Bruce Willis is one of the most easily recognized actors in American films today. From roles in huge successes like Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and M. Night Shymalan's The Sixth Sense to movies that his fans would rather forget like Hudson Hawk, Willis has carved out a niche for himself in Hollywood history. However, there are a lot of little moments that movie buffs and celebrity trivia fans alike might find interesting about how Willis got to where he is today. Things like:
For Starters, He Wasn't Born In America
Despite the All-American look and sound that Bruce Willis has, he was actually born in West Germany in Idar-Oberstein in the year 1955. He remained abroad until he was about two years old, at which point his father left the armed forces and moved his entire family to New Jersey. This explains both the way he talks, as well as the fact that he chose to go by his middle name Bruce, rather than his original birth name of Walter. Audiences should be thankful that he didn't go full blue-collar and stick with the nickname his friends gave him, though. Bruno Willis would have had a very different career.
He Dropped Out Of Acting School
And Got His Big Break While Dressed Like A Punk
It's not uncommon for young, aspiring actors to leave the classroom behind to try and make it as working actors. That said, it is rather uncommon to hear a success story coming out of that decision. Willis moved to New York City, and worked waiting tables and tending bar while he tried out for a number of roles. The second job actually led to him getting certain, bit parts in scenes that needed a believable bar tender. It wasn't until he got the role of wise-cracking private eye David Addison in the television series Moonlighting that he really started making in-roads into the acting world, though.
What most people don't know is the story behind that audition. There were literally thousands of hopeful, hungry actors who wanted that part. A chance to star in a major television show, especially opposite Cybill Shepherd, was sure to draw a crowd. Willis showed up to the audition in combat fatigues and sporting a spiked-up hairstyle that would have had him thrown out of most reputable clubs. Despite that appearance, he was still charming and talented enough to land the spot and to get his first big, starring role.
He Suffered From A Severe Stutter
Like A Few Other Stars We Could Name...
When he was still in school Willis had a serious problem making himself understood. Despite being outgoing and friendly he just couldn't get his words out properly up until he was around nine years old. According to Willis he accidentally discovered his own cure when he tried out for a part in a local high school play A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. As soon as he got up onto the stage his stutter completely vanished. It came back once he'd finished acting, but he'd found the key. It was the same key that had worked for actors like James Earl Jones (and if you're curious True Facts About James Earl Jones can be found right here), who also stuttered until he was up and acting in front of an audience.
Became An Action Star Against All Odds
When Die Hard was being cast there were a lot of big names getting phone calls. The film had originally been pitched as a sequel to Commando, and though it had been re-written as a stand-alone piece Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first one to get the call (True Facts About Arnold Schwarzenegger can be found right here). He turned the project down, so the casting people next went to Synvester Stallone (and if you're curious here's True Facts About Sylvester Stallone). Stallone also said no to the lead role of John McClane as well, and that left the part wide open for Willis to shoot for. He brought all of the charm and snappy one-liners he'd displayed in Moonlighting to the role, and mixed in a healthy dose of tough guy swagger brought all the way from New Jersey. The result was a character that had all the muscle and mayhem of a traditional action lead, but with a charisma and light-heartedness that made John McClane feel more real.
He Suffered For His Art
And Still Carries Some of The Scars...
While Die Hard is the film that made Willis a name on the scene, making the movie cost him quite a lot. While all the guns used on the set were loaded with blanks, they also had more gunpowder than was usual so they produced a bigger, louder bang for the microphones. In the scene where Willis is firing up through the underside of a table the closed space combined with the louder rounds caused him permanent hearing loss; 2/3 of his hearing in his right ear, in fact.
He Was Married By Little Richard
While Bruce Willis's marriage to, and then divorce from, Demi Moore is common celebrity knowledge many people forget who officiated at their ceremony. Little Richard, who had gotten ordained in case the whole music decision didn't work out for him, was the man who performed the nuptials at the wedding of Hollywood's latest power couple. This puts Willis and Moore on a short and prestigious list with other celebrity couples such as Bruce Springsteen and Cindy Lauper.
Put A Bounty On Terrorists
Seriously, There Was Big Money Involved
While Willis has tried to avoid being labeled as a Republican, he has never been afraid to put his money where his beliefs are. His support of United States troops and their efforts is well known, but he went one step further. Willis put a $1 million bounty on both Saddam Hussein (before his death, obviously) and on Osama Bin Laden (the same). Willis wanted to make U.S. troops eligible, but due to the constraints of the law only civilians would be able to collect on the offered funds.