SILVERSCREEN ISLAND, Second Life — Bruce Willis' tough-guy persona, tabloid-worthy lifestyle and forever-smirky visage have always made him seem larger-than-life. These days, however, he's not even of this world.
"This sounds like it could mean an early retirement for me," laughed the bald, muscular avatar named "B-Dub" from the virtual world of Second Life, while his A-list alter ego sat at a real-world computer somewhere. Could Willis simply cast his avatar instead of himself in future films? "That wouldn't be a bad thing."
Keeping in line with the "old guy learns technology" angle of June 27's "Live Free or Die Hard," the man who made hard-boiled cop John McClane a household name was eager to promote his old-school action flick using the new-school online world (see " 'Die Hard' Sequel Gets More Action With ... Kevin Smith?"). The irreverent press conference was populated by avatars dressed as witches, hillbillies and even Darth Vader, all getting candid answers from the superstar.
"I really had no idea," Willis' avatar responded when a fan asked if he thought in 1987 that "Die Hard" would still be inspiring sequels 20 years later. "I had already passed on the film. In all honesty, anybody who likes the film — myself included — owes Cybill Shepherd some thanks. Had she not gotten pregnant during the shooting of 'Moonlighting,' and had [producer/writer] Glenn Gordon Caron not decided to shut 'Moonlighting' down for 11 weeks, I never would've been able to do 'Die Hard.' I'm really honored that anyone thinks that 'Die Hard' — well, now it's a quadrilogy — is a part of pop history."
In this sort of press conference, the questions hardly flow naturally. Just seconds after an informative answer like that one, another Second Life fan typing from somewhere in cyberspace asked: "Could we hear you say Yippee-ki-yay, Denmark?' "
"Uh, yeah," responded Willis, his real-life voice projecting through the Second Life audio. "Yippee-ki-yay, Denmark, and everybody else out there. And I don't know if you're allowed to say this, but Yippee-ki-yay, mother----ers!"
Upon hearing McClane's trademark catchphrase, fans clicked on their "applaud" commands and the well-mannered avatars' tiny little handclaps could be heard. Soon after, it was time to get down to such brass-tack topics as whether Bonnie Bedelia's endlessly imperiled Holly Gennero McClane (M.I.A. since 1990's "Die Hard 2") will ever reappear on film.
"I would really like to see Holly McClane come back," Willis said diplomatically. "I think, to a certain degree, you're going to see version 2.0 Holly McClane in the character of [John's daughter] Lucy McClane. Mary Elizabeth Winstead really did her homework on this film, and on the whole series of films. [Lucy] was originally not even written into the ['Live Free'] script, and I think it was such a good idea for her to be in the film and to be put in jeopardy in the film. Not only does she show up with her own version of that McClane sense of humor, but she does things later in the film that actually help us win."
Sure enough, a follow-up question arose that was either utter nonsense or on such a level of interviewing brilliance that even Charlie Rose couldn't have come up with it. "Do I like air guitar?" Willis laughed. "Uh, I like watching other people do it. I've never really practiced air guitar, but there's nothing wrong with it. I've seen people that are so much better at it than I am. I'll leave it to the pros."
Minutes later, another solid query solicited the revelation that Willis got roughed up while shooting the new "Die Hard" flick. "It was the first shot of a certain day, and Maggie Q's stunt double missed out on the stunt and kicked me in the head with two high-heeled boots," Willis groaned. "At that point I, uh, took a hiatus. I went to the doctor and got stitched up, and I took the rest of the day off. But I was back to work the next day. There are a couple of shots, actually, in the film [where you can see the cut]."
As the other avatars sat intently throughout the in-the-round virtual theater, "B-Dub" held court in a black easy chair, a virtual coffee cup sitting untouched on the table next to him. "I would definitely consider doing a 'Die Hard 5,' and I would consider doing it anywhere," Willis responded to an avatar from Mexico who asked if Willis would shoot it in his country. "I would prefer to shoot in the United States; I think 'Die Hard' has always been an American film."
Willis also revealed that, for several years, he has flirted with the idea of bringing his trademark character back with a "Star Wars"-like plot twist. "There was a time when we discussed doing another 'Die Hard' as doing a prequel — kind of John McClane, the early years," the actor remembered. "But I've kind of missed that window now, unless they come up with some type of new technology where they can smooth out these wrinkles — you know, these laugh lines — that I have on my face. But I would do [a prequel] if I could; I think as an actor, it's just a matter of how I look."
The "Live Free or Die Hard" plot has McClane going toe-to-toe with a cyber terrorist (Timothy Olyphant), while getting a crash course in modern technology from Justin Long and Kevin Smith. In real life, however, Willis insisted that he has embraced the wonders of modern living.
"[The Internet] just keeps getting bigger, and it's where I get all my news," said the 52-year-old star, who has been known to troll chat rooms and talkbacks in the past. "I have to remind myself, actually, to pick up the phone and make a phone call sometimes. ... It's how I communicate, easily 70 percent of the time."
After witnessing the virtual star power of "B-Dub," Willis might want to bump that percentage up a few points higher.
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