Rumer Willis defends her dad, his awkward interviews: ‘he can’t hear’

As you may know, Bruce Willis has behaved badly in interviews for his latest promotional tours, for Die Hard 5 and Red 2. He admitted earlier this year that he’s been drinking again after years of sobriety. In at least one interview I saw, on BBC, he seemed drunk and was incoherent at times. In another interview, last month with a British radio station, he misunderstood the first question, acted bored, and then stonewalled and refused to play along with the questions. (That video is below)

We’ve heard for years that Bruce can be an assh*le. Kevin Smith called him out for being a dick on the set of Cop-Out, calling Bruce “soul crushing.” (Credit to Kaiser for finding that.) Sylvester Stallone, who has worked with Bruce, called him “greedy and lazy” recently. So he definitely has a reputation of being difficult. According to Bruce’s oldest daughter, Rumer, some of her dad’s poor interviews can be explained by the fact that he’s hearing impaired and has trouble understanding everything.

Bruce Willis’ actress daughter Rumer has defended her dad from critics who have blasted him for appearing awkward in interviews, revealing he probably can’t hear the questions properly.

She insists the Die Hard star doesn’t go out of his way to be less than talkative when promoting movies, but a hearing loss issue means he is always struggling to make out what is being said by interviewers.

Rumer, who is Willis’ eldest daughter with ex-wife Demi Moore, explains, “I think part of the problem is sometimes he can’t hear… because he shot a gun off next to his ear when he was doing Die Hard a long time ago, so he has partial hearing loss in his ears.

“If me and my sisters get together and he’s at a dinner table and we start talking about fashion and things, the poor guy…”

Willis’ daughter also feels her dad has a reputation as an edgy, cool guy to keep up: “I think he just has this vibe where he feels like he’s gotta kinda do a cool man (thing).”

[From Contact Music]

I have a relative who has partial hearing loss, and she often fakes like she understands something and ends up missing important parts of the conversation. It’s easier for her to do that than to constantly interrupt people and ask them to repeat themselves. You often don’t realize that she didn’t understand what you were talking about until a few moments later when she’s lost the thread. People who don’t know her well might think she was being rude or not interested in the topic.

In this joint interview with Mary-Louise Parker (video below), which we covered about a month ago, Bruce acted like a total ass. He may have misunderstood some questions, but he could have covered that by letting Mary talk first in order to get the context. It’s worth noting that the journalist was British, and that Bruce obviously didn’t understand the first question. It’s particularly hard for people with hearing loss to understand accents. However, even if Bruce couldn’t hear everything, he was still choosing to compensate by stonewalling and being surly. Given what we’ve heard about him for years, this is his default position when he feels challenged.

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78 Responses to “Rumer Willis defends her dad, his awkward interviews: ‘he can’t hear’”

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  1. Erinn says:

    Ugh. I can’t help but have a soft spot for him. I look at him, and see my dad. They have such a similar look, and dad loves his movies.

    • springingforward says:

      Well, this is simply a daughter blindly defending her father; bottom line: he is an a**hole. He just is.

      • lisa says:

        it is possible to be an a hole with a hearing loss

      • thebutlerdidit says:

        Yup. I come from a family with 9 profoundly deaf family members in it, and I lost 70% of my hearing at 30, had about 50% restored, thankfully. Hearing loss doesn’t equal asshole. That can always be separate. I grew up adoring him, but I know a handful of low level biz people, worked with a few, and they have all said, yup, he’s a jerk. 🙁

    • SpankFassDong says:

      I’m prepared to believe that hearing loss is playing a part, especially as BW gets older. Losing 10 decibels a decade is common. Added to a hearing accident along the lines that RW describes, he could be suffering.

      I’m also prepared to believe that as a “tough guy” he won’t wear a hearing aid. Or get cochlear implants. Or even talk to his doctor about it. Sadly enough.

      Here’s the sad part – didn’t BW have some sort of celebration given in his honor with Michael Duncan Clarke not so long ago? Where’s that guy?

      • Erinn says:

        Well, Michael Clarke Duncan passed away last September, not sure if that’s who you’re refering to.

        But I agree with all of your points.

