Bruce Willis had been divorced for seven years when it happened: he met the love of his life. The action movie stalwart – perhaps best-known for his Die Hard series – hadn’t expected anything like that to happen to him. Indeed, he’d chosen life as a confirmed bachelor for nearly a decade following his split from ex-wife Demi Moore. That all changed, though, when this woman walked into his life unexpectedly.
Willis himself said he had more or less given up on love by the time he met her. He told W magazine in 2009 how quickly his perspective had shifted. He explained, “I never thought that being with someone else was the answer… Then I started hanging around Emma.” He wasn’t the only one who felt smitten right away.
In a joint interview, his future wife told People in December 2020 that she had immediately fallen for Willis, too. She said, “When we first met, I was surprised at how charming and how funny he was – and extremely handsome. That was my first thought of you.” He retorted, “I was already in love with her.”
The pair did have the odds stacked against them at the start of their courtship. For one thing, she was set to move to New York soon after their first date. Plus, they had a huge age gap – more than 20 years separated them. But they didn’t care, nor did their family members, including Willis’s ex-wife, Moore.
Instead, his blended family has often come together to celebrate Willis, his new love and their milestones as the years have gone by. Who is the woman who stole the action star’s heart? And how did they find each other? We’ll give you a hint – it’s a far less glamorous place than you’d expect for a Hollywood actor and a model to have met.
In the mid-1980s Bruce Willis broke into the big time when he nabbed the leading role on a hit TV show called Moonlighting. The next big landmark in his career would come in 1988, when he starred as John McClane in Die Hard. By that time, though, he had already reached a major milestone in his personal life – he had met his future wife.
It all happened in a very Hollywood way. Willis went to the premiere of the movie Stakeout in July 1987. Emilio Estevez starred in the flick, and his fiancée, actress Demi Moore, accompanied him to the screening. While supporting her beau, she met the future Sin City star for the first time that night.
In her 2019 memoir, Inside Out, Moore described meeting Willis at the movie’s after party – and she didn’t have totally nice things to say about him. She wrote, “My impression was, he’s kind of a jerk… but Bruce was so gallant – in his own boisterous way, a real gentleman.”
Moore left the party, but she hadn’t seen the last of Willis. In her memoir, she revealed how the actor had driven up beside her on her way home. She wrote, “It was a stretch limousine in the next lane, with Bruce Willis and his buddies poking up through the open sunroof, waving and shouting, ‘Hey, Demi!’” It gave the engaged actress pause, she explained, writing, “It was like the universe was telling me: pay attention to this one.”
Moore’s relationship with Estevez fell apart soon after she met Willis. And, within months of the premiere where they had met, she had started dating him. It appears her first impression of him as a bold, gallant gentleman was true, and he swept her off her feet. The pair would jet off for trips; on one such jaunt to Las Vegas the Die Hard star impulsively suggested that they should just get married there and then.
Moore and Willis said “I do” on November 21, 1987, and, if that wasn’t enough of a rapid romantic progression, the actress claimed in her memoir that she became pregnant on their wedding night. She described how a magnetic “infatuation” with one another “morphed into a full-on family, all in our very first year.” But not all was perfect, she continued, writing, “When reality set in, I don’t know if we really knew each other.”
With the birth of their first daughter Rumer, Moore and Willis moved from Hollywood to the idyllic sylvan setting of pastoral Idaho. There, they could raise her and, later, her sisters, Scout and Tallulah, out of the public eye. At the same time, though, both of their careers flourished, which meant they had to shuttle back and forth from L.A. to their secluded abode.
All of this traveling and time apart put a strain on their union, and the public started to take notice. Rumors swirled that Willis and Moore were going to divorce, and in 1993 the actress addressed the gossip in a Vanity Fair magazine interview. She told the magazine that “[the rumors] won’t stop until one day they may be right.”
The truth was that things were, indeed, falling apart. In Moore’s autobiography, she explained it from her point of view. She said Willis preferred her to stay home with their kids, rather than working. On top of that, her husband gave an interview to Playboy magazine in 1996 and made some telling statements, including, “No woman is going to satisfy a man’s natural impulse to procreate, procreate, procreate. […] We try hard, but we’re animals.”
