It sometimes seems that Bruce Willis has always been with us. At least, he seems always to have a movie playing in theaters.

But it’s been a while (1999’s “Sixth Sense”) since he’s appeared in a movie that enjoyed both unreserved thumbs-up from the critics and widespread popularity at the box office.

This spring Willis could pull off that coup with two movies.

His self-produced action-thriller, “Hostage,” opens today. This nail-biter casts Willis as a former big-city hostage negotiator – now a suburban police chief – who must scramble to save a family whose home has been invaded by young thugs. Meanwhile, his own family has been kidnapped by shadowy bad guys who want to ensure a certain outcome to the home-invasion incident.

And April 1 Willis will appear in “Sin City,” a noir thriller that attempts to duplicate, frame for frame, the Frank Miller graphic novels on which it is based.

Speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, Willis said that virtually no movie star can afford to sit back and wait for producers to approach with plum roles.

“In the case of ‘Hostage,’ I read the novel and checked on the rights the following day. They were available, and we snapped them up. Three-and a-half years later, the movie’s coming out,” he said.

Among his “Hostage” co-stars is Willis’ oldest daughter, 17-year-old Rumer. She’s cast as Willis’ endangered daughter.

“But she had to audition for it,” the proud papa exclaimed. “She came in and did a really good job.”

It was the first time Rumer had worked with her dad, although she had acted with her mom, Willis’ ex, Demi Moore.

Then there’s the much-anticipated “Sin City.” Willis said he was approached by director Robert Rodriguez, who lured the actor with a three-minute long DVD that suggested the radical visual style Rodriguez wanted to employ.

“I only had to watch the first minute before telling him I was in,” Willis said. “Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a project.”

The cast members – Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Rosario Dawson and Mickey Rourke – performed against green screens. Their surroundings are generated on computers.

“When you see this dazzling film, you will be blown away,” Willis promised. “In fact, you’ll go back and see it a couple of more times just to catch it all. It was made with brand-new technology that allowed us to work incredibly fast. The 10 days I worked on the movie were the equivalent of five weeks on a traditional film.”

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