Bruce Willis has reportedly been struggling with cognitive issues on the sets of his films for years – and even needed an earpiece to feed him lines – long before his family announced on Wednesday that the famed actor had been diagnosed with a brain condition.
In a statement on social media, Willis’ family told his fans that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a brain condition that affects his ability to understand language, and will therefore be stepping away from acting.
But an unnamed source told Page Six his declining cognitive ability had been an open secret in Hollywood as the actor repeatedly had trouble acting in his films.
‘Everybody knew, the cast and crew,’ the unnamed source said, adding that Willis was ‘using earpieces, hearing things, for them to feed him the lines,’ and it ‘was increasingly difficult to have him on screen.’
He said that films actually had to be made closer to where Willis resided with his family – who, the source said, has been taking care of the 67-year-old actor – to make productions easier.
And in at least one production, the source said, producers began using a body double to increase Willis’ screen time, while in another his screen time was ‘whittled down,’ with the actor shooting on set for only three days.
The source said: ‘It was becoming super obvious he was having trouble … he could not act anymore.’
The famed actor can even be seen in a scene in his new movie American Siege, which was filmed in 2020, wearing an earpiece. This was a full two years before the family’s announcement that Willis has aphasia.
Sources say acclaimed actor Bruce Willis, 67, has been having trouble on the sets of his recent movies, and was even pictured wearing an earpiece to feed him lines on the set of American Siege in 2020
He was also seen apparently needing assistance on the set of his film Paradise City last May
On Wednesday, Willis’ family shared this photo of the 67-year-old actor to announce he has been diagnosed with a brain condition called aphasia, which affects one’s ability to comprehend both verbal and written language
His family shared a statement on their social media pages announcing his diagnosis on Wednesday and saying he will be be ‘stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him’
Willis had previously been seen using an earpiece to feed him lines in his Broadway debut in Misery in 2015, an an unnamed insider also told OK! Magazine
He was also reportedly struggling during the filming of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2019 film Glass.
‘While filming Glass, staffers worked around him by cutting and editing and having him overdub lines because he struggled to remember and/or deliver them,’ they told the publication, according to the New Zealand Herald.
‘In most scenes on Glass he’s hooded, and they used stand-in and body doubles to replace him. On set, he wouldn’t smile and was always chaperoned by an assistant to guide him while walking.’
The source also said at the time that Willis had sold his New York property to spend more time with his wife and children in Los Angeles, and said that his wife, as well as ex-wife Demi Moore, were working together to take care of the famed actor.
‘His wife Emma has helped Demi Moore and the children Bruce shares with his ex-wife to make truces because they know he’s fading,’ the unnamed source told the magazine in January 2021.
‘Between Demi and Emma, the family has always ensured Bruce has the support and care he might need at any given time,’ the insider said.
They added, ‘The good news is that although there is the real concern of dementia fears, it largely has not impacted his ability to work in Hollywood – and in true super hero form – he won’t slow down because new technology like earpieces allows actors of his caliber not to skip a beat.’
But in recent years, the New Zealand Herald reports, die hard fans of the actor have noticed he was taking more roles in straight-to-video releases.
This year, Page Six reports, Willis was given his own category at the Razzies – a parody award show honoring the worst of cinematic under-achievements – for the ‘worst movies of 2021’ after he starred in eight critically-panned films.
One of his films, Out of Death, earned a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The parody awards show apologized to the actor following the announcement of his diagnosis on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘The Razzies are truly sorry for #BruceWillis’ diagnosed condition.
‘Perhaps this explains why he wanted to go out with a bang in 2021. Our best wishes to Bruce and family.’
Willis is perhaps best known for his role in the Die Hard series as John McClane
The announcement comes after years of speculation over Willis’ cognitive issues as he continued to appear in critically-panned action movies, like Survive the Game with Chad Michael Murray
His most recent films, like Cosmic Sun, have been panned by critics, and the actor has now won the award for ‘worst films of 2021’ at the Razzies
The Razzie Awards have now apologized to the actor for awarding him the ‘worst movies of 2021’
Meanwhile, the actor had been pictured more often with his family, with Moore, 59, wishing him a happy birthday in an Instagram post earlier this month, sharing a photo of the two of them standing in the kitchen and writing: ‘Happy birthday Bruce! Thankful for our blended family.’
That same weekend, Emma posted a tribute to her husband of 13 years in honor of their anniversary, sharing a photo of them at their 2009 wedding.
’13 years ago, those wedding speeches really sent us over the edge,’ she wrote.
