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God Bless Bruce Willis

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File

Very few A-list actors last 30 years or anything close to it. Remember Jim Carrey? The Wilson brothers? Any of the stable actors in Judd Apatow movies not named Paul Rudd? They all had good runs, still work semi-regularly, but are not anywhere near the "STAR" they were at the height of their powers. Career longevity at a high level for an actor is rarer than an emotionally stable liberal on social media. But for a few, they cut that path and beat the odds. Bruce Willis is one such person. 

When news broke that Willis was stepping away from acting because he's suffering from a brain disorder called aphasia, which causes the sufferer to be unable to understand or formulate speech, I was shocked and saddened. Bruce was a big part of the movies that mattered to me. 

There is no better Christmas movie than "Die Hard," with "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" a close second. The character of John McClane is one of the all-time greats in movie history. Hilariously, the first "Die Hard" is based on a book called "Nothing Lasts Forever," according to IMDb, which was a sequel to "The Detective," which was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. By contract, Frank had to be offered the role first since he'd originated it (even though the character had a different name). He was 73 at the time, so he passed. But the history of the movie could have been very different. 

As it was, that movie made Bruce Willis: TV star, into Bruce Willis worldwide movie star. The sequels were excellent, too (though the last one could have been better). 

The "TV star" part was not long-lived after "Die Hard's" success, but the show "Moonlighting" and Bruce's character of David Addison still ranks as one of the best. If you can, get your hands on a DVD copy and either refresh your memory or check it out. 

After the success of "Die Hard," the road was not always smooth. Bruce had his bombs. "The Bonfire of the Vanities" was hyped endlessly, with Melanie Griffith and Tom Hanks in the leads, and was terrible. "Hudson Hawk" was "Waterworld" before "Waterworld" was "Waterworld," and unlike other bad movies, it does not stand up as enjoyable to watch because it's so bad.

Speaking of so bad, it's good, "The Last Boy Scout" is one horrible movie I can't turn off when it's on. It's absurd but awesome because of it. Some movies are so bad they're good again, TLBS is one of them.

Willis could do comedy, obviously, and "The Whole Nine Yards" is one of the best. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out. Skip the sequel; it's forced, seemingly only made because, by contract, the first one made so much money. But the first one was excellent.

"The Fifth Element" is incredible, creative and entertaining. Most movies that are the former forget about the latter. This one does not. And everyone knows "Pulp Fiction." 

There really isn't a genre of film that Bruce Willis can't do. Sure, there are a lot of movies he shouldn't have made, every actor has those, but from "Unbreakable" to the wildly underrated "Nobody's Fool" – where he confidently and perfectly plays a foil for lead Paul Newman – very few people have his range.

Nobody has the smirk and can use it to convey whatever is necessary, whatever the situation, like Bruce Willis. There haven't been many other ass-kicking action heroes who could make you think and cry in other roles unless you were thinking about the money you'd wasted on the ticket. He's a singular talent whose place on the screen will be impossible to replace. I hope we don't have to. 

In the meantime, if you haven't seen it or just need a reminder of how good Bruce can be with top-shelf material, check out the movie "Red." No, it's not that overly long Warren Beatty ode to communism, that's "Reds," this is yet another action/comedy chunk of gold from the one and only master of the genera.

Bruce Willis isn't the last movie star, but he was the movie star of my childhood. I've had to repeatedly stop myself from typing this column in the past tense just because of the circumstances. However, and thankfully, Bruce isn't dead. Aphasia is not fatal. It is, however, possible to recover, at least some, from. Let's hope and pray Bruce Willis does just that. 


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