    • Lisa says:

      Granted, hearing loss may be a part of why he acts the way he does. But as I understand it from people who knew him before he was famous (he was a bartender), he was a cheap asshole back then. So who knows. It may be that this just makes him more of who he is – an asshole

    • Montreal says:

      My husband worked on Lucky Number Slevin and he has worked with many A List stars who have all been very respectful and even if private, still available as an artist when on set. Bruce Willis was, plain and simple, ‘a dick’ to work with.

  2. Harriet says:

    “The star of Die Hard 5 and Red 2” LMAO!

  3. Sankay says:

    I can relate. Having a hearing loss can make you feel very isolated and in turn lash out. It’s an invisible disability. He may have been a jerk before his disability but after, the problems will be exacerbated.

    • Liv says:

      I cannot relate. You don’t have to be rude when you don’t acoustically understand the question. It speaks in his daughter’s favor that she tries to explain his behavior though.

      • Sankay says:

        Being hearing impaired myself, I can relate. I have been rude on a day I have not been able to hear or understand anyone endlessly, and yes I’ve asked politely for people to repeat themselves. Imagine not being able to understand/communicate every day. It wears you down.

    • V4Real says:

      Maybe he has selective hearing.

      • Jazz says:

        Just like every other man! 🙂

      • janie says:

        What I dislike more than him being a jerk…Is that Rumer has to be defending both her parents constantly! He & Demi need to get their ducks in a row! This disgusts me that she’s playing PR for these 2 has beens!

      • Liv says:

        And I thought Bruce would be the decent part of the family! Turns out he’s an idiot just like Demi! Poor kids!

  4. Inconceivable! says:

    He was SUCH A JERK in that interview!! He definitely heard the questions, so I’m not buying any hearing loss I that interview. Geez – he was even the first to hear a distant siren. Guess he is just an a-hole.

    • lucy2 says:

      Good point about the siren.

      If he does have some hearing loss, all he has to do is ask the interviewer to repeat the question. Or mention it ahead of time so the guy knows to speak clearly and loud enough.

    • jwoolman says:

      Sirens operate in a different frequency than human voices. Hearing loss is typically frequency dependent. That’s why high quality hearing aids need to be adjusted for the different frequency ranges rather than amplifying all frequencies the same. For instance, a friend lost his upper frequencies when a jerky friend exploded a firecracker too close when they were young. We were experimenting with my Loc8tor unit (tuned for my feline escape artist’s collar pager). I could clearly hear her collar beeping when she was within a few feet, but he couldn’t. He can’t stand video game music, because he’s not hearing it all so what sounds pleasant to me sounds awful to him. But he’s okay with conversation. Anyway- I would believe Bruce’s daughter if she says he has hearing loss and is not picking up everything in a conversation, and his being able to hear the siren dies not mean he could easily hear the interviewer.

      • Liberty says:

        Exactly — my mother deals with this and though she has a top end hearing aid and regular check-ups, the loss of her hearing in one ear can really make her surly and rude, like Bruce, due to embarrassment — she (and this is ridiculous) feels “ashamed to admit” she now has hearing loss and will fake it then end up snapping at people. Her doctor told me this reaction is not uncommon ESP AMONG MALE PATIENTS. So, there you go.

      • Lisa says:

        Yeah, I haven’t watched the interview, but I was going to comment about pitches. When I go for hearing tests, I’ll pick up higher frequencies through the static in my right ear. Sometimes I’ll hear a noise nobody else can, other times, I’m asking for people to repeat what they said. It isn’t always consistent.

    • Square Bologna says:

      Regarding the siren: I have some hearing loss myself after years of listening to loud music on headphones, and I often miss crucial words and have great trouble with British accents, but on the other hand, if someone drops a dish at work I can tell by the sound whether it was glass or china. Hearing loss is weird that way, or at least mine is. A lot seems to depend upon where I am standing relative to the sound, upon the amount of background noise, and other factors. I would believe Willis has trouble understanding speech even if he can still pick up sounds in the distance. Not defending the jerkiness by any means though.

    • Decloo says:

      Don’t the celebs get the questions ahead of time anyway? Can’t they give him an earpiece during the interview that would be unseen by the camera? Seems to me that a lot is at stake during an interview and the movie’s PR people would not send him out there when he can’t hear the questions properly.

