Rumer Willis is finally establishing herself as an actress in her own right. The daughter of actress Demi Moore and actor Bruce Willis, Rumer Willis debuted onscreen with two roles opposite her mother: a bit part at the age of six in the ensemble dramatic comedy Now and Then (1995, billed as Willa Glen), and a more substantial supporting role as Moore’s onscreen daughter in the notorious (but lucrative) Andrew Bergman farce Striptease (1996).
Willis’ show-business activity grew prolific in the late 2000s; the summer of 2008 witnessed her debut as a ;jazz vocalist at Teddy’s on Hollywood Boulevard, and at around the same time, the then-19-year-old actress graced the casts of several films, including a supporting role in the comedy The House Bunny, opposite Anna Faris.
Willis then signed for another supporting turn in Dana Lustig’s Wild Cherry (2009) but of course will next be seen in the horror remake Sorority Row. The horror pic revolves around five sorority girls who inadvertently cause the murder of one of their sisters in a prank gone wrong, and then agree to keep the matter to themselves and never speak of it again, so they can get on with their lives.
This proves easier said than done, when after graduation a mysterious killer goes after the five of them and anyone who knows their secret. Willis chatted to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: First of all, are you normally a fan of this genre?
Willis: I am. I definitely – you know, probably the one who’s going to be in the theater with my hands kind of just split open over my face. But yeah, I definitely do enjoy a good horror film.
Question: What was the attraction of this one for you because it really is an interesting character. I mean, she does go through the biggest arc throughout the movie. Is that one of the things that attracted you?
Willis: That definitely, too. And just – you know, when I read it, it was a really smart and intelligent horror movie. And it was more about the characters, rather than – you know, the plot driving it. And just people happening to be there. And I really liked the fact that – you know, it was kind of female-driven. And just, the writing was so funny. And you can definitely tell the comedy when you’re reading it. But I honestly had no idea it was going to be as funny as it was until I saw it.
Question: Now, you go through quite a lot throughout the course of this. I imagine you probably do more crying than anybody else in the movie. How draining is that emotionally? When you have to do that continuously?
Willis: I mean, it’s definitely emotionally and physically draining after you’re doing it for a couple hours. But it makes it easier, when you’re in the environment – where we were, at least, it was freezing cold. And all of the girls – you know, we were really kind of just bringing our a-game. And so I think that really helps, when you have everyone who’s kind of ready to work as hard as they can, and do that. So, that made it easier. But yeah, of course, it’s definitely draining.
Question: Let m ask about the look of this character. Whose idea was it to give her – to dress her the way that she did, and the glasses, and the whole thing? I mean, did you have input into that? And what do you think that adds to the nature of this character?
Willis: Well, the glasses are actually mine, and I had brought them to a fitting. The first fitting I had. I’d worked with the costume designer before, and I just talked to the director and her about the kind of look that we wanted to do, that was a little bit more conservative than the other girls, but still – you know, kind of sexy. And the glasses just kind of came in as one of those quirks that I wanted to add. But they ended up being more trouble, because every time I would cry, the lenses would fog up. [LAUGHTER]
Question: It’s interesting, because it seems to me that your character is much more almost like an outsider amongst this group of overtly sort of pretty, sexually aggressive women. Why do you think they were – are accepting of you, as part of the group?
Willis: You mean in the movie?
Question: Yeah. Why were they accepting of you throughout college, even?
Willis: Well, I mean, I’m sure I was kind of the girl that wrote everyone’s essays, and probably helped write the term papers and things. But – you know, she’s definitely a little bit nerdy and a little bit dorky, but I don’t think she – but I think she’s still kind of accepted, because she’s not so over-the-top nerdy and dorky that she wouldn’t necessarily be in the sorority. But she’s just more, I would say, on the nerdier side than the girls. But sororities have a bunch of different kind of women in them.
Question: Is it irrelevant to do research on a movie like this? I mean, do you need to go to a sorority, and figure out what those cliques are really like? Or is it all really on the page?
Willis: I mean, it’s on the page, and most of it’s just widely- known. You know, we all kind of had an idea, and we talked to the director about it. But I think a lot of it, honestly, came from the girls who were cast and when we all actually got together, and the chemistry that we kind of worked out.
Question: Do you deliberately avoid the original film from which this is based?
Willis: Well, they actually asked us not to watch it, so it wouldn’t sway us in any way, you know?
Question: And I take it you haven’t watched it since.
Willis: No, we haven’t watched it yet, but the girls and I were planning to get together one night and do a little showing of it.
