Bruce Willis Was Just As Shocked By The Sixth Sense’s Ending As Viewers Were

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  • The Sixth Sense is a gripping film with twists and turns that keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
  • Bruce Willis quickly signed on to star in the film because of the intriguing script and the emotional depth of his character.
  • The surprise ending of The Sixth Sense shocked both Willis and audiences, making it a phenomenon in itself and contributing to the film’s massive success.

The Sixth Sense is a film that people continue to talk about more than two decades after the film was released. Not only was the film well written and directed brilliantly by M. Night Shyamalan, but Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment played their roles to perfection. Because of all of this, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards. While it would not go on to win any, it won plenty of People’s Choice Awards, signifying that audiences responded in a big way to the film.

The story of The Sixth Sense is gripping. It takes audiences on twists and turns throughout the movie. When viewers think they have everything figured out, another plot twist is added, keeping them on the edge of their seats and engaged with every moment of the film.

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It was how the film concluded, however, that sent everyone reeling. This included Willis, who was just as shocked by The Sixth Sense’s ending as viewers were.

Bruce Willis “Quickly” Signed On To Star In ‘The Sixth Sense’

Given his status in Hollywood in 1999, Willis was not asked to audition for anything. Instead, he was sent scripts to read to see if any of them spoke to him as an actor.

One of those scripts was The Sixth Sense from a lesser-known writer/director at the time, Shyamalan who wrote such an intriguing script that Willis could not put it down. This led Willis to sign on “quickly” which got the production of the film rolling.

“I agreed to do it very quickly,” Willis explained with the ending being a big part of why he signed on nearly immediately, especially after missing out on starring in an Oscar-winning film just a few years before.

However, it was also a different type of personality that Willis got to bring to the screen for the first time that was intriguing as well.

“Bruce is from New Jersey. I’m from Philadelphia. It always felt like the hometown boy kind of connection. When I was a kid, I watched his movies and wanted to make something with him,” Shyamalan explained.

“For me, when you see Die Hard, obviously, there’s so many things — the physicality and stuff — but it’s the pathos of his relationship with his wife, which for me is the emotional underpinning of why that action movie transcends. I basically put him in another love story.”

Shyamalan went on to say, “The Sixth Sense was a wonderful opportunity for me to bring that out of him. He was so excited about doing that. He’s the guy who didn’t have the gun. When Donnie’s character shows up in the beginning, he doesn’t know what to do. He loved playing somebody who didn’t know what to do. I think that just kind of launched us into a more vulnerable, complicated version of Bruce that’s so lovely.”

RELATED: Bruce Willis And Wife Emma Heming Met In A Unique Yet Mundane Way

This vulnerability was a big draw to the character that Willis would play on the big screen, but it was the realization at the end of reading the script that his character, Malcolm Crowe was actually dead that shocked Willis and made him realize the film would be a hit even before cameras started rolling.

Bruce Willis Was Shocked By The End Of ‘The Sixth Sense’

Given the directions and narrative in a script, when an actor reads a story that will eventually become a film, they can gather fairly early on in the script the direction it will go and how it will end.

This was not the case for The Sixth Sense, which did not reveal until the very end that Willis’ character, Crowe was really dead, a fact that came as a shock to Willis when he read it.

“I was as surprised by the ending in the script, I think, as the audience was in the theater,” Willis explained in the documentary about The Sixth Sense. “I was completely unprepared for that ending.”

Bruce Willis on the red carpet
via Instar

What was most interesting is that even as the film wrapped, was being edited, and eventually rolled out to test audiences and critics, no one gave the surprise ending away. That fact helped The Sixth Sense gross over $672 million, becoming just one of the many films Willis has worked on that have grossed over $100 million, and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

“Normally, films that have surprise endings — somebody always gives it away, whether it’s a film critic or it’s your friend,” Willis said in the documentary. “No one gave it away, which is kind of a phenomenon in itself.”

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Shyamalan stated that the reaction to the ending was so unexpected that test audiences did not move from their seats while the credits rolled, being too stunned by what they had just seen. Yet, surprisingly, none of them shared the ending with others.

Forgetting The Twist In ‘The Sixth Sense’ Was How Bruce Willis Got Through The Film

In order to give audiences the shock of finding out that Crowe was not alive at the end of the movie, Willis claimed he had to entirely forget that he was playing a ghost. Instead, he played his character like he was alive and figuring out how to help Osment’s character in that capacity.

“Once I knew the ending of the film and that my character was indeed dead, I had to forget about it and act as if I weren’t,” Willis explained in the documentary. “I never really thought about acting as a ghost.”

sixth sence

Were Willis to have portrayed the role of the dead psychologist as a ghost, there would not have been the same shock at the plot twist at the end where Crowe realizes that he is a ghost and does not realize he is dead, just like all other ghosts.

It is not until he begins to put the puzzle pieces together that he realizes everything that had been witnessed since working with Osment’s character was what he wanted to see rather than what was actually happening.

This is the same that audiences were seeing, also not being able to put the clues together that Willis’ character has passed. As such, an “a-ha” moment happens with the character and audience at the same time, which is rare for a film to be able to do.

It is this ability, however, that made the film as successful as it was and helped to cast Willis in a new light other than an action star. His portrayal of Crowe was spot on and with Shyamalan’s direction helped to reenergize the careers of both men.

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