  5. Shade says:

    No honey. He may be hearing impaired but he’s also a giant asshole.

  6. 20 Quid says:

    He’s a Republican who thinks America won the Vietnam War. Make of that what you will.

    • SamiHami says:

      I didn’t know he was a republican. Well, at least he’s got that in his favor. Good for him.

      If he has a hearing problem then he should get help for it. There are all sorts of hearing aids available that are virtually invisible. If he has hearing issues he should either consult with an audiologist or he should let interviewers know about it ahead of time so they can compensate for it.

      I don’t know about the Viet Nam comment you made though. I don’t think anyone thinks there were any winners there.

      • mayamae says:

        Bruce Willis comment on Vietnam

        “The perception in the modern world is that America lost the Vietnam War. A lot of Australians fought in the Vietnam War. But if the free world had not fought in Vietnam for 15 years, there would be no multibillion-dollar free trade world in the Pacific Rim. There would be no Taiwan. So we held back that communism that would want to shut down that free trade. And if a free trade economy is established in the Middle East, hopefully, a similar thing could happen.”

  7. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I know so many people my parents’ age who have hearing loss due to aging and they all refuse to wear hearing aids. I know hearing aids aren’t perfect, but it seems to me to be worth a try. Both of my parents need hearing aids and neither will admit it, and it is such a strain to have a conversation sometimes. They pretend to understand when they don’t, and you can tell they’re faking. It’s sad and frustrating. I hope if I ever need a hearing aid, I’ll admit it and wear one so I won’t miss out on so much.

    • 20 Quid says:

      I’m getting to that stage and I’m only 43. I think my damage initially came from listening to a lot of loud music when I was a teenager. Give it another 25 years and there’s gonna be an epidemic of hearing impaired people coming from the iPod generation.

      • Square Bologna says:

        20quid, that’ll be me too. I just hope hearing aids will help me when the time comes. My father lost hearing in his 50s after using an oscillator in the basement for two years (he was building and tuning TWO marimbas, a longtime project), and even before his hearing loss became as severe as it is now, the hearing aid was frustratingly inadequate at times. :\

      • blannie says:

        My father had severe hearing loss from his time on the flight line in WWII. It isolated him terribly, even though he had state-of-the-art hearing aids. I have a friend younger than me with hearing loss and it greatly affects her life.

        I’m SO careful with my hearing now and it’s frustrating that friends want to sit so close at concerts that I know they’re going to suffer later. I carry ear plugs in my purse and use them whenever it’s too loud.

        I also see young children who are too close to giant speakers at music events or recently at a speedway where the sound was excruciatingly loud. Most of them aren’t wearing any kind of hearing protection. I fear for them in their adult years!

    • SamiHami says:

      My grandmother used to drive us all crazy. If you spoke to her in a normal tone she would get mad at you for mumbling and trying to exclude her from conversations. If you spoke loud enough for her to hear she would get mad at you for yelling at her. But she absolutely, positively would not wear a hearing aid because that would somehow be admitting she was old.

      Sorry, Grandma. At that time you were 80. I think that counts as old whether you can hear or not.

      • Lemony says:

        I’m a nurse that works with seniors for a homecare & assisted living agencies. I have many clients like your grandmother who refuse to wear their hearing devices (but many who do wear them).
        In fact, I’m on my way to a do a homevisit for a patient who I dread seeing because I have to scream at the top of my lungs in order for her to hear me, and after 30 minutes of screaming my voice will be blown out! Then I don’t have much of a voice to scream at the next patients, lol. Seriously, it sounds like I’m verbally abusing these people.
        I know the poor dears can’t help it, but every time I come home from working with those patients I promise my family that I will wear hearing aids when the time comes, no matter, what, or they can throw me in the lake. 😉

      • Hautie says:

        OMG. That was my exact experience with my Grandmother.

        She was always mad cause everyone was mumbling.

        And when my Mother figured out… about 15 years before my Granny past away… that she had lost some hearing.

        Off Granny went to the ear doctor. Got these tiny expensive earring aides. THAT WORK. Seriously. She could hear everything.

        But would refuse to wear them around others. (out side of her home) Because she didn’t want anyone to know, she needed them.

