Bruce Willis is used to being the leading man. So it seems strange that he's relegated to a bit part in the testosterone-filled Expendables.
The brawny box-office champ, directed by Sylvester Stallone, features a who's-who of Hollywood bad asses, but Willis doesn't get a chance to knock some skulls alongside his fellow he-men.
And he's OK with that.
"I'm happy with exactly what we did," he said during an interview in Toronto. "It wasn't about having a good part or a big role; it was about the opportunity for Sly, Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and myself to be in the same scene in the same film.
"We've been friends for a really long time. We did Planet Hollywood together, but never worked together. This was an opportunity for us to do that."
But Willis' 62-second spot in The Expendables gave him an idea for his next action flick, RED. That is, to insert a highbrow slate of A-listers into an action-filled story and, hopefully, cue box-office lineups.
"No one thought we'd get those actors," he says of his RED castmates, which include Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Karl Urban, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Richard Dreyfuss.
In the film, set for release Oct. 15, Willis plays a retired black-ops CIA agent thrown back into action after he becomes a marked man. Following Surrogates, it is the actor's second comic-book adaptation in a year.
"I actually find myself somehow just drawn to (comic-book) movies," he says, "because they already show up as great stories of drama and conflict."
But the film version of RED ups the literary noir of the graphic novel by adding bits of rom-com to director Robert Schwentke's expertly choreographed action sequences.
"RED is only a 66-page graphic novel," Willis said. "It was never (writer) Warren Ellis' intention to turn this into a film, but he likes how we have adapted it."
Even though he doesn't get to lay a beatdown on anyone in The Expendables, Willis and co-star Karl Urban (Star Trek) have a nasty dust-up in the new film.
"Contact was made and it was pretty brutal," the 55-year-old said, laughing.
With a fifth installment of his popular Die Hard franchise "imminent," and another action flick with Jamie Foxx due to start shooting soon, one wonders how long Willis can last in the action genre.
"I'm just older," he said, shrugging.
"I don't bounce off the floor like I used to, but people still carry me to the set on their backs, they ask me to lay down a lot during takes and just rest. I drink a lot of tea ... warm milk."
Entering his fourth decade in Hollywood, Willis has learned not to take celebrity that seriously, something he lampoons in a series of ads for Sobieski Vodka, with whom he is a business partner. He became a pitchman for Sobieski simply because he's a vodka guy, he says.
"It was Christmas Eve 1969 and my brother, sister and I got into my dad's vodka. I've been enjoying it ever since."
And in today's crowded film bazaar, selling booze is something that is more straightforward than hawking movies.
"I've come to understand that some films get more noticed than others do, and it has very little to do with how much the actors talk about it. It's just some films catch on, and it's a surprise.
"It's hard to predict what people will like. People try to do it every weekend and they only talk about how much money a film makes, so I just stopped paying attention to it.
"Vodka is two things: water and spirits. That," he said, pausing for emphasis, "is easy."