His mother, Marlene,  was German, born in Kassel. Willis left school in his junior year in and moved to New York City ,  where in the early s he supported himself as a bartender at the West 19th Street art bar Kamikaze.
In , he was the guest actor in the first episode of the s revival of The Twilight Zone , " Shatterday ". In spite of that, Willis chose not to renew his contract with the company when he decided to stop drinking alcohol in However, it was his then-unexpected turn in the film Die Hard as John McClane that catapulted him to movie star and action hero status. In the late s, Willis enjoyed moderate success as a recording artist , recording an album of pop-blues titled The Return of Bruno , which included the hit single " Respect Yourself " featuring The Pointer Sisters.
He released a version of the Drifters song " Under the Boardwalk " as a second single; it got to No. Willis returned to the recording studio several times afterward. In the early s, Willis's career suffered a moderate slump, as he starred in flops such as The Bonfire of the Vanities He gained more success with Striking Distance but flopped again with Color of Night In , he was the executive producer and star of the cartoon Bruno the Kid which featured a CGI representation of himself.
In the movie, he plays a drunken criminal named "Muddy Grimes", who mistakenly sends Judge's titular characters to kill his wife, Dallas voiced by Moore.
He went on to play the lead roles in 12 Monkeys and The Fifth Element However, by the end of the s his career had fallen into another slump with critically panned films like The Jackal , Mercury Rising , and Breakfast of Champions , saved only by the success of the Michael Bay -directed Armageddon which was the highest-grossing film of worldwide. Night Shyamalan 's film, The Sixth Sense.
The film was both a commercial and critical success  and helped to increase interest in his acting career. Willis was originally cast as Terry Benedict in Ocean's Eleven but dropped out to work on recording an album. In , he appeared in the film adaptation of Sin City.
In , he appeared in the Planet Terror half of the double feature Grindhouse as the villain , a mutant soldier. He filled in for an ill David Letterman on his show February 26, , when he was supposed to be a guest. On April 12, , he appeared again, this time wearing a Sanjaya Malakar wig. Willis has appeared in four films with Samuel L. Willis also worked with his eldest daughter, Rumer , in the film Hostage.
Subsequently, he appeared in the films What Just Happened and Surrogates , based on the comic book of the same name. Army general William R. Peers in director Oliver Stone 's Pinkville, a drama about the investigation of the My Lai massacre.
In early , he appeared in an advertising campaign to publicize the insurance company Norwich Union 's change of name to Aviva. Willis appeared in the music video for the song " Stylo " by Gorillaz. Willis played the role of generic bald man "Mr. This was the first time these three notable action movie actors appeared on screen together.
Although the scene featuring the three was short, it was one of the most highly anticipated scenes in the film. The trio filmed their scene in an empty church on October 24, The film was released on October 15, Filming took place in Rhode Island under the direction of Wes Anderson , in Willis teamed up with 50 Cent in a film directed by David Barrett called Fire with Fire , starring opposite Josh Duhamel and Rosario Dawson , about a fireman who must save the love of his life.
It's much more challenging to have to do a film again and try to compete with myself, which is what I do in Die Hard. I try to improve my work every time.