Actor Bruce Willis may be able to stop asteroids in their orbits, thwart an entire terrorist regime and beat a crack guerilla force at their own game — but in real life he's a mushy pushover.
His favorite job is being a father to his three daughters, ages 15, 11 and 8.
"I get to do something that probably 98 percent of the fathers in the world don't get to do," he says proudly, leaning away from the white-clothed table in a dimly lit hotel room. "And that is I get to spend a lot of time with my three daughters and give them the time — which is a gift that I don't really know what the end result will be, but I know I enjoy it."
Willis and his ex-wife, actress Demi Moore, share custody and remain on affable terms. "We are still great friends. We love each other and we do things together with our kids all the time. I know that's rare. I don't quite know how . . . actually I do know how — we remain friends."
Though Willis is best known for action roles in films like "Armageddon," the "Die-Hard" trilogy and his newest, "Tears of the Sun," it's his sardonic sense of humor that first attracted an eager public when he starred as the irresistible wiseacre David Addison in TV's "Moonlighting."
While he's starred in several comedies for the big screen, audiences still prefer him as the steely enforcer, quietly determined to set things right in a skewed world.
That's all celluloid, he says, shaking his shaved head, which is topped by a navy blue baseball cap with the words "Tears" embroidered in gold on the front. "I am such a knucklehead, and I like to laugh and I like to make my kids laugh."
While bravado has been his brand name, Willis admits that he's still frightened. "I do things that scare me," he says, stretching his arms out in front of him.
"This film ('Tears of the Sun') was a huge challenge for me," he says. "That's how I do it. I don't want to keep doing the same things. TV just ground it right out of me. You know, I did 67 hours of "Moonlighting" and since that time I have made a choice to try to keep to doing different things. And I have been really fortunate. I have really had a fortunate career. I get to do small independent films and big studio films and independents and comedies and dramas like this one. I have been blessed by God," he says.
Dressed in a long-sleeved gray, cotton T-shirt and Levi's, Willis could be any guy — an insurance adjuster, a truck driver, a marine biologist. That's exactly the way he wants it. Though he jokes that the Yellow Pages suggest if you want the world saved to call him, he'd rather be the caring psychiatrist from "The Sixth Sense," the skirt-chasing contractor from "Nobody's Fool," or the prizefighter from "Pulp Fiction."
For all this intentional variety, Willis has managed to maintain his bankable profile. "I think I am at a good place," he nods. "I get to choose who I work with. I get to choose what films I want to make. I get to choose when I work and when I don't work."
Through the highs and lows Willis, 47, has continued his contentious battle with the press, and he's still not easy with it. "In the pop culture world we live in today, actors are made a big deal out of . . . it is a little bit uncomfortable to have my private life treated as public entertainment," he says as he smirks that famous, humorless smirk.
"I pay so little attention to what is said about me anymore. I used to kind of rant about it, but I don't care anymore. You guys have a job to do and I suit up as an actor and I still get a big kick out of acting."
While most of his movies are too graphic for his daughters, Willis uses his clout to capture other projects he can share with his children. "I get to do a lot of things like 'The Wild Thornberry's,' " he grins. "I got to do the voice of Spike the Dog."