Bruce Willis is back in the role he’s best known for: Iconoclastic, take-no-prisoners cop John McClane, in this weekend’s A Good Day To Die Hard. For the first time, McClane finds himself on foreign soil after travelling to Moscow to help his wayward son Jack (Jai Courtney) — unaware that Jack is really a highly-trained CIA operative out to stop a nuclear weapons heist. With the Russian underworld in pursuit, and battling a countdown to war, the two McClanes discover their opposing methods make them unstoppable heroes. Willis chats about donning the white vest one more time.
On playing John McClane for the fifth time:
“There has been a certain amount of goodwill that has been visited on these films. The character and the characters, people root for you and people want to see you because you know someone like me. Someone who thinks he’s too smart or has everything figured out, but in truth you don’t really have anything figured out. Now we have my son, who thinks that he knows everything and has everything figured out but no one here and no one on earth really has everything figured out and it’s fun to watch people try and figure it out. Along the way, [director] John Moore and his team make it so harrowing, that car chase and the stunts, all those things that we did. It’s the same effect of going to an amusement park and going on a roller coaster, you know you’re not gonna fall off the roller coaster but it sure seems like you’re gonna go flying out the car and these films are like big entertainment roller coasters. That’s the goal, anyway.”
On whether he is John McClaine:
“There weren’t any rules written down about the character, how he talked or what his attitude was. That attitude that you see, was just me and just being cocky. I kept being encouraged to be this kind of smart ass guy.”
“It was an ad-lib .Alan Rickman [from the first Die Hard], he was such a good bad guy, he was constantly picking on me and he said something to and I just kind of let that slip out. It became a fabric of the film. Now when we say it, John had an idea we should say it right away and get it out of the way -- it always comes at a moment of high danger. It’s just amazing to me that that line has lasted this long. Kids say it to me on the street. Grandmums. It’s a little awkward. I’m happy that they say it.”
On 25 years of John McClane:
“That stretch of time is pretty large. It’s hard to compress it into a few sentences. I remember every film and everything that we did and where we were. 25 years is a life in itself. I have really great memories of it and it’s all been good. As crazy as it is and as crazy as they continue to make these films, not many injuries, not many people who get hurt, always good. I have a warm place in my heart for ‘Die Hard’. I never thought about stopping. I always think that there’s one more to do.”
On taking John McClane to Russia:
“Moscow was really built for a couple of fish out of water like us. I can’t imagine a bigger ocean of non-communication than Eastern Europe and Russia. I think we were all excited about the idea of getting out of the United States and having the film be more international. We sent Jack in a job that was pretty obscure and undercover and it made a lot of sense. I don’t speak any other languages really and we got a couple jokes out of that. It just opens it up. I like seeing myself not being able to figure things out and not being able to figure out how the car works and not being able to know what someone is saying to me. We had the opportunity to get [actress] Yuliya [Snigir] in the film and she’s a big star in Moscow. Awfully cute in this film and she’s a great helicopter pilot so we had that going. John contributed the biggest ballroom on Earth.”
On being a dad in the film...
“It was fun. I was just an ok dad for most of my life with my character and son Jack and we really set some obstacles for ourselves that we did not have a very good relationship -- from the time he set Philadelphia on fire to the time that I see him this film. I thought he was a gangster and in much worse trouble than he happened to be in Moscow. Regardless of my feelings for him as a child, it felt like the right thing to do to go to Moscow and try and help him and help our story along.
“It’s my favourite job is being a father. I have four girls [Rumer, Scout and Tallulah with Demi Moore, and Mabel, with current wife Emma Hemmings] now. They’re a captive audience, they can’t really run away from you even if they don’t like your jokes. I just enjoy it, making my kids laugh. I do the dumbest things in the world to make my kids laugh. With my youngest daughter now, I try to make her laugh. One is a job, it’s a film concept, the other is real life and you want to try and get them ready to go out in the world, and be women who have good morals and good intentions... I never knew until they got older that I was having any impact on them.
On relating to John McClane when he says ‘I spent too much time working, I screwed the kid up?’
“I tried to balance it out. I would say, ‘I am going to need to have these two weeks off here and you have to go shoot with someone else.’ I didn’t know that that was an unusual thing, but it turned out to be unusual.”
On whether he has fans among police detectives:
“They think I am doing all right. [laughs] They think I represent their image very well.
On surviving in Hollywood:
“I think it’s a guy thing. I think the challenge of not complaining is going, ‘I am all right, I am not cold. (laughter) It’s okay.’ I think as close as I could come to any explanation of how I got to hang out in Hollywood for so long and get to do so many fun movies, is that I was only competing with myself. I was only trying to do better than I did and to be more honest or be funnier, or be less funnier, be more serious, or be more of anything. Just try to do better. “
On Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and the next generation of action stars:
“I don’t know about those guys competing. They are really good friends, even back in the time when everybody said they were competing. I mean, they are two completely different guys with completely different approaches, and the fact that they both still get to work now is just amazing.
I think there are new action stars, I think Jason Statham is one. Daniel Craig is a pretty tough guy, and he reinvented that, whole genre. He made me start watching James Bond movies again. Takes a while to become a guy that is as mythical as Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s done a lot of things. He was the Governor of California. That was the most amazing thing that I’ve ever seen.
“No. Well yes. They said, ‘What do you think, do you think about it?’ I go,’Yeah I thought about it.’ And then nothing ever happens. And I did a lot of things when I was a kid, that I think would always keep me out of politics.”