The Terrifying Bruce Willis Stunt That Made Him A Star

By Britta DeVore | Published

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During his lengthy Hollywood career, Bruce Willis made a name for himself as the heroic lead in a multitude of action movies. But, it was his starring role in ABC’s Moonlighting that came right out of the gate and proved the actor’s action chops. During an interview with IndieWire, the show’s creator, Glenn Gordon Caron, broke down the nail-biting first big scene that launched Willis’ penchant for high-octane projects. 

The Premiere Episode Risky Stunt

It was in the show’s first two-hour-long episode that the creative team knew they had struck gold with stars Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. On their first big case together, the Moonlighting scene in question saw the two detectives work their way down a ladder hanging sky-high above the bustling and lively streets of Los Angeles. While he knew he wanted a major climatic moment for the show’s premiere episode, Caron said that he wasn’t completely positive about where the action should take place.

Choosing The Location

As the show’s creator revealed, his first idea was to put Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd’s characters toeing the line between life and death at an airport before shifting his vision to take place on the top of the recognizable Capitol Records building. Unfortunately, as he would come to realize, the iconic music landmark wasn’t structurally sound enough to “actually support people and things.” Perhaps the best part is that while the Moonlighting creator was searching for the perfect place to perform the over-the-top action stunt, he was unsure of how he would even work it into the plot.

Finally, though, Caron and the rest of his team set their sights on the Eastern Columbia Building, a sound structure that was up to the task of not only holding Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd but also giving the film crew ample space to do their jobs. At the center of it all was the building’s giant clock, which gave the Moonlighting team plenty of filming options. As Caron explained, the “clock appears on all four sides,” with each section, other than the one over the street, marked by a rooftop overhang. 

Safety First

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The benefits of these overhangs made the building the perfect spot for several different reasons. For one, Caron said “You can follow the sun around all day,” while the other gave Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd a safe place to stand without putting them in an “outrageous” and dangerous situation. It also gave the Moonlighting crew plenty of wiggle room to work around the actors and capture the perfect shots that audiences still remember more than three decades later.

Cybil Shepherd Was Terrified

Realizing the mess she’d gotten herself into, Cybil Shepherd recalls being “completely and totally terrified” when she and Bruce Willis were expected to film the scene. She and her co-star would ultimately be on top of the building for a whopping six days during the Moonlighting filming until the production team was satisfied with their footage.

Bruce Willis’ Action Career In The Making

While it may have been one of the scariest moments of Cybil Shepherd’s life, it was just the beginning of Bruce Willis’ addiction to high-octane action projects. Because of his role in Moonlighting (which is now streaming on Hulu), the actor nabbed his career-making role in Die Hard. Of course, with the star now retired from acting and dealing with a debilitating condition, these moments are terrific to look back on and remember the amazing moments Willis graced us with in the past.