Question: You know, when the audience is watching a movie like this, the rush is, of course, seeing what happens, and the violence and all that kind of stuff – as an actress, when you’re working on a set, how difficult is it to create this feeling of terror that the audience has to respond to later?
Willis: Good question, by the way. When you get into that kind of emotion, and you start really kind of putting yourself in that mindset, and everyone is in that mindset, and – you know, your surroundings and the set. When you’re there, it kind of helps really put you into that mind space. And then, honestly, it’s really about just kind of putting yourself there, in your head. And just really kind of going, ” Okay. Well, how would I feel in this situation? And how would I react? And what would I be feeling, what would be going through my head?” And all those different things.
Question: You’ve been acting now for a few years. And obviously given your lineage, was acting always inevitable for you? Or was it always something that interested you on your own? Clearly, you were on set a lot when you were young. Did that influence you? What was the main influence for you to become an actress?
Willis: Well, you know, honestly ever since I was a little kid, I think it was just always something that I wanted to do, and that I was interested in doing. And I guess it was just never really a question that that was something that I wanted to pursue.
Question: Were your parents encouraging? I mean, you talk to a lot of second generation actors, and there’s always varied responses to this. What were your parents’ attitudes towards this decision of yours?
Willis: Honestly, they’ve always been supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I think one of the most important things for them was just that they wanted me to finish high school, and not just have my GED, but really just go and finish high school. And I tried college for a semester, but I never really felt like it was the right place for me. So, now that I’ve chosen this, they’ve been nothing but supportive, which is all I can ask for.
Question: I read a quote that you would like to work again with your parents. Do you guys ever look for things to do together?
Willis: I would love to. I mean, you know, if the right project came along, I would love to be able to work with them again especially in a scenario where our characters were opposing each other. That’d be interesting.
Question: In fact, you should be, like, the antagonist.
Willis: Exactly. I think that’d be really cool.
Question: I would like you to kill off your Dad in a movie.
Willis: Yeah, right?
Question: [LAUGHTER] A lot is being said, I know, about how hard is it for you to assert your independence in a world where everyone looks for reasons why you shouldn’t be in the business? I mean, has it been difficult for you?
Willis: Honestly, I don’t really think about it that much. I mean, I think I’m doing something that I love. And I hope that I get to continue to have opportunities like I’ve had. And in the end, I really just hope that the work I do speaks for itself, and that I get to continue doing something that I love.
Question: What else is going on with you? Are you still involved in this Slightly Single in LA movie? Is that happening?
Willis: As of right now, no. But I’m working on 90210 right now, I have a recurring role on that. I’ve shot two episodes, and as soon as we finish up press for this, I’m going to be starting a third.
QUESTION: I was a huge fan of the original 90210. Do you ever see it in re-runs?
Willis: You know, I’ve never watched it, actually.
Question: Oh, really?
Willis: Yeah. I should probably do that now.
Question: What kind of character do you play on the show?
Willis: Well, my character’s actually a journalist who works at The Blaze newspaper at the school. And her name is Gia. Right now, honestly – I mean, I don’t even know necessarily where her story line’s going.
Question: Is she a nerd?
Willis: She’s kind of a cool, very outspoken, very confident kind of young woman who definitely isn’t afraid to have her voice be heard, and is really trying to kind of raise up in the ranks of the journalistic world.
Question: Why do you think television was the right move for you at this particular juncture?
Willis: You know, I don’t always necessarily think about it. I mean, you obviously do have that in the back of your mind. But I think it’s just more about if I find a character that I connect to, or one that – you know, challenges me, or one that I would just really like to play.
Question: Now you had a very big 21st birthday celebration recently.
Willis: I did. It was wonderful.
Question: What are you doing now that is vastly different than when you were in the last days of your 20th? I mean, is it just a symbolic coming of age now?
Willis: I mean, not really, because I got to gamble. I played blackjack my first night, and I won a little money, so that was really fun. But other than that, not really that much has changed.
Question: Are you interested in being involved in any other creative aspects of the film industry? I mean, do you want to at one point write or direct or produce, or any of those other things?
Willis: Oh, definitely. I would love to do that.
Question: Are you actively pursuing avenues in that direction?
Willis: Not right this second. I think mostly right now I’m just kind of focusing on acting. But definitely in the future, I would love to maybe venture out and do something like that.
Question: Now, this movie opens two weeks before your Dad’s movie, Surrogates, opens. I’m just wondering which one you think is going to make the most money.
Willis: I don’t know! I hear that – in a lot of interviews, he’s been talking about my movie. But honestly, I’m very excited to see his as well.