Remembering Bruce Willis’ Legendary Three Episode Guest Spot on ‘Friends’

by Caitlin Berard

In 2000, Whole Nine Yards star Matthew Perry struck a deal with his co-star and new friend Bruce Willis. If the crime comedy became a success, Bruce Willis would appear in Perry’s other project, the iconic sitcom Friends, for free.

Apparently, some of the film’s cast and crew questioned how it would fare with audiences and critics. Their worries turned out to be unwarranted, however, as The Whole Nine Yards debuted in the #1 spot on opening day and maintained its leading position at the box office for three straight weeks.

Well, Bruce Willis is a man of his word, and later that same year, Paul (Bruce Willis) stepped into Central Perk for the first time. Paul was the father of Ross Geller’s (David Schwimmer) comically young girlfriend, Elizabeth (Alexandra Holden). And, as it’s a sitcom, the awkwardness didn’t stop there.

Upon meeting Ross’ ex-girlfriend, Rachel Greene (Jennifer Aniston), Paul found his attraction to be undeniable, and Paul and Rachel were soon in a relationship themselves.

At the start of his character arc, Paul is a stoic, reserved widower who denies every strong feeling except his distaste for his daughter’s much older boyfriend. By the end of his run on Friends, however, Bruce Willis’ character is an emotional wreck, obsessively recounting his childhood after Rachel pushed him to open up.

His newfound vulnerability caused the flame between Paul and Rachel to quickly burn out, and Paul disappeared from the show after only three episodes. Bruce Willis, however, remains one of the most popular guest stars on Friends in the series’ history to this day, along with fellow A-list celebrities Tom Selleck and Jon Favreau.

‘Friends’ Star Alexandra Holden Recalls Learning of Bruce Willis’ Role as Her Father

By the time Bruce Willis appeared on Friends, Matthew Perry was well acquainted with the Hollywood icon. His co-stars, on the other hand, were a little more starstruck. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Alexandra Holden recounted the moment she learned that the Die Hard legend would be playing her father on the show.

Hilariously, the news came from her on-screen boyfriend, David Schwimmer, who could hardly contain his excitement. “I was in my dressing room and all of a sudden, it was just bang bang bang banging on my door, you know,” she recalled.

“And I open the door and there was David [Schwimmer]. He’s all like, ‘Did you hear who’s playing your dad?! Guess who’s playing your dad!’ And before I could even guess, he was like, ‘Bruce Willis!’ I called my mom and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! Guess who’s playing my dad! Bruce Willis!'”

They say to avoid disappointment, you should never meet your heroes. But for Alexandra Holden, meeting Bruce Willis only heightened her opinion of the action star. “Meeting Bruce Willis was amazing,” Holden said. “I mean, he’s such an icon. Just the coolest guy ever.”