‘Why am I here?’: Concerns over Bruce Willis’s health swirled for years

Bruce Willis was showing signs of cognitive decline for some years, including firing a gun loaded with a blank on the wrong cue while on set, a Los Angeles Times report has revealed.

On Wednesday, Willis’ family said he had been diagnosed with aphasia – a cognitive disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate – and that he would retire from acting.

Actor Bruce Willis showed signs of decline before his diagnosis, industry sources have said.Credit:AP

Numerous sources from a range of productions Willis worked on in recent years have spoken of concerns they had about the actor’s capacity to work, the LA Times reports.

Mike Burns, the director of 2021’s Out of Death, reduced Willis’s role in the film after noticing he was struggling.

“It looks like we need to knock down Bruce’s page count by about 5 pages,” read an email Burns sent in June 2020 to the film’s screenwriter, according to the LA Times.

“We also need to abbreviate his dialogue a bit so that there are no monologues, etc.”

Other sources said the star was unable to remember his dialogue and had lines fed to him through an earpiece.

Burns is one of nearly two dozen people who spoke with the LA Times about their concern for his wellbeing.

While on set for 2020’s Hard Kill, Willis fired a gun loaded with a blank – twice in a row – on the wrong cue, although no one was injured, co-star Lala Kent has alleged.

Kent was supposed to duck once Willis had delivered a line, serving as the cue before the weapon was fired. But Willis fired before delivering the line.

“Because my back was to him, I wasn’t aware of what was happening behind me,” Kent said.

“But the first time, it was like, ‘No big deal, let’s reset’.”

The film’s producer disputed that claim but at least two people familiar with the incident have also spoken about it.

Willis’s management team limited his film shoots to two days a week, and no more than eight hours of work per day.

Production sources said he often only stayed for four.

At times, Willis would also question where he was, two crew members recalled.

“I know why you’re here, and I know why you’re here, but why am I here?” Willis is alleged to have said while on the set of White Elephant, a yet-to-be released film.

A crew member said Willis “was just being puppeted” and that the actor would be given a line but not understand what it meant.

The film’s director, Jesse V. Johnson, and his team decided after filming had ended that they would not do another film with Willis.

“We are all Bruce Willis fans, and the arrangement felt wrong and ultimately a rather sad end to an incredible career, one that none of us felt comfortable with,” he said.

Bruce Willis in one of his most famous roles, with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.

It’s also been announced that Willis will no longer be receiving a Golden Raspberry Award as a result of his diagnosis.

The awards, known as the Razzies, is a satirical show that hands out accolades for the worst performances.

Willis had received an award in a special category, “Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie.”

Upon news of his diagnosis, the Razzies controversially decided to go ahead with presenting him the award.

But following backlash, the organisation issued a statement reversing their decision.

“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,” the statement read.

“If someone’s medical condition is a factor in their decision-making and/or performance, we acknowledge that it is not appropriate to give them a Razzie.”

Despite his condition worsening in recent years, Willis was still highly sought after, with his involvement helping independent filmmakers sell their films on the international stage.

White Elephant production supervisor Terri Martin said he admired and respected Willis’s work but it was time for him to retire.

“He just looked so lost, and he would say, ‘I’ll do my best.’ He always tried his best.”

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