In June 1998 the Hollywood power couple publicly split and two years later their divorce became official. Afterward, Willis spoke to Rolling Stone magazine and said he didn’t quite know how the wheels had fallen off. He admitted, “I still love Demi. We’re very close. We have three children whom we will continue to raise together, and we’re probably as close now as we ever were.”
Willis went on to say, “We realize we have a lifelong commitment to our kids. Our friendship continues. The institution has been set aside… It’s difficult to live your life and marriage under a magnifying glass, which is what happens to movie-star couples.” Over the years, the actor and Moore have made it clear that their relationship does, indeed, remain amicable.
Their daughter Rumer, for one, deeply appreciated Moore and Willis’s efforts to keep the family close, even after their split – and when new partners came into the mix. She told TV chat show host Larry King in March 2015, “They always made an effort to do all of the family events still together and made such an effort to still have our family be as one unit, as opposed to two separate things, which I think really made an impact.”
It would have been easy for them to build two separate families, too. For her part, Moore remarried in 2005; this time her partner was a much younger man – actor Ashton Kutcher was famously 16 years her junior. That year, she told Harper’s Bazaar magazine that he felt like a “soulmate” and that she felt she had “been given that gift.” One unlikely supporter of their relationship was Willis, who attended their Beverly Hills nuptials.
The press and public couldn’t get enough of Moore and Kutcher’s unlikely romance, so they got much more attention than Willis and his new girlfriend. In the fall of 2003 he and actress Brooke Burke quietly started dating. Their relationship lasted until the next summer, when work commitments pulled them too far apart geographically to keep their emotional bond strong.
After that split, People magazine noted how the newly single Willis kept himself busy. He spent the weekend celebrating Memorial Day with his ex-wife and daughters. Then, he hit the stage with his band, The Accelerators, and had a surprising pair of supporters in the audience: Moore and her then-new husband, Kutcher.
Clearly, his family supported him no matter what – and they continued to do so as he dated on and off for the next several years. The Pulp Fiction actor at one point had ties to actress Kim Cattrall; on another occasion partygoers claimed he spent a night flirting with Lindsay Lohan in 2005. There were even whispers that he was seeing one-time Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal during 2007.
That same year, though, Willis would meet Emma Heming – and their relationship would be more than just a fling for tabloid fodder. Unlike many of Willis’s former flames, Heming wasn’t a famous face: unless, of course, you were familiar with the women who stomped down fashion runways in the 1990s and 2000s.
Heming got her start in the early 1990s, according to her blog. She wrote, “My mom entered me into a modeling competition in London called ‘The British Elle Supermodel,’ which I won.” That moment launched her into a long and glittering fashion career, walking runways in Milan, New York and Paris for brands such as Chanel, Dior, Victoria’s Secret and Valentino.
Heming also became a brand ambassador for Dior cosmetics and she starred in Redken and Clairol commercials, too. Posing for some of the fashion industry’s most famed photographers – Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Leibovitz included – added even more weight to her impressive fashion resume. Still, all of these glitzy moments and experiences didn’t bring her to her future movie-star husband.
No, Heming met her future husband, Willis, at the gym. Both of them worked with the same trainer – a fateful coincidence, as it turned out. The actor later told W magazine in 2009 that meeting the model changed his entire perspective on love very quickly. The truth was, he admitted, that he had been feeling lonely for quite some time.
Willis revealed, “I spent the last ten years single and for the most part, unhappy. In a dark place. I never thought that being with someone else was the answer. I would say, ‘I’m alone, but I’m not lonely.’ But I was just kidding myself. Then I started hanging around Emma, and on a day-to-day basis my life became much happier.”
Heming, too, was surprised by how quickly she fell for Willis, she told W. When she met him, she hadn’t been looking for anything serious. She revealed, “I had never really dated. I’ve always been a relationship kind of person. But in that phase of my life I was like, you know what, maybe I’ll just date, see what it’s like. And I lasted one date.”
