- Elysa Gardner

A tall, leggy strawber

NEW YORK ry-blonde spots Bruce Willis in Times Square and throws her arms around him.

The 60-year-old actor is nonplussed: The woman, 27, is his eldest daughter, Rumer Willis — her hair freshly dyed — and they’ve arranged to meet to discuss their Broadway debuts, both taking place this fall.

“It’s one of those happy coincidenc­es,” says Rumer, taking a seat next to her dad inside the rehearsal studio where he’s working on Misery, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The play is by William Goldman, who also adapted King ’s book for the 1990 film starring James Caan as Paul Sheldon, a romance novelist held hostage by an emotionall­y unsettled fan played by Kathy Bates. In the stage version, set to begin previews Thursday and open Nov. 15 at the Broadhurst Theatre, Laurie Metcalf plays Annie to Bruce’s Paul.

Rumer Willis, meanwhile, has been starring since Sept. 21 as the killer fox Roxie Hart in Broadway’s long-running revival of Chicago. The erstwhile brunette and

Dancing With the Stars champ was set to start the gig in August but needed more time to recover from a foot injury sustained while touring with Stars. “That was a bummer,” she says. “But I’m healed now.”

While Bruce Willis began his career on the stage, appearing off-Broadway in plays such as Heaven and Earth and Sam Shepard’s

Fool for Love, Rumer (in Chicago through Nov. 1) concedes that the transition to theater has been challengin­g. “It feels awkward to have to enunciate and be louder when you’re used to having a camera close to you,” she says.

Her father notes that it’s “much more rigorous working on stage” than in film. “When you’re filming, it’s like, ‘OK, you can take a break.’ ” He turns to Rumer. “Do you get to take a break?”

Rumer shakes her head. “There are long hours on a movie set, but it’s stop and start. On- stage you have to keep going, even if you mess up a dance or a line. We’ve had some crazy things happen, like the other night, when a shoe broke. I was supposed to have silver shoes for this scene, and we didn’t. You just fly by the seat of your pants.”

Bruce Willis has been trying to mine the wit in the bleak circumstan­ces provided Paul in Misery. “My character is lost; he just can’t figure out how to save himself,” he says. But “you can find something funny in a line. Even if it has worked in a straight way, maybe the next time I’ll use a different inflection and try to get people to laugh. Laurie does the same thing.”

He chuckles, thinking of the actress who plays his tormentor: “She can be so funny.”

Rumer learned about performing while growing up, “just watching ” her father, who has two other daughters by her mom, Demi Moore, and two with his second wife, Emma Heming Willis. “Even without asking for advice, you can pick up a lot being on sets.”

Notes her father: “I’ve told my girls that if you give your word on something, you’ve got to do it. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I can’t come in this week.’ I’m proud of their discipline. That’s the cool thing about Rumer and her work.”

 ?? JEREMY DANIELS ?? Rumer Willis is making her Broadway debut playing Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago.
JEREMY DANIELS Rumer Willis is making her Broadway debut playing Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago.

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