Bruce Willis confirmed his retirement from acting this year due to aphasia, a degenerative brain disease that affects speech and communication. The beloved actor is now cared for by his family, predominantly his wife, Emma Heming Willis.
The last few months have been hard on the Willis family after the 67-year-old’s diagnosis was confirmed, but it also pushed them closer together, with Bruce and Emma selling their home in Westchester, New York, in order to move to California.
According to reports, it seems as though Willis isn’t leaving the house much – instead, he’s “trapped” in his own mind.
Now, the news that Bruce Willis had been diagnosed with aphasia shocked the world. The long-time, beloved actor – known for his roles in Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, and Sixth Sense, among others – is only 67, but he’s appeared in his final ever film.
Bruce Willis – early life
But before we get to that, let’s take a look at Bruce’s famous career.
He was born on March 19, 1955, in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany, where his father was stationed in the U.S. military. The oldest of four children, Willis, at age two, moved back to the United States with his family, settling in Carney’s Point, New Jersey.
By all accounts, Willis’ childhood was hugely affected by his stuttering. As quoted in the 1997 book Bruce Willis: The Unauthorized Biography, the actor revealed that his stuttering was so bad that he could hardly talk.
Luckily, he managed to find help in the most unexpected place.
“It took me three minutes to complete a sentence. It was crushing for anyone who wanted to express themselves, who wanted to be heard and couldn’t, it was frightening. Yet, when I became another character, in a play, I lost the stutter. It was phenomenal,” he said.
Moreover, a school speech therapist helped him to build up confidence and conquer his stuttering through several exercises. In high school, Bruce tried his best to fit in by becoming the class clown. This also led to him getting involved in the school’s drama group.
Following Bruce’s graduation from Penns Grove High School, he went on to first work in a chemical factory and later as a security guard.
Start of acting career
He eventually returned to school, enrolling at Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he quickly rediscovered drama. Bruce was eager to attain the skills necessary to become an actor. Fortunately, he had gotten great help from his drama professor, Jerry Rockwood who quickly saw the promising actor’s potential.
He ended up cutting classes and instead traveling to auditions in Manhattan. In January 1977, he got his first part in the play Heaven and Earth.
In his sophomore year, Bruce decided to drop out of education in order to pursue his acting career. To give himself the best chance, he moved to New York.
”I thought’ How much time do I need?’” Willis told Rolling Stone in 1986. ”I always had the idea of 10 years in the back of my mind. But if it had taken 20, I’d have still done it. I knew this was what I wanted.”
At that point, Willis’ work in plays wasn’t enough to pay the rent. He subsidized it by working as a bartender, as well as a model for brands such as Levis and Ray-Ban.
In the early 1980s, Bruce got his first couple of uncredited roles on screen. He was a young, stubborn, and promising actor who went his own way at castings. That was a tactic that would eventually would pay off big-time.
In 1985, he landed the role of David Addison in the ABC television series Moonlighting. More than 3,000 people auditioned for the role – and it turned out to be his big breakthrough.
Bruce Willis – marriage to Demi morre, children
Bruce stayed on Moonlightning for 66 episodes, until 1989, when the show got canceled. By that stage in his life, he was no longer a promising actor roaming around looking for the next gig, but a future star in the making. Moreover, he had committed to a relationship with fellow actor Demi Moore.
Willis and Moore met in 1987 at the premiere party for the film Stakeout. They both had other dates with them that night – Moore’s then-fiancé Emilio Estevez was actually the star of the film.
At first, Willis and Moore became friends. But in the end, love took over. Their intentions became clear during the first night they met, as Willis made a move.
“I’d never encountered treatment like this before,” Moore wrote in her memoir, Inside Out.
“Bruce was so gallant- in his own boisterous way, a real gentleman. When I said it was time for me to go home, he offered to walk me to my car. He was so eager about it- Like a little boy who didn’t want to miss the ice-cream truck. When he asked for my number, I felt a wave of schoolgirl flutters.”
