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If McClane has softened a little, so has Willis, who once sang a song on Letterman about the thrill of killing Saddam Hussein. "My political point of view has moved more toward independent," says one of the few actors known as a Republican. "People would rather see me as a conservative than as a liberal, but I have lots of liberal notions." And he does keep turning all the desk lamps in the halls of the hotel off. He figures people like to identify him with the GOP partly because it makes him seem rebellious within Hollywood and partly because we like to see our heroes as rugged, libertarian individualists. Which leads him to lament living in a time when Isaiah Washington is fired for calling a gay Grey's Anatomy co-star a "faggot." "I hate to think we live in a time when you can get fired from your job because of what you say," he says. "He didn't punch anyone. I think we'll think differently with hindsight." Clearly, not all his notions are liberal.
But he is famously liberal in accepting that his ex-wife Demi Moore has married a much younger man, Ashton Kutcher. For this he thanks--and this lets you see how insular fame is--Will Smith. "He was very wise, and I want to give him credit," Willis says. "He told me, 'You put the kids first. As an adult, a couple years will go by, and you're fine.' It was good advice, and I was smart enough to take it. And to pay it forward to my friends." It's hard to believe, but Willis honestly seems cool even when he's using the phrase "pay it forward."
He doesn't like that his private life is reported on, or that he has to do interviews like this one, but he understands that the world isn't how he'd like it. "Everything is entertainment. The news is entertainment. Sports is entertainment. It's all just one big game show," he says. And the Internet, oh, he does not like the Internet. "The Internet is a big dark hole. What if the Internet was the lead mugs that everyone in Rome was using that led to the end of that civilization? What if 20 years from now, the Internet led to the downfall of the world?"
So, yeah, he has his weird side, this bald man in a red T shirt and crisp blue jeans, telling me things that aren't quite true, trying to end the interview early, clearly disgusted by my occupation--but it's a likeable weird. When I leave, he does perhaps the strangest alpha-male thing of all, something I've never heard an interviewee do. He nods approvingly and says, "Good job." You can't be Willis-smooth unless you play the game to the end. *