Bruce Willis is stepping away from his career after being diagnosed with aphasia

Bruce Willis has been a lot quieter in recent years. He used to be a regular on talk shows, but he’s only been on chat shows or late night shows a handful of times in the past five years. He’s always been a prolific actor, often appearing in four or five films a year, although in recent years, he’s obviously doing more character roles and ensemble films. In 2021, he’s credited in seven films. In 2022, he’ll appear in seven films (according to his IMDB). He’s also got several films in post-production, meaning he’s already filmed them. And now it looks like those films will be his last works as an actor. Bruce Willis is retiring because of a neurological condition, aphasia.

Bruce Willis is retiring from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia. The 67-year-old actor’s family shared the news on Instagram Wednesday, writing alongside a photo of him on their Instagram feeds, “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 caption added.

According to Mayo Clinic, aphasia “robs you of the ability to communicate” and “can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written.” The group adds that the condition “typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative).”

Bruce’s family’s Instagram posts went on to say that it “is a really challenging time” for them all, “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,” they concluded, signing the note from the actor’s daughters Rumer Willis, Scout Willis, Tallulah Willis, Mabel Willis and Evelyn Willis, plus Bruce’s wife Emma Heming Willis and his ex-wife Demi Moore.

[From People]

I’ve dealt with people close to me with temporary aphasia and it’s tough. They search for words and lose their train of thought and struggle to communicate. Sometimes they lose the ability to read and write. The root cause can be anything, as People Magazine says. Willis could have some kind of underlying issue and the aphasia is more like a presenting symptom. Or it could be the result of a head injury or trauma. I idly wondered about Bruce doing his own stunt work for many years and whether that contributed to this. In any case, I hope he’s doing okay and I hope they can find some way to mitigate some of the worst of it. Prayers to Bruce and his family.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

61 Responses to “Bruce Willis is stepping away from his career after being diagnosed with aphasia”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Noki says:

    Very sad,is this a progressive condition? Could explain why he was churning out so many movies,to allow him to retire comfortably.

    • sassafras says:

      I had read an article before this statement from Bruce and his family, that yes, he was churning the movies out, knowing he didnt have much time left to make movies. And trying to get a final nest egg together from churning them out, hence the movie choices are not what we would usually expect to see him in.
      Also, that some movies he needed an ear piece because he couldnt remember his lines 🙁
      So sad. I love Bruce!!

      • whatWHAT? says:

        I had heard that too, about the earpiece…that is, he’s been suffering from this for a while and it’s gotten progressively worse lately.

        makes me wonder if that’s why he was such a “difficult” interviewee over the years. and, reportedly, on sets, too.

      • lucy2 says:

        I remember that too, there was a lot of chatter about him churning out those bad movies and being “lazy” and using the earpiece. Sad to find out it was due to this disease.
        I don’t think he was ever an easy guy to work with, but this has had to be very hard for him and his family, and I wish them the best.

    • Tara says:

      It sounds like Primary Progressive Aphasia to me but they are not really providing much info so I could be wrong. It is progressive as the name suggests

  2. MJM says:

    It’s a form of Frontotemporal dementia. It usually affects younger people than other forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disease and Lewy Body Disease.

    • hindulovegod says:

      That’s one possible cause. I didn’t see anywhere that the family disclosed the cause of the aphasia. I also assumed it was FTD-related since he’s retiring, but it might be something else.

      • MJM says:

        There is so much stigma attached to dementia I can understand why his family wouldn’t want to refer to it. It is a tragic disease and I am so very sorry for Bruce and his family. Just awful.

      • Jan90067 says:

        My dad has age related aphasia, most likely from TIAs, or ‘mini strokes’. First time it happened, about 2 yrs ago, we were all on FT as a family, and he just seemed unfocused and seemed to talk “gibberish”: words strung together that made no sense. I called 911, because we thought he was having a stroke! They said it was TIAs, and it’s just gotten worse over time.

