In a statement released on Wednesday, the veteran movie star’s family announced he has been diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that affects the ability to communicate.
“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 family statement, signed by wife, Emma, ex-wife Demi Moore, and daughters Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, and Evelyn, read.
Now, directors, producers and former co-stars who worked with Willis on various movies in recent years are recalling the concerns they expressed over what they viewed as an obvious decline in his ability to perform at his best. Directors, such as Mike Burns (“Out of Death”) and Jesse V. Johnson (“White Elephant”) said his lines and monologues had to be reduced as he had difficulty remembering them and even understanding why he was on set.
Burns said he first relayed the message that Willis’ script in “Out of Death” would need to be cut “by about 5 pages” in a June 2020 email to the screenwriter, The Los Angeles Times reports.
“I could see it firsthand and I realized that there was a bigger issue at stake here and why I had been asked to shorten his lines,” Burns recalled to the outlet when recalling his first day of working with the action movie veteran.
This led Burns to feel conflicted about working with the “Die Hard” alum in the future. When he was given the opportunity to direct “Wrong Place,” another film starring Willis, he admitted to being concerned about his health. After being told Willis was “a whole different person,” Burns said he once again noticed his decline when filming began in October 2021.
“I didn’t think he was better; I thought he was worse,” Burns said. “After we finished, I said: ‘I’m done. I’m not going to do any other Bruce Willis movies.’ I am relieved that he is taking time off.”
Almost two dozen people who worked with Willis in some capacity on movies in recent years told the LA Times that they voiced their concerns.
At one point, Willis began using an “earwig” to help him remember his lines during scenes, several insiders claimed.
If there were scenes involving gunfire, a body double was used in Willis’ place.
One concerning event took place on the set of “Hard Kill” when Willis unexpectedly fired a gun that was loaded with a blank, two people familiar with the incident alleged. According to the report, no one was injured. The film’s producer has disputed the incident occurred.
Actress Kent, whose back was to Willis in the scene, recalled being unaware of “what was happening behind me.” Willis was expected to deliver the line before shooting the gun, but it appeared the gun fired before he delivered the line.
“Because my back was to him, I wasn’t aware of what was happening behind me. But the first time, it was like, ‘No big deal, let’s reset,’” she claimed, adding that she asked director Matt Eskandari, who has not commented on the matter, to remind Willis to say the line first before firing.
The incident happened again on the second take, two crew members claimed. The sources claimed Kent was “shaken,” according to the report. One crew member alleged Willis “did fire the gun on the wrong line.”
“We always made sure no one was in the line of fire when he was handling guns,” one of the crew members further alleged.
Co-founder of Emmett/Furla Oasis Randall Emmettt has worked with Willis on some 20 movies in his career. Emmett, who was previously engaged to Kent, declined to comment on the “Hard Kill” misfires, citing medical privacy laws.
Emmett said in a statement: “I fully support Bruce and his family during this challenging time and admire him for his courage in battling this difficult medical condition. Bruce will always be a part of our family.”
The movie’s armorer also denied that the incident occurred to the Times.
Eskandari, Kent and Emmett did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.
Confusion on set, reduced hours
Chuck Russell directed the upcoming action-packed thriller “Paradise City” in Hawaii in May 2021, reuniting Willis with his “Pulp Fiction” co-star John Travolta after nearly 30 years.
Russell recalled Willis’ excitement to the Times and said he “really brought his A game.” Terri Martin, a production supervisor on “White Elephant,” claimed Willis “looked so lost” on set. Noting Willis’ admirable longevity in his line of work, he respectfully said he noticed “it was time for him to retire.”
Johnson, who directed “White Elephant,” said it was clear last spring on set in Georgia that Willis “was not the Bruce I remembered.”
Johnson recalled being told Willis would be letting go from set early.
Other filmmakers shared with the outlet that Willis had difficulty understanding why he was on set.
According to Mayo Clinic, aphasia can affect the person’s ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written. “It typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury but can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative),” Mayo Clinic explains on its website.
The actor’s diagnosis came a little over a week after his 67th birthday.
Famous friends and fellow co-stars of Willis rallied for support of him online after the family announcement was released.
Debi Mazar said, “We love Bruce so much. Sending love to him and your family Bruce has given us sooo much! What an amazing career. May he rest and recover.”
Cindy Crawford left a comment of a praying hand emoji.
Matthew Marsden tweeted, “I’m very proud to have worked opposite the great Bruce Willis in one of his last movies. This is very sad. Legend.”
Representatives for Willis did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.