The film’s director urgently requested that the actor’s part be reduced just days before Bruce Willis was scheduled to show up on the set of one of his most recent action movies. In a June 2020 email to the movie’s screenwriter, “Out of Death” director Mike Burns stated, “It looks like we need to knock down Bruce’s page count by about 5 pages. Additionally, his dialogue needs to be condensed a little to eliminate monologues, etc. One of the explanations for the need to keep Willis’ lines “short and sweet” was left out by Burns. But on Wednesday, the general public learned what he and numerous other filmmakers have been privately worried about for years.

Due to his aphasia, the 67-year-old’s family announced that he will stop acting. Communication skills are affected by the cognitive disorder, which frequently appears in stroke victims.

“As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” the actor’s daughter Rumer Willis wrote in an Instagram post that was also endorsed by her siblings, his wife, Emma, and his ex-wife, Demi Moore. The actor has reportedly been showing signs of decline in recent years, according to those who have collaborated with the elder Willis on his films. Nearly 20 people who worked with actor Bruce Willis this month in interviews with The Times expressed concern for the actor’s welfare.
According to documents obtained by The Times, these people questioned whether the actor was fully aware of his surroundings on the set, where he frequently received $2 million for two days of work. Filmmakers described heartbreaking scenes as the beloved “Pulp Fiction” star struggled with his decline in mental acuity and inability to recall his lines. According to several sources, an actor who traveled with Willis would feed the star his lines through an earpiece known as an “earwig” in the business. The majority of action scenes, especially those involving choreographed gunfire, were shot with a body double in place of Willis.

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years

According to two unidentified people familiar with the incident two years ago on the Cincinnati set of the film “Hard Kill,” Willis unintentionally fired a gun loaded with a blank on the incorrect cue. No one was hurt. The film’s producer disputed that the incident occurred, but the alleged discharge left actors and crew members shaken.

Burns was one of a select group of individuals who were aware that Willis was having memory problems, but he claimed he was not made aware of the severity of the actor’s condition until June 2020, when he was directing his debut movie, “Out of Death. It was one of the 22 movies Willis made in four years. Burns said, “After the first day of working with Bruce, I could see it firsthand and I realized that there was a bigger issue at stake here and why I had been asked to shorten his lines. Burns reportedly found it extremely challenging to cram all of Willis’ scenes, which amounted to about 25 pages of dialogue, into one day of filming. Burns felt conflicted at the conclusion of the day. The opportunity to helm “Wrong Place,” a new Willis movie, was presented to Burns last fall, but he declined because of his concerns for the actor’s wellbeing.

Burns claimed that when he asked one of Willis’ associates, “How’s Bruce?”, he received the response that Willis had changed completely and was doing much better than the previous year. ” “I took him at his word,” Burns said. However, Burns admitted that he thought the actor was worse when they began filming the movie last October. I declared, “I’m done,” after we were done. I won’t be acting in any more Bruce Willis movies. That he is taking a break makes me happy. Despite the family statement, a Willis representative declined to make any additional comments.

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years

His film shoots were kept to two days thanks to Willis’ longtime management team, which included a formidable group of agents at the Creative Artists Agency. According to production sources, despite the actor’s contracts requiring him to work no more than eight hours per day, he frequently showed up for just four.

As a result of Willis producing so many low-budget movies, the majority of which received negative reviews, fans started to wonder why. In February, the organization behind the Razzie Awards, which annually compiles a list of the worst movies in the business, established a separate category specifically for Willis’ movies. One year ago, Willis’ condition astounded some film directors, some of whom admitted as much to The Times.

John V. Willis and Johnson first collaborated when the latter was a stuntman in the low-budget movie “White Elephant,” which Johnson also directed. But when the filmmaker and the actor met briefly before shooting began in Georgia last April, “it was clear that he was not the Bruce I remembered,” Johnson said. He claimed he spoke with Willis’ team, which is headed by his former assistant-turned-handler Stephen J., out of concern for the actor’s mental health. Eads — and directly inquired about the actor’s health. The conversation, according to Johnson, was about whether it would be best if we could finish shooting him by lunchtime and let him leave early. Willis reportedly said, “I know why you’re here, and I know why you’re here, but why am I here?” to two members of the crew as they were quickly filming the actor’s scenes.

One of the crew members recalled that it was less of an irritation and more of a concern for how to avoid casting a negative light on Bruce. He would occasionally be given a line but not understand what it meant. Simply put, he was a puppet. The director, Johnson, claimed that he was subsequently given the chance to work on two more films with Willis. As a result, he talked with his creative team about the situation. We decided as a team not to attempt another after our “White Elephant” experience, according to Johnson. “We are all Bruce Willis fans, and the arrangement felt off and ultimately rather sad to end an incredible career, one that none of us felt comfortable with. “.

