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Tom Cavanagh is starring in “the Bruce Willis movie,” and he couldn’t be more thankful.
The “Die Hard” icon, one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, is playing an evil genius in TUBI’s “Corrective Measures,” an action-packed thriller based on the graphic novel of the same name.
The 67-year-old is taking on the role of Julius “The Lobe” Loeb, a notorious inmate at San Tiburon, the world’s most dangerous maximum-security penitentiary. It’s home to monsters, treacherous criminals, supervillains and cyborgs, all of whom are controlled by 24-hour power inhibitors and shock collars. Cavanagh, who plays Gordon “The Conductor” Tweedy, unleashes chaos through the prison system.
“This is a privilege,” Cavanagh told Fox News Digital about working with Willis in one of his final roles. In March, Willis’ family announced the star was stepping away from acting after a diagnosis of aphasia, a condition that causes loss of the ability to understand or express speech.
Tom Cavanagh (left) worked alongside Bruce Willis in “Corrective Measures.” (Getty Images)
“Growing up as a younger actor, I remember being hyperinfluenced by his command of the screen,” said Cavanagh, 58. “It’s not as easy as people think to do small stuff and have that project large. Not every actor can do that. Not many actors do.
“Even when Bruce was doing ‘Moonlighting,’ he had the ability to say nothing and yet command the screen,” Cavanagh noted about Willis’ Emmy-winning series alongside Cybill Shepherd, which aired from 1985 until 1989.
“And then, of course, he went on to huge movie franchises, like ‘Die Hard.’ But one of the things that Bruce would do that I was always impressed by was the way he played an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. While he was saving the day, he was afraid and vulnerable, which I think is part of the appeal.”
Cavanagh said that, over the years, he’s been in awe of Willis’ ability to bring captivating characters to life. It was no different when it came to filming “Corrective Measures,” and Cavanagh insisted Willis was the real deal.
“People can relate to somebody like that, as opposed to a superhero,” he explained. “Oftentimes, the mistake people make when they do these superhero stories is to project strength, knowing they’re going to succeed, and then add an element of fear. [But] fear and vulnerability make it identifiable, and you can relate to it. It’s very hard to relate to somebody who’s never afraid, who knows they’re going to succeed [before] the end of the movie. Bruce Willis’ portrayals are such that he doesn’t know the end of the movie.
“I don’t even know if Bruce has an awareness of the influence that he’s wrought, but those of us who get to team up with him consider it a privilege,” Cavanagh added.
Despite already being a fan, Cavanagh said it wasn’t surreal to see Willis appear on set for the first time. He described how the actor was dedicated to the role and eager to work alongside his castmates.
“When that acting bell goes off, it doesn’t matter what anyone’s done,” said Cavanagh. “We all want to tell a story equally and evenly. And when the bell goes off, it’s everyone for themselves. You’ll see in this movie how my character fares when he starts wrecking stuff in the prison. And I think that attitude is something that Bruce has probably adopted over his career … everyone’s out there trying to tell the best story they can that’s going to make for a good final version.”
And aside from working with Willis, taking on “Corrective Measures” was an easy yes for Cavanagh who has already made his mark on the CW superhero series “The Flash.”
Michael Rooker (left) and Bruce Willis in “Corrective Measures.” (©2022 Fox Media LLC. CR: Daniel Delgado/FOX for TUBI.)
“I do a superhero show as a day job, and I direct another one as a day job, so I’m semi-familiar with the blowing-stuff-up genre of comic books,” he chuckled. “But I also like the prison-break genre. It was very apparent from the first pages of [‘Corrective Measures’] that it combines both of those worlds. Right from the beginning, I immediately went, ‘Oh, this is great!’ When I first read the script, I didn’t even know it was based on a graphic novel, to begin with. But I was instantly hooked. So combining all those elements was really a no-brainer for a guy like me to join up.”
Willis’ family shared that his aphasia diagnosis has been impacting his cognitive abilities.
“As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” a statement signed by Willis’ wife Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore and his five children — Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn — and posted on his Instagram account said.
“We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him,” they said. “As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up’ and together we plan to do just that.”
(L-R) Rumer Willis, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Tallulah Belle Willis attend the after-party for the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis at NeueHouse July 14, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Phil Faraone/VMN18/Getty Images For Comedy Central)
There are many potential causes of aphasia. It often occurs after a stroke or head injury but can also develop gradually due to a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes degenerative damage, like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s treated primarily with speech therapy and learning non-verbal means of communication.
Willis’ family didn’t divulge what caused his aphasia. Representatives for the actor declined to comment.
The news about Willis immediately spread online as fans reacted. His four-decade career has amassed more than $5 billion at the box office worldwide.
Willis had been working steadily and frequently. Renowned for films like “Die Hard,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The Sixth Sense,” Willis has in recent years churned out straight-to-video thrillers. Last year, he starred in a staggering eight films. Most came and went quietly, including titles like “Cosmic Sin,” “Out of Death” and “Deadlock.”
Bruce Willis and his wife, American model Emma Heming, circa 2019 in China. (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Most recently, Willis starred in February’s “Gasoline Alley” and “A Day to Die,” released in early March. Willis has already shot at least six more films due out in 2022 and 2023, including “Die Like Lovers,” “Corrective Measures” and “The Wrong Place.”
“Corrective Measures” is available for streaming on TUBI. The Associated Press contributed to this report.