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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.”



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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com

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