Blocking Tactics - Bruce Willis interview
With a fuller head of hair and cleaner chops, Bruce Willis first donned a police badge - and the grubby vest of heroism - in Die Hard. And the cops keep calling, with his latest role of shabby detective Jack Mosley in 16 Blocks. Time to interrogateLOVEFiLM: So, back in the police force again, though Jack Mosley's certainly no John McClane. Any worries about playing shabby and flabby?
Bruce Willis: I like fooling around with looking different ways. It's just part of the gig: you wear clothes and you gain weight and you lose weight. Those were all elements in the script - the limp and the attitude - all written by Richard Wenk, the screenwriter. It never said that I had to be overweight, but I know a lot of guys who are capable of drinking a bottle and a half of Scotch a night, and they're a little overweight. I think they call it booze weight. So I thought it would help.LF: And with variety like Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Sin City, 12 Monkeys - to name but a few - you clearly value flexibility in your roles...
BW: I'll take flexibility as a compliment. I do a lot of different kinds of films. Not all of them get seen. In the last two years I have done a bunch of films, and they're all very different. I don't have a plan to say, 'Okay, I want to do this film because I want to make this statement.' It's my job to be entertaining. If you're going to come out of your house, get in the car, buy tickets, buy food, buy popcorn, and sit in a movie theatre, then it's our job to be entertaining.LF: How important to the dramatic weight of the film is the contrast between your world-weary character and Mos Def's frenetic witness?
BW: I don't think I could have played Jack Mosley 10 years ago. Being in my late 40s just allowed me to give this character a different worldview than I had when I was in my 30s. But, that said, it could have just been another stupid run-down-the-street - or limp-down-the-street - Bruce Willis film. This film really didn't come together until Mos Def showed up with a character that was just genius. He's a very smart, creative young man. It changed the fabric of the film. And it changed the way we all looked at the film. A spontaneous chemistry happened that I'm not sure would have happened if it were another actor. Everybody benefited from his performance in this film, especially me, especially my character.
LF: It was clearly a very collaborative process - you also attended the aftermath of a shootout while researching your role with a Brooklyn detective. That must have been pretty shocking?
BW: Well, it was definitely disturbing. Nobody likes to see that. But it goes on every night, and only one or two things may be reported. We go for the sensational now in the news. If it's not sensational or tantalizing or making fun of someone, it seldom gets into the news. I don't watch the news. I just have turned it off, and I feel so much better for it. But I wanted to get out there on that shift that those guys work. I haven't done it for awhile, and I was with a really good guy.LF: A very different world from Hollywood, obviously...
BW: There should be thousands of films done about these guys. And they should get paid more money, a lot more money, I think. These guys don't get paid anything. And there's not a lot of them out there, and they are the last line between us and the wolves and the chaos that's out in the world. I believe that any job that requires you to possibly get shot at or get shot dead, you should be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for. School teachers too, while we're getting political. Let's give them 100 grand. Throw money at them. In 10 years, we'd have a much smarter group of kids coming out of the schools, because you'd get great teachers. Let's build one rocket less, one bomb less, and let's throw some money at the problem.LF: You've mentioned the chaos in the world, and money too - 16 Blocks is bound up with the concept of political and financial corruption...
BW: The story in the film is a microcosmic view of what's going on in the world. I personally feel that it seems like the world is out of control and we can't affect the politicians. We have no connection with our Senators and Congressmen. They don't give a shit about us. They're just up there. It seems like their job is to give the appearance of doing something, but they're really not doing anything. And money corrupts. Everybody needs money. As a man in this modern world, we're still the hunter gatherers. We're just the modern version of it. We have to protect our family and we protect the cave. You want a house where your kids are safe, and you're going to do whatever that takes. And sometimes that takes breaking the law and becoming corrupt. And money does corrupt.
LF: And yet the film also has a strong theme of redemption...
BW: Films that have the theme of redemption in them are really morality plays. And these stories have been around since the Greeks were doing it in the amphitheatres. And it makes people feel good and it gives people hope. All you got to do is turn on the news to get depressed. Then you're going, 'Oh, my God - the world is falling to pieces.' And it may be. But there are some good things happening out there, and I like films that deal with that.LF: We can probably all readily identify with ideas of redemption and change. What are the things that have had the greatest changing effect in your life?
BW: Having three kids changed me. I think the kind of change that we show in this film is the most difficult kind. If your doctor says, 'Hey, if you smoke another pack of cigarettes you're going to die,' you're going to quit smoking. But most of the time, it comes down to those kind of life-threatening situations to get people to change. The kind of change that you see in this film comes because my character wakes up, and he doesn't do it by himself. It's one of the things that I love most about this film - that we need each other's help to change sometimes. Change is a difficult thing. A really difficult thing.LF: Has the film industry itself changed over recent years, is it more inward-looking, more conservative - in terms of the Oscars, for example?
BW: Hollywood's changed a great deal since 9/11. It's a much more cautious time in Hollywood now, but it will come back. It will change. When five different films of different genres come out, and make $150 or $200 million each, they'll start spending money again. The Oscars... The Oscars are people's opinions and I don't think it reflects public opinion all the time. Sometimes it does. I will say that Jamie Foxx was unbelievable as Ray Charles. I thought he was Ray Charles. And it was a brilliant movie, brilliantly done. So, there's an example where the world said, 'Yeah, we agree.'SS
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