Emma also posted her own birthday tribute to Bruce – a photo montage she created, writing: ‘I don’t just love him, I really, really like him.’
Willis shares three children – Rumer, 33, Scout, 30 and Tallulah, 28, with Moore, to whom he was married from 1987 to 2000. He also has two daughters, Mabel, 9, and Evelyn, 7, with his wife Emma, 43.
Spotted: Bruce Willis’ daughters Rumer and Scout Willis were captured out in Los Angeles on Wednesday after revealing their famous father has been diagnosed with the degenerative brain condition aphasia
The statement was signed by his wife, Emma (pictured) and his ex-wife Demi Moore as well as all of his children
The family has reportedly known his mental state has been deteriorating before issuing the statement on Wednesday
Willis had reportedly sold his New York pad to spend more time with his family. He is pictured here with ex-wife Demi Moore and their children in matching pajamas in 2020
‘We are moving through this as a strong family unit:’ Bruce Willis’ family issues statement about his condition
‘To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities. As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.
This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him.
As Bruce always says, “Live it up” and together we plan to do just that.
Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn’
On Wednesday his family wrote in a statement on social media: ‘To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities.
‘As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.’
The statement added: ‘This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him.
‘As Bruce always says, “Live it up” and together we plan to do just that,’ the statement, which was signed by his wife, model Emma Heming Willis, his ex-wife Demi Moore and all of his children, concluded.
His daughters Rumer and Scout Willis were spotted out in Los Angeles on Wednesday after revealing the diagnosis.
According to the National Aphasia Association, the condition is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write.
The association reports the condition is always due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals.
Head trauma, brain tumors or from infections can also cause aphasia.
The only treatment is speech and language therapies, with involvement from family members – but even with that, the condition could worsen.
It is currently unclear what lead to Willis’ diagnosis.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Willis’ publicist for comment.
Demi Moore recently posted a picture to Instagram on March 19 thanking Willis for their blended family as she wished him a happy birthday
Willis, second from left, recently celebrated his 67th birthday with all of his family
Willis shares his youngest two children, Evelyn and Mabel, with his wife Emma. He has been seen in more posts with the family in recent weeks
The announcement marks an end to Willis’ decades-long career, during which he has earned a Golden Globe award and two Emmys.
Willis’ acting career began with small just roles in television shows like Miami Vice and The Twilight Zone in the early 1980s, according to IMDB.
He started gaining attention thanks to his starring role opposite Cybill Shepherd in the ABC series Moonlighting, which ran from 1985 to 1989, but his breakout role was really as John McClane in the hit film Die Hard, which premiered in 1988 and led to six sequels.
‘I think it was his first big film and he wanted to make it right, he wanted to make it work,’ co-star Reginald VelJohnson told People at a 2018 30th anniversary screening of the film. ‘He was more concerned with how to do the role rather than anything else.’
‘This was his first movie, and he was the star of a huge blockbuster and it was very well advertised that he was making $5 million, which at the time was unbelievable,’ Bonnie Bedelia, who played his wife Holly Gennaro McClane in the film.
‘And everybody was like, “Why would you pay $5 million to an untried movie star?” But boy, someone was really smart.’
Willis went on to star in films like Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys and the superhero film, Unbreakable, for which he reprised his role over a decade later in the 2016 film Split and the 2019 film Glass.
Willis became a major action star with his 1988 breakthrough film Die Hard
Bruce Willis was a hit in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction
Over the course of his four-decade career, Variety reports, his movies have grossed over $5 billion worldwide.
He has also appeared in a number of television shows, including the beloved classic Friends, for which he won an Emmy, and as the main voice actor in Bruno the Kid.
Willis has also recently completed multiple projects that are in post-production, including Vendetta, Fortress: Sniper’s Eye and White Elephant.
It’s unclear what will happen with Fortress 3, which is currently in pre-production.
Aphasia, the brain condition suffered by Bruce Willis, can leave a person unable to communicate
The world learned on Wednesday that Hollywood legend Bruce Willis, 67, would retire due to his diagnosis of aphasia, a potentially devastating condition that causes a person to lose communication skills.
Willis’ family announced that the condition would cause the Die Hard star to step away ‘from the career that has meant so much to him.’
Around one million Americans suffer from the condition, the National Institutes of Health reports, and around 180,000 people are diagnosed with it every year.
It can manifest itself in multiple ways, and is often either the result of a head injury, a stroke, a tumor or other brain deterioration.
Aphasia can be devastating as well, with experts saying it causes depression in over a third of cases, can lead to personality shifts and can even alienate friends and family from the affected person.
Other famous examples of aphasia include former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke.
‘Imagine being dropped in a country where you do not speak the language – cannot understand, read, write or speak. It would impact all of your interactions – this is what it is like to have aphasia,’ Darlene Williamson, president of the aphasia association, told DailyMail.com.
While it is impossible to say for Willis in particular how drastically the condition has effected him and his behavior, Williamson reports that it can often be devastating for patients.
‘The consequences of living with a language impairment can alter someone’s behavior and outlook on life,’ Williamson said.
‘Approximately 35 percent of individuals with aphasia experience some depression.’
The cause of the condition, which is often some sort of traumatic brain injury or a stroke, can lead to massive personality shifts.
‘[Aphasia is] difficulty with language that comes about from some kind of injury to the brain. The most common source is stroke… but it could come from any other type of damage,’ Dr Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com.
Certain infections that impact the brain’s language centers can cause aphasia to form as well, along with cognitive decline and deterioration associated with dementia.
The condition can make it very hard for an actor like Willis to continue in his career, as just the process of speaking out lines can become a challenge.
‘It would surely be difficult,’ Williamson said about attempting to continue acting while afflicted with the condition.
‘Aphasia affects comprehension of language, speaking, as well as reading and writing. There are varying levels of severity which would be another determining factor. It may not be impossible, but acting would require extra accommodations.’
Dr Rapp said that despite communication failures caused by the condition, people who suffer the condition still have the same thoughts, and are internally the same person. While the experience can be alienating, loved ones should remember that the person has not changed. Pictured: Willis with family and friends after a ‘roast’ event in 2018
There are four common types of aphasia that make up a vast majority of cases: fluent – often called Wernicke’s; non-fluent – known as Broca’s; anomic; and Primary Progressive Aphasia.
Rapp explained that there are different forms of the condition because each represents a different type of breakdown in the process of communication.
Whether it is the ability to translate thoughts into proper words, the ability to physically say words, or the ability to interpret and understand speech from others, each part of communication is a complex process, and even slight brain damage can cause issue.
While the condition does cause communication failures, Rapp notes that the person themselves is still the same.
Their thoughts, beliefs and feeling towards their loved ones remain, even if it can be frustrating and alienating for both the aphasia patient and those around them to deal with this condition.
Willis’ family did not reveal what type he was facing, or how severe of a case he had, or what was the root cause found for the condition.
According to the Stroke Association, a UK based group, those who suffer Wernicke’s aphasia have the ability to string together long sentences of words, but will often say things in a way that they do not make sense, or even use made up words.
They will also suffer from impaired reading and writing ability, and may have trouble understanding clear verbal communication towards them.
One example used by Rapp is that a person may misunderstand the sentence ‘John kicked the dog’.
Dr Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University, explains that aphasia is often caused by a stroke, and can manifest itself in many different ways
While the average person would clearly understand who kicked who in that scenario, a person dealing with this type of the condition may struggle to figure out whether John or the dog was the person that did the kicking.
Broca’s aphasia will often cause a person to forget words or put together a proper string of words even when their brain can fully understand what they want to say.
A person suffering from this type of the condition will often use simple, short, sentences to get across speech as they are unable to properly say what they want to at times.
The Stroke Association says that these sentences will often be of around four words or less.
A person suffering from Broca’s aphasia will also struggle with writing, but their reading ability is left unaffected.
Someone suffering from anomic aphasia may suffer to find specific verbs and nouns that they need to get their point across, and will speak very vaguely.
This may also translate into their writing, where they will just not be able to generate the correct words necessary to say what they would like to say.
Primary Progressive Aphasia aphasia damages a person’s ability to communicate in virtually every single way.
A person suffering from this version of the condition will have trouble speaking, reading and writing.
Their ability to process and understand someone that is speaking to them is damaged as well.
Doctors can often detect aphasia via either an MRI or CT scan, and will be able to pinpoint the exact part of the brain that is causing the issue.
There is no way to fix or cure the condition entirely, but patients will often undergo speech therapy to help rebuild their language skills.
‘There’s not a lot of progress [with medication for the condition]… the treatment for aphasia is speech therapy,’ Rapp said.
She noted that in some cases a person may undergo electric stimulation therapy alongside speech therapy in order to ‘get the most’ out of the experience.
Williamson said that ‘strong family support is a critical piece of living successfully with aphasia.’
It is not always permanent, though, and how long it lasts and how severe it is often depends on how bad the damage to the brain is.
Stroke victims in particular that suffer aphasia can regain their speech, and often within only a few weeks.