        He kind of *knows*what* he wants to say, but the words come out all jumbled, and sometimes, he just doesn’t make sense at all. It’s heartbreaking. We’ve kind of learned to figure out what he’s *trying* to communicate, but a lot of the time, we’re just guessing (considering what’s going on and what he is trying to say). I know it’s really frustrating for him. Breaks my heart 💔

      • Giddy says:

        My sister in law just died from this. In her case the root cause was a fall where she hit her head. It was a terrible form of dementia, where she became paranoid and truly believed the awful fantasies that her brain was transmitting to her. Recently she had gone through the phase where she spoke gibberish. She seemed aware that she wasn’t communicating what she wanted to say, but gibberish was all that resulted. It was terrible, robbing a vital woman of personality and intelligence. I’m very sad for anyone with this diagnosis.

      • Vizia says:

        FTB or stroke are certainly strong candidates, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s TBI from years of doing his own stunts.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        they didn’t disclose the underlying cause so, of course, the antivaxxers are claiming it’s due to a stroke (one of the most common causes) related to being vaccinated

        I agree w/@Vizia that it definitely could be the result of TBI from stunt work

      • Lolaispretty says:

        I’m so sorry Giddy. Life is so much fragile than we realize.

    • FHMom says:

      This is a helpful explanation. The statement made by the family sounded more dire than what I would have expected unless your take on it is accurate. Aw. Poor Bruce.

    • Special Guest says:

      It’s one outcome or sign of frontotemporal dementia, which is a devastating and progressive disorder.

      More often, the cause is stroke or, as others have said, a series of mini-strokes (TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks). When blood flow is cut off to the language area of the brain, cells die. It’s a very frustrating problem affecting both receptive and expressive language to varying degrees and, relative to other underlying issues, may or may not reflect other cognitive changes.

      Need to say that though there is no indication from the family that Bruce Willis had COVID, COVID generally is resulting in a higher amount of clot-related problems including stroke. To hold down what is going to be a future wave of disability, please continue to take this virus seriously, to not minimize its impact in conversation, and to do whatever you can to avoid contracting and spreading it.

    • susan says:

      Terry Jones of Monty Python also had this. It’s devastating.

      • minx says:

        That’s right, he did. He was struggling with it in his last appearances with Python.

      • HelloDolly! says:

        My father died of ALS and presented with aphasia, and yes, I can confirm it’s awful. I was a graduate student out of state and couldn’t talk as much with him as he slowly degenerated in the last year. I had to start flying home every other week in the end because I couldn’t talk with him in any other way. Seeing a fit, talkative loved one lose their ability to speak and communicate is really devastating and it took me years to not feel gutted. You want to remember your loved one as they were and not by the disease, ya know?

  3. Sarah says:

    I love Bruce Willis! This news made me very sad. I love that he and his wife/ex-wife have such a great relationship for their kids. That’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

  4. BrainFog 💉💉💉😷 says:

    This is very sad news and a very horrible sickness.

  5. Lili says:

    Oh no, i’m really saddened by this, i hope its not progressive and he gets the best care he can.

  6. HeyKay says:

    I was very shocked at this announcement.
    Awful, tragic news for anyone.
    Bruce Willis has a net worth of around $200+million, so my guess is he was making all those VOD movies mostly to keep himself busy, his team employed, many of his team have been with him for decades.
    His youngest kid is apprx. 7 or so. Just so awful.

    Demi, kids, and current wife have been posting about their time spent gathered together during lockdown. His family pulling together is the best thing they can do. Family = priceless.
    Poor Bruce. I’ve enjoyed so many of his projects over the years. Die Hard IS a Xmas movie, we enjoy it every holiday.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “Die Hard IS a Xmas movie”

      thank you for this quip, made my day. 🙂

      (PS I may or may not agree, but it was still chuckle-worthy.)

  7. Mia4s says:

    Very sad! I can only wish he and his family the best. There have been rumours about this for years and stories about Bruce being “unable” to remember lines. Unfortunately that could indicate it is a progressive condition, but it’s his and his family’s choice if they want to reveal anymore.

  8. Driver8 says:

    This makes me very sad. I’ve been a fan since his Moonlighting days. My best friend’s mom has dementia. It is gut-wrenching to watch a once vibrant sprite of a human slowly decline. I wish the Willis family well.

  9. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    This was such sad news to hear. I’m hoping the very best for him and his family.

  10. damejudi says:

    I feel for BW and his family. Neurodegenerative diseases and their ravages are brutal. I commend them for sharing the diagnosis publicly.

