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Quentin Tarantino Celebrates Bruce Willis’ Legacy Now That The Pulp Fiction Star Has Retired

Trying to pick the best Bruce Willis movie is difficult. He has so many unquestionable classics, you could lean to his action selections (the Die Hard franchise), his science-fiction efforts (12 Monkeys, The Fifth Element), or the work he did with auteurs. This is a big part of the reason why the film industry turned out in droves to voice their support for Willis when the actor announced his retirement from acting thanks to an escalating case of aphasia, which affects his language and speech abilities. Arguably, lists made up of Willis’ strongest performances would have to include his work in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, where he played a too-proud boxer unwilling to throw a big match. And now that Willis is retiring, Tarantino took a moment to reflect on his collaborations with the man, and the legacy he leaves behind.

Quentin Tarantino returned to CinemaBlend’s official podcast, ReelBlend, to discuss a new podcast that he is launching with Roger Avary titled The Video Archives (opens in new tab). During the conversation, we brought up Bruce Willis and his impact on the film industry. And Tarantino, who handed Willis one of his greatest roles for Pulp Fiction, commented:

I think Bruce is one of our great movie stars. And not only was he a great movie star, he was a terrific actor. And also, he was a very adventuresome movie star. He used his movie ‘star’ to really interesting effect. He knew the kind of action movies that he could do that would really deliver well. And he did them really well. But then, he was also very quick to work with different respected directors because he wanted to work with those directors. So he used his movie ‘star’ to help those directors get those movies made.

Almost every filmmaker needs a break. Talent gets one only so far in the industry. It’s usually all about who you know, in addition to what you know. And when you look back over Bruce Willis’ filmography, you can spot the places where he lent his popularity and obvious drawing power at the box office to help a director get a movie made. But Willis also made sure to flex his muscle and earn gigs with storytellers with which he wanted to collaborate. As Tarantino points out to the ReelBlend guys:

And he attached himself to a ton of different auteurs over the years, and did some really challenging movies with him. Everybody from Robert Zemeckis to Terry Gillam to working with Alan Rudolph a couple of different times on challenging things, just to do it. But then he would also work with younger directors (where) he saw their earlier film, (or) he liked the script. … I think that will be part of his legacy. He’s one of our great movie stars, and he used his movie star cache to work with a lot of different filmmakers and make some really, really interesting movies.

Some of those movies include collaborations with the filmmakers that Quentin Tarantino mentioned. Death Becomes Her is an hilarious black comedy directed by Robert Zemeckis that had a zany Willis bouncing off of Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep. And Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys ranks among one of the best time-travel mysteries of all time… as well as one of the best movies Willis has ever made. There will always be conversations about Willis in sure-fire hits like Die Hard, or the money he made for appearing in The Sixth Sense. Never mind where that ending ranks on the total list of M. Night Shyamalan twists

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But those in the know will always remember Bruce Willis for the effect he had on the careers of storytellers who needed his help, and the boost that comes with being an absolute shining star.

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.