Willis, who returned to Bayonne last week to film his segments in a new film, entitled "The Assassination of a High School Principal" or "The Sophomore," was a big hit during his first visit, prompting one teacher - who was on the 1991 set at Horace Mann School - who hoped to catch a glimpse of him at the high school.
"He was really great with the kids," this teacher - who asked not to be named in this story - said. "He came out and talked to them, and the kids loved him."
Willis, who is most famous as the hero in the "Die Hard" movie series and his role in the TV drama "Moonlighting," returned to Bayonne to play the harsh task master of a Catholic high school named St. Donovan's.
Although he made frequent trips between his trailer, parked between the buildings at the high school and sets, he paused only briefly to talk with fans, often hurrying passed anxious people who were hoping for a handshake or an autograph.
Five students from Bayonne High School who had come to the school for extracurricular activities stood guard on one of the side doors hoping to greet the star when he came out of his trailer.
Where Willis was at any given time was a closely guarded secret, with staff often keeping mum about his current location.
John Carlo, a senior at Bayonne High School, described himself as a fan of Willis.
Arleen Maloughany said she liked Willis' role in the "Die Hard" movie series.
Scott Johnson, a school custodian who worked with the movie crew opening up rooms or other duties, said he greeted Willis on the set as if an old friend.
"I told him we graduated together," Johnson said. "He asked, `Do I know you?'"
Johnson, of course, admitted that he had only graduated high school the same year as Willis, not the same high school, even though Willis finished his studies in New Jersey. He graduated Penns Grove High School in 1973.
"He's a great guy," Johnson said. "He shook my hand and asked me what it's like to work here. I've seen all of his 'Die Hard' movies, and I liked him from the 'Moonlighting' TV show."
Principal Richard Baccarrella had spent about an hour with Willis that morning, talking about the filming and locations being used in the school.
"We get quite a few requests for movies to be filmed in our school," Baccarrella said. "But we can only accommodate them during the summer when we have no students here. We accommodate commercial shoots during the school year, but not movies."
Bayonne High School is also a popular site because of the good relationship school officials have developed with moviemakers over the years.
"While they are often different production companies, many have the same people," Baccarrella said.
A maintenance worker at the school said Matthew Broderick was the star of a film shot at the high school in 2005.
The biggest concern, however, for some of the staff is getting the school ready to open in September since the movie crew will be on site until Sept. 1, leaving only a few days to get ready for the first day of class on Sept. 5.
The movie company converted the public high school into a classic Catholic school, even reproducing sacred statues in the shops in the basement of the school to be posted on pedestals outside the school's front doors. A principal's office was recreated in one class on the first floor, complete with wooden door and translucent glass.
Religious icons and pictures have been installed along the halls and stairways, adding to the effect. The big scene - the homecoming dance - is being shot in the gym, and busy movie staff members have installed tables and chairs, as well as installed historic sports banners on the wall, suggesting the fictional history of the religious school.
Although Bayonne High School will be requiring school uniforms in the fall, the actors playing students wore classic Catholic school uniforms, often wandering from the recreation building to the main building carrying cups of coffee as workers installed scenery.
Tomas Deckaj, who serves as the film's background producer, said the crews are putting in long hours in order to complete the film on time.
"Some days we're here up to 17 hours," he said.
A catering truck usually starts operations early in the morning when the film crews arrive, setting up tables outside in good weather where crew and actors can draw from a variety of meal choices, such as eggs and cereal for breakfast and other options for the midday and evening meals.
The stars of the film, including Willis and Mischa Barton, are housed in a trailer in the parking lot between the buildings, coming and going to the sets when called for a shoot.
Dressed in a shirt and tie, but looking very much the way he has in other movies, Willis made his appearance briefly as he walked stiffly toward the high school while the handful of fans present tried to get his attention. Willis grinned, but did not pause, disappointing some of the students who had hoped to catch his attention.
His stern stride and the glint in his eye suggested he had already slipped into the mean-spirited character of Principal John T. Kirkpatrick. Willis is playing the role of an unliked principal involved in a complicated plot surrounding the theft of SATs, which is being investigated by a hard-working student journalist.
When asked to pose for a picture for the Bayonne Community News, Willis shrugged and said, "You mean you haven't taken it already?"