Connect with us


From the highest-paid actor in Hollywood to straight-to-video B-movies: The rise and fall of Bruce Willis | Culture

In 2013, Rocky star Sylvester Stallone described Bruce Willis as “greedy and lazy,” adding that this was a “sure formula for career failure.” Stallone had offered Willis $3 million for three days’ work on The Expendables 3, and Willis had asked for $1 million more. Almost a decade later, Stallone’s observation seems the only possible explanation for Willis’s fall. Once the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, the Die Hard star now has his own category in the annual Golden Raspberry Awards, a parody award show – also known as the Razzies – that honors cinematic under-achievements. The category is “Worst Bruce Willis Performance in a 2021 movie.” There are eight candidates. All of the films went straight to video. How did it come to this?

Perhaps it all started at some point in the 2000s. Willis was already showing signs of tiring of fighting against his destiny, of having the critics against him and the public on his side only when playing underdogs in action movies. The only thing left was to exactly that; the kind of cinema that was expected of him. He started to accept parts in generic action thrillers, acting with an earpiece so that he wouldn’t have to learn his lines.

Willis’s last attempt to claw back some prestige was in 2015. Having started out in off-Broadway productions, after 30 years without cracking the boards, he returned to theater in an adaptation of Misery. The critics shot down his performance with adjectives such as “inert” and “empty.” Since then, Willis has been staunchly a straight-to-DVD actor. In an industry dominated by franchises, Willis decided he could become one, with Randall Emmett as the wholesale manufacturer of the product.

Crossing paths with the producer was the worst thing that has happened to Willis’s career, but the best thing that has happened to his bank account. According to industry website Vulture, Emmett has developed a system for mass-producing movies in which he gathers together a team of people looking to embellish their CV, convinces a veteran star (John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, Steven Seagal, etc) to put in a couple of days’ work for $1 million and then uses their face on the promotional posters to land international distribution deals. The star tends to appear in just three scenes, at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the movie. In Hard Kill, Willis is on screen for a total of seven minutes; in Extraction, eight, and in Survive the Night, just under 10.

Bruce Willis and Randall Emmett, B-movie producer extraordinaire.
Bruce Willis and Randall Emmett, B-movie producer extraordinaire.Michael Stewart

In the last eight years, Willis has made 29 movies, 20 of which were Emmett productions. Twenty-three went straight to domestic viewing platforms and 16 have a less-than 10% approval rating on viewer-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. While he would surely accept meatier roles if they were offered, the industry doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with him, leaving Willis with a choice of kicking his heels at home or making easy money on movies where he is still the king. Most veterans are increasingly choosing the second option.

It is rumored Willis has financial issues that leave him with little choice but to accept such roles, much like Cage, De Niro and Pacino. The B-movie industry represents quick cash. A Hollywood production, which would pay considerably more, may take years to put together. One of Emmett’s movies can be set in motion within weeks. And the prolific producer isn’t concerned about annoying his investors, directors or screenwriters, while shaving every available dollar off costs. A producer who worked with Emmett told The New York Magazine that projects involving Willis have “a bullying kind of exploitative nature” because shooting days are reduced when the movie is in production. On Out of Death, Willis decided to cut his contribution from two days to one, leaving the director to squeeze as many scenes out of him as he could.

Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, at a Los Angeles premiere in 2011.
Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, at a Los Angeles premiere in 2011.Jeff Kravitz (FilmMagic)

“Why does Bruce Willis keep making films he clearly hates?” asked Esquire magazine in 2020. Willis has always seen himself as an outsider with the system against him, according to people close to him in a 1991 Vanity Fair profile. When he was young Willis was painfully shy and had a stutter, an affliction the theater cured him of, he told journalist David Sheff in 1996. From there, Willis shaped his persona around his physique: a sardonic, ironic guy who didn’t give a damn. That is the persona that the public subsequently came to know as Bruce Willis, and throughout his career, he has played various versions of himself. The first was in the TV show Moonlighting, his big break.

