US actor Bruce Willis is retiring, his family has announced, after the award-winning film star was diagnosed with aphasia, an illness that affects peoples’ ability to communicate.
“Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities,” his daughter, Rummer Willis, said on Wednesday in a post on Instagram.
“As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”
The post is signed by Willis’s current wife, Emma Heming Willis, as well as his former wife, actress Demi Moore, and his children Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn.
“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support,” the statement reads.
“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.”
Willis, 67, who achieved initial fame for the 1980s comedy-drama TV series, Moonlighting, before he became the tough-guy action hero who shouted “Yippee Ki Yay” in five Die Hard films, has appeared in about 100 films across his four-decade career.
He won acclaim for roles in, Pulp Fiction, and, The Sixth Sense, and has taken home one Golden Globe Award and two Emmys.
But last weekend he was the recipient of a far-less welcome honour – the Razzie for “Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie”, a specially devised category.
According to the Mayo Clinic, aphasia often occurs after a stroke or a head injury, and “can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written”.
People suffering from the condition “may speak in short or incomplete sentences, speak in sentences that don’t make sense, substitute one word for another or one sound for another, speak unrecognisable words, not understand other people’s conversation or write sentences that don’t make sense”, the clinic also said.
Aphasia can affect people in different ways depending on where the brain is damaged, says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
“Language skills are in the left half of the brain in most people. Damage on that side of your brain may lead to language problems. Damage on the right side of your brain may cause other problems, like poor attention or memory.”
His family’s announcement drew messages of support and shock from fans, as well as other actors and celebrities.
“This is really heartbreaking to read,” actor and director Kevin Smith wrote on Twitter. “He loved to act and sing and the loss of that has to be devastating for him.”
“I have so much love for Bruce Willis, and am grateful for every character he’s given us. Hugs and love for the whole family- thank you for sharing him with us all,” actor Seth Green also tweeted.
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis wrote, “grace and guts! Love to you all”, while model Cindy Crawford posted an emoji of praying hands. Actress and former co-star Elizabeth Perkins wrote, “Sending so much love to you all.”