News of Bruce Willis' aphasia diagnosis and retirement has shocked the public but behind the scenes, dozens of people who have worked with the actor say they have noticed signs of a decline in recent years.
Aphasia is a cognitive disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and can impact a person's ability to speak, write, and understand language, both verbal and written.
On Wednesday it emerged that Willis would be stepping away from acting as a result of his condition but the Los Angeles Times has now revealed several accounts that suggest Willis was already struggling well before announcing his diagnosis.
According to the report, an actor would travel with the "Die Hard" star and feed him lines through an earpiece, and a body double would be used in most action scenes, particularly ones involving choreographed gunfire, as a substitute for Willis. The Times, citing two sources, also noted one incident in particular two years ago on the set of the movie "Hard Kill," in which Willis reportedly unexpectedly fired a gun loaded with a blank on the wrong cue.
In one scene, Willis’ character was scripted to step in and protect actress Lala Kent, who was cast as the action hero’s daughter in the film, from the villains. The Times noted that Willis was meant to deliver a line as a cue for Kent to duck before he fired a weapon but he allegedly instead shot the gun before delivering the line and as a result, Kent could not duck.
"Because my back was to him, I wasn’t aware of what was happening behind me. But the first time, it was like, 'No big deal, let’s reset,'" she said. However, on the second take the same thing happened, according to Kent.
The incident has been disputed by film producers as well as the film's armorer, but one crew member said he remembered Kent being shaken that day. Another crew member said he recalled a situation in which Willis "did fire the gun on the wrong line" but added, "We always made sure no one was in the line of fire when he was handling guns."
Randall Emmett, co-founder of Emmett/Furla Oasis, worked frequently with Willis and also denied the premature fire.
In a statement, Emmett said: "I fully support Bruce and his family during this challenging time and admire him for his courage in battling this difficult medical condition. Bruce will always be a part of our family."
In addition, actor Adam Huel Potter was reportedly guaranteed bit roles in Willis films in exchange for serving as Willis’ prompter, the Times noted. According to the report, Potter was paid $4,150 per week and provided accommodation in Willis' hotel while also being offered an onscreen speaking role in return for providing the actor his lines through an earpiece. Potter did not respond to inquiries from the Times about this arrangement.
Several filmmakers have told the Times they are alarmed at Willis' condition. Among those commenting on the situation was Terri Martin, the production supervisor on "White Elephant," which starred Willis.
"He just looked so lost, and he would say, 'I’ll do my best.' He always tried his best," Martin said. "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."
Zoe Papadakis ✉
Zoe Papadakis is a Newsmax writer based in South Africa with two decades of experience specializing in media and entertainment. She has been in the news industry as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers, magazine and websites.
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