Willis and Moore got married the same year. They welcomed three daughters together, Rumer (born 1988), Scout (1991), and Tallulah (1994).
In 1988, Bruce took the next step in his successful Hollywood career.
Bruce Willis – ‘Die Hard’
He starred as New York cop John McClane in Die Hard, and the catchphrase “Yippee-ki-yay” has since become a somewhat legendary film quote.
“Die Hard is probably the closest I’ve come to showing what is in my heart on screen. David Addison is a character I play on Moonlighting. In Die Hard, even though I’m acting, a lot of what is in me came through,” Bruce told Closer Magazine in 1988.
“I really wanted to play a vulnerable guy, I didn’t want to be a superhero who’s a larger-than-life guy that nobody really knows. I don’t know any superheroes, I know guys who are afraid and have anxiety, and I think you know people like that, too. That’s what I wanted to play.
He added: “I really wanted to be honest about the moment you go through when you think your life is about to end. I wanted to play somebody who was afraid to die.”
Die Hard became a huge success, and Willis transformed into a big, tough guy, on-screen. In the following years, however, several of Willis’s films received negative reviews and got bad box office numbers.
He would ultimately get the last laugh when he starred as boxer Butch Coolidge in Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction in 1994. After two more Die Hard films, an action-filled performance in Armageddon, and a memorable role in The Sixth Sense, Bruce had cemented his place among Hollywood’s greatest actors.
At the time, Willis’ private life had changed plenty. In 2000, he and Demi Moore divorced. Since they were one of the power couples of Hollywood at the time, theirs was a very public breakup.
Wife Emma Heming
Seven years later, in 2007, Willis met his second wife, Emma Heming. The two were seen for the first time together in public in 2008, when she accompanied him at the Sundance Film Festival.
“When we first met, I was surprised at how charming and how funny he was – and extremely handsome,” Emma told People.
“I was already in love with her,” Bruce added.
After little more than a year of dating, in March 2009, Bruce and Emma married in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 2012, they welcomed their first child, daughter Mabel. Two years later, second-daughter Evelyn was born.
“When I’m not working, my days are devoted to the women in my life. I don’t need anything more than tha,” Willis said of his children.
According to People’s sources, Demi, Bruce, and Emma Heming were all quarantined together during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2022, though, Willis’s life changed forever for he and his family. In March, tragically, it was revealed that he had being diagnosed with aphasia, a brain disorder that affects his ability to communicate.
Bruce Willis – “trapped” in aphasia diagnosis
“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 family wrote in a statement on Instagram.
“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support,” the statement continued. “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. Love, Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn.”
Just one week later, Bruce officially announced his retirement from acting.
So what really happenes when a person gets aphasia? Speaking with Fox Baltimore, Dr. Duane Campbell, Chief of Neurology and Director of the Stroke Center at MedStar Health, explains it as a feeling of being “trapped.”
“It’s extremely frustrating because people feel trapped. I mean so much of quality of life is the ability to express yourself and communicate,” he said.
“If you can imagine all your families around and you can feel what’s bothering you – you know, what’s going on – and they’re speaking to you and you can’t understand what they’re saying to you. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s very isolating that effectively, it’s like you speak your own language and no one else understands you. So that’s very debilitating.”
Bruce Willis is cared for by his wife
Emma and their children are now doing all they can to take care of Bruce. At the same time, things aren’t exactly easy for her. Speaking with The Bump in May, the mother-of-two explained that caring for everyone in the household has taken its toll on her own health as well.
“Someone told me not long ago that when you over-care for someone, you end up under-caring for yourself. That stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me,” Emma explained.
“I don’t mother myself perfectly but I know that I have some basic baseline needs that are a must… I think it’s important to find that one thing that makes you feel good and build from there.”
