Bruce Willis, the star of movies like Die Hard, The Sixth Sense and The Fifth Element, retired last year due to a medical condition which negatively impacted his speech and comprehension. He has since been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, and is now reportedly having difficulty communicating.
Willis’ family released a statement announcing that he would be retiring from acting after receiving a diagnosis for aphasia, a disorder which affects speech. Prior to this diagnosis, Willis had reportedly experienced confusion and difficulty remembering his lines while on set.
“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,” Willis’ ex-wife Demi Moore wrote on Instagram. “As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”
Willis’ wife, Emma Heming Willis, released a statement confirming that his condition had worsened, and that his doctors have now diagnosed him with frontotemporal dementia, of which aphasia can be an early sign.
“Since we announced Bruce’s diagnosis of aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce’s condition has progressed and we now have a more specific diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD),” she wrote. “Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator of the hit detective show Moonlighting which helped to launch Willis’ career, told the New York Post that his old friend, whom he tries to visit once a month, is “still Bruce” despite his condition declining to the point that he is no longer fully able to communicate verbally.
“I have tried very hard to stay in his life. He’s an extraordinary person,” said Caron. “The thing that makes [his disease] so mind-blowing is [that] if you’ve ever spent time with Bruce Willis, there is no one who had any more joie de vivre than he. He loved life and … just adored waking up every morning and trying to live life to its fullest. So the idea that he now sees life through a screen door, if you will, makes very little sense. He’s really an amazing guy.”
“My sense is the first one to three minutes he knows who I am,” he continued. “He’s not totally verbal; he used to be a voracious reader — he didn’t want anyone to know that — and he’s not reading now. All those language skills are no longer available to him, and yet he’s still Bruce. When you’re with him you know that he’s Bruce and you’re grateful that he’s there… but the joie de vivre is gone.”
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.