With the release of Live Free or Die Hard drawing near, Bruce Willis finds himself reaching out directly to angry fans to keep the fourth Die Hard film from, well, dying hard.
One reason fans are angry is 20th Century Fox's decision to make this a PG-13 film unlike the first three, which were R-rated.
This decision -- blasphemy to many fans -- was made public in this month's issue of Vanity Fair, in which Willis expressed his disappointment in the movie's new rating: "I really wanted this one to live up to the promise of the first, which I always thought was the only really good one," he said.
His comments and the fear that Live Free or Die Hard, which opens June 27 and was filmed partly in Baltimore, might be sanitized, sparked an outcry on the Internet.
Even as fans ranted online about the destruction of the Die Hard franchise, the man who brought John McClane to life was reading every single word. Willis soon jumped into the fray to defend his coming movie sans publicist or agent.
In raw and often profane language, Willis expressed his wish to "have an outlet to chat with people I seldom get to chat with."
Drew McWeeny, the West Coast editor of Aintitcool.com, a popular Web site for movie news and gossip, said he thinks that Willis (along with Sylvester Stallone, who also has participated in online discussions at the site) "has realized that the paradigm for how you sell a movie has changed. If you want to reach the audience directly," he said in a phone conversation shortly after Willis' online appearance, "you've got to shift the way you think. To their credit, the old dogs are trying some new tricks."
Willis, 52, spoke first to the ratings concern, clarifying to fans that while "initially, I was a little bummed, once we got shooting I never thought about it again. We shot a [tough] movie, not a rating. If you need swearing to make you happy at the movies, there are plenty of those out there."
Some fans, like McWeeny, were more concerned about being true to the character of McClane.
According to Willis, "all the intensity, the story flips and surprises, and most importantly McClane's dark sense of humor remain intact" in Live Free or Die Hard -- "not compromised at all."
Paul Davidson writes for the Los Angeles Times.