  11. Jess says:

    I’m not a huge fan of him generally but this sounds like a horrendous condition that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

    • minx says:

      Same, he was a bit too conservative for me, but yes these are such awful diseases. I knew a man who died of ALS and FTD, a handsome, brilliant guy who was a shadow of himself by the time he died.

      • swiftcreekrising says:

        Agreed. I remember seeing him perform (musically) and telling all of us that he could have whatever piece of Kansas p*ssy he wanted because he was a huge f*cking star. It was gross.

        I also watched my dad deal with this as a part of Lewy Body Dementia (as someone mentioned above), and you’re absolutely right that it’s not something you would want to wish on anyone. I remember my dad telling me he was lost and just needed me to come and take him by the hand and walk him out of the airplane hangar he had been left in and having to keep explaining to him gently where he really was and what was happening. It’s a bastard of a condition.

  12. Jules says:

    Read the article, it’s shocking that they kept this going for this long. They endangered crew members (he nearly shot a fellow actor on set twice – with a blank but we know now that this can still have dire consequences) and they all still kept it a secret. The amount of things Hollywood is willing to ignore just to keep on with the movie magic is wild. I doubt that the last few years were fun for Willis, reading the article it seems like it was incredibly stressful and exhausting to him to keep up the sharade. Shame on his agency (and whoever else thought it was a good idea to keep this going as long as it did).

    • minx says:

      OMG I had no idea, that’s terrible.

    • HelloDolly! says:

      I wonder if he wanted this scenario? Is it possible Bruce wanted a nest egg for his family and pushed himself to do this? I could see him being too proud to give up acting and to admit he had a disease. I could also see his family telling him not to and him placating them or telling them it’s all fine. Really sad news all around.

    • Lena says:

      I’m pretty positive I heard he was using a microphone in his ear a few years ago. Also heard that about Depp so…

  13. MsIam says:

    I wish him the best moving forward.

  14. ChillinginDC says:

    Did everyone see the LA Times article? So many people seemed to have been exploiting him. My heart breaks for him, but he was going around firing guns wrongly on set and no one said he’s a danger to others/himself?

    • Tourmaline says:

      Yes I just came here to see if anyone mentioned the LA Times story! Iwonder if knowing the LA Times story was in the works is what promoted the timing of the family statement— because it sounds like the LA Times story was in the works for at least several weeks.

      I got a strong vibe of exploitation of a vulnerable adult from the LA Times report. They are saying going back at least 2 years he did not appear to know where he was or what he was doing on sets. Yet his handlers kept putting him in these quickie crap movies where he would make at least $2 million for what was often two half days of work. Another random bad omen is many of these movies were produced by Randall Emmett which I only know from being Lala from Vanderpump Rules’ baby daddy and ex. She is quoted in the story regarding a weapon firing incident on a set.

      Also it seems BW and his wife have been making a lot of big property moves in recent years including selling off his Turks and Caicos estates.

      Hope that he was not being exploited by people who wanted to squeeze every last dollar from him even when he was not capable of being in the situations he was placed in.

  15. Springfield, USA says:

    Very sad. I remember watching Bruce Willis in Moonlighting with Cybill Shephard. I used to marvel at his effortless, quick delivery of lines. That’s what I thought of when I heard this news.

    • Malika says:

      He was fantastic in Moonlighting! That would be a great re-watch on a streaming service. Just watched Bridgerton and the witty repartee reminded me of the best of this tv series. I am v sad for him and his family, this is tough to deal with no matter how comfortable a nest egg has been built. Hope he gets to enjoy his retirement and find new pursuits.

  16. Normades says:

    The LA Times article is very concerning.
    This probably explains why he spent lockdown with Demi and his older kids. They didn’t want him traveling alone and could better take care of him than Emma who had her two younger daughters to care for.

  17. Beana says:

    I remember, in the beginning of the pandemic, Bruce went into a store maskless and was confronted for it. At the time, his family asked for compassion, alluding to Bruce’s memory issues and indicating it was forgetful and not intentional. This is sad for everyone, I hope he benefits from treatment to slow his disease down and I hope he can have quality time with his family.

  18. WendyM says:

    Always loved watching him in many roles. Such a sad disease. 2022 enough please!

    • Barbie1 says:

      Such depressing news. Especially sad for his youngest children. It must be degenerative and who knows how long be has left to be with them. Just awful. He seems too young for this. Life is so damn cruel.

