One week ago, Bruce Willis’ family announced the actor’s retirement. The Instagram post explained that he has been “experiencing some health issues” and has “been diagnosed with aphasia”. Then came the news: “As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.” This announcement was met with an outpouring of love and gratitude from his fans and those in the film industry. Aphasia is a condition that disrupts cognitive skills, particularly the ability to communicate. Fortunately, it seems like Willis has the support of his family and friends through this difficult time.
The Prolific Career of Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis was born on March 19, 1955. He began studying theater at Montclair State College before dropping out and moving to New York City. There his acting career began with roles in TV commercials and Off-Broadway. He also worked in several films in the 1980s. But his big break came with the sitcom Moonlighting (1985–89) with Cybill Shepherd. His fame became sealed with his role in 1988’s action thriller Die Hard. After that, he became a renowned action hero, starring in fan-favorite films like Pulp Fiction, The Fifth Element, and The Sixth Sense, among many others. In 2015, he made his Broadway debut in an adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. 
His more recent films include Breach (2020), Out of Death (2021), and A Day to Die (2022); he was in 21 films in the last three years. Unfortunately, although he wasn’t diagnosed yet, his aphasia was already taking a toll. Directors and crew members working with the 67-year-old expressed concerns about his cognitive state. They explain that Willis had struggled to recall dialogue, seemed confused with his environment, and needed shorter work days.
“After the first day of working with Bruce, I could see it first-hand and I realized that there was a bigger issue at stake here and why I had been asked to shorten his lines,” said Mike Burns, director of Out of Death. As a result, he had to squeeze 25 pages of dialogue into one day on set.
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The Actor’s Cognitive Decline
Burns directed another film with the star after hearing he was in better cognitive shape. Turns out, he was not. “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.”
On set for the upcoming White Elephant, crew members recall a day when Willis said, “I know why you’re here, and I know why you’re here, but why am I here?” The production supervisor of White Elephant, Terri Martin, said, “He just looked so lost, and he would say, ‘I’ll do my best.’ He always tried his best. He is one of the all-time greats, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for his body of work, but it was time for him to retire.” 
After Bruce Willis’ diagnosis came to light, the organizers of the Razzies parody awards show rescinded the award they gave him in 2021. The Razzies “honor” the worst of movies and created a special category for Willis called: “Worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie”. He also got eight nominations, and won for his lead role in Cosmic Sin. But after hearing of his aphasia, the organizers revoked this “award”.
“After much thought and consideration, the Razzies have made the decision to rescind the Razzie Award given to Bruce Willis, due to his recently disclosed diagnosis,” read a statement by the Razzies co-founders John Wilson and Maureen Murphy. they added that the category created for Willis “will not be repeated”. Either way, they didn’t intend for it to continue.
The Man, the Legend
In an interview with the Wrap about Bruce Willis’ Razzie, the co-founders pointed out something many fans wondered. “Whoever handles Willis’ affairs should probably not have permitted him to do such a high volume of work in such a short time, especially if they were aware of his situation. In Willis’ defense, his reps should have kept a better eye on his legacy.” 
However, Bruce Willis’ legacy seems far from ruined. In fact, his roles in beloved films continue to receive high praise and recognition while his less than stellar films are largely forgotten. Social media is filled with well-wishes and tributes from fans and people in the film industry. In the words of Haley Joel Osmant on Instagram, “He’s a true legend who has enriched all of our lives with a singular career that spans nearly half a century. I am so grateful for what I got to witness firsthand and for the enormous body of work he built for us to enjoy for years and years to come.”
Responding to the announcement post, Sarah Paulson, who worked with Willis in 2019’s Glass, wrote, “He was such an incredible acting partner to me, and is the loveliest, most gentle & hilarious man. He reigns supreme in my book.”
Similarly, actress Jamie Lee Curtis wrote, “Grace and guts! Love to you all!” And actor Seth Green tweeted, “I have so much love for Bruce Willis, and am grateful for every character he’s given us. Hugs and love for the whole family- thank you for sharing him with us all.” 
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- “Bruce Willis.” Britannica. Amy Tikkanen. April 5, 2022
- “‘He just looked lost’: worries over Bruce Willis’s cognitive state surface.” The Guardian. Benjamin Lee. March 31, 2022
- “Bruce Willis’s ‘worst performance’ award from Razzies show revoked after diagnosis.” The Guardian. Gloria Oladipo. April 1, 2022
- “Bruce Willis Has Aphasia and Is ‘Stepping Away’ From His Career.” The New York Times. Maya Salam. March 30, 2022