A word to the wise: If you’ve recently suffered a tough breakup, or are generally sullen or cynical regarding matters of the heart, avoid spending time in the company of newlyweds Bruce and Emma Willis. “We’re sickening,” Bruce says, shaking his head in mock disgust. “We make out in public. I know there’s some rule that you’re not supposed to be doing—what is it? Public displays of affection?”
“PDA,” says 32-year-old Emma, née Heming, helpfully supplying her 54-year-old husband with the slang term he’s searching for.
“Right, PDAs,” Bruce says, oblivious to the fact that by making the acronym plural he sounds more like he’s talking about Palm Pilots.
In truth, the Willises, who wed at Bruce’s home in Turks and Caicos in March and made it legal with a follow-up civil ceremony in Los Angeles, are hardly exhibitionists. They share a quiet, restrained disposition, though they do indulge in discreet smooches in the company of others. And their declarations of adoration are made with such offhand sincerity that, save for the most bitter among us, it’s impossible not to feel joyful in their presence.
Or perplexed. Is this not the same Bruce Willis who spent the years since his 2000 divorce from Demi Moore dating a string of models and decrying the institution of monogamy? “He once told me, ‘If I ever tell you I’m gonna get married again, punch me in the face,’” recalls Louise Weber, an executive at Willis’s production company who started working as his assistant 15 years ago.
“I went from ‘F--- love’ to ‘Love is truly the answer,’” Willis says, acknowledging his transformation. “I spent the last 10 years single and, for the most part, unhappy. In a dark place. I never thought that being with someone else was the answer. I would say, ‘I’m alone, but I’m not lonely.’ But I was just kidding myself. Then I started hanging around Emma, and on a day-to-day basis my life became much happier.”
The couple met at the Los Angeles gym of their trainer, Gunnar Peterson, in 2005. Her lithe frame and understated beauty caught Bruce’s eye, but at the time, she was engaged to L.A. nightlife entrepreneur Brent Bolthouse, so the two became merely friendly acquaintances. Two years later, Emma’s relationship had ended, and in fall 2007 she was preparing to leave L.A. “We went on one date, on the Friday before Emma was getting ready to move back to New York, and then we fell mad crazy in love,” says Bruce. “When you think about where are you going to find that big love of your life, you seldom think it’s someone you already know. You think it’s someone you’re yet to meet.” Adds Emma, “I had never really dated. I’ve always been a relationship kind of person. But in that phase of my life I was like, You know what, maybe I’ll just date, see what it’s like. And I lasted one date.” Ever since, the two have been practically inseparable, often traveling together to her modeling shoots and his film sets, bouncing back and forth between L.A., where Bruce’s three daughters live, and New York, which they both prefer.