The show’s executives wanted an established star, so Willis had to do 11 auditions to convince them of his suitability. During the final one, a woman stood up and said: “I don’t know if he’s a leading man or not, but he looks as though sleeping with him is fucking with danger.” He got the part.

Bruce Willis and ‘Moonlighting’ co-star Cybill Shepherd.
Bruce Willis and ‘Moonlighting’ co-star Cybill Shepherd.ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES (Disney General Entertainment Con)

However, despite the success of Moonlighting, two box-office bombs helmed by Blake Edwards, Blind Date and Sunset, as well as his decision to release a record called The Return of Bruno, turned Willis into a running joke for the intellectual elite. Willis was an atypical, modern leading man, a blue-collar rogue who Hollywood had admitted but would never let him forget he was there on borrowed time. When he was paid $5 million for Die Hard, the biggest paycheck ever in Hollywood at the time, the industry and the media went wild. “If Willis gets $5 million,” wondered The New York Times, “how much for [Robert] Redford?”

The distributor of Die Heard, 20th Century Studios, insisted Willis was worth it. Only he was able to carry off an action hero who had walked in off the street, so hapless and cynical that he seemed to nod to the fact he was in a movie. In Die Hard 2, Willis’s character John McClane asks: “How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?”

Billy Joel (l) and Bruce Willis onstage in 1987.
Billy Joel (l) and Bruce Willis onstage in 1987.Lynn Goldsmith (Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Unlike Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Willis’s muscles appeared vulnerable, as though every hit genuinely hurt. Three years after the hugely successful Die Hard, the media were eager to announce the end of his career. The failures of The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Last Boy Scout and, above all, Hudson Hawk, which he co-wrote, seemed to confirm that Die Hard and Die Hard 2 had been a lucky swing. Willis became hostile to the press, which he said was bent on bringing him down. It was not entirely without basis. Reporters described him as “a star who eats with his hands” and “an actor who has made a fortune because Hollywood has become a corporation.” He adopted a defensive strategy in interviews, rehearsing his responses not to give anything away, to maintain the public image of Bruce Willis, to make sure he didn’t stutter.

His career was resurrected in 1994, when Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction. However, despite the movie’s huge success, Pulp Fiction started a pattern in Willis’s career from then on: even when he was in a hit, the press would focus on other aspects of the movie. In this case, that focus was Travolta, whose own resurrection at the hand of Tarantino eclipsed Willis. Six years later, when The Sixth Sense was well-received by critics and at the box office, all the talk was of newcomers M. Night Shyamalan and Haley Joel Osment, as though the movie was a success in spite of Willis, not because of him.

(l-r) Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros at Cannes in 1995.
(l-r) Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros at Cannes in 1995.Pool BENAINOUS/DUCLOS (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

More hits followed: The third Die Hard installment and Armageddon, which were the highest-grossing movies of 1995 and 1998, respectively. These served to confirm that what the public wanted to see was Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis. Still, he had to hide the fact that he craved the respect of critics, that he had artistic concerns and that he wanted to show his versatility as an actor. Willis has one of the most varied filmographies in Hollywood. Between 1992 and 1999 he played a surgeon in Death Becomes Her, an imaginary friend dressed as the Easter bunny in North, a gangster in Last Man Standing, a time-traveling convict with paranoia issues in 12 Monkeys and a car salesman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Breakfast of Champions. He even played himself in a parodic light in The Player. In none of those productions was he the director’s first choice for the role – he had to fight for the parts and take a pay cut to make the movies.

Perhaps through so much pretending not to give a damn, Bruce Willis has ended up genuinely not giving a damn. When all is said and done, the movies Willis makes now only exist so that Bruce Willis fans get to see Bruce Willis in movies. As actor Michael Caine famously said of his participation in the universally panned Jaws: The Revenge, which has an approval rating of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts, it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built for my mum, and it is terrific.”

Source link


Here’s when your favorite show may return as writers strike is on the verge of ending | Culture

A tentative agreement between striking screenwriters and Hollywood studios offers some hope that the industry’s dual walkouts may soon be over. But when will your favorite shows return?

