It was clear from the outset that in promoting his latest film, The Whole Ten Yards, that superstar Bruce Willis was going to try and avoid discussing anything unrelated to his career – or that movie. There is a clear begrudging response to questions revolving around his ex-wife, despite Whole Ten Yards revolving around a now domesticated ex-hit man dealing with his kidnapped ex-wife, to whom there is apparently no love loss. Unlike in his real life, in which Willis and Demi are reportedly close, and the actor admits that they have remained so for the sake of their daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah. “Demi and I just chose to put our children first, we do it well and we’re really fortunate,” Willis gruffly responds.
Asked if his children ask any questions about that relationship, not to mention Demi and Ashton Kutcher, Willis is politely restrained. “I don’t think this is the forum for me to discuss that, but they do ask, and I think their questions have been answered.” Asked about the rumour that he would be best man at his ex-wife’s wedding, Willis manages a laugh. “I don’t think I would be, but I also saw that article in the National Enquirer and thought it was a little kooky. Of course I’m the last to know when it comes to stuff like that.”
Currently dating actress Brooke Burns, Willis won’t be drawn as to whether he would marry again. “I’m patterning myself after Mickey Rooney and want to get married at least seven times. I want to be just like Mickey,” he insists, almost with a straight face.
Playing an emotionally needy housebound ex-killer in the actor’s Next Ten Yards movie may not necessarily fit Willis’ real-life persona, but he smilingly admits to being occasionally domestic at home. “I think I’m quite domesticated, in that I can cook and I’m tidy. I make a mean Chicken Cacciatore, which would make you start crying it’s so good. The chicken falls off the bone,” says Willis laughingly.
There is lots of crying from the actor – on screen at least – in The Whole Ten Yards. The superstar says that it was his Ten Yards co-star Matthew Perry who encouraged the two actors to try and switch roles in a way, with Willis now playing, at least initially, a kinder, gentler contract killer. “It was kinda fun stepping in Martha Stewart’s shoes,” he adds laconically.
Part of the reason for doing a sequel to the 2000 hit comedy The Whole Nine Yards, was for the chance to work together again with his Friends co-star. Willis says that the pair is in sync when it comes to comedy. “I think that we understand timing”, Willis additionally explains while sipping his oversized cappuccino. The actor says that he attributes his own sense of comic timing to two things. “The first is when I was entertaining my friends all through high school and the other thing is, from working on TV,” referring to both his stint on Moonlighting, which launched his career back in 1985, and his three-episode stint in Friends four years ago. “You work on TV and your goal is to try to make people laugh and be funny, so you become adept at paying attention to where the joke falls and how long to hold a take. It’s an exercise every time and that’s all we do. We just fooled around on the set and try to get it to where it just looks and sounds natural. It really is like the Three Stooges.”
Raised in Penns Grove, New Jersey, Willis says that school prepared him for comedy. “If I had my yearbook here, I would show you right now. I was a class clown back in1976.” All of this would lay the groundwork for the actor’s later work in comedy. And this time around, he is up for anything, including some vital moments involving chickens, an animal he has worked with throughout his career from Friends to the unfortunate Hudson Hawke. “Contractually, every five years, I have to do a film for the chicken related audience and the poultry industry,” the actor quips. Willis, who is not a fan of the press and rarely sits down with the print media at a press junket, actually got the idea for the Whole Ten Yards at, of all things, the press junket for the original comedy when all the actors re-grouped to promote Whole Nine Yards. Willis says that the main reason to do a sequel is simple. “All we wanted to do was try to make each other laugh.” Even if that meant that the macho star would don a pear of fluffy bunny slippers in his first scene. “Ah, those bunny slippers; I have a pair right now,” he adds smilingly.
Throughout this movie, which has less of an adult edge than the original, Willis is both comic and typically intimidating; an interesting balance which he insists is part of the whole joke of both films. “I was just trying to play a guy about whom nobody knew what was going on, who was capable of anything at any time which evolved, just as in the first film,” Willis explains. “We did the first film on our feet, spritzing, the same way every day and in between takes going, ‘Okay, how about you try this? Why don’t we try this?’ There’s a shorthand of comedy that happens because everybody gets along so well. It’s fun to do this as a job where you’re just trying to be funny.”
While in The Whole Ten Yards, Willis spends many a frenetically comic moment with scene-stealer Kevin Pollak, the pair will work together again, but not for laughs, in Willis’ next film, Hostage. It may be a tonal switch for the two actors, but Willis says that it’s not so tough. “It’s just a different set of muscles and a different set of things you think about at your job, but it’s really great to work with people that you’ve already worked with. Again, there’s a shorthand, where you know you can suggest things back and forth and have that creative free-flow of information.”
On approaching 50, Willis is briefly circumspect. “I’m just in a good place and happy, but I’m actually going on 60, so you got it wrong. Therefore I think I look pretty good and as you can see, I’ve had some work done,” he adds, tongue firmly entrenched in cheek. As for that long-rumoured Die Hard 4, Willis remains typically non-committal and vague on the subject. “Well, we’re talking about it, people keep asking me about it and it’s hard.” Then quips: “We’re having a contest to come up with the ending. What can we do? Have two planets crash into each other? Juggle an asteroid maybe?”
Willis is also having fun with his band these days. “We went out and played last summer, recorded it and I put out a little DVD music video just for fun.” Life is good for this megastar who at least, for the press, is content not to take things too seriously, and wouldn’t want it any other way.