Actor. Born Walter Bruce Willis, on March 19, 1955, in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. The Willis family moved from a West German military base to the small town of Carneys Point, New Jersey, when Bruce was two years old. He grew up as the oldest of four children in a blue-collar family (his father, David, was a welder). As a teenager, he worked in a DuPont chemical plant. After graduating from high school, Willis attended Montclair (NJ) State College, where he first became interested in acting. He left college and moved to New York City in 1977, when he landed a bit part in an Off-Broadway play. In New York, he supported himself by working as a bartender in between small roles in stage productions.
Willis’ first break came in 1984, when he stepped in for another actor in the lead role in Sam Shepard’s Off-Broadway hit Fool for Love. His success led to an audition for Desperately Seeking Susan, an upcoming production starring Madonna. Willis didn’t get the role, but he stayed in Hollywood long enough to attend a casting call for a new television series called Moonlighting. Chosen from among 3,000 hopefuls to play the wisecracking private detective David Addison, Willis became a star overnight when Moonlighting became a hit. The chemistry between Willis and co-star Cybill Shepherd won over fans for four successful seasons (1985-89), and Willis won an Emmy in 1987 for Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical).
Willis made his big-screen debut in the Blake Edwards-directed comedy Blind Date (1987), co-starring Kim Basinger. Though the film was a critical and commercial disappointment (as was his second effort, 1988’s Sunset, also directed by Edwards), Willis was only one role away from joining Hollywood’s A-list. His starring turn as New York City policeman John McClane in Die Hard (1988) netted Willis a $5 million paycheck (a colossal amount at the time). A huge box-office hit, Die Hard spawned two huge sequels (in 1990 and 1995) and cemented Willis’ position alongside Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the elite group of Hollywood’s top action heroes.
Willis scored another hit—and another huge paycheck—when he lent his voice to the inner monologue of Mikey, the baby at the center of the 1989 comedy Look Who’s Talking (and its less successful 1990 sequel), starring Kirstie Alley and John Travolta.
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Bruce Willis biography
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