Well, it’s complicated. First, the agreement needs to pass two key votes, and certain paused productions such as Deadpool 3 and Yellowjackets will still have to wait on actors to reach a deal with studios.

When is ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ coming back?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others. Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and they may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS could come back within days.

Saturday Night Live might be able to return for its 49th season, though some actors may not be able to appear. The actors strike limits promotional appearances that are the lifeblood of the late-night shows.

Shows that return while actors are still picketing could prove controversial, as happened with the planned resumptions of daytime shows including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk. Those plans were later abandoned.

One show that’s likely to make a speedy return? Real Time with Bill Maher. The host plotted a return without writers but ended up postponing once last week’s negotiations were set.

What about ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Superman’?

Writers rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Severance on Apple TV+ and Abbott Elementary on ABC are also likely to reactivate quickly. But with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including “Deadpool 3″ and “Superman: Legacy” — will certainly be hustling to avoid further release-date delays.

When are Drew Barrymore and other daytime shows coming back?

Barrymore’s planned return to her daytime television show became a rallying point for picketers earlier this month, prompting her to cancel her plans. The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which also employ some screenwriters, also called off plans to return.

Barrymore and the other shows have not announced their plans for returning. However, the Writers Guild of America has made it clear: Guild members cannot start working again on projects until the tentative contract is ratified.

That vote has not yet been scheduled.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


Milan fashion celebrated diversity and inclusion with refrain: Make more space for color and curves | Culture

More curvy models than ever showed up on Milan runways this season, due mostly to a single show by Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto, while designers of color showcased their work at collateral events meant to promote their visibility — along with diversity — in the backrooms of Italian fashion.

Wherever diversity and inclusion were being celebrated during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, there was one underlying refrain: Make more space.

Curvy models get outing at Karoline Vitto

“We made history! It was incredible,’’ world-renown curvy model Ashley Graham gushed as she embraced London-based Vitto after Sunday’s show. Graham is often the only curvy model on major fashion runways, but for this show she led a cast of models ranging in size from UK 10 to UK 24 (US 6 to US 20).

By comparison, some Milan brands typically size up to 48 Italian (US size 12), while some, notably Dolce & Gabbana which sponsored Vitto, has extended some looks up to an Italian size 52 (US 16).

Graham wore an edgy black ripped corset and long sheer skirt, while other models wore form-hugging jersey dresses fitted with S-shaped metallic fixtures that sculpted their curves. She used the same technique for bathing suits.

“It feels normal,’’ Graham said, calling on more designers to get more curves on the runway. “If I feel normal on the runway with this many girls, that means that there is something that doesn’t feel normal when I am on the runway with everybody else.”

Diversifying small brand profiles

After working in fashion for decades, Deborah Latouche launched her own brand after converting to Islam and realizing how hard it was to find clothes that were “luxury, high-end and modest.”

Latouche brand, Sabirah, was highlighted along with US brand BruceGlen at the Milan Fashion Hub for new and emerging designers, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian National Fashion Chamber. The Hub offered space to meet buyers and other people interested in new brands.

“Something like this is really important because small brands such as myself can get really overlooked,’’ said Latouche, who has shown her brand in London, where she is based. “We put a lot of work in but we don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition.

Being invited to Milan “is an amazing platform that gives us the potential to elevate and that is really important,’’ she said.

Twins Bruce and Glen Proctor have been working on their brand for 17 years, and relished the time in Milan showing their creations to a new audience while they also connect with their true creative intentions.

“For a longtime we did black and white, based on what we thought the industry wanted,” Bruce Glen said. Now they are doing what comes naturally, “Colors, prints and fur.’’

Carr said presentations where people can touch the wares are a great way to connect people with a new product, without the huge expense of a runway show.

“The fashion system isn’t working for anyone but the 1 percent. I am all for trying to make new systems where everyone gets paid and people get clothes that make them feel better,’’ she said.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.

Continue Reading


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!