Bruce Willis (Colonel William A. McNamara) has demonstrated incredible versatility in his career. From playing the ultimate action hero in the popular Die Hard films to his critically-acclaimed performances in recent movies like Sixth Sense, The (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), Willis has carved a niche for himself as one of the world’s most talented and bankable box office superstars.
Raised in a working-class family in New Jersey, Willis attended Montclair State College because of its highly regarded theater department. After numerous auditions, he landed a role in the play Heaven and Earth in 1977, which was incentive enough for him to quit school and move to Hell’s Kitchen to pursue an acting career.
Soon he was cast in off-Broadway plays and television commercials, while occasionally playing his harmonica and sitting in rhythm and blues bands. His acting breakthrough came in 1984 when he replaced the lead in Sam Shepard’s hit play Fool for Love, a run which lasted for 100 performances off-Broadway.
Later that year while on a trip to Los Angeles, Willis was selected from 3,000 contenders to star as David Addison in the phenomenally popular television series Moonlighting, for which he would win an Emmy and Golden Globe Award and ultimately become an international star.
In 1986, his continued pursuit of the love of music resulted in the release of an album for Motown Records entitled, “Bruce Willis: The Return of Bruno,” which eventually went platinum, hanging on the charts for over 29 weeks. His remake of the single “Respect Yourself” landed at an impressive number five on the charts. In 1989 he released his second album, “If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger,” also for Motown.
Willis made his feature film debut opposite Kim Basinger in the Blake Edwards comedy Blind Date (1987) . He reunited with the director to play Tom Mix in the murder mystery Sunset before starring in the blockbuster motion picture Die Hard (1988), one of the highest-grossing films of 1988.
The following year, Willis took a dramatic turn by portraying a Vietnam War veteran haunted by combat memories in Norman Jewison’s In Country. Returning to comedy, Willis provided the voice of Mikey, the wise-cracking baby in the highly successful Look Who's Talking (1989) and its sequel, Look Who's Talking Too (1990) .
In 1990, Willis starred in Die Hard 2 (1990), the number two box office hit of the summer, then starred in Brian De Palma’s Bonfire of the Vanities, The (1990) opposite Tom Hanks. He went on to star opposite Demi Moore and Glenne Headley in the disturbing psychological drama Mortal Thoughts; as a cat burglar extraordinaire in the action-adventure comedy Hudson Hawk; and as ganster Bo Weinberg in Billy Bathgate.
Willis followed these roles with Last Boy Scout, The (1992), playing a down-on-his-luck private detective who teams up with an ex-football player to solve a murder. He then starred in the number one box-office hit Striking Distance playing a river patrol cop, and was also featured in the bittersweet tale North for Castle Rock Entertainment. He then had the starring role in the erotic thriller Color Of Night (1994).
Willis then co-starred to great acclaim in the Quentin Tarantino drama Pulp Fiction (1994), which was the 1994 Grand Prize winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He was also lauded for his turn in Nobody's Fool (1994) co-starring Paul Newman, starred in the box office hit Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995), and was seen in Four Rooms (1995). He starred in the hit motion picture Twelve Monkeys (1995) for director Luc Besson. He also starred in Jackal, The (1997) and Mercury Rising (1998)
Willis starred in the action-adventure blockbuster Armageddon (1998) produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. He also made the low-budget film Breakfast of Champions (1999) for director Alan Rudolph, based on the best-selling novel by Kurt Vonnegut, and served as executive producer on the film.
Recently, Willis starred in the critically-acclaimed feature film drama Sixth Sense, The (1999), which grossed close to six-hundred million dollars worldwide and was nominated for six Academy Awards®. Willis won Best Actor from the People’s Choice Awards for the film. He co-starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in Story of Us, The (1999) directed by Rob Reiner, produced and starred in the black comedy Whole Nine Yards, The (2000), and was seen in the hit film Disney’s Kid, The (2000). Willis reunited with The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan to star with Robin Wright-Penn and Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable.
Willis’ most recently starred opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett in Barry Levinson’s Bandits (2001) for MGM.
In 1997 Bruce Willis co-founded A Company of Fools, a non-profit theater company committed to developing and sustaining a company of theatre artists that stage productions in the Wood River Valley, in greater Idaho, and in the US.
During the summer of 2001 he starred in and directed Sam Shepard’s dark comedy True West at the Liberty Theater in Hailey, Idaho. The play, about the troubled relationship of two brothers, was taped by Showtime for airing 2002. This special served as a tribute to Robert Willis, the younger brother of Bruce Willis, who passed away of pancreatic cancer in June.