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That Time Bruce Willis Tried To Break Into A Space Shuttle While Filming Michael Bay’s Armageddon

Bruce Willis in Armageddon
(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

Armageddon was peak Michael Bay – explosions, action, and high stakes. The sci-fi disaster featured an all-star cast led by iconic action hero Bruce Willis. At the time, getting Willis to headline the big-budget blockbuster was a coup as the 1998 film was only his third feature film as a director. But the Pulp Fiction actor was down for anything on the set. Bay recalled the time Willis tried breaking into an actual NASA space shuttle while shooting the action flick.

The legendary director opened up about his time working with Die Hard star Bruce Willis for only his third movie. He revealed to Variety that the Hollywood icon took over the set of the disaster film, recalling he was “tough at first” but had “great fun energy.” Michael Bay recalled the atmosphere being “like camp.” Said camp experience took hold of Willis leading to a mischievous incident. While shooting at the U.S. space center NASA, Bay recounted the actor informing him of his plans.

They stopped prepping it for one hour, for us. We are on the gantry [the Orbiter Access Arm, which allows access into the shuttle], and Bruce was able to walk in. He goes to me, ‘Mike, we’re gonna do one take; the second take, I’m going to make a run for it and I’m going to go inside the shuttle.'

You wouldn’t expect anything less from one of the 1990s’ top action stars. Plus, shooting at the world-famous space center would bring out anyone’s inner astronaut. Bruce Willis wanted the full experience, not just a simulated one. But as expected, NASA officials weren’t happy with The Sixth Sense actor’s antics. Michael Bay recalled how they thawed Willis’ actions before any damage could be done.

Bruce is about to break into the space shuttle … and these guys, all in suits, fully masked up, they’re like [wagging his finger side to side], ‘Uh, uh, uh!’

Of course, NASA's upper brass didn’t want one of Hollywood’s top stars to get inside an actual shuttle. Shuttles are filled with sensitive equipment handled by trained astronauts. If the Hollywood icon had touched or pushed something accidentally, it could’ve spelled real-life disaster. But on the opposite end, if Willis had gotten injured under NASA’s watch, there would’ve been lawsuits flying back and forth between all involved parties. On top of that, it would’ve been bad press and postponed the film as we’ve seen in other cases.

While Bruce Willis was the star, Armageddon was filled with A-list talent, including Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, and Liv Tyler. Upon its release, critics poorly received the blockbuster. But like many Bayhem films, it was a box office hit, becoming 1998’s top-grossing film with over $553 million in worldwide gross. Willis even got nostalgic for that time as he broke out his onscreen spacesuit. Of course, there are still questions about its scientific accuracy despite the Transformers director revealing the disaster film was more accurate than viewers assumed.

Hearing this story and similar ones are great to hear after learning of the actor’s retirement due to his aphasia diagnosis. Of course, you can relive Willis and company trying to save the Earth by getting an Amazon Prime subscription to stream Armageddon. You can see what upcoming movies Bruce Willis have coming up as moviegoers get to see his last film appearances.  

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).