27 June 2006
CLOSE TO THE EDGE TO OVER THE HEDGE
STAR TAKES TIME OUT FROM ACTION MOVIES TO MAKE A FILM FOR
ROGUE asteroids, evil terrorists and drugdealing killers have caused him nothing more than the odd bead of sweat and the occasional rip on his trusty white vest.
He's been one of the most fearsome action heroes in Hollywood history - but now Bruce Willis is going green.
The 51-year-old Die Hard, Armageddon and Sin City star is back on the silver screen in his latest blockbuster, providing the voice of a cute, cuddly and mischievous raccoon in DreamWorks' latest animated movie, Over the Hedge.
And the Hollywood star has revealed that taking part in the movie has made him much more aware of green issues - and he's even trading in his gas-guzzler for an ecofriendly electric car.
Willis has been touring the world showing off the new film from the creators of Shrek and Madagascar.
And after attending the premiere in London, Bruce took time out to tell the Daily Record why it was among the hardest movies he's ever had to make, and why he was so pleased it has been approved by some of his harshest critics.
In Over the Hedge, he plays RJ the raccoon, a cuddly Artful Dodger type critter who moves to a suburban town to forage for swag.
Willis also revealed that he now has more time for animals in general after spending so much time inside the head of a cartoon raccoon, despite having issues with certain creatures.
He said: "My home in LA is in the woods and I have a whole food chain out there, from deer and possums to skunks - I've almost been skunked a couple of times.
"But I think that humans have forgotten that we are just animals ourselves, and just because we're top of the food chain, it's easy to forget that we are all part of the animal kingdom.
"We think that we're above animals, but if you go over to Africa and take on a lion, the lion's going to win.
"I admit that I am guilty of taking animals for granted.
"But I don't like spiders. There's the Trap Door Spider, the Brown Recluse Spider and the Black Widow - these can kill you, so to me they're all bad."
Partial arachnophobia apart, Willis added that his new environmentally friendly attitude has also extended to joining the trendy eco-Hollywood club by buying anew electric car.
He said: "I hate driving, but I live in LA and I sometimes have to spend five hours a day in the car.
"I'm about to buy an electric car which makes perfect sense. It's ridiculous to keep sucking the oil out of the earth when they have other options. And in Over the Hedge, I'm happy to say that the car doesn't burn any oil, because it's an animated car."
In the new film, which took more than $160million in its first five weeks in America, Willis' character, RJ, is a raccoon who is trying to steal enough food to appease a hungry bear who is after him.
He comes across afamily of animals and recruits them to unwillingly help him gather his booty, while dodging a crazy exterminator.
Gary Shandling plays Verne the turtle, Steve Carell is mad squirrel Hammy, Eugene Levy is Lou the porcupine, Avril Lavigne is moody teenage possum Heather, and William Shatner plays her dad, Ozzie.
Over the Hedge is Bruce's second animated feature - he also appeared in Rugrats go Wild - and while he says he's delighted with the results, he's glad it is finally over.
Bruce recorded sessions on his own with directors Karey Kilpatrick and Tim Johnson in between filming his recent action hit 16 Blocks, which he describes as a "a pain in the ass".
He had to down shift from his hard-nosed roles to play the fuzzy RJ, with the directors admitting they sometimes had to remind Willis that his character wasn't running around with guns and threatening people.
Willis said: "When you watch the movie, you get the impression that we were all sitting around William Shatner's house drinking beers while we recorded our takes.
"But it took 18 months for me to finish this film.
"None of the actors involved got to meet each other as we recorded our parts at different times.
"It was hard work because I had to play RJ at the same time I was filming16 Blocks. But the directors were great.
"Normally you work with other actors, you've got props and cool clothes, but that wasn't the case with Over The Hedge.
"It was just me reading the lines and because of that, it was hard to get the comedy timing right.
"It was a relief when I saw the film and discovered that everyone was very funny.
"My kids really liked this movie and laughed a lot."
Over the Hedge sees Willis pass the 70-film mark in his varied career which has ranged from action flicks such as Die Hard and Armageddon to classics such as Pulp Fiction.
And since Bruce has covered just about every genre, he says he is now happy to take it easy and wait for good scripts to come in.
He added: "I get to do all kinds of films, and while I'm probably better known for action movies, I do get to do other movies. I did Over the Hedge because I wanted to do a movie for my kids and acomedy because I haven't done that in a while.
"I've done more than 70 films plus four years of TV, so I'm driven more by the story now.
"I'd like to do some theatre if I get the time. I would love to do something American like a Sam Shepherd play.
"I do films but they come out a year after you've filmed them. By the time they come out, I'm so disconnected from the movie.
But theatre is much more immediate and you know straight away if you are entertaining the audience or not.
"I now take more time off than I ever have in my career. Inow only work about six months out of the year because I like spending time with my kids."
And while Willis is making sure he enjoys his work and his time off as much as possible, he will probably not be making areturn trip to Scotland -after a golfing trip some years ago was rained out.
He joked: "I went to Scotland and it rained all the time.
"I went on a golf trip, and it rained for an entire week.
"I was sitting in the hotel at Prestwick, and I was thinking: 'I'm dying here - what is there to do in Scotland?' We did go to acasino though."