The amazing true story of Bruce Willis' popstar alter ego Bruno Radolini

11 August 2023, 12:59 | Updated: 11 August 2023, 16:10

Bruce Willis had a pop career back in the 1980s
Bruce Willis had a pop career back in the 1980s. Picture: Alamy/Bruce Willis/Motown

By Naomi Bartram

In the late 1980s Bruce Willis started his career with a rockstar alter ego called Bruno Radolini.

We all know Bruce Willis for his roles in huge Hollywood blockbusters like Die Hard and The Sixth Sense.

The 67-year-old actor, who was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia earlier this year, was not only an action star – but a singing star as well.

Bruce Willis tried his hand at recording music back in the late 1980s, and the actor even had his own rockstar alter ego, going by the name of Bruno Radolini.

Yep, in 1987 Bruce released an album called The Return of Bruno which had 10-tracks and featured famous musicians like the Pointer Sisters and the Temptations.

Bruce Willis and Billy Joel
Bruce Willis and Billy Joel. Picture: Getty Images

It was an R&B album and peaked at an impressive number 14 in the Billboard 200 album chart thanks to his popular single 'Respect Yourself', which reached number five in the charts.

The song was originally performed by The Staples Singers in 1971, with Bruce remaking it with June Pointer.

He later released follow-up single 'Young Blood', but this didn’t fare as well, reaching number 68 in the US charts.

However, his track 'Under the Boardwalk' was very popular in the UK and managed to get to number two.

Bruce Willis - Respect Yourself (Official Video)

As well as releasing his first album, Bruce also played the character of Bruno in an hour-long mockumentary which aired the same year.

The movie featured music superstars like Elton John, Ringo Starr, and Brian Wilson, all of whom talk about Bruno’s influence on their music.

It also featured footage of Bruno playing various concerts throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, as well as interviews with his former bandmates.

Around the same time The Return of Bruno came out, Willis signed a deal with Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers, which would result in a series of adverts where he can also be heard singing.

Bruce Willis had an alter ego called Bruno
Bruce Willis had an alter ego called Bruno. Picture: Alamy
Unfortunately, Bruno was left behind when Die Hard was released in 1988 and grossed $40million (£30.5million)
Unfortunately, Bruno was left behind when Die Hard was released in 1988 and grossed $40million (£30.5million). Picture: Getty

Unfortunately, Bruno was left behind when Die Hard was released in 1988 and grossed $40million (£30.5million)

But Bruce did release his second album in 1989 which was called If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.

This featured 10 tracks, including several the actor co-wrote, but there was no mention of Bruno.

Not leaving his singing career behind completely, during the early '90s, Bruce and his then-wife Demi Moore invested in the Planet Hollywood chain.

He often sang at the openings of new restaurants with his blues band the Accelerators.

Bruce Willis and the Accelerators - Every Time I Roll The Dice (Live at Planet Hollywood)

Earlier this year it was confirmed that the action star had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia – the most common form of dementia in people under 60.

"Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis," his family said in February.

"Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead," they added.

Bruce's family thanked fans and expressed their "deepest gratitude for the incredible outpouring of love" they had received.