The crew of Die Hard feared that Bruce Willis had been killed in a botched stunt on set of the 1988 movie, accounts in a new book claim.
According to an excerpt from The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops, And Feuds of Hollywood’s Kings Of Carnage by author and Empire editor Nick de Semlyen, Willis narrowly missed landing on a safety air bag from a height in his first major stunt.
The book, which is out in the US now and is released in the UK on August 24, is described as a “behind-the-scenes story of the action heroes who ruled 1980s and ’90s Hollywood”.
In it, author de Semlyen recounts the worries on the set of what would become the film that launched Willis’s A-list career.
For the scene, which was shot early in production in case Willis became incapacitated or worse – allowing time for a recast – the actor was required to hurl himself off a ledge and onto an airbag below as large bags of gasoline were detonated, unleashing a fireball behind him.
“As he waited, rubbing his hands together and wearing only a pair of black trousers, a white firehose was looped around his bare midriff, a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun hung via a strap from his neck, and a viscous gel slathered over his exposed skin,’ Semlyen writes in his book.
When Willis asked crew members what the gel was for, he said that he was told that was for preventing him from catching on fire.
Willis recalled of the jump: “When I landed, everyone came running over to me and I thought they were going to say, ‘Great job! Attaboy!’ And what they were doing is seeing if I’m alive because I almost missed the bag.”
The action star’s family issued a statement in March 2022 announcing that he was set to retire from the profession as he battled aphasia. Earlier this year, they then revealed that his condition had progressed to frontotemporal dementia.
The Die Hard actor’s family shared new tributes in honour of Willis for Father’s Day last month. “Father’s Day is a time I get to reflect on my deep appreciation and respect I have for Bruce as I watch him father our little ones,” Heming captioned a post on Instagram, alongside a picture of him with their 11-year-old daughter, Mabel.
Actor Demi Moore – who was married to Willis for 13 years before their split in 2000 – also shared her own tribute to the actor, who is father to their three daughters Rumer, 34, Scout, 31 and Tallulah, 29.
“Forever grateful to you BW for giving me these three beautiful girls. We love our #girldad. Happy Father’s Day!” Moore captioned her own Instagram post, with a black and white picture of Willis with his daughters as young children.