Actor Bruce Willis, who has starred in dozens of movies including the Die Hard series, The Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction and Armageddon, has been diagnosed with aphasia and is stepping away from acting, his family announced in a joint statement on social media Wednesday.
In a post on ex-wife Demi Moore’s Instagram account that was attributed also to his daughters Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn, and wife Emma Hemming, the family wrote that Willis, 67, “has been experiencing some health issues” and was diagnosed with aphasia, “which is impacting his cognitive abilities.”
Because of this, “Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” they wrote.
Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that affects understanding of speech and the ability to speak, read or write, though it does not affect intelligence, according to the National Aphasia Association.
It is “always due to injury to the brain,” the organization said, most commonly caused by a stroke, but it can also be brought on by head trauma, brain tumors or infection.
What caused Willis’ condition, and the severity of it, was not disclosed.
“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support,” Willis’ family wrote. “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.”
Willis got his first major role in 1985 in the romantic comedy TV series Moonlighting. In 1988 he starred as John McClane in the first Die Hard film, a role that set Willis on the path to becoming one the leading action stars in Hollywood. In 1994 Willis was a member of the ensemble in Pulp Fiction and in 1999 he starred in the The Sixth Sense, both of which were nominated for Academy Awards, including for best picture. Willis’ most recent on-screen appearance was in the movie A Day To Die, which premiered this year, and he has several upcoming projects still in the works, according to IMDB, though it’s not clear how those will be affected by his diagnosis.
Aphasia affects 2 million Americans and nearly 180,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disorder each year, according to the National Aphasia Association. In addition to stroke and trauma, the condition can also be brought on by dementia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. To improve language abilities, patients often undergo speech-language and other types of therapy, and some completely recover, while others continue to live with it, according to Johns Hopkins. Unlike Alzheimer’s, people with aphasia struggle with “the ability to access ideas and thoughts through language,” not the “ideas and thoughts themselves,” according to the National Aphasia Association.