  19. Twin Falls says:

    This is so sad. I’m happy they were all able to come together as a family for him and that the two families (Demi and Emma and all the kids) seem close.

  20. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    For someone who has made a living talking and having to read scripts and remembering lines, to me this seems like the cruelest thing. I cannot fathom how very bewildering this must have been/is continuing to be for him and his family.
    My absolute hands down favorite movie of his is The Fifth Element, it showed a side of him that I really enjoyed.
    I wish him peace and love and comfort going forward.

    I have had 2 TIA’s back in 2010 and 2014. I suffer from short term memory loss and here lately I have noticed that I have trouble remembering things that I should easily recall. I know that at any time I could be in Bruce’s shoes or even worse. I take my medication, I try to stay physically and mentally active, but there are days when it’s a struggle just to think

    • antipodean says:

      So sorry to hear that, MerlinsMom 1018, It must be so frustrating to know what you want to say, but to be unable to say it. Such a cruel cross to have to bear. Good on you for soldiering on! Trying to make the most of each new day, and keep yourself in good shape, is I am sure the best attitude to have. Virtual hugs to all those dealing with these issues, which are often largely unseen to others. I guess one never knows what people struggle with in their daily lives, but wonderful that Bruce has such a loving and supportive family.

      • MerlinsMom1018 says:

        Thank you.
        I still have my sense of humor which also helps me on the really bad days. I listen to my body, rest when I need to, give myself a pass when I act like a big baby, then get up the next day and get on with it. I am very fortunate to be as healthy as I am considering and I never forget it.
        I agree that no one knows what folks struggle with on the daily. I try my hardest to keep that in mind and be a better and more compassionate human (not always successfully tho)

  21. Elsa says:

    My daughter is studying to be a speech therapist and current interns at an aphasia center. She said it is devastating for the families but that rehab can help.

  22. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I hated reading this yesterday. I remember Moonlighting lmao. And our family includes Die Hard as part of our Christmas viewing because everyone argues about it not being a Christmas show. I’ve always been entertained watching his work. I’m sad.

  23. Gabby says:

    This is heartbreaking. Just a fun loving Jersey guy. Thank you Bruce.

  24. Andie says:

    One thing and one thing I only ever remember about Bruce Willis is how Aaron Carter said he spent over a million dollars on “gifts” for him back in the early 2000’s.

  25. Songs (Or It Didn't Happen) says:

    Kaiser, I thought the same thing about his movies and years of stunts and explosions going on around him when I heard about this.

    It is sad for him, for his entire family, but especially his young children. And Emma, they haven’t even been married that long (relatively speaking).

  26. tamsin says:

    Sad news, and a sad way to end a long career. His family is handling this in a very dignified way.

  27. TheOriginalMia says:

    Sad to hear this. Wish him nothing but the best in coming years.

  28. Gubbinal says:

    It is a heart-breaking issue. My mother had aphasia after a stroke and she would always have an idea in mind and try to get it across. For example, she asked for an asparagus when she meant envelope–they are both long and thing. She said “seventh-grade” when she meant bra. She could not remember names, but she called my husband “Easy” and she had a “toasty little romance” with a piece of cake. I noticed that very few people would bother to try to decipher her meanings. It may have been a form of dementia, but you could see her trying hard to stay connected with her speech.

  29. Eggbert says:

    Aphasia is so hard. I’m glad he has a supportive family. My mom had young onset Alzheimer’s and she had both receptive and expressive aphasia (difficulty understanding and speaking). Just a really challenging and sad situation.

    I think it’s so great they announced it publicly to help destigmatize disabilities and spread awareness.

  30. Noodle says:

    I suffer from chronic migraine, and beginning with prodrome, I find it incredibly hard to think of and produce words. It’s a temporary loss for me, but traumatic nonetheless. I am sorry he is going through this, but am thankful he has a supportive family and team to help him. I can’t imagine talking for a living, then suddenly losing that ability.

  31. SueM says:

    From the description of the illness, I believe he has primary progressive aphasia. This is a form of dementia. It does usually manifest at a younger-ish age than other dementias. It starts with affecting the speech centre of the brain, not being able to find words, progressing to to not being able to write or talk at all, to more generalized dementia. It is progressive and incurable. I knew two people who died from this condition. This is so sad for Bruce, and for his family. My fav Bruce movies are Red and Red 2.