She added: “I put my family’s needs above my own, which I found does not make me any kind of hero. “That amount of care for everyone else within my household had taken a toll on my mental health and overall health. And it served no one in my family.”
Even though it was a shock to all of Willis’s fans – as well as to many in the acting business – people working with him on set had noticed that he’d changed over the last number of years.
In a piece by the LA Times, several co-workers of Bruce’s testified that concerns about his cognitive state have – as the news outlet describes it – “swirled” in recent years.
“Not the Bruce I remembered”
Mike Burns, director of Out of Death, wrote in a 2020 email to the film’s screenwriter requesting that they made Bruce’s part smaller and his lines “short and sweet.” He was one of only a handful of people that realized Willis was struggling with his memory.
“It looks like we need to knock down Bruce’s page count by about 5 pages- We also need to abbreviate his dialogue a bit so that there are no monologues, etc.”
“After the first day of working with Bruce, 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,” Mike Burns told the LA Times.
Director Jesse V. Johnson first worked with Bruce Willis as a stuntman about a decade ago. However, when they met in April of last year to start filming, he noticed that the Die Hard actor “was not the Bruce I remembered.” Naturally, he was concerned.
“[Bruce Willis’ team] stated that he was happy to be there, but that it would be best if we could finish shooting him by lunch and let him go early,” Johnson recalled, adding that Willis didn’t know why he was there.
Over the years, Bruce has bought several houses around the US. He has owned properties in Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York City, Idaho as well as a summer beach home in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Bruce Willis have sold $65 million worth of properties
However, as he’s been diagnosed with aphasia, traveling and living in different places is no longer an option. That said, it almost seems as though Bruce was somewhat planning his health declining as he got older.
As the Daily Mail reported, Bruce has sold properties worth $65 million in the last four years. That includes his Idaho estate, a luxurious Manhattan apartment, and his $27 million Caribbean getaway in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 2019, Bruce and his wife Emma Heming sold their mansion in Westchester County, north of New York City. The 22-acre estate was sold for a whopping $7.66 million.
Bruce and Emma used to split their time between their Manhattan apartment and the Westchester County estate. However, as they’ve sold most of their properties, Bruce won’t be traveling anymore.
“He knew there would be a time, as his health declined, when his earning power wouldn’t be as great as it once was,” a source told PageSix.
“Plus he knew that he wouldn’t eventually need multiple estates and apartments to travel between, and that he would instead need to live in a safe environment surrounded by his family.“
Bruce Willis new Breentwood home
In 2019, Bruce and Emma purchased a new home in the exclusive area of Brentwood, California.
The couple paid nearly $10 million for their new LA home, which is reported to have seven bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and two kitchens. Moreover, it also features a movie theater, indoor and outdoor spas, a swimming pool and a gym.
Accoording to the Observer, the house spans 13,048 square feet.
Not much is known about the ins-and-outs of Bruce Willis’ health at the moment. There have been no pictures of the actor taken in public recently, since he’s getting all the necessary care from his beloved wife and family in their Brentwood home.
New picture of Bruce Willis, health update
Thankfully, Emma sometimes shares a glimpse of how Bruce is doing and how she’s coping with everything. As we all expected, Tracy stands behind her husband in the fight against his disease.
This summer, Emma Heming Willis posted an Instagram video of her husband playing the blues on his harmonica alongside musician Derek Richard Thomas. The clip shows Willis sitting on the floor by a staircase while Thomas strums his guitar and sings in front of him.
“Their talent is speaking for itself,” Heming Willis wrote in the caption. “I’ll just leave this here.”
On August 30, she posted a video montage on her Instagram and shared her inner thoughts about everything that has happened lately:
“This was the summer of self discovery—finding new hobbies, going out of my comfort zone and staying active,” she wrote and continued:
“My grief can be paralyzing but I’m learning how to live along side it. As my step-daughter (Scout Willis) told me, grief is the deepest and purest form of love. I hope you find some comfort in that too.”
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