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Tears of the Sun - I lost the passion for action movies



Feature by: Jack Foley

IT'S BEEN a long time since Bruce Willis donned a white vest and took on a group of terrorists single-handedly, but the role of John McLane, the wise-cracking super-cop of the Die Hard series is perhaps what the star remains best-known for.

Yet as enduring as that role remains, the star himself has moved on, appearing in some top class movies, such as The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction, in a bid to stretch himself as an actor, even though the Willis surname remains synonymous with action.

"I lost the passion for action movies… I just don’t feel like I can break new ground for myself as an actor," he said, recalling how he sat through a screening of his then latest release, Mercury Rising, with his younger brother, and realised the action sequences were derivative.

"I didn’t know what else I could do with the genre. It was a form of entertainment that became as boring to me as episodic television," added the former Moonlighting star.

Now, however, Willis has returned to the action genre, albeit in a more restrained guise, by playing a Navy SEAL Lieutenant in Antoine Fuqua’s war drama, Tears of the Sun.

The story of a career soldier who becomes a hero by disobeying orders and leading a group of innocent refugees out of a war-torn region is something that appealed to the actor for a variety of reasons, not least of which was its different perspective on the war movie genre.

Willis confesses to wondering whether the time was right to again show that individuals can make a difference and be heroes in the world, post September 11.

A script called Rules of Engagement came across his desk at his newly formed production company, Cheyenne, for an action film about Navy SEALS sent into a war-torn African country to rescue stranded American civilians, but the script was initially something that Willis candidly refers to as being just another ‘generic Bruce Willis action film’.

However, the actor decided to give it a makeover with director, Antoine Fuqua, and developed it into what is now Tears of the Sun.

And Willis remains proud of the tone of the film, especially how it takes on what he calls ‘a crime against humanity’, without wrapping in into a package of guilt for entertainment sake.

"That’s what I liked about what we did to the script," he explained in a recent interview with Scott Orlin, in a Californian hotel suite. "We see this group of people who are in need of help and these SEALS have to get them out of harms way.

"It interested me as an actor because it was an interesting notion to see a team of men, in real time, on film, that are so profoundly affected being moved by what they see," he adds.

"This is also a story about friendship, the bonds of friendship and doing the right thing, whatever it is."

To prepare for the several months of filming in the triple canopy jungles of Oahu, Hawaii, Willis and the other actors spent three weeks being trained by actual Navy SEALS in weapons, techniques, team movements and non-verbal communication.

While the gruelling schedule was tough on the actors, Willis alone lost over 18 pounds, the approval from the SEALS that they were doing it right was just compensation.

"After every take, we looked to Antoine to see if he got what he wanted and then we turned to the SEALS to see if we got it right," Willis says. "It was very important for us to portray the Navy SEALS accurately."

Not to mention the opportunity it afforded to rediscover the joys of rolling around in the dirt and mud, as he did as a young boy (whenever given the opportunity).

"I was of the generation where my friends and me used to play Army as kids," he recalls. "Now, here I am as an older man and I am still playing Army as my day job. I imagine all those kids could be a bit envious that I still get to roll around in the mud, fire a gun and blow things up."

"But I guess I am a lucky guy," he adds, flashing that trademark boyish grin.

When the interview swings round to the notion of heroism, however, Willis is a little more serious, particularly when asked to comment on what criteria is needed to be described as a hero today.

In fact, the actor doesn’t claim to have any easy answer, despite volunteering that he knows what works for himself.

"The only way into that, and the only way to ever really qualify, is to live your life as a good man," he observed. "I get that being a dad, and I am not sure that I always achieve my goal… But, it is a great goal to have."

 

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