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star struck

Fun and games
Despite turning 50, Bruce Willis is still having a ball with the action genre
Text and photo by Chris Betros

It’s hard to believe Bruce Willis is 50. It is even harder to believe it has been 17 years since he first played the wisecracking John McClane in Die Hard, which catapulted him from TV star to international movie hero. “I was a punk kid back then, coming from Moonlighting on TV. I thought I knew everything,” Willis said during a recent visit to Japan to promote his latest film, Hostage. “But now, I think I am still learning how to act. I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to do parts that are right for my age. The characters are more mature and better written.”

In Hostage, directed by Frenchman Florent Siri, Willis plays Jeff Talley, a failed LAPD hostage negotiator who now works as the police chief in a small town. When three punks take a family hostage in a mansion, the situation quickly gets out of control. It seems the hostage dad has a criminal secret. Talley is threatened by a mysterious group (Mafia, Feds, CIA, take your pick) that if he doesn’t defuse the situation and deliver an item from within the house, his own wife and daughter will be killed.

Based on the novel by Robert Crais, Hostage features plenty of the action that audiences expect from a Willis movie. It’s a genre the tightlipped star finds hard to leave. Apart from occasional successes like The Sixth Sense in 1999, his forays into other genres, particularly comedy, have bombed. “I have had so much success with action that it’s hard to break away, but I feel the genre needs to reinvent itself,” he said. “I tried hard in Hostage to make it so that audiences wouldn’t be sure whether or not Talley saves everyone. It’s not just an action film; it’s more about how far you would go to save your family.”

Willis’ 17-year-old daughter Rumer is cast as Talley’s daughter. “We had a lot of fun,” he said of their scenes together. Asked how far he would go to save his family, Willis responded: “I don’t know. I hope I am never in that situation. I think the work of hostage negotiators is never fully appreciated. They do a difficult job and it’s good to make a film about them.”

At 50, Willis shows no signs of slowing down, mixing lead roles with smaller parts in indie productions. Sometimes he can’t keep track of it all himself. “I’m doing one now in Toronto… I can’t remember the name, oh yes, 16 Blocks. I’m really enjoying myself. I got to make a cameo with a bunch of friends in Ocean’s Twelve just for fun. We’re making Die Hard 4.0 for next summer. That’s a challenge because our goal is to make it a success even if you haven’t seen the first three. The first one is still my favorite.”

Before that, Willis will be seen in Sin City, followed by Lucky Number Slevin, Alpha Dog, Over the Hedge and Solace. He is also discussing a horror film with Japanese director Hideo Nakata. Whatever he chooses, he knows that his business is very much hit and miss. “I just finished a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and he said something that stuck with me. We’re like gladiators who have to suit up again and entertain audiences, no matter how your last film did. It is always a challenge.”

Another challenge for Willis is keeping in shape, something that gets harder as he ages. “I don’t enjoy working out as much as I used to since it’s all for work nowadays,” he said. “I just try to eat right and not be stupid.”



 

Q&A

Elizabeth Oliver
Animal-lover from Kansai teaches Tokyoites about pet care

Courtesy of ARK

In 1990, Elizabeth Oliver founded the ARK animal shelter near Osaka
to rescue stray, abandoned, and abused animals. Currently, ARK is home to about 300 dogs, 200 cats, a pig, two rabbits, a chicken, a chinchilla, a guinea pig and a hedgehog. This month sees the launch of Tokyo ARK, to educate people in the Kanto region about animal welfare.

What does ARK do with all these animals?
Our aim is to rehabilitate them and find them loving homes. All the animals receive health checks, blood tests, vaccinations, and all are neutered prior to adoption. The dogs are also microchipped.

Why did you start ARK?
I used to rescue animals on my own, so I created ARK to get more people involved and to raise money. Pet food companies donate most of the animal food and pharmaceutical companies donate medicine.

How did you come to live in Osaka?
I came to stay with friends and have been here ever since.

What are your favorite animals?
Horses, closely followed by dogs and pigs. I like mixed-breed dogs, as each one has its individual character and looks. I have 20 dogs at home, and ten cats.

Must be crowded!
One dog, Biwa, sleeps in my bed with me, so in the winter I am very warm.

What are the names of the others?
Badger, Why Me?, Sparkey, Tsuki, Spaghetti, and Murphy, to name but a few.

How can people treat animals better?
There is a need for education. When we are looking for a new home for a dog or cat, we have a four-page questionnaire that people must fill out. We also conduct interviews and home checks. We have to know that an animal from a miserable background can have a great future.

Do you think Japan is a pet-friendly place?
Not compared with Britain, my home country. But things are improving. Cooperation with the government and veterinarians is crucial.

How can people help?
Anyone thinking about getting a pet should contact us. There are also animal sponsorship, donation, volunteer and employment opportunities available. NU

Call 080-6517-9632 or email tokyoark@arkbark.net for more information. www.arkbark.net (Japanese)


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