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Willis Plays War Hero in New Film, <i>Tears of the Sun</i> - 2003-03-08

Bruce Willis leads a team of Navy "Seal" commandos on a dangerous rescue mission in a new action drama also featuring Italian-born actress Monica Bellucci. Alan Silverman has a look at Tears Of Sun.

Bruce Willis plays Lieutenant Waters, who takes his elite squad into a remote Nigerian village where anti-government rebels threaten a church mission hospital. The orders may seem clear, but once Lt. Waters sees the plight of the refugees and the fate they fear awaits them, he changes the mission.

Willis has portrayed his share of Hollywood heroes; and, although this story is fictitious, he says the entire cast was committed to honoring the real "seals."

"I think I speak for all the actors [saying] our biggest intention was to portray the Navy seals as they are: a group of men who, mostly anonymously, complete very dangerous missions and put themselves in harm's way on a regular basis," says Willis. "I frankly sleep a lot better knowing that there are men and women out there like that whose job it is . . . and whose personal choice is . . . to try to make the world a safer place."

Monica Bellucci co-stars as a character committed to saving lives.

"For my character I talked a lot with the doctors from 'Medecins sans Frontieres,' which means Doctors Without Borders; and those doctors are just incredible," she explains. "They're real heroes. My character is someone strong and passionate about helping the African she feels responsible for."

What I also like about the film," she adds, "is that the relationship my character has with Lt. Waters. We are two different characters. I'm there because I follow my heart, my passion; he's there because someone told him to be there. He just follows orders. So we are two characters at odds with each other and through adversity and circumstances we change."

But with stories of war in the news, is it the right time to release a film showing Americans in combat? Director Antoine Fuqua is n-o-t sure.

"I don't know. It's hard to say," he says. "I think it's a heroic film. It's about heroism and humanity. I think it's a film that, for me, sheds some real light on the fact that war is ugly. If we go to war, people are going to die . . . including our own. Children are going to die. Women are going to die. So it's a bit of a reality that people should face. At the same time, we do have heroes. We do have people out there fighting for the innocent and I think in times of war that's a good thing to see. What I was trying to do with this film, ultimately, was to show man's inhumanity to man. What I was trying to say is that we do have heroes . . . live heroes."

While the American heroics could play well at home, international audiences may have a different perspective; but that does n-o-t concern star Bruce Willis.

"This film is about a rescue mission. This film is about getting people who are in harm's way to safety," he says. " I never saw it as a jingoistic advertisement for American politics. I have no way to predict how the international press or markets are going to see this film, but all films are in some fashion about good triumphing over evil. I think that it's a good message to send out to the world: that we all hope good does triumph over evil. "

Tears Of The Sun was made with Pentagon cooperation. Real world security concerns prevented filming on location in Africa, so a remote region of Hawaii doubles as the Nigerian interior.