Heming and Willis didn’t meet at the most opportune moment – and not just because she had sworn off relationships. He told W, “We went on one date, on the Friday before Emma was getting ready to move back to New York, and then we fell mad crazy in love…” They forged such a strong connection so quickly, they said, because they had a lot in common.
From the outside, it might not have seemed like Heming and Willis had many similarities – a two-decade age gap separated them, for one thing. But the model revealed that they had similar life stories, which bonded them together. She said, “We’re self-made, we came from the same background, and we went to work and became self-sufficient.”
Although the connection was instant, Willis and Heming waited for two years to take things to the next level. In March 2009 they headed to their home in Turks & Caicos, and not just for a vacation. The pair had a very private wedding ceremony there, attended by their nearest and dearest: the action star’s daughters, his ex-wife Moore and her then-husband, Kutcher, included.
Just as they had in the past with Kutcher, the Moore-Willis clan quickly welcomed Heming Willis – as she now became known – into the fold. She admitted to W that the thought of meeting her beau’s daughters had been daunting “because [she’d] never dated a man who had children…” Still, she said, “I’ve been really blessed because, from day one, it’s been comfortable and fun.”
Willis agreed, calling the five of them “a tribe.” And by all accounts he and Heming Willis were particularly in tune with one another. After their nuptials, they told W that they wanted to make their relationship their focal point in life. They didn’t want to spend weeks and months apart from each other, which was the Hollywood norm.
Heming Willis said, “The thought of him going away for three months to shoot a film: I’ve had relationships like that in the past, and it’s not stable. Where my first priority used to be work, it’s now my personal life.” As such, she decided to call time on her modeling career, choosing to instead take on business opportunities, such as creating and marketing a new range of household fragrances.
That worked for Willis, who confided to W that he felt a deeper connection to his new wife than he had done previously with any other partner. He explained, “I hear so many people in relationships say, ‘I just need a couple of days away, or even an hour away.’ But I don’t want to be away from Emma at all. It’s the most singular relationship I’ve ever had in my life.”
Eventually, though, Willis and Heming Willis wouldn’t be the only two members of the family to think about. Three years into their marriage, the pair welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Mabel Ray. At the time, a spokesman for the couple told People magazine that they were “overjoyed” with their new addition.
Two years and a month later, they had their second baby girl named Evelyn Penn. A public statement issued at the time revealed, “Mabel is delighted to have a baby sister.” And the fact that Willis now had five daughters wasn’t lost on his wife. Heming Willis tweeted afterward, “My husband is still the man of the house! Thank you for all the well wishes. We are all doing wonderfully.”
Ten years into their marriage, Willis and Heming Willis had so much to celebrate already. They also wanted their girls to see them re-commit their lives to one another. So, they had a vows renewal ceremony in April 2019 commemorating their decade together. The former model told Us Weeklymagazine afterward, “It was really for [our daughters], to be able to be flower girls, for them to be a part of something that feels kind of monumental. Ten years felt like a big deal and something fun to celebrate.”
Also at the vows renewal was, of course, Willis’s ex-wife, Moore. Heming Willis told the magazine that she wouldn’t have had the ceremony without the actress there. She explained, “She welcomed me into her family like I welcomed her into ours. Again, I have so much respect for her.”
Nowadays, Willis and Heming Willis continue to maintain their tight bond with Moore and her three girls. They’re also raising Mabel and Evelyn far from the Hollywood spotlight, as the actor did with his first trio of daughters. Willis described their suburban New York abode to Elle Décor in 2017 as a place that’s “filled with joy and the laughter and chatter of little girls being themselves.”
As for the relationship Willis and Heming Willis share, she offered an explanation as to how the couple had made their union last for ten years – and counting. Her guess? It was all down to the fun they had together. The ex-model told Us Weekly, “I think we’ve always had a lot of respect for each other, which has really helped build a great foundation. He makes me laugh. He’s funny and he’s smart, and nuts, and always keeps me on my toes, so it’s fun.”