Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Born Walter Willison -- an Army brat to parents stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany -- on March 19, 1955, Bruce Willis grew up in New Jersey from the age of two. As a youngster, he developed a stutter that posed the threat of social alienation, but he discovered an odd quirk: while performing in front of large numbers of people, the handicap inexplicably vanished. This led Willis into a certified niche as a comedian and budding actor. After high-school graduation, 18-year-old Willis decided to land a blue-collar job in the vein of his father, and accepted a position at the DuPont Chambers Works factory in Deep Water, NJ, but withdrew, shaken, after a co-worker was killed on the job. He performed regularly on the harmonica in a blues ensemble called the Loose Goose and worked temporarily as a security guard before enrolling in the drama program at Montclair State University in New Jersey. A collegiate role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brought Willis back in touch with his love of acting, and he instantly decided to devote his life to the profession.
Willis made his first professional appearances on film with minor roles in projects like The First Deadly Sin, starring Frank Sinatra, and Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. But his big break came when he attended a casting call (along with 3000 other hopefuls) for the leading role on Moonlighting, an ABC detective comedy series. Sensing Willis' innate appeal, producers cast him opposite the luminous Cybill Shepherd. The series, which debuted in 1985, followed the story of two private investigators working for a struggling detective agency, with Willis playing the fast-talking ne'er-do-well David Addison, and Shepherd playing the prim former fashion model Maddie Hayes. The show's heavy use of clever dialogue, romantic tension, and screwball comedy proved a massive hit with audiences, and Willis became a major star. The show ultimately lasted four years and wrapped on May 14, 1989. During the first year or two of the series, Willis and Shepherd enjoyed a brief offscreen romantic involvement as well, but Willis soon met and fell in love with actress Demi Moore, who became his wife in 1987.