Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis: WonderCon 2022

Pop culture icon Kevin Smith (Netflix's Masters of the Universe: Revelation) got more than a little emotional during his "The Panel with Kevin Smith" panel at WonderCon 2022 last night. The final panel of the day was billed as 'the world's worst Kevin Smith salesman tries to sell you on Kevin Smith as a person, podcaster, pop culture commentator, writer, director, and general nuisance!' But ultimately turned out to be much more. Smith began in a light-hearted fashion telling the crowd that if anyone even thinks about coming up and striking him, that would "bring me to tears, I cannot take a hit." As it turns out Smith's tears, as well as the crowd's, would flow in spite of an assault.

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis at WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

For almost an hour Smith vamped and entertained the crowd by answering Q & As, sharing funny stories, giving advice, and reflecting on the reason he loved superheroes. However, a hush fell over the crowd as the final attendee in the question line asked him to speak on Bruce Willis given the recent public announcement that the beloved action star is suffering from aphasia.

In the past, Smith had not been shy about his experiences with Willis on the set of Cop Out. The two "butted heads" and did not get along for the duration of the shoot. In a recent tweet, Smith commented on the news of Willis' affliction but this was the first time that he addressed it in front of an audience.

Stories of the two icons not getting along on set had circulated and Smith did not hold back when addressing the stories and that was the way it had been for years. "Then you get older, and shit just becomes water under the bridge. There was a time in my life when 'Cop Out' was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Then I grew up and stopped bitching. Then we found out recently- just this week – that Bruce is suffering from aphasia"

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis: WonderCon 2022
Editorial credit: PAN Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Instantly all the strife, all the friction, and all the grudges that Smith had been holding onto (he hadn't watched Die Hard in years) all of a sudden just slipped away. "Because aphasia is pretty dang cruel." It takes away your ability to communicate the way you are used to communicating. You can't form words, and it's tough to get a thought across. It's pretty awful. So the moment when Smith read the news he "stopped thinking about Bruce Willis as the guy I worked with and started thinking about Bruce Willis as the guy who I used to watch on TV as a kid with my mom." Smith thought of Willis as a "second-generation Bill Murray."As David Addison on ABC's Moonlighting, he had the same Bugs Bunny nature and energy, "He was fucking brilliant. I fell in love with that character, I fell in love with that actor." 

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis at WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

Smith remembered learning to drive while listening to Willis' album The Return of Bruno, a cassette that was stuck in the cassette player of his friend's truck. "It was stuck but we didn't care because Bruce was the epitome of cool." Smith continued, "So I thought about how much Bruce used to love to act, based on watching 'Moonlighting' And I thought about how much Bruce used to love to sing, based on the album…and then I was heartbroken. It didn't matter the shit that we went through, (on) 'Cop Out.'" It didn't matter that at one point Smith went in his trailer and punched holes in the walls because he was so unbelievably frustrated."All that went away and I thought about how fucking sad he must be. This guy that I used to adore, that can't be the thing that defined him." 

After Smith put out the tweet, he received a phone call from his friend & collaborator on Cop Out, Mark Cullen (he and brother Robb Cullen wrote A Couple of Dicks, which would later be renamed Cop Out)  who served as the go-between on set to smooth things over with Willis. "Bruce didn't relate to me at all after a certain point, but he did relate to Robbie and Mark."

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis at WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

After reading the tweet Mark called because he thought Smith might have been beating himself up over the revelation and said "I need you to know something"  Expecting something negative about Willis from Mark that would make him feel better about the situation and justify his anger, Smith was taken aback by what Cullen relayed instead. At a lunch with him a few months ago Willis revealed that Cop Out, with the Cullens, was some of the best times he ever had in the latter part of his career. Even Kevin. Cullen relayed that Willis never had any hard feelings. "He said that he really liked you and he knew that he fucked things up for you guys." 

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis: WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

At this point, Smith starts to choke up a bit. "At the end of the day, all I wanted was for the guy to like me. Cause I liked him and just wanted him to like me too. [At the time] it seemed like he didn't. I don't know if his condition went back to then but if it does it would explain a lot of things." Smith continued, "maybe I just didn't understand. I'm fifty-one, but you're never too old to learn something important." With his eyes welling up Smith revealed that he didn't take the job for the money, "I was there for the love. I love Bruce Willis. And by the end of the process, not so much. Twelve years later I find out that maybe there was a pretty good reason for that. For so many years, you think you can be right about something, I'm glad I found out now before it was too late." 

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis: WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

Through tears, Smith said hearing Cullen tell him that Willis liked him destroyed him, and that's all that he has been thinking about for the last few days.  "I saw a lot of people online calling him the GOAT, The Greatest Of All Time. It's nice to feel that way again. …Let's give it up for Bruce." Smith paused for a moment to collect himself and finished his sentiment, "Always remember, people are always going through something and I implore people to have a little compassion for others… treat everyone out there as good as you can. It's hostile out there right now."

Kevin Smith Gets Emotional Discussing Bruce Willis: WonderCon 2022
Kevin Smith at WonderCon 2022 Photo: Jimmy Leszczynski

As a journalist, this is a tough one to write up. No other celebrity has touched my life, through almost every stage of it, more than Bruce Willis. I felt every tear that Smith shed, and in recalling his poignant response, I felt them again. You can dig the video posted on Retro Cool Nerd below. The question begins at 3:41, and Smith gets emotional as he reflects on his relationship with Willis. Teary-eyed would be an understatement.

Smith did mention Clerks III, only to say that it should be out this summer.

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About Jimmy Leszczynski

Jimmy Leszczynski has been blurring the line between comics and reality at SDCC every year since 1994, and was a nerd long before Lewis, Gilbert, and the Tri Lamdas made it cool. Middle aged father of 2 that REFUSES to grow up, lifelong Bat-Fan, and he thinks he's pretty funny.
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