Interview: Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan Talk Cop Out

If there’s one thing Bruce Willis knows, perhaps better than anyone alive, it’s how to play a cop in a movie. He’s done so at least a dozen times, most famously as John McClane in the Die Hard franchise.

But he sees his latest starring vehicle Cop Out, which resurrects the age-old odd couple police pairing formula, differently. And that probably has something to do with the fact that Kevin Smith directed it.

“I think Cop Out stands by itself as a film that has elements of shoot-em-up in it, that has elements of romance in it, that has elements of save the girl in it. That has two cool, tough cops who know how to be cops,” he said. “But at a certain point we drew the line, just said, you know what? We’re going to make this funny. … We just went balls out comedy.”

With partners in crime as effervescent as co-star Tracy Morgan and flat out droll as Kevin Smith, it’s no great surprise that Cop Out goes for the jokes. Both men insist the improbable Willis-Morgan pairing – one cool and collected, the other seemingly off his rocker – began working immediately.

“We basically went off Ralph and Norton [The Honeymooners]. Me and my hairbrained schemes and him being like, ‘Come on dude,’” Morgan said.

“Our timing, our overlapping dialogue, just pauses and just stuff that you learn after years and years and years of doing comedy, just fell into place so easily,” Willis added.

Experiencing the two men in a joint interview, as Film School Rejects did, can be a jarring experience. On the day of our roundtable, a sweatsuit clad Morgan burst into the room in a frenzy of enthusiasm, making small talk with the other journalists and enjoying a back and forth with some writers over a scene in which his character punches a kid after being kicked in the balls.

“Why would it be offensive,” he gleefully said of the scene. “If it’s not offensive then it probably wasn’t funny! Kids love when little boys get [beaten up]. … Kids love it. They love to beat up adults.”

Willis emerged soon after, looking immaculate in a suit and tie, beams of light pouring off his transfixing bald skull. Yet the atmosphere in the room changed as soon as he entered. The collegiality seemed to fade, replaced by an air of respectful silence.

Still, no matter how jaded he must be by the junket process, no matter how many times he’s probably been forced to spew out boilerplate about movies he might not really like, he spoke about Cop Out with the conviction of a true believer.

“In the buddy comedies of the ’80s and ’90s, In the Heat of the Night and films where there is very strong racial tension, [it’s] black cop, white cop, what’s gonna happen? Are they gonna kill each other? Are they gonna eat each other,” he said. “Not one time in this film did we ever comment on the fact that Tracy’s black and I’m white. I didn’t miss it at all. At all. We just leapt past it.”

Robert Levin has written dozens (if not hundreds) of reviews for Film School Rejects since his first piece in 2009. He is the film critic for amNewYork, one of the most widely circulated daily newspapers in New York City and the United States, and the paper's website amNY.com. He's a Brooklyn resident who tries very hard not to be a cliche.

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