Despite having starred in more than 70 movies since he first started acting in the 1970s, Willis is still best known for his role as detective John McClane in the “Die Hard” series. It helped him establish himself as one of Hollywood’s top action heroes and led to roles in movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “The Fifth Element.” He played the role again in five other films. He received a Golden Globe for his performance opposite Cybill Shepherd in the 1980s television series “Moonlighting,” and he has collaborated with filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam, despite his reputation for being more of a box office draw than a critical darling. Even as Willis’ health declined, he remained in high demand. His appearances in movies, even for a brief time, helped independent, low-budget filmmakers sell their works overseas. Willis’ image appearing on movie posters or a list of streaming service thumbnails encouraged people to watch his movies. In recent years, Willis worked primarily for two film production companies: Los Angeles-based Emmett/Furla Oasis and 308 Entertainment Inc. , a Vancouver company backed by actor and producer Corey Large, according to IMDb . com.

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years

Lala Kent, an actress best known for her role on Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules,” was chosen to play the action hero’s daughter in “Hard Kill” in January 2020. “Willis’ character was intended to intervene and defend her from bad guys in one scene, according to Kent. “I’m supposed to think my life is about to end, and then my dad steps in to save the day,” Kent said, describing how her back was to Willis in the scene. Willis was meant to deliver a line that served as Kent’s cue to duck before he fired the weapon at a bad guy. Instead, he shot the gun before delivering the line — and the actress was unable to duck. “Because my back was to him, I wasn’t aware of what was happening behind me. But the initial instance was like, “No big deal, let’s reset,” she recalled.

Kent said she asked director Matt Eskandari to remind Willis to say his line before firing the gun. But on the second take, the same thing happened, Kent said. Eskandari did not respond to calls seeking comment, but a second crew member said he remembered Kent being shaken that day. A third crew member, who was also forbidden from making public comments, recalled an instance in which Willis “did fire the gun on the wrong line.

Randall Emmett, the co-founder of Emmett/Furla Oasis, who has worked on 20 Willis movies, declined to comment on Willis’ condition, citing medical privacy laws. But Emmett, who is Kent’s former fiance, disputed that Willis fired a gun prematurely. The film’s armorer denied that the incident occurred. 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. ” Willis had a large entourage that accompanied him on set, and its members were protective of the actor, according to several filmmakers.

Concerns about Bruce Willis’ declining cognitive state swirled around sets in recent years

Eads, who began working with Willis as his assistant in the 1990s, served as his on-set handler. “The guy guided Bruce everywhere,” one crew member on 2020’s “Hard Kill” said of Eads. “He carted him around and kept an eye on him. ” For his work, he is credited as a producer on Willis’ films. In December 2018, Eads entered into a three-picture deal with the now-defunct MoviePass Films for which Eads received $200,000 per picture, according to a contract reviewed by the The Times.

“We look forward to continuing our long relationship with you on these and other films to come,” read the deal sent to Eads by Emmett, the chief executive of the production company. Just over a year later, Eads entered into a new certificate of engagement for $200,000 with Georgia Film Fund 70 LLC — another of Emmett’s companies — to work on “Hard Kill,” then called “Open Source. ” Eads did not respond to requests for comment. In addition, actor Adam Huel Potter was guaranteed bit roles in Willis films and served as Willis’ prompter, providing the actor his lines through the ear piece. Potter was paid $4,150 per week, according to Willis’ contract on “Open Source. ” He was offered “an on-screen speaking role” and provided with accommodations in Willis’ hotel, according to the document. Potter did not respond to inquiries from The Times about this arrangement. One of Willis’ final larger-scale films, “Paradise City,” was filmed on the Hawaiian island of Maui last May, after the pandemic delayed production for a year. Chuck Russell, the film’s director, and a second crew member said Willis was thrilled to be reunited with a fellow “Pulp Fiction” star in Hawaii. (The film is scheduled for release this summer. ).

“He was excited to work with John Travolta, and you could see the old Bruce Willis charm was still there,” Russell said. “He really brought his A game, and we made sure that he and John had a great experience filming together. ” But the filmmakers who spoke with The Times said they were alarmed by his condition. “He just looked so lost, and he would say, ‘I’ll do my best. ’ He always tried his best,” Terri Martin, the production supervisor on “White Elephant,” said Wednesday. “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. ”. ” But the crew member added: “We always made sure no one was in the line of fire when he was handling guns. ”.