Actor. Born Walter Bruce Willis, on March 19, 1955, in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. The Willis family moved from a West German military base to the small town of Carneys Point, New Jersey, when Bruce was two years old. He grew up as the oldest of four children in a blue-collar family (his father, David, was a welder). As a teenager, he worked in a DuPont chemical plant. After graduating from high school, Willis attended Montclair (NJ) State College, where he first became interested in acting. He left college and moved to New York City in 1977, when he landed a bit part in an Off-Broadway play. In New York, he supported himself by working as a bartender in between small roles in stage productions.
Willis’ first break came in 1984, when he stepped in for another actor in the lead role in Sam Shepard’s Off-Broadway hit Fool for Love. His success led to an audition for Desperately Seeking Susan, an upcoming production starring Madonna. Willis didn’t get the role, but he stayed in Hollywood long enough to attend a casting call for a new television series called Moonlighting. Chosen from among 3,000 hopefuls to play the wisecracking private detective David Addison, Willis became a star overnight when Moonlighting became a hit. The chemistry between Willis and co-star Cybill Shepherd won over fans for four successful seasons (1985-89), and Willis won an Emmy in 1987 for Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical).
In 1994, Willis emerged from this slump with two powerful supporting performances in relatively low-budget films-Quentin Tarantino’s gleefully violent Pulp Fiction (which also revived Travolta’s fading career) and Nobody’s Fool, starring Paul Newman. He also had a much-talked-about frontal nude scene in the psychological thriller Color of Night (1994). Unlike many of his fellow action heroes, Willis continued to mix riskier roles in smaller films with big-budget action films-meeting with varying results. He scored hits with two weird futuristic thrillers-Twelve Monkeys (1995), also featuring Brad Pitt, and The Fifth Element (1997)-while more traditional action films, like Last Man Standing (1996), The Jackal (1997), co-starring Richard Gere, and Mercury Rising (1998), did relatively mediocre business.
In 2000, Willis showed off his considerable comedic talent by starring as a hit man in the hit film The Whole Nine Yards, and guest starring on three episodes of the hit TV series Friends during the May sweeps.
Willis and his wife, the actress Demi Moore, announced their separation in July 1998, after more than 10 years of marriage. The couple, who married in November 1987 and appeared together in the 1991 film Mortal Thoughts, have three daughters, Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah Belle. While Moore, an A-list Hollywood star in her own right, lives on their 18-acre ranch in Hailey, Idaho, Willis bought a home just five miles north of Hailey. The couple’s divorce was finalized in the fall of 2000.