How Cybill Sheperd’s Pregnancy Helped Bruce Willis Get Role in ‘Die Hard’

Bruce Willis catapulted to movie stardom thanks to Die Hard. The Sixth Sense actor had already made a name for himself starring in the hit TV show Moonlighting with Cybill Sheperd. Although the series helped Willis get his name out there as an actor, Die Hard turned that name into a household brand.

There are many factors that went into Bruce Willis inhabiting the role of John McClane. But perhaps no one helped Willis clench the classic Die Hard more than his Moonlighting co-star Cybill Shepherd.

The reason why Bruce Willis was picked for ‘Die Hard’

Bruce Willis raising his hand
Bruce Willis | Karwai Tang/WireImage

As most know, Bruce Willis was far from the first choice for John McClane. He wasn’t even the second choice. The studio went through several actors before settling for Willis in the starring role. Die Hard writer Jeb Stuart confirmed that Clint Eastwood was one of the actors they offered the part to.

“I’ll never forget it, he said, ‘I don’t get the humor,’” Stuart told Good Morning America.

Yahoo revealed that virtually every action star at the time was offered the role. These names included Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The studio offered the part to Willis, but Willis declined the role due to his commitment to Moonlighting. However, his co-star in Shepherd eventually made it possible for him to do the Christmas film.

Cybill Shepherd helped Bruce Willis get the role in ‘Die Hard’

In a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Willis revealed that he passed on the Die Hard script the first time he read it. He committed to Moonlighting’s schedule and didn’t have enough time to fill John McClane’s shoes.

“The show had become popular by 1988, I think I’d already read the script for Die Hard once but had to pass because of the show.”

Fortunately, Cybill Shepherd’s pregnancy allowed Willis to do the movie.

“As it turns out, a miracle happened – Cybill Shepherd got pregnant and they shut down the show for 11 weeks – just the right amount of time for me to run around over at Nakatomi Tower.”

“We put this film together pretty quickly after the network told me, ‘Cybill’s going to go away and have this baby, and you’re going to have 11 to 12 weeks off.’” Willis said in an old interview with The Boston Globe.

Cybill Shepherd felt competitive with Bruce Willis’ ‘Die Hard’ success

By now, Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis’ feud is common knowledge within the industry.

Although they were co-stars, they have admitted they had problems with each other. Shepherd has claimed she used to fight Willis all the time in an interview with The Television Academy Foundation. Willis also agreed on The Arsenio Hall Show that they had a tense relationship at times, but he refused to badmouth his co-star.

In a 1989 interview with The Morning Call, Shepherd revealed feeling competitive with Willis’ newfound Die Hard success.

“I just want to get paid what he did for that last one,” Shepherd said. “Sure I feel competitive and it bugs the hell out of me. But I’m basically very happy for him. I kind of feel as if I share in his success, as if maybe I had something to do with it.”

Willis confessed that he received $5 million for his role in Die Hard in the same interview with Entertainment Weekly. Willis credits the salary he’d received for the film for helping bump up the salaries for other actors.

“The day after I signed the deal, every actor in Hollywood’s salary went up to $5 million,” Willis said. “It was nothing more than the fact that a film I’d done, Blind Date, had a good opening. A good opening weekend in those days was $7 million. Now, if it doesn’t make $100 million it’s a failure.”

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