But one downtown New York agency, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, can stand by the claim that it taught the action star everything he knows about the ad business -- and wound up becoming his greatest competitor.
Cutthroat ad exec
Mr. Willis plays Harrison Hill, the cutthroat owner of an eponymous ad agency in his next thriller, "Perfect Stranger," due out in April. In preparation for his role, producers set up an afternoon for him to sit down with Jon Bond and Richard Kirshenbaum, founders and co-chairmen of the MDC Corp. agency.
"He really wanted to know what it was like in terms of the competitive nature of the business. How it goes in terms of taking or stealing accounts; what's usually done and what's not done," Mr. Kirshenbaum said.
The folks at Kirshenbaum Bond are no strangers to celebrities walking their halls. They've already worked with Halle Barry, Mr. Willis' co-star in the film, from the days when they held the Revlon account. They even survived interns Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton during the third season of "The Simple Life." Mr. Willis popping his head into conference rooms and saying hi to everyone he met was practically old hat for the staff.
Become a screen character
For their part, the co-chairmen were morphed into one off-screen character, Jon Kirshenbaum, of agency Kirshenbaum and Bond. Mr. Willis' character battles them for an account.
Mr. Kirshenbaum -- the real ad exec -- is proud of their work with the actor. "He got his good looks and swagger from us," he said. While Mr. Willis may have gained some of his character's "Madison Avenue" style from the agency founders, staffers swear none of the character's (spoiler alert!) possible homicidal tendencies came from the Messrs. Bond or Kirshenbaum.
"I think people in the industry are really going to get a kick out of it," Mr. Kirshenbaum said. "The movie is another example of content meets Madison Avenue meets Hollywood."
And will the newfound, off-screen fame help the agency land more clients, such as their recent Wendy's win? "Of course it will," he said.