How did Bruce Willis Get His Start in Acting?

Born on 19th March 1955, Bruce Willis is a 65 years old American actor and musician. His father worked for the military as a civilian. Bruce Willis’s mother was German, whereas his father was American. He was the eldest one among his three siblings.

In 1957, after Bruce’s father got discharged from the military, the family returned to New Jersey. According to Willis, he has strong and deep roots in a blue-collar background. His father was a master mechanic and welder; it explains his dominant box office success and work ethic.

Although Bruce Willis is well-known as an action movie star, however, he has performed in several different kinds of roles across almost every genre. He has acted on television, as well as on stage. Bruce Willis is not just an actor; he is a singer and producer as well and has released three solo albums.

Since 1980, he has been done several voiceover roles and acted in 88 feature films. Currently, Bruce Willis is the 9th highest-grossing leading actor of all time. Moonlighting (1985) was a big break in his career, but things got much better with time.  He was a powerhouse in some great 90s flicks such as the Sixth Sense.

With the success of the action super hit, Die Hard, Bruce Willis became a bona fide film star. His best-known movies include Pulp Fiction, Death Becomes Her, 12 Monkeys, Unbreakable, Looper, Armageddon, Red, The Sixth Sense, and The Fifth Element. On the small screen, Bruce Willis is well-known for his work in a well-liked TV show, Friends, as a guest star.

Moreover, He has nominated for several awards, including three Emmys (won 2), and four Golden Globes (won one). In 2006, to honor the contribution of Bruce Willis to the entertainment industry, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Of course, the success of any person does not happen overnight, and the same happens with Bruce Willis. However, the determination, hard work, and good fortune made it all possible for Bruce Willis. Now you must have gotten the idea of how Bruce Willis got his start in the film industry and how Die Hard made him the star he is today.

The Roots of Acting Bug of Bruce Willis

At his school, Bruce Willis got enrolled in the theater group to overcome his childhood stuttering affliction. He loved performing in front of the viewers, and according to 24SMI, he felt in control there. Bruce Willis understood his ability and power of performance to mesmerize an audience.

In the Beginning

Bruce Willis was ridiculed in his childhood for his stuttering disorder. Despite this issue, Bruce auditioned for a part in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; it was his school play. When Bruce Willis walked on the stage to perform, he noticed that his stuttering has gone. But it came back afterward, which made him realized that he needs to do more acting.

All this led up to the development of his interest in the drama. And it continued for the rest of his life. The sense of humor and charm of Bruce Willis made him well-known, and he got elected as class president in high school. He was a wrestler as well, but it ended after his shoulder injury that needed surgery.

Bruce Willis worked at a nuclear power plant as a security guard after his high school (his first job). Later, he worked at a chemical factory and then did duty as a private investigator.

Starting Career of Bruce Willis

At Montclair State University, New Jersey, Bruce Willis enrolled as a drama student and got a part in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (a school production). However, before graduating, he dropped out, and to find works as an actor, he moved to New York.

In 1977, Bruce Willis got his first role in the play Heaven and Earth. After that, he got the lead role in another off-Broadway play, Bullpen, and at the same time, he worked as a bartender and made a name for himself there.

Bruce Willis was famous for his ability and flair to entertain his patrons. At the bar, he caught the eye of some producers and met several struggling stars there, including John Goodman. In 1979, in the Paul Newman movie, he got his first movie role as an extra, and the name of that film was The Verdict. Bruce Willis replaced Ed Harris in the same year in Fool for Love.

He was able to get work on the TV in the early 1980s. He appeared in The Twilight Zone and Miami Vice. To audition for Desperately Seeking Susan, Willis traveled to Los Angeles in 1984. Although he did not get the part, he stayed there for another day and auditioned for another TV show named Moonlighting.

Bruce Willis auditioned for the lead role with a punk haircut, wearing army fatigues. With his social nature and charm, he won over television executives and beat more than 3,000 other actors for the part. In the role, Willis played a wisecracking private investigator.

The Breakthrough of Bruce Willis

Moonlighting was not only a big hit for ABC, but it made Bruce Willis a star, a comedic actor. On the network television, it was one of the first pioneers of comedy-drama and lasted for about five years. The show received appreciation from the audience for its high production values and its style of humor.

In its second season, Moonlighting earned sixteen Emmy nominations, and Willis won one in 1987. The success of the show gave him the exposure that opened several doors that were required for the continuation of his career.

In 1987, Bruce Willis got the lead role in Blind Date (romantic comedy), and then he got the chance to star in Die Hard (action film). Bruce Willis was not the first choice to cast for the role of John McClane in the movie Die Hard. The Blind Date had a very ordinary performance with the critics and in the theater, and Willis started getting cold feet about Die Hard as well.

Bruce Willis thought if he had given another failure, then no one would want to cast him. Twentieth Century Fox was having the same thoughts as they were not very confident either about casting Willis in their new action films.

But the producers of the movie liked the personality of Bruce Willis and thought he would be the perfect choice for the part. Bruce was not sure about the role as he was not an action hero, and he did not want to get criticized by the audience. The agent of Willis negotiated the matters for everyone, and the studio agreed to pay him five million dollars, which was a pretty large amount at that time.

The high salary gained the attention to the movie and legitimized Bruce Willis as a film actor. Die Hard changed the reputation of action movies with its big hit. It boosted the career of Willis as well, and his performance and choice of designing his stunts helped him gain the image of an action star.

Furthermore, the large payment that Willis received started a new trend in the industry where big stars began getting paid high amounts.


Bruce Willis has a massive fan following, and his name we all are familiar with since he is a renowned actor. The hard work and dedication of Willis made him the big star. He proved himself as an action actor when no one thought of him as one.