        She refused to be… and I quote… “that deaf old woman”. LOL!

  8. marina says:

    My father has been mostly deaf in one ear most of his life and isn’t a d!ck. He’s a very nice man. Can she explain the smug look on his face during these interviews? Sorry Rumer, I’m not buying it, but I give her credit for sticking up for her meal ticket, I mean father.

  9. Jessica says:

    He’s had a rep for being an asshole since Moonlighting. But even if he was partially deaf, that doesn’t explain his behavior in interviews (if you don’t quite catch a question, you simply ask for it to be repeated), and it certainly doesn’t explain his dickish behavior on set.

  10. Maria says:

    i dont think it has anything to do with it. its not like he totally misunderstood things, he was in a bad mood and leashed out. he was mad that he had to promote the movie, he said that himself. thats it.

    the dressing up in a bath robe for an itnerview also doesnt seem to be related to a hearing loss.

  11. Eleonor says:

    I don’t know. I hope he is not drunk-mess again.

  12. Marianne says:

    He might have hearing problems…but thats not the problem here. He’s just being a jack-ass.

  13. Kiddo says:

    She sounds like a sweet kid. She offered various reasons aside from hearing loss including Bruce keeping up appearances or an act of an edgy cool guy. She loves her dad.

  14. Dap says:

    Poor girl, when she is not out there defending her mother, she has to go out there defending her father…

    • Kiddo says:

      Perhaps he was the more grounded and supportive parent? I see her defending Demi less, unless I missed a lot, which is quite possible.

  15. Chickie Baby says:

    I love Bruno. Always have, always will. Not surprised that he’s had some damage to his hearing over the years—he’s made a lot of noisy action flicks. (And if you’re too young to know who Bruno is, check out the Moonlighting-era of his career.)

    • Sarah says:

      Oh UGH, “Bruno”!? Back when Bruce was trying to launch a singing career and making wine cooler commercials. Smarmy, entitled, obnoxious a-hole then and now. If Matt Dillon hadn’t turned down “Pulp Fiction”, Bruce never would have seen his star rise again. And thanks to Bruce being the huge primadonna that fired everyone off a movie once, he never would have “owed” Disney “The Sixth Sense”. Dumb luck (or in Bruce’s case D!ck luck) has played quite a role in his success.

  16. Amanda says:

    It’s only natural that Rumer would defend her dad, but he’s clearly fallen off the train. I think he’s either having marital problems, or that his youngest child has something wrong.

  17. Hank Jr! says:

    I’m partially deaf in my left ear. I have a hearing aid, it is barely noticeable. Thank goodness for modern miracles like this

  18. MademoiselleRose says:

    I had a hearing test with work recently and they said one loud incident can cause deafness so if a gun went off next to his ear, I’d believe it would make him deaf at least in one ear. I often wonder with the loud music young ones plug into their ears if there’s going to be a LOT of deaf people in the future.

    I try hard to not read about Willis because he’s been known to be an a-hole for years, but I really like him in movies and want to keep liking him. I like his sense of humour. I don’t buy that his deafness excuses his rudeness though, that’s on him entirely, but it was sweet of his daughter to defend him.

  19. truthful says:

    I have an uncle who misunderstands because he can’t hear, he refuses to admit it. he’s 59.

    He oftentimes can get mad, because he doesn’t get the point or has missed something in the convo.

    he says we are mumbling, but he is a hoot and very outspoken.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case with Bruce.

  20. Shelley says:

    I have a mother with hearing loss who wont admit it despite the fact that we know she can only hear 10% in one ear. Conversations get mixed up and confused so now i simply prewrite in a large font (she is 85) and print out whatever we are going to talk about. She loves this.

    We essentially have a conversation now without losing context. In addition to this i bring an erasable white board and can write and erase quick sentences as needed.
    When she comes for dinner parties i always have someone take a shift to visit and write out what is happening around her. It keeps her in the loop.

    Hearing loss is an awful disability and my experience has been that those who have it don’t want to admit they do. They try to be part of a conversation but are always lagging behind or missing pieces of information. It’s important to make them feel they arent missing out.

    Having said all that i think Bruce is being a dick here and it was entirely unnecessary with this interviewer.

