Once in awhile, you feel intimidated by your job. This recently happened to me when I entered a hotel room and was greeted not only by Bruce Willis, who I'd been watching in a variety of amazing roles and performances since I was a child, but also by Anthony Hopkins, an actor whose mastery of the craft seems to border on the supernatural (and who also scared the hell out of me as a kid in "Silence of the Lambs"). Somehow, this intimidation was not undercut when Hopkins stepped forward, shook my hand, and demanded that I address him as "Tony."
The two stars were on hand in New York City to discuss their new movie "Red 2," the sequel to the 2010 action-adventure about retired spies who are pulled back into active duty.
Below, you can read what transpired between myself, Willis, and Hopkins, as they talk about their acting philosophy and discover that they've both made out on screen with Nicole Kidman. Also, Willis humors me as I pitch him my plot for the sixth "Die Hard" movie, entitled "Old Habits Die Hard."
Moviefone: So my first question for you guys is -- Bruce, why come back? And Tony, what made you want to join?
Hopkins: Well, my wife likes to go shopping in Neiman-Marcus, that's why.
Willis: That's right. I have four daughters, and they all like to shop. So, we've got to keep working. No, it's fun. It's fun to try to be funny and occasionally you get to work with really, really talented people.
Hopkins: Yeah, my reason for doing it was to work with Bruce. I really loved the first "Red" movie and I've been a great admirer of his. We always say these things but I really mean it. And I never get cast in these sorts of movies because they think I'm a very serious British actor, but I'm not at all. I'm a beach bum from Malibu.
Well you were in "Bad Company" with Chris Rock...
Hopkins: God, that was a wonderful one... No that was not enjoyable. But this was terrific.
Since you don't know the genre quite as well and Bruce obviously has a pretty good grip on it did you ask him for tips?
Hopkins: No because I didn't have to do much; I didn't have to do any action, really.
Willis: I would be hesitant to give anyone in this film tips. I'm just not a tip-giver. I just like to watch the actors do their thing. I'm more entertained.
You guys both have this amazing ability to go between huge movies and much smaller stuff, particularly with you Bruce in "Looper" and "Moonrise Kingdom." Is that a conscious effort or do you just take things as they come?
Willis: I think it's the material more than anything else. I think those films were from a different year. I like science fiction. I like that genre and I like that time traveling thing. I like to try and be funny. I got to kiss a couple of girls in this film, which seldom comes my way. Generally I'm shooting women or doing something horrible. And other actors, every movie I see them kissing girls. [Says to Hopkins] You ever get to make out?
Willis: Yeah. What's going on?
Tony, you got to make out with Nicole Kidman.
Hopkins: Yeah, but I'm not comfortable with it.
Willis: You got to make out with Nicole Kidman?
Yeah, in "The Human Stain."
Willis: I think I made out with Nicole Kidman, too! Yeah, I did a movie where I got to make out with her! "Billy Bathgate."
Hopkins: I take work wherever it comes. I'm 75 going on 76. I'm just lucky to be alive. Young actors ask me advice and I always say, "Keep working. Don't get too choosy." I've got a friend in Los Angeles and he doesn't work much because he's too choosy. And he says, "I'm an artist." I say: "You're not an artist, you're an actor. Act. Whenever it comes along." When you're younger, it's all about sculpting a career or whatever but that's bullsh*t. Work. And I've worked all my life. It's like baseball -- you're not going to win them all. You make a couple of good ones but you make a lot of bad ones. You can't go on doing what they call "quality work." Screw that. You've got to keep working.
Do you agree with that, Bruce?
Willis: He's absolutely right. Actors should be working all the time. It's fun to do; it's just the best job there is. It's not work. You know what's work? Carrying cinderblocks up a ladder for the roof. [Actors are] just trying to make you laugh and trying to make each other laugh. And that's the best part of all -- to have fun while you're trying to make fun.
Hopkins: That's it. Robert Mitchum was asked once why he became an actor and he said, "Well it beats work." And he was great at it.
And it must be fun on this, too, because "Red" was such an unexpected franchise. It kind of came out of nowhere.
Willis: We had a little bit better hook on this one because we kind of knew what it was. With the first one it was really difficult to explain to people -- it was action but it was a romance movie and it was a comedy. And that's a weird combination, because people just want to see a comedy or an action movie.
They're already working on a "Red 3."
Willis: Are they? I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
Would you be excited to come back?
Willis: I'm always excited. I'm happy every day. I have very few days when I'm not happy.
You think there will be another "Die Hard?"
Willis: I can only hope.
Here's what you've got to do...
Willis: What do you have for me? A story?
Yes. It's called "Old Habits Die Hard." You go to Japan. You've reconciled with your wife, she's got a new job at Natakomi headquarters in Japan...
Willis: The corporate headquarters!
...Yes! And it all takes place in this building [Hopkins is listening intently]. See, Tony is ready to buy a ticket!
Hopkins: I'm ready. I'm ready to go.
Willis: I like Japan. That could be a good setting.
Tony, do you watch those movies?
Hopkins: Oh yeah. When I saw the first "Die Hard" I was in Australia. It had already gotten a lot of publicity so I went and saw it in Sydney. I thought it was just a knockout movie. It was just terrific. And that's something the Americans can do that the British can't. British are too earnest. It's like American rock 'n' roll. It's that kind of flip cool style that Americans have. They knock it out. Everyone on [my] side of the world tries too hard.
What do you both have coming up?
Willis: I don't think I have anything coming up. I think this is it.
You've got "Expendables 3" right?
Willis: "Expendables," "Expendables," a new "Expendables?" Am I in that?
You were in the first two.
Willis: Oh right. My friends hire me from time to time. It's very nice. I get a little work done with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme. I don't know what they're going to do with this new one but I hope I'm in it.
What about you, Tony?
Hopkins: Well I've done five in a year -- it started with "Hitchcock," then I did "Noah" with Russell Crowe and I play Methuselah, and then I did "Thor 2."
You should bring Bruce into the Marvel universe!
Hopkins: Yeah, yeah!
Willis: I like watching those films.
Hopkins: Yeah, Chris Hemsworth is terrific. He's so bulked up now. He works out 5 hours a day. He's amazing.
Before I go I just have to ask you Tony if you've seen "Hannibal" and what you think of Mads Mikkelsen's performance as Hannibal Lecter.
Hopkins: I haven't gotten a chance to watch it. I hear he's very good. I don't watch any of my own films, but the TV thing, I caught sight of it the other day. But I don't watch TV. I hear he's a good Hannibal Lecter, though.