Family of Die Hard and Pulp Fiction actor, 67, releases statement to share diagnosis following retirement from acting owing to aphasia
Bruce Willis, who starred in the Die Hard franchise, Pulp Fiction and The Fifth Element.Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
My thoughts are with Bruce Willis and his family and friends at this time.
Bruce Willis, who retired from acting last May as a result of aphasia, has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his family announced on Thursday.
In a statement posted to the website for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, the Die Hard actor’s family – wife Emma Heming, ex-wife Demi Moore and daughters Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn – revealed Willis’s aphasia had progressed into a diagnosis of dementia. Problems with language and memory, which instigated rumors about his cognitive state and prompted his retirement in May 2022, are “just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces”, they wrote.
“While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
The statement continued: “FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and [which] can strike anyone. For people under 60, FTD is the most common form of dementia, and because getting the diagnosis can take years, FTD is likely much more prevalent than we know.
“Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead. As Bruce’s condition advances, we hope that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research.”
Willis, who got his start in TV on Moonlighting, was one of the most bankable stars of the 1980s and 1990s, known for the Die Hard franchise, Pulp Fiction, The Fifth Element, The Last Boy Scout, Twelve Monkeys, The Sixth Sense, Looper and Moonrise Kingdom. The 67-year-old was also the lead in several family comedies, most notably voicing a baby on Look Who’s Talking and its sequel.
Willis had continued his action career in the years leading up to his retirement, though with diminishing returns – in 2021, the Razzies, the annual awards given to the year’s worst films, instituted a category for “worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie”. It rescinded the award following his aphasia diagnosis.
The family said in the statement: “Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately.
“We know in our hearts that – if he could today – he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families.”
The family also called for more awareness and understanding of frontotemporal dementia. They said: “Bruce has always found joy in life – and has helped everyone he knows to do the same. It has meant the world to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us.
“We have been so moved by the love you have all shared for our dear husband, father, and friend during this difficult time. Your continued compassion, understanding, and respect will enable us to help Bruce live as full a life as possible.”