  21. Thiajoka says:

    I call BS on this one as an excuse. Maybe he can’t hear well, but he seemed to be directly responding to the questions even if in an assholish way. So he heard that day in that context.

    My father wears hearing aids, or rather, often doesn’t wear them–you can tell when he doesn’t have them in or if the feedback is too much because he gets this confused look on his face. I’m much like the aunt mentioned in this article–if the conversation isn’t important, I’ll just pretend to hear so that I don’t interrupt the flow. But if I was being interviewed, I’d damn sure ask, “What was that again?” to be sure I didn’t make an ass out of myself.

  22. Jayna says:

    I saw Rumer in that interview last night. She was definitely a pretty girl in the clip, well-spoken, soft pretty voice. She has an appealing way about her. That’s what I thought when I saw her on Letterman several years ago, surprised at how much prettier she looked in person compared to the photos. All the people calling her ugly from a photo are wrong. She was just trying to stand up for her dad in a cute way.

    • Sarah says:

      Rumer has had quite a bit of plastic surgery already. Check out the before and after pics available on her.

  23. Madpoe says:

    I don’t think hearing loss is anything to be surly about. Its the drinking again that raises a red flag. If you’ve given up the drink, WTH!?!

  24. Barbara says:

    I am hard of hearing, and it is getting worse. My family actually gets angry with me and it hurts my feelings. I have started looking at the products out there to help me. OMG, have you seen the costs of the products. And insurance does not cover a bit of it.

    • Jai says:

      Yes, a good hearing aid can cost anywhere from $5k to $10k. I have hearing loss from too many heavy metal concerts in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not even sure a hearing aid would help, but it doesn’t matter as I don’t happen to have that kind of dough to spare right now. I’m thankful for closed caption on the tv, I just wish it came in real life. Maybe google glasses could do closed caption on people you’re talking to in the future, wouldn’t that be great.

  25. lenje says:

    This article actually makes me liking Rumer a little more (normally I’d be indifferent). She may be a typical Hollywood spoilt kid, but it looks like she’s maturing. Demi also seems to be more collected these days — and somehow I believe Rumer has a lot to do with that. Considering that her sister goes to (graduates from?) an Ivy League college, I think the Willis children turn out pretty okay, despite Demi’s low point the past several years. (And I think Demi was a good, nurturing mother when her children were younger, the family was also quite low key back then).

  26. HappyMom says:

    I remember Bruce from Moonlighting days-he was hot then, but a total d— from the get-go. So while it might be true that a hearing loss is making him crabby-I think it’s his true nature coming out. I really think it’s more that he’s older, rich as all get out and doesn’t feel any kind of need to check how he behaves.

  27. Gabby says:

    I have a rare neurological hearing disorder so I can kind of understand his behavior if this is true. He probably gets nervous or anxious about interviews because he’s worrying about his hearing and just tries to answer the best he can but probably gets frustrated and it shows.

  28. samipup says:

    I have partial deafness, and its very difficult to try all the time to “get” what people are saying. I wear hearing aides and they don’t perfectly correct hearing impairment. And I hate to ask people to constantly repeat themselves. I get that that it is annoying to have to repeat what you said. And part of my hearing loss manifests in that sometimes it takes a few seconds longer to “get” what someone says. I ask people to speak a little slower. And everyone, non hearing impaired as well, lipreads instinctively. You can understand people better when you see their face and mouth. I have a really hard time with phone calls. And people always think that if you just speak louder, they will be understood. That is not the case at all. Speak slower, and look at that person, don’t talk with your mouth full, mumble, or cover your mouth.

    • Gabby says:

      Amen to all of that. I can sympathize. It took a long time to realize I couldn’t hear properly without seeing mouths
      Moving simultaneously!

  29. Michella says:

    I know on Looper he also refused to do any special FX makeup. They originally wanted to do a in between look to make it seem more realistic, like a blend of JGL And Bruce Willy, which probably would have been better.

    My boyfriend’s uncle works in props, has done films with him and says he was an asshole- and this was 10 years ago.

  30. ojulia123 says:

    Rumer says he has hearing loss in his ears, you guys. IN HIS EARS.

    That’s, like, the worst place to have it.

