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Hostage - I thought it was time for the action genre to reinvent itself and for the stories to get a little smarter

Feature by: Jack Foley

BRUCE Willis admits that the time has come for him to stop saving the world or overcoming impossible odds to ensure that good triumphs over evil.

That said, there is still a place for action movies, but they need to be more clever, and the first step towards achieving this goal is his latest thriller, Hostage.

"It's a really complicated novel," he explained during a recent London press conference.

"And it was a good opportunity for me to make a movie that had some action in it, was a psychological thriller, but wasn't a Bruce Willis movie.

"Because of the success of a couple of films that I've done, the Die Hard series, Armageddon, things like that, I've saved the world six or seven times now and I think audiences are expecting me to save the day.

"But this storyline was about a guy who looks like he's going to lose, and the director, Florent Siri, and I worked very hard at constructing a story that had multiple obstacles in it - both emotional, psychological and physiological."

The story in question finds Willis as former LAPD hostage negotiator, Jeff Talley, who takes a low-profile job as chief of police in the low-crime town of Bristo Camino following a disastrous negotiation that resulted in the deaths of a young mother and her child.

Talley is called back into action, however, when three delinquent teenagers follow a rich family home, intending to take their car, only to find themselves trapped in the multi-million dollar compound of Kevin Pollack's corrupt accountant.

To complicate matters still further, however, the accountant they have taken hostage (with his two children) works for some particularly unsavoury businessmen who have their own part to play in the ensuing negotiations.

Willis describes Hostage as 'a very smart story' and is pleased to be a part of it, particularly as it allows him to act his age while still delivering a little of what his fans have come to expect from him.

"This film solved the puzzle for me. I was widely misquoted about taking a break from action movies.

"When I did the first Die Hard and Mel Gibson did the first Lethal Weapon, those were the modern version of the good guys over bad guys, and over 20 years that kind of got done - I did three of them and Mel did 4.

"But it kind of got bastardized. I'd get so many thrown my way that I turned down, but that got made into films such as Die Hard on a Plane - I'm sure you remember the title; Die Hard in the White House, Die Hard in a Delicatessen, and I just got sick of running down the street with a gun in my hand shouting 'Noooo'.

"So I needed to take a little break. What I also said, and which got reported less, was that I thought it was time for the genre to reinvent itself and for the stories to get a little smarter."

Willis has certainly followed his own advice. For while his film career was launched becase of the success of gung-ho action roles, such as Die Hard and The Last Boy Scout, he has also sought to keep things varied.

Hence, for every Die Hard sequel, there has been something a little more different, such as The Sixth Sense or Nobody's Fool.

Not everything has been a hit, of course, but it has allowed Willis to extend his range, take on new challenges and venture into more character-driven pieces that should ensure that his career continues to be healthy.

Next up, for instance, is Robert Rodriguez's eagerly-anticipated Sin City, as well as Lucky Number Slevin (with Sir Ben Kingsley), Alpha Dog (for Nick Cassavetes) and the much-touted Die Hard 4.0.

Of the new projects, he seems particularly pleased with Sin City, stating: "It's going to blow your mind. You'll go back and see it three times, it's so good.

"Remember how you felt when you saw the first Star Wars and you just thought `How did they do that?' That's how you'll feel when you see Sin City. We shot it in an aircraft hangar that was all green."

And of Die Hard 4.0, he adds: "I think the days of jumping off the roof of Nagatomi Towers are done."

Looking further ahead, meanwhile, Willis is convinced he still has plenty to offer.

"I do believe I'm still learning how to act and I've always said that I thought my best work would come in these years, from 40-60, if I was fortunate enough to still be around.

"It is hard to stick around, but look at Clint Eastwood, he's been going for 45 years, and it's a good goal to have."

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