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Bruce Willis: Still dying hard
Bruce Willis and the 'Die Hard' legacy

With the release of the 5th 'Die Hard' film we reflect on the star's career

By Jeff Michael Vice
Special to MSN Movies

Yippee ki yay indeed. The original "Die Hard" film is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The movie and its subsequent sequels are, arguably, the most popular and best-remembered, big-screen works of Bruce Willis. And the movies featured what is certainly his signature role: that of John McClane, a wisecracking, tail-kicking NYPD officer who always seems to thwart the best-laid plans of various bad guys.

According to show business lore, Willis got the part because producers wanted an actor who was lighter and funnier than either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, who were under consideration. It didn't hurt that they got him for less than those two action stars, but looking back now, we can't imagine another actor as McClane.

Willis is reprising the role for the fifth time in "A Good Day to Die Hard." The movie opened in theaters Feb. 14 because, apparently nothing really says Valentine's Day more than a violent, R-rated action-thriller, right?

In this installment, McClane teams up with his estranged son, Jack (Australian actor Jai Courtney), who has run afoul of arms dealers in Russia. As always, there should be equal parts action and sarcastic Willis dialogue. And, of course, no "Die Hard" movie could be without McClane's trademark catchphrase, "Yippee ki yay, mother-(bleep)!"

They might not be his only hits, but the four "Die Hards" certainly helped Willis ring up an estimated $2.5 billion in box-office receipts worldwide -- which makes him one of the industry's top 10 earners. Not too surprisingly, the diverse, fifty-something actor has been type-cast as an action star at varying points in his career.

However, Planet Hollywood co-founder Willis is coming off rewarding roles in two of his best movies, neither of which were standard action-thrillers. In Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," he was an emotionally fragile cop trying to find teenage runaways, and, in the science-fiction thriller "Looper" he starred as a time-traveling hit man who confronts his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

The "Die Hards" are bound to top most people's lists of their favorite Bruce Willis movies. They're included in the following list, which features a few other select, cinematic highlights (as well as a couple of lowlights) from Bruce Willis's big-screen career to date.

(20th Century Fox)

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