist. I think itís such conceit to think we are the only things alive in a universe as vast as this but I get low level paranormal things all the time. As simple as thinking of someone and then the phone rings and itís them!

Do you research that kind of stuff or just the scripts you read?
Iíve always had an awareness of it. Iím on-line almost every day and I subscribe to a news service that has a thing called News of the Weird. I check that out every day. Thatís full of those kind of stories that are true stories but hard to believe. Iím kind of a fan of those kind of things. But my character didnít need to know about those things. It was the not knowing that was the biggest part of my work in this film and only at the end does he really figure out what the hellís going on.

Now that youíre divorced, do you still believe in marriage?
Itís certainly an interesting experiment (laughs)! I think itís important if youíre going to have kids because children need role models with them. But I think my feelings now lean towards the fact that statistically most peopleís lives are made up of a series of relationships. Some of these include marriage and some of these can be very short. Some of these can be long or passionate or not passionate but that seems to be statistically what happens. I know people do stay together and find one person for the rest of their lives but I doubt if Iíll ever get married again.

Going back to that UFO, what do you think you saw?
I was in Sun Valley (Idaho) up in the mountains on a clear night and I saw two things in the sky that just could not have been airplanes. They were moving too erratically and too fast and I was out there by myself so Iím never going to say I definitely saw one but I can tell you that I think I did. And right after that, my career really took off! (laughs)

You also said you could relate to someone dealing with phenomenon. Are you referring to your fame?
Itís not just fame but I know a lot of actors who are just as talented as I am who havenít caught the breaks that I have caught and at a certain point I really do begin to wonder why me? Why has my life taken this path? Some of the reasons I know but I would really like to know the mechanics of how that all works and also to never take for granted how blessed by God Iíve been.

Even the Unbreakable character in the movie had fears. What is Bruce Willis afraid of?
Iím not afraid of anything. Iíve already almost died a couple of times so all this time is free now for me. But I have been asked this a lot and had to think more about it and although I know Iím going to die, I know that my choice now is to try and live it up every day and try to squeeze as much out of each day as I can.

How did you almost die?
I almost died when I almost fell from a 50-foot scaffolding on Die Hard with a Vengeance.

This movie is like a fairytale or a comic book. What are your thoughts on fables and mythology?
Mythology has been around a lot longer than comic books have. Whatever your thoughts are on organized religion, the stories of almost every religion; Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, are really all based on metaphors. I donít think the Bible was ever meant to be interpreted literally. Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell?

The man who wrote books about mythology?
Yes, I follow his line of thinking more than I do anything else. But comic books are also an extension of the mythology of good versus evil. If all movies were made where the bad guys get away with everything, nobody would go to the movies anymore because it would be too depressing.

So whatís next?
Iím working on a film directed by Barry Levinson and co-starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton called The Bandits. Itís based on a true story and is a romantic robbery comedy. Sounds weird, I know, but itís really funny!

Are you concerned about a possible actorís strike next year?
Iím excited and I hope they strike for the whole year because I need a break (laughs)! I think the issues that are on the table need to be dealt with and the union is far stronger now than itís ever been so it may go on for a while. I canít really predict the future but I support my union brothers and sisters.

Youíre better known for big physical roles but lately youíve done more small pensive parts. Is this a conscious choice?
I really havenít figured out this whole acting thing yet. Every film I do, I learn a little bit more and I try different things and working with Night, especially the second time, I was afforded the opportunity to really go for a more subtle performance because the part was written that way. Itís far more interesting to me than running down the street with a gun in my hand screaming. So Iím trying to do things that challenge me and that Iím not necessarily sure that I can succeed at, because then if you do succeed, you get the reward of knowing youíve accomplished something.

Published: November 30, 2000

Email this article

See our REVIEWS







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017