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The Iconic '90s Movie Bruce Willis Passed On, And Why This Is Funny

His star may have faded a touch in recent years, but back in the 1990s, Bruce Willis was a legitimate megastar who basically had is pick of Hollywood projects. True to that fact, Willis spent the bulk of the decade yipee-kay-yaying through a string of wildly disparate films, some of which are now considered cinematic classics (see: Pulp Fiction12 Monkeys, and The Fifth Element), and some of which moviegoers would rather forget (see: Hudson HawkNorth, and The Story of Us).

Just like every actor on the planet, there are undoubtedly dozens of films Bruce Willis passed on over the years, but there's at least one he likely regrets not making. That movie was one of the biggest hits of the decade, and in an odd twist of fate, it ended up starring Willis' then wife Demi Moore. The iconic '90s flick Bruce Willis passed on? None other than the 1990 supernatural classic Ghost.

While it hasn't aged quite as well as other '90s classics, Ghost remains an intriguing-if-schmaltzy romantic thriller with a seriously clever hook — the catch being that the main character is killed early in the action, and spends much of the film coming to terms with his post-life existence, and trying to warn his grieving wife of the seriously bad dude who engineered his demise. 

Mildly absurd synopsis aside, Ghost would become an unexpected blockbuster in 1990, not to mention a major player at the 1991 Academy awards, earning a nomination for Best Picture, and nabbing statues for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Whoopi Goldberg). And while it's best remembered today for the steamiest clay pot-sculpting scene in the history of cinema, it also dramatically boosted the star-power of '90s heartthrob Patrick Swayze, who claimed the lead after Willis passed.

Bruce Willis still got to spend his fair share of time with cinematic ghosts

So why did Bruce Willis pass on Ghost? Well, he'd just experienced breakout success after a little movie called Die Hard (regularly ranked among the greatest action movies ever made) placed him on the precipice of superstardom. As such, he was understandably a bit careful about how he followed up that breakthrough role. Willis was also quite busy the year following his Die Hard breakout, shooting the final season of his hit TV show Moonlighting and voicing the precocious kiddo in the classic '90s comedy Look Who's Talking

Willis was also busy lining up high-profile flicks for 1990 with Die Hard 2Look Who's Talking 2, and The Bonfire of the Vanities all premiering the same year Ghost was released. And no, he wasn't the first big name to say no to Ghost; Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Kevin Bacon all supposedly passed on the script. That ultimately worked out for the best for everyone, including Patrick Swayze who delivered one of his most memorable performances in a role it's hard to imagine any of the aforementioned actors improving upon.

The joke is, of course, that Willis — perhaps motivated by missing out on Ghost's blockbuster run nearly a decade earlier — ended the '90s portraying a ghost in one of the decade's most enduring hits, M. Night Shyamalan's head-spinning 1999 supernatural marvel The Sixth Sense. Released in late-summer of '99, The Sixth Sense would see the same sort of unexpected success as Ghost, going on to rake it in at he box office and earn a slew of Oscar nominations to boot.