These Buried Bruce Willis Films Need to Be Unearthed

Some of the retired superstar's projects have gone missing in our digital age

There will be no new Bruce Willis movies and that stinks.

Willis stepped away from acting in 2022 after an aphasia diagnosis. He would later be diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, making a return to performing near impossible.

He is, however, surrounded by loved ones, according to social media postings by family. That’s a small relief in the random cruelty that ended Willis’s career.

The artist just celebrated his 69th birthday, and his being surrounded by so much supportive family far outweighs whether or not his film legacy continues.

The man leaves behind a filmography far more eclectic than most. There’s everything from “Die Hard” to “Rugrats” to “Beavis and Butt-head” to “Hudson Hawk” to that talking baby movie with John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.

If the star didn’t do it all, he came pretty close.

Many Willis flicks are still in heavy rotation, but a handful have nearly been lost to time. These titles are unique and take big swings in the way a lot of Willis’ best work did.

We won’t get any new Willis work in the future. That’s why these three films deserve proper releases before they disappear altogether.

‘Breakfast of Champions’

This one is bonkers. The year 1999 gave the world classics such as “Fight Club” and “Office Space,” and it also brought us “Breakfast of Champions,” an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 novel.

Many likely don’t even know this movie exists, let alone what year it came out. After a festival screening and a small release in theaters, “Breakfast of Champions” pulled a Houdini. No one cared at the time. The reviews were terrible.

The cast is headed by Willis as car salesman Dwayne Hoover. Despite his success in small-town Idaho, Hoover is on the brink of collapse and everyone around seems to be as well.

The cast here is wild. Nick Nolte appears as a fellow car salesman with his own set of issues, and actors like Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan and Will Patton pop up.


“Breakfast of Champions” is tough to describe beyond saying it’s a shoot-for-the-moon kind of movie. They may have ended up off-target in some other dimension, but you’ve got to respect the Babe Ruth finger to the sky.

You’d probably have an easier time tracking down a copy of the David Ayer “Suicide Squad” cut than this. Promotional VHS copies (meant to entice rental stores into ordering more tapes) float around here and there, and that’s about it.

If “Breakfast of Champions” had moved to DVD and then streaming, it likely would have a cult following today because of how insane and indecipherable it is. If you let yourself go on this particular roller coaster though, you’ll have fun because a zany Bruce Willis will guide you through the chaos.

A zany Bruce Willis was always the best Bruce.

‘Return of Bruno’

If you didn’t already know, Willis liked to hit a few notes on occasion. He released two albums, 1987’s “Return of Bruno” and 1989’s “If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.”

There was also a “classics” album released in 1999.

It’s the kind of bluesy, good-time music you’d expect from the New Jersey performer. He had a sizable hit with the single, “Respect Yourself” and also did some impressive covers of tunes like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Under the Boardwalk.”

“Return of Bruno” was a film companion to the “Return of Bruno” album in 1987. Airing on HBO, it contained cameos from a Rolodex of famous musicians, including Phil Collins, Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John and more.

The comedy takes a documentary approach to present the history of Bruno, Willis’s hard-rocking alter ego. It’s a pretty raw look at exactly the kind of material that appealed to the actor. As with “Hudson Hawk,” Willis was behind the inception of this special.

You can find “Return of Bruno” streaming in lo-fi on YouTube, but it deserves a proper release if for nothing else than the final concert stretch where Willis shines. And he doesn’t even punch or shoot anybody along the way.

‘True West’

“When I started out as an actor in New York City, I remember being completely blown away by Sam Shepard’s writing,” Bruce Willis says in a home video introduction to “True West.”

This one is not a movie but a filmed stage adaptation of the late Shepard’s play about two brothers at each other’s throats for days in a series of escalating situations.

In 2002, Willis released an adaptation of “True West,” filmed in Idaho, with him playing older criminal brother Lee. Chad Smith plays younger brother Austin. Willis said he’d often use scenes from Shepard’s plays for auditions, and he eventually aged into the role of the troubled Lee.

This one disappeared. You can’t find much more than occasional promotional DVDs released after the stage adaptation aired on Showtime.

“True West” is classic Shepard, equal parts comedic and horrific. All of it is centered in an Americana so few writers can capture without some tinge of fraudulence.


This specific adaptation is exactly the kind of venture that set Willis apart from the pantheon of ‘80s and ‘90s action stars he was constantly aligned within the media. When Willis was riding the highs of his career, he’d choose to create a zany comedy like “Hudson Hawk,” or gamble on a newbie filmmaker like M. Night Shyamalan with “The Sixth Sense,” or just take to the stage and give life to words that once inspired him.

On the “True West” DVD, Willis describes performing the play as just a “fun opportunity to work with my friends.”

In 2015, Willis would take to the stage again in an adaptation of Stephen King’s “Misery” and in both productions, the “Die Hard” star shows not just how committed of an actor he was, but how easily he could move from comedy to drama to horror to physical scenes.

He found a truth in a character (as he does with Lee) that eases the wild jumps required for material “True West.”

Shepard is gone and a Willis adaptation of one of his plays should not be hidden away.

Both artists deserve for the work to be seen.

Zachary Leeman is a reporter who has been published on websites such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and Mediaite. His novel “Nigh” will be released later this year from publisher Gilded Masque.


  1. “Come out to the coast…
    …we’ll get togethah…
    …have a few laughs………”

    Iconic. Immortal. Unforgettable.

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