  31. danielle says:

    I’d believe this if I hadn’t heard so much about him being a jerk. I was also amused that the hearing loss was ‘because of a gun going off near his ear”. It hasn’t to be a macho reason, not just because he’s getting old.

  32. Ginger says:

    Why doesn’t he have his hearing corrected then? Or is he “too cool” for hearing aids?

  33. moon says:

    As someone with a 50++ year old dad, I can definitely relate to her story.

  34. Denise says:

    Part of his job, for which he gets paid millions, is to promote his OWN WORK. If he is having difficulties doing interviews due to his hearing, he needs to deal with it. Being a jerk because he’s frustrated, if that’s even the case, is not an excuse to make people who are doing their jobs, and not making millions, feel uncomfortable and embarrassed.

    I would dread the interview process as much as any of the cranky actors; the questions are usually not engaging or well researched, they rehash questions already asked a thousand times, etc. I think that what’s happening is he’s older and he’s over it, and he’s not faking it any more. Drinking doesn’t help either. His poor wife and child(ren).

  35. fancyamazon says:

    I love Bruce. I just think he is a bit on the dry side, and I’m sure if he has a hearing loss that it could help make him grumpy.

  36. TherapyCranes says:

    I remember when you covered this interview last month and when I watched it I felt that he really wasn’t that annoying. He was a bit off-putting but he wasn’t a total jerk. I actually didn’t mind the interview at all. His humor seemed a bit dry.

    The partial deafness makes sense. I don’t really care if it’s true or not. Bruce will always be one of my favorites no matter what he does. He can be a diva if he wants to be.

  37. palermo says:

    Someone shot off a gun near my husband’s ear and he is almost deaf in that ear. Men are always bad about going to the doctor, and older men don’t want to look old so they ignore the problem. Sigh. I spend much of my time repeating what others said to him.

  38. Mike says:

    As someone with hearing aids who suffers from clarity issues as descrbied by the author, if Bruce’s issues are indeed true then I totally sympathize… often I can get by in conversation by faking it, and it’s much easier than asking the person to repeat themselves for the umpteenth time. I only do that for family. Accents are fairly impossible for me, and forget it if there’s background noise. Bruce and other celebrities have an image/brand to protect so I can certainly understand him not telling about his hearing loss (if it is true).

    • Sarah says:

      It’s true and Bruce has never hidden it. This quote is from an interview way back in 2007 with Rosanna Greenstreet of The Guardian:
      RG: What is your most unappealing habit?
      BW: Due to an accident on the first Die Hard, I suffer two-thirds partial hearing loss in my left ear and have a tendency to say, ‘Whaaa?’

      I would imagine people who know Bruce in the business are unsympathetic to him because of his long-standing reputation for being mean and difficult.

  39. Steve Din says:

    Good on Rumer for giving her dad a place to take refuge–assuming he wants to. He probably doesn’t. The word “asshole” is overused and has become rather harmless. The word for Willis is mean. He was a mean guy then, he’s a mean guy now. A friend in a high studio place told me the two meanest stars were Willis and (surprise) Mike Myers. Denzel is pretty high up on the list. I actually LIKE a few assholes I know who have a sense of humor about themselves and don’t live to hurt people. These guys are different and being royalty has made them even nastier.

  40. GByeGirl says:

    My father has major hearing loss. He’s always been kind of an asshole. He only recently got hearing aids which have helped his hearing immensely. He’s still a dick.

  41. Shelley says:

    He may be a jerk at times but he’s the reason his daughters are at least semi-sane. And hearing loss at any level is extremely isolating to the sufferer. Hearing aids are far from perfect and successful adaptation to them is very individual. I love his movies but agree that he should try to develop a more laid back attitude toward promotional interviews or simply stop doing them.

  42. Haolebunny says:

    He’s a jerk. Has been for years. I used to see him when he lived in Hailey, ID. all the time. He’s just douchey. It wouldn’t kill him to be nice occasionally.

  43. Str8Shooter says:


    This is the best defense I’ve heard in a while:

    My Dad can’t hear, therefore he’s a condescending, rude jerk to everyone he comes across.


  44. serena says:

    Whatever, he can be an asshole or half deaf but I still love him.