Bruce Willis, the blockbuster actor whose highly successful career has spanned four decades, is fighting his toughest battle to date in the form of aphasia (a condition affecting a person’s cognitive abilities) as a result of frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Willis’ eldest daughter (with former wife Demi Moore), Rumer, announced her father’s condition via Instagram in 2022 and stated that he would be retiring from acting as a result. Read on for more about Willis, his new grandchild, daughter Tallulah’s thoughts about his health, and an update from his wife.
Willis has had an incredible career
Bruce Willis was born in Germany on March 19, 1955. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to New Jersey where he was raised.
He spent the early years of his acting career playing small, uncredited parts until he landed the role of David Addison in the 1985 television comedy series, Moonlighting.
He then went on to his most iconic film role, as John McClane in the first film of the Die Hard franchise, in 1988. With a knack for switching between hardened action characters and the wise-cracking funny guy, Willis also starred in The Last Boy Scout (1991) and Death Becomes Her (1992).
His career extended well into the 2000s, with films such as Sin City (2005) and its sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), Red (2010) and its sequel, Red 2 (2013), and Vendetta (2022).
Willis married American actress Demi Moore in 1987 and the two were together for 13 years. They divorced in 2000, but not before they gave birth to three daughters: Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah. Willis would later marry model and actress Emma Heming in 2009.
He retired from acting in 2022
In March 2022, the Willis family released a statement announcing that Willis would be stepping away and retiring from acting following his aphasia diagnosis. Aphasia is a disease that affects one’s ability to communicate and process language, in both written and verbal form. In Willis’ case, it is also affecting his cognitive abilities.
The statement read, “This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. 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.”
The family received a clearer diagnosis
In mid-February 2023, the Willis family released another statement that explained how 67-year-old Willis’ condition was progressing. Both his eldest daughter, Rumer, and his ex-wife, Moore, posted on Instagram to share the update with his fans.
“Since we announced Bruce’s diagnosis of aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce’s condition has progressed and we now have a more specific diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD),” the post read. “Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
Frontotemporal Degeneration, also called Pick’s disease, is the most common form of dementia affecting those younger than 60. Unfortunately, there are no current treatments for the disease, so care is administered in the effort of symptom management. FTD has a typical life expectancy of between seven and 13 years from the earliest onset of symptoms.
You can read the full statement the family shared through The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration here.
His wife shared a touching post on his 68th birthday
In August 2022, Willis’ wife, Emma Heming Willis, opened up on Instagram about the grief she felt following her husband’s aphasia diagnosis. She wrote, “My grief can be paralyzing but I’m learning how to live alongside it. As my step-daughter @scoutlaruewillis told me, grief is the deepest and purest form of love.”
For Willis’ 68th birthday on March 19, 2023, Heming Willis made an emotional Instagram post where she described the grief his family felt that day. “Today is my husband’s birthday. I have started the morning by crying, as you can see by my swollen eyes and snotty nose,” she said in the video.
“I just think it’s important that you see all sides of this […] I do have times of sadness, every day. Grief, every day. And I’m really feeling it today on his birthday,” she continued.
His daughter, Scout, also made a birthday post for her father on Instagram, which read, “Today is not necessarily an easy day, because it’s a day full of so deep love, and our grief really does show us the depth of our loving for someone. So I’m trying to be with both today.”
For their 10th anniversary, Heming Willis shared a video (shot by Moore) from 2019 of the couple renewing their vows on their ten-year wedding anniversary. The video shows a montage of the couple surrounded by friends and family by the ocean at the Turks and Caicos Islands as Coldplay’s “Fix You” plays.
In the post, Heming Willis wrote: “On our 10th wedding anniversary we decided to renew our vows in the same place we said “I do” back in 2009. I’m so happy we did. Seize every opportunity to unite and celebrate with family and friends. Those are the moments and beautiful pockets of memories that you get to hold on to for a lifetime. And we get to keep those memories safe and alive for the ones that might not be able to.”
Bruce Willis is a grandfather!
On Tuesday, April 25, Rumer Willis shared a baby photo and the name of her first child. Her Instagram post showed a picture of her newborn daughter, with the caption “Louetta Isley Thomas Willis.” Rumer, 34, expressed her joy by saying, “You are pure magic. Born at home on Tuesday April 18th. You are more than we ever dreamed of.” Louetta’s father is Derek Richard Thomas, Rumer’s boyfriend.
Bruce Willis’ wife Emma commented, “Omg we love her so so much.”
Tallulah revealed that she knew ‘that something was wrong for a long time’
In a heartfelt and candid personal essay featured in Vogue, Tallulah Willis, the youngest of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughters, bared her soul about her struggles in handling her father’s dementia diagnosis. She revealed that initially, she was “too sick myself to handle it,” speaking of the impact that her body image issues had on her ability to support her family during the early stages of Bruce’s dementia.
Tallulah said, “I admit that I have met Bruce’s decline in recent years with a share of avoidance and denial that I’m not proud of.” It was earlier this year that the Willis family announced that Bruce’s initial aphasia diagnosis had progressed to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurological disorder affecting cognition and speech. However, Tallulah confessed, “I’ve known that something was wrong for a long time.”
Tallulah recalled how the signs initially appeared as vague unresponsiveness, which is often mistaken for hearing loss. She said there were times when she took it personally. And after her stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, had two babies with Bruce, Tallulah said she “thought he’d lost interest in me.”
Today, she’s careful to document all the time shared with her father. “He still knows who I am and lights up when I enter the room,” she said. “I just know that we’d be such good friends if only there were more time.”
Emma Heming Willis shared that she feels ‘doom and gloom’
On August 14, 2023, Bruce Willis’ wife Emma took to Instagram to share an update with her followers. She stressed the importance of self-care for herself and other caretakers. In a candid video, she said, “I just think it’s so important for us to sort of break up our thinking, which can feel, for me, very much like doom and gloom. I know it looks like I’m out, living my best life. I have to make a conscious effort every single day to live the best life I can.”
“My message is simple,” she continued. “When we are not looking after ourselves, we are no good to the people we love who we want to show up for and take care of. I don’t have this down to a fine science either, but I try.” She said the couple’s daughters Mabel, 11, and Evelyn, 9, helped keep her going when things were tough.
Heming Willis also thanked her followers for all their kind words and messages of support throughout Bruce’s struggle with dementia. “I am just doing the best that I can always. Your pictures are making me happy,” she said.