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Though Bruce Willis has mastered fight sequences, chase scenes and explosion escapes in film, one stunt in the stage version of Stephen King’s Misery occasionally makes him wince.
“Only when I don’t land on the pillows,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of throwing himself off a bed while nursing a wounded arm and two broken legs. “Then I really say ‘ouch,’ but it’s alright! It’s only [a few feet high], so it’s not that bad.”
The action star makes his Broadway debut in a new Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures adaptation of the Rob Reiner film, which starred James Caan as injured author Paul Sheldon. The character is imprisoned by his unhinged “number one fan” after she learns that he plans to kill off her favorite fictional heroine.
Willis and the cast celebrated the limited run’s opening alongside Reiner, Peter Dinklage, Stephen Frears, Kate McKinnon, Zachary Quinto, Alison Pill, Ana Gasteyer, Tom Colicchio, Adam Shankman, Alan Cumming, Ben Platt, Tony Danza, Mario Cantone and Tom Kitt at New York City’s Tao Downtown.
“[The show] is just as funny as it is scary. … I’m very surprised at the kind of laughs that we get that weren’t written into the script, but, I mean, she’s hilarious!” Willis told reporters of co-star Laurie Metcalf as extreme stalker Annie Wilkes, an Oscar-winning role for Kathy Bates. “I have to duck my head when I smile at what she’s doing because she cracks me up.”
Metcalf, who described Willis as “generous” and “present onstage,” told THR she loves getting laughs in a work that has her sledgehammering the legs of her household hostage and threatening to kill him with a rifle, among other things. Because the 1990 film is quite well known, “everyone knows [the violence] is coming, but then it happens, and you still get the reaction! That’s a lot of fun.”
Other moments that collect laughs in the suspense thriller? Anytime “Bruce Willis talks like Bruce Willis,” said director Will Frears of sprinkling William Goldman’s script with the curse-word outbursts often seen in blockbusters — some of which were suggested by the actor. “He has such spark and charisma, so you don’t want to deprive the audience of the pleasure of being in a room with Bruce Willis.”
Yet behind the scenes, “he’s just about the work,” reassured Leon Addison Brown, the show’s sheriff. “He comes early, he stays late and he works very hard. It’s very inspiring to see.”
Misery runs through Feb. 14 at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Leon Addison Brown, Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf taking their bows in ‘Misery’
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