Eric Buarque hears it all the time: He looks just like that actor from those Die Hard films. You know, Bruce Willis.
"One time I was traveling, I can't remember what airport it was, I had a bunch of young girls who were literally trembling who came up to me," the Columbia resident says. "I had my picture taken with them; it kind of made their day. As far as they know, they had their picture taken with Bruce Willis. They were happy."
This week, Buarque has turned his resemblance to the rich and famous into a profit-making enterprise, landing a job as the actor's stand-in during the Baltimore shoot of the fourth Die Hard film, Live Free or Die Hard, which pits Willis' NYPD Detective John McClane against terrorists looking to wreak havoc on America via the Internet.
"It's been great so far," says Buarque, who gets to sub for Willis off-camera while shots are being set up, cameras are being focused or the lighting is being adjusted. "Sometimes during rehearsals, they'll have me doing what he's going to do, and he'll watch the monitor. If he likes the way it looks, then he goes on with the part."
Or, to put it succinctly, "I get out, and he gets in," Buarque says with a laugh.
This is pretty much a dream job for the 37-year-old Prince George's County native and landscaper, who's been trying since 1999 to parlay his looks into some sort of fame or notoriety.
"That's when people started making mention of my resemblance to him," he says, "asking if I had ever doubled for him, saying I should double for him.
"The first place I ever sent pictures was to Nova Models out of Baltimore. They lined me up for an audition for the film Unbreakable," Buarque says. "Based on all the comments and compliments about my looks toward Willis, I kind of felt confident that I would get the role."
"Oh, yeah, he is a dead ringer for Willis," confirms Christian David, owner of Nova Models, who still remembers Buarque seven years later. "He made an impression."
The Unbreakable job fell through - but not before he caught the attention of a director looking for someone to feature in a commercial for a New Jersey car dealership. He got that gig, a take-off on Willis' 1999 film The Sixth Sense, and recently finished filming another commercial, this one for Len Stoler Nissan in Owings Mills, where he appears alongside a Madonna lookalike.
Buarque also worked as an extra on Ladder 49 while it was being filmed in Baltimore three years ago. Stars John Travolta and Robert Patrick, he says, needled him about his resemblance to Willis.
Still, his dream was to double for the real thing. In 2004, Buarque flew to Los Angeles and was to double for Willis on the film Hostage, but was later told that the director of photography had his own guy he wanted to use for the shoot. Once again, Buarque had come close to lookalike-fame but just missed.
When he heard Willis was coming to town for the Live Free or Die Hard shoot, Buarque sent photos to Central Casting, a talent agency in Washington. He was called in for a screen test, got the job and this time made it to the set.
"It's great, being a part of the whole production, being around the people, not to mention being around Bruce," he says. "I haven't sat down with him yet, had any kind of conversation. But he seems real friendly."