Ten years ago I was working from home one day (which, at the time, wasn’t as common as it is now) and my phone started ringing. The number read “blocked,” which means, today, there’s no way I’m answering that call. But back then spammers hadn’t quite figured out the cell phone market, so it looked like more of a curiosity and I was intrigued. So I answered. “Hello,” I asked, with a more straying, exaggerated “o” sound at the end, signaling that I was confused about what was happening. I hear a gruff voice say, “I’m looking for Mike Ryan.” It’s at this point I think I’m in trouble. As far as I knew, I didn’t have an outstanding bills or anything, but now this very stern voice with a blocked phone number is looking for me. I admit to the voice on the other end that I, indeed, am the person he’s seeking. As long as I live I’ll never forget the tone of voice and delivery of the next words that were said. They were said with pride, knowing, I assume, the reaction these words have gotten him over the years, “This is Bruce Willis.” I was not expecting a call from Bruce Willis that day, or any day, really.
Okay, so, yes, for my job I do interview actors, so the idea that someone like Bruce Willis would call me at some point for a scheduled interview isn’t completely preposterous. Though the big factor here is I did not have a scheduled interview with Bruce Willis that day or ever. In shock, I asked, “Why are you calling me?” He responded he was under the impression we were going to talk about the new Rian Johnson movie, Looper. In another moment I will never forget, I said back to Willis, “No one told me we’d be doing this.” And then without missing a beat, like it was John McClane himself delivering the perfect line, Willis responds, “Welcome to Hollywood.”
Willis asked if I needed time to prepare. Which, yes, I did. But also, no, I didn’t. Making a quick decision, I thought the odds of Bruce Willis randomly calling me a second time that day were low, so I told him we could just do the interview now. And it’s not like I already didn’t have a wealth of knowledge about Willis’s career waiting to go, because, especially for people born during a specific window of time, Willis is the guy. From Moonlighting to Die Hard to even admirable failures like Hudson Hawk, I brought up any topic I’ve ever wanted to ask him about, all while kind of hiding behind the whole “hey I had no time to prepare” excuse, just in case Willis got to a point where he was like, “Why are we talking about Moonlighting?” For the record, he could not have been nicer.
(So, what had happened was, a few weeks before, Sony Pictures, who distributed Looper, asked if I wanted to talk to Bruce Willis. Of course, I was like, “Hell yes!” But then I never heard another word about it, assumed it wasn’t happening, and completely forgot about it. Apparently, Sony Pictures sent a list of people like me to Bruce Willis’s team to approve. What usually happens is, Willis’s team will then approve who they want, send it back to Sony, then Sony will contact me to set up a time to talk. Somehow Willis himself got this list. And instead of approving people, he just started cold calling. Which I, to this day, find so delightful. Imagining Bruce Willis a little annoyed that he has to deal with this in the first place, but, hey, that’s the job, so better start calling.)
Obviously, I’m retelling this story because of the news that Willis will be taking a step back from acting because of his diagnosis of aphasia. And, now, all those low-budget movies he was doing make a lot more sense. But it’s still a really sad story and it’s a pretty hard to read about. (And obviously, now, there are a lot of ethical questions about why he was put in these positions to begin with.
That all said, I have long hated the Razzies. (I wrote this piece about them in 2011 and linked to it every year until Movieline disappeared from the internet. But now someone found it again, so there it is.) The TL;DR version: even back then they were tiring and that over the first years of their existence a good case could be made they were fun. They would find truly bad movies like Mac & Me and point them out for what they are. Over the years, that changed. Now they either do stunts, like giving Mike Lindell a Razzie. Or they are just petty, like giving LeBron James a Razzie for the new Space Jam. What’s even the point of that?
And speaking of petty, the Razzies decided to do a whole “tribute” to Bruce Willis, just two weeks ago, that’s incredibly mean and, well, just downright shitty. Look, I’m going to assume they didn’t know about his condition (though rumors that something wasn’t right with him have been out there for a while), but, regardless, it’s crass. And now that we do know, their yukfest is still up. Can we be done with this group already? Yeah, they released a new tweet that gives a half-ass apology that basically equates to, “oops,” then passed the blame. Again, if they were seeking out truly awful movies and doing something interesting, their model could probably still work. (Honestly, there are probably 100s of truly bad movies released to streamers every year that we never hear about that would probably love the attention.) But, no, let’s drag Bruce Willis right when he’d going through one of the worst moments of his life. What a bad organization. Bruce Willis, after all he’s given us over the years, deserves better. And, frankly, so do we.
(UPDATE: The Razzies have rescinded